The Holy See on October 27, 2017, encouraged the international community to find new ways to implement the eight Security Council resolutions that aim to involve women in peace and security meditations and peacekeeping operations.
Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, expressed the view during the Security Council Open Debate on “Women, Peace and Security,” at the United Nations in New York.
The Holy See noted the crucial role women played in ending the 52-year armed conflict in Colombia, but said that women, rather than being engaged as effective instruments of peace, disproportionately remain targets of violence as pawns of war. Many Catholic organizations work on the ground to provide access to education for women and girls, which is essential to helping all women, but especially those women and girls who are survivors of sexual violence in conflict, to advance.
Here is the Archbishop’s Statement:
The Holy See extends to this Council’s French Presidency its appreciation for convening this open debate on the very important theme of women, peace and security.
The adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) remains a significant milestone in the promotion and strengthening of the role of women throughout the world. It represented and continues to represent an important step in ensuring that women play their rightful role and have their voices heard in the area of peace and security.
While many positive steps have been taken to implement the eight Council resolutions on women, peace and security, women remain a small minority in peace and security negotiations and in peacekeeping operations. The challenge therefore to implement fully these resolutions remains, and this open debate should serve to highlight this fact and find new ways to advance the implementation of these resolutions.
Women are proven agents of change and should be able to do it even more. The experience of the Catholic Church in conflict resolution, peacemaking and peacebuilding at the grassroots level during the more than five decades of violent conflict in Colombia, and today in the implementation of the Peace Accord on the ground, has amply demonstrated that women have been key and are peacemakers. They generally disarm the violent with their multiple capacities to comprehend and empathize, dissuade, convince, and forgive and to rebuild lives, families and entire communities. Pastora Mira Garcia, who lost her father, husband and two children during the civil war, is an icon for women peacemakers. She represented and spoke for all the victims in Colombia’s fifty-two year armed conflict during the meeting of Pope Francis with the victims of the conflict in Villavicencio on 8 September 2017.
Most of the today’s conflicts, however, sadly show that women are primarily targets and victims rather than peacemakers and peacebuilders. Women and girls suffer the impact of violent conflicts disproportionately. The most heinous aspect of such violence is the fact that they are specifically targeted as objects of violence and abuse as a strategy of war: They are treated as pawns of war rather than instruments of peace. Violent extremists and terrorists have used and continue to use sexual violence as a terror tactic. Moreover, restricting women’s human rights and fundamental freedoms in conflict settings and in general their place in society through the misappropriation of religion has become a widespread and dangerous development.
Act of violence against women and girls are not only perpetrated in conflict situations. One clear example is that women and girls constitute the great majority of victims of trafficking in persons. According to the 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, seventy-one percent of the victims of trafficking are women and girls, and seventy-two percent of them are trafficked for sexual exploitation. The rampant impunity in crimes related to trafficking in persons only add another horrifying layer to this scourge.
My Delegation stresses that Member States have a fundamental responsibility to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including those relating to sexual violence against women and girls. Parties to conflict should respect their obligations under international humanitarian and international human rights law and bring the perpetrators to justice to combat impunity and ensure accountability. Efforts to resolve conflicts and address their root causes should aim to empower all those who have suffered from them, especially women.
Access to education in crisis situations is vital for the empowerment of women and girls. My Delegation is encouraged by the commitment set out in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (A/RES/71/1) to provide all children with education within a few months of their arrival. The Catholic Church through her institutions and agencies around the world is providing assistance, care and support to thousands of women and girls who are survivors of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict. Courageous men and women who run these institutions sacrifice themselves on a daily basis and many of them have paid dearly for their endeavors. Locally rooted, these institutions and agencies are able to respond rapidly and effectively to address on the ground the consequences of violence in armed conflict. Internationally networked, they are active advocates in national and international fora where policies are shaped and decisions are taken.
The Holy See and the Catholic Church will continue to engage women in their efforts in conflict prevention and resolution, in peacemaking and peacebuilding in many parts of the world, not only as a matter of principle, but also because the lessons learned and best practices verified in these fields clearly show that women are indeed effective and convinced agents for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security for all.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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