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Statement by Minister Coveney at the UNSC Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security

Thank you, your Excellency, Madam President.


I am pleased to join you here today under the Emirati presidency for International Women’s Day.


We commend the UAE, along with Niger, Albania and Norway, for continuing the Women, Peace and Security Presidency initiative that Ireland formed with Kenya and Mexico last year.


The continued focus on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda by Members of this Council reaffirms its centrality in international peace and security. Cooperation between Members is crucial if we are to protect and advance this Agenda further.


My thanks also to the briefers, Ms. Coulibaly, whose perspective from her work on the ground, I think was illuminating, and to Executive Director Bahous and Managing Director Georgieva.


The eyes of the world are currently on Ukraine and our thoughts are with its people including the vulnerable women and girls of Ukraine who are facing such trauma and hardship, huddled together in makeshift bomb shelters. Or trapped in cities brutalised by war. Or as refugees fleeing conflict and violence within Ukraine. Or crossing borders by the hundreds of thousands.


The Russian Federation, through its decision to launch an unjustified and illegal attack, violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Europe, the likes of which we have not seen for many, many decades.


Ireland strongly condemns the Russian Federation’s further invasion of Ukraine, and its violation of the UN Charter and the core principles of international law.


We stand firmly with the people of Ukraine. And today on International Women’s Day, we want the women and the girls of Ukraine to know that we salute their resilience and their courage. This conflict is having a severe and disproportionate impact on them. We stand with them now and into the future.


The international community, and this Council in particular, has a responsibility to act to uphold the rights of all women at risk due to conflict, wherever that conflict may be taking place. And we must never forget or downplay this duty.


The topic of today’s debate is an important one and I’d like to focus my intervention on three points:


-      Firstly, delivering on our commitments to the WPS Agenda;


-      Secondly, working together to realise these aims; and


-      Thirdly, strengthening the Agenda’s relief and recovery pillar.


Firstly, to fulfil the promise of Resolution 1325, we must protect and fortify the WPS Agenda. Let’s be clear: women’s rights are human rights. They are universal, interdependent and indivisible.


Today’s debate reminds us of the gaps that remain between the aims of the Agenda and the reality that we see on the ground. These gaps widened further during the COVID-19 pandemic, and afterwards, women have been carrying disproportionate burdens across the board, as has just been pointed out to us by our briefers.


And we know that women’s economic empowerment is only truly achievable alongside their political and social empowerment as well.


Madam President, we must acknowledge that advancing women’s economic participation is not a panacea in itself. Twenty-one years on, the core of the WPS Agenda is seriously challenged, even at this Council table.


We gather here on International Women’s Day. On this day last year, Mexico and Ireland co-hosted an Arria-Formula meeting on Ensuring the Full, Equal and Meaningful Participation of Women in UN-led Peace Processes.


That meeting conveyed a clear message that women need to be directly and substantively involved in UN-led peace and political processes. The past year has made clear that we have yet to achieve that objective.


Regrettably, equality advocates still find themselves fighting to break down the societal and structural barriers that prevent women from assuming their rightful place at the negotiating and decision-making tables.


Shockingly, conflict-related sexual violence remains a weapon of war that is deliberately used. Survivors still struggle for justice and for their rights to be supported in post-traumatic situations.


And we know how quickly gains, including economic gains, can be eroded when the political tide turns.


Today, we only need to look at the continuing erosion of women’s rights in Afghanistan, by the Taliban. Once more, women are forced to argue for their basic human rights: their right to work; to education; to participate in civil and public life, and to even move freely around their own country. All in the face of continued violence and intimidation.


In truth, the Taliban have broken their promises to protect women’s rights and have disrespected the international community’s calls to respect those rights.  


In spite of this, local women peacebuilders, human rights defenders and other Afghan women continue to fight for their right to be heard and to participate, exposing themselves, at times, to grave peril in asserting those rights.


Ireland will continue to use every opportunity to amplify the voices of Afghan women. We must heed their words, including during the current negotiations on a future mandate for the UN in Afghanistan. And we will play our part in ensuring that.


This debate is the third on Women, Peace and Security since October. Together with the Presidency initiatives, it shows real promise that, together, we can reinforce this Agenda. This is key to realising the transformative change promised by Resolution 1325.


Secondly, Madam President, real progress does not occur in a vacuum either. It must bring all stakeholders along. The WPS-Humanitarian Action Compact, of which Ireland and the UAE are board members, speaks to this imperative.


Ireland supports closer cooperation between this Council, the Peacebuilding Commission, the WPS-Humanitarian Compact, and all other initiatives and bodies dedicated to advancing gender equality and women’s rights.


We fully support the work of the Peacebuilding Fund. It is a highly effective, if all too modest, instrument. We commend the increasing percentage of the Peacebuilding Fund’s investment on gender-responsive initiatives.


We also welcome increasing collaboration between UN agencies and international financial institutions on peacebuilding activities. The IMF’s new Fragile and Conflict-Affected States Strategy will be an important part of these efforts.


Thirdly, Madam President, relief and recovery in the wake of conflict is essential in building sustainable peace.


Ireland knows from our own lived experience that recovery in the wake of conflict requires firm and concrete actions. The trauma and impact of violence is not simply forgotten with the onset of a ceasefire or signing of a peace agreement. We must support women to process and recover from the pain and wounds of conflict.


The provision of financial supports, pathways to justice and health services is crucial to empowering women to respond to their trauma. This includes access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and rights. Groups such as the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund are already doing critical work in this area.


We have also seen that public-private partnerships can make a difference towards relief and recovery, as I think you have just mentioned. We should work more to integrate them into our own responses.


We also need to see funding to fuel women’s economic empowerment. Financing women-owned microbusinesses and providing educational scholarships can be transformative.


Local women’s organisations and grassroots women peacebuilders also play an essential role. We, the international community, must stand with them and support them. Doing so helps women secure their rightful and active role in political, social and economic life.


But we must ensure that this support comes from all of society, including national governments.


Madam President, as Europe has been plunged into war, we are hearing a chorus call for peace. We know that sustainable peace is not possible without women.


The question today is not whether, but how. How we in the Security Council can work to ensure that women play their full, equal and meaningful role in international peace and security.


The tide can turn towards a more equal world if the political will is there. I believe it is.


We at this table have a responsibility to ensure that the progress of recent decades is not allowed to slide backwards. The promises of the Agenda must be made a reality.


Thank you.

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