NATO Statement at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security: Protecting Participation – addressing violence targeting women in peace and security processes
By NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, Ms Irene Fellin
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Security Council on the occasion of this open debate on protecting the participation of women in peace and security processes. The Women, Peace and Security agenda remains essential to all efforts to safeguard freedom and security – and therefore a crucial aspect of all that NATO does. Our commitment to gender equality – shared by all NATO Allies and so many of our partners - is built on principle and must be realized in practice. Participation is one of the pillars of the Women, Peace and Security agenda for good reason: we cannot expect sustainable peace and security if more than half of our people aren’t involved. Women’s participation is paramount. And when it comes to ensuring that women are able to contribute to peace and security, we need not only for the principle to be in place – legally ensuring that women are permitted to participate – but we need also to ensure that their participation is physically possible and does not entail undue risks to them and their families.
We know that women are disproportionately affected by violence in situations of conflict and instability. We are actively working to reduce the threats women face in these contexts – this is why NATO has adopted policies on conflict-related sexual violence as well as sexual exploitation and abuse. But we also know that women who seek to participate in political processes or contribute to peace and security processes often face targeted violence. And we know that there are practical ways of addressing this, including as part of the training we provide in support of our partners. By recognizing the risks that women face, security providers can take steps to ensure the immediate protections needed – for example during electoral processes. We also need to keep in mind that the kinds of violence that impede women’s participation in peace and security is not limited to physical violence and intimidation but is also rampant in cyberspace. Women are far more likely to be the targets of online bullying.
In order to protect women’s participation, therefore, we need to understand the risks women face and the value that their contributions add to peace and security. We can also take steps to address the underlying impediments to gender equality through communications and education efforts. This makes an important difference in not only enabling participation in the moment but also in shifting momentum over time. And for that reason, helping our partners build capacity, improving the education and training we provide internally and to partners, and enhancing communication around gender equality are all important elements in NATO’s new action plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Women are essential to sustainable peace and security, and we all have a role to play in ensuring that they are able to participate fully in these processes and in all the institutions on which our societies are built. NATO is committed to working as part of the international community – with our Allies and partners, with the United Nations, and with civil society – to ensure that women’s participation in peace and security is protected and that we continue to move towards a more gender equal world.