Arria Formula Meeting on Implementing the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace & Security Agenda
Statement by the Hon Stephen Smith MP, Australian Minister for Defence
Thank you Ambassador Rosenthal.
I am very pleased to join you, Security Council members, civil society organisations, UN agencies and other distinguished guests and panelists today.
I join in thanking Togo as President of the Council for its commitment to this issue, as well as the panelists for participating in what will no doubt be a good discussion, learning from the experience of those actually in the field.
I also thank Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping Affairs Herve Ladsous for his contribution as the Head of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Affairs.
Herve is a highly experienced and widely respected French diplomat who started his career as a young diplomat with a posting to Australia in the 1980s.
Furthering the effective implementation of the UN Security Council’s Women, Peace and Security agenda is a priority for Australia.
Since the Security Council adopted resolution 1325 in 2000, the UN has been charged with implementing a broad agenda to address the disproportionate adverse effect that armed conflict has on women and girls.
This includes preventing and addressing sexual violence and working to ensure women’s full and effective participation in conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict peacebuilding.
Australia has been a strong supporter of Security Council Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace and Security, since its adoption in 2010.
Women are too frequently the victims of appalling atrocities in conflict situations.
Evidence shows that violence against women escalates during conflict and remains at high levels in post-conflict situations.
Sexual violence is now globally recognised as a tactic of war, and is considered a war crime.
Women in war-affected countries often bear the highest costs of war – they can be destroyed physically, psychologically, economically and socially.
But women also play a key role in resolving conflict, and are able to lay the foundation for peace and rebuilding their communities in the aftermath of war.
Resolution 1325 was the first to link women’s experiences of conflict to the international peace and security agenda.
Australia’s international support of the Resolution 1325 since 2000 has included increasing women’s participation in peace building and rebuilding communities.
Australia has also supported training for United Nations Peacekeepers in how to protect women from sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations.
We have helped develop best practice scenario-based training materials to be used in pre-deployment and in-country training programs for military peace keepers.
In addition, the Australian Government has developed a national action plan to better implement the principles of Resolution 1325, including the full participation of women in peace processes, and the protection of women and girls.
The plan comprehensively draws together our efforts to support Resolution 1325. It will also build on the excellent work done by our defence personnel and Federal Police to make women and children safer in war-affected regions around the world.
The UN’s peacekeeping missions are at the forefront of implementing this mandate. The UN has made important strides in these efforts through gender and women protection advisers.
Australia has seen these efforts firsthand through our currently deployed peacekeepers, rebuilding in the Middle East, South Sudan and Cyprus.
We have also seen how critical the early participation of women is to achieving enduring peace through our regional experiences in Bougainville, Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands.
The need for a central role for women from community-level peacemaking, to key partners in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, is clear.
In the Solomon Islands, as part of the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), Australia supported the work of a gender advisor to provide advice across the breadth of RAMSI programs and counterpart government agencies.
This included work to remove barriers inhibiting women’s participation and representation in Government, and strengthening organisations to foster women’s leadership development through civil society.
In Timor-Leste, the Australian Federal Police provided training to the Timorese police force on gender-based violence.
We have also learnt that cultural settings within defence forces themselves are critical to the effective implementation of a gender mandate.
Comprehensive gender awareness training is one way to further this, but women’s participation in the military is also critical.
Within Australia, the participation of women in the Australian Defence Force is essential.
Women have a proud history in the Australian Defence Force.
The first women to serve in Defence were those in the New South Wales Army Nursing Service, which was established in 1899.
Army nurses subsequently served in the Boer War in 1901 and the Australian Army Nursing Reserve was created in 1902.
Women have served in every major conflict Australia has been involved in.
Today, women represent 14 per cent of personnel in the Australian Defence Force.
However, the percentage of women in the Australian Defence Force has increased by only two per cent over the past 20 years.
This progress is far too slow and is very much out of step with other relevant industries, where women’s representation has been steadily increasing.
It is critical for the future of the Australian Defence Force that we address this recruitment challenge.
In April 2011, the Australian Government announced the opening up of all roles in the Australian Defence Force to women, including combat roles, on the basis that determination for suitability for roles in the Australian Defence Force should be based on physical and intellectual ability, not gender.
Prior to this announcement, women were eligible to serve in 93 per cent of employment categories.
Roles to be open in the future to women from which women were previously excluded include: Navy Clearance Divers, Mine Clearance Diver Officers, Air Force Airfield Defence Guards, Army Infantry and Armoured Corps, Army Artillery roles, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Combat Engineer Squadrons and Special Forces.
The Australian Government is also progressing important cultural reforms in Defence to address ongoing concern in relation to failure to meet appropriate standards of conduct.
This includes the treatment of women in the Australian Defence Force and in Defence generally following reviews into the treatment of women in Defence conducted by the Australian Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Elizabeth Broderick.
In March last year, the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley and I released the comprehensive Defence reform program which outlines how these reforms will be implemented: Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture.
Internationally, Australia has supported the development of training tools and an analytical inventory for peacekeepers on addressing conflict-related sexual violence.
As the Council seeks to address the many complex and ongoing security challenges before it, including in Mali, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is critical that we ensure strong gender mandates are included early, and implemented effectively.
The breadth of the women, peace and security mandate entrusted by the Council is one that Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and other UN agencies have been making strong progress in implementing.
I look forward to today’s meeting building greater understanding of the achievements made in this regard and ways to address the challenges that remain.
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