Statement by Minister Brophy at Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security
Statement21 October 2021
Thank you, Madam President.
I am delighted to join you here today for this open debate, under the Kenyan Presidency, on Women, Peace and Security.
Given the agreement between Ireland, Mexico and Kenya to form a trio of WPS Presidencies, I am especially pleased to be giving expression to our shared commitment to advancing this agenda.
My thanks also to the Secretary-General for his powerful remarks, and to the briefers, Executive Director Bahous [Baa-hoos], and Special Envoy Diop [Dee-op], and Ms. Umenza, whose grassroots perspective were particularly enlightening.
Ireland’s statement this morning will focus on three key things we need to do to close the persistent gap between rhetoric and reality on WPS.
Put simply, we need to:
Empower the right people
Raise up the right voices, and
Spend money on the right things
First, empowering the right people.
To fulfil the Security Council’s mandate to maintain international peace and security, we must recognise a fundamental principle: that those who make war cannot and should not have a monopoly on the terms of peace.
Peacebuilding efforts that take account only or chiefly of the needs and wants of the parties to a conflict are doomed to fail.
For peace to work, and, importantly, to be sustained, it must be inclusive. We know that only too well from the experience on our own island.
That means peace processes with women at the table, participating fully and equally.
There is no substitute for the direct participation of women in peace talks.
That is why we welcome the emphasis Kenya has placed today on empowering local women peacebuilders, and particularly the role that peacekeeping operations can play in supporting women’s participation.
This is all the more acute in the context of transitions.
We thank all Council Members for their joint work on the recent Irish-led resolution on peacekeeping transitions.
This resolution importantly underlines the engagement by peace operations and national governments with local communities, civil society, and especially with women. It is key to managing the inevitable obstacles and setbacks on the long road to peace.
Peacekeeping needs to be gender-responsive. Increasing the numbers of women peacekeepers is an important part of that, but it is also about deeper cultural change in our militaries.
We are actually grappling with this challenge in Ireland, including through the establishment of an Independent Review, and I thank the Women of Honour group and serving personnel who have spoken out on that need for change.
Madam President, we need only look to Afghanistan to understand what happens when women are excluded from politics and public life.
The rights of women and girls should never be the last item on the agenda, something to return to when everything else is agreed.
This Council must stand with Afghan women and girls to ensure their erasure from public life can never be normalised.
This brings me, Madam President, to my second point, on raising up the right voices.
It is critical that this Council listens to, and heeds, women leaders, human rights defenders, and civil society.
We need to hear the unvarnished truth if we are to make good decisions grounded in evidence.
We also need to hear a diversity of perspectives, such as that of Ms. Umenza who spoke so honestly here today.
Ireland placed women civil society briefers at the heart of our presidency last month.
In that context, we understood starkly the grave risks faced by women peacebuilders who raise up their voices, and in particular the risks faced by civil society briefers who speak to us around this table.
Women peacebuilders must be able to participate safely: it is incumbent upon us as Council members to ensure that.
We cannot allow women to be silenced by the risk of reprisals against them or their loved ones.
And while it is very welcome that virtual working methods can facilitate the participation of grassroots women at the Council, we also need to see civil society physically back in this building and sitting around this horseshoe.
Chair, there sure are some important people missing from this room today. There is a delegation of women from Afghanistan visiting New York today. This debate is for them. It is the reality they are living. They should be here at the table.
My last point is about spending money on the right things.
I want to commend the Secretary-General for his report which spotlights some uncomfortable realities on the choices governments make between military and social spending, prioritising, as the report puts it, “warfare over welfare”.
But it is shocking that, even at the height of a global pandemic, military spending in much of the world was greater than pandemic-related health spending.
The evidence clearly shows a strong correlation between militarisation and gender inequality.
The world would be a different and much better place if welfare was privileged over warfare, especially by investing in the welfare of women and girls.
Doing so lifts whole communities out of poverty and marginalisation, and builds resilient, inclusive, peaceful societies.
To this end, Ireland recently made a five-year pledge of $1.5 million to the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund to directly support grassroots women peacebuilders and women-led organisations.
We are also a longstanding contributor to the UN Peacebuilding Fund, which leads the way by allocating 40% of its investments to supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Madam President, you have called on us to pronounce our political commitment to a greater investment in WPS and women peacebuilders.
Ireland is fully committed to advancing WPS in our work here at the Council and in co-chairing the Informal Expert Group on WPS, as a board member of the WPS Humanitarian Action Compact, and in our development cooperation expenditure.
We are also committed to advancing WPS within our own country, because this is not only a foreign policy concern confined to countries on this Council’s agenda.
The WPS Agenda must not be allowed to falter.
As we seek to create an equal and more peaceful world, we must commit to empowering the right people, raising up the right voices, and spending money on the right things.