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I warmly welcome you to this year’s workshop on Women, Peace and Security here in Berlin. I am delighted to note such a keen interest in the topic, and to see such a diverse group attending: a group that includes representatives of Security Council members and other UN-member states, civil society, field practitioners, academia as well as policy experts from UN bodies and regional organizations.
Germany is committed to putting women’s empowerment and the protection of women at the heart of its Security Council policy agenda. We are delighted to co-chair the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security with Peru in 2019 and 2020, and are grateful for our close cooperation with the United Kingdom and former chair Sweden on this topic.
By taking very specific steps we want to support the UN’s work on eliminating conflict-related sexual violence during our non-permanent membership of the Security Council. The open debate on this topic during our first presidency of the Council in April will be an important opportunity to strengthen the Security Council’s normative work on conflict-related sexual violence. The time of the open debate will also be an opportunity for Member States to commit to specific measures on the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda ahead of the 20-year anniversary of resolution 1325 in October 2020.
We will therefore in this workshop not only discuss the state of the art of the WPS agenda with a particular focus on the fight against conflict-related sexual violence, but also highlight strategies to expedite implementation ahead of October 2020.
Understanding the links between all pillars of the WPS agenda is paramount to its implementation. In order to fight conflict-related sexual violence, we need to continue to highlight the importance of changing gendered power relations. We only have a chance of ending rape as a weapon of war if we take prevention far enough: by managing to end the objectification of women, and by achieving equality between women and men. Only if we meaningfully include women in peace processes will we achieve peace agreements that lay the ground for a gender-equal post-conflict order. Only through gender-specific analysis and measures of relief and recovery efforts will we manage to establish more equal societies, which are not only more resilient to a new outbreak of violence, but also to the re-occurrence of conflict-related sexual violence.
Today and tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, we will discuss important questions: How can we ensure that women’s participation in conflict prevention, in peace and political processes is considered throughout when the Security Council discusses country- and regional-specific situations? Where are the gaps and challenges in the existing normative framework, and how can we close them? How can we specifically ensure accountability for conflict-related sexual violence, not just as an end in itself, but as a tool for prevention?
Roughly 10 years ago, on 19 June 2008, Security Council resolution 1820 was unanimously adopted. It clearly established that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to genocide, and reaffirmed the resolve expressed in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, including by ending impunity. All subsequent resolutions on conflict-related sexual violence reaffirmed these goals.
10 years down the road, we can see from situations ranging from South Sudan to Syria that the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war and terror still continues to be a defining element of conflicts. And despite many improvements in the legal framework and infrastructure to fight conflict-related sexual violence, our collective response – both in assisting survivors and ensuring accountability – still is not strong enough.
Striving to enhance both survivor-centered approaches and accountability for perpetrators, Germany supports survivors of conflict-related sexualized violence in and outside Germany. Furthermore, the German legislature has committed itself to investigating and sanctioning grave criminal offenses against civilian populations who are assured protection under international humanitarian law. To this end, the principle of universal jurisdiction was introduced in our Code of Crimes against International Law. Universal jurisdiction means that crimes against international law can be prosecuted in Germany, even if neither the perpetrator nor the victim is a German citizen.
Germany wants to send a clear warning to potential perpetrators anywhere in the world: They can expect punishment for such crimes, even years after the offense. They should not consider Germany a safe haven.
In the next two days, we will discuss many aspects that are relevant to strengthening the normative framework against conflict-related sexual violence. This includes identifying gaps in the existing framework, ensuring accountability, supporting the ownership of states in doing so, discussing holistic and survivor-centered ‘restorative justice’ approaches, and integrating new and emerging issues into the discussion. We are happy to be collaborating with SRSG Pramilla Patten and her team in this effort.
Let me also emphasize some aspects that we deem crucial as we prepare ourselves for 2020.
Germany will be your partner for bringing the voice of civil society into the Council, also on specific country situations – from Afghanistan to South Sudan. I am deeply grateful to the New York-based NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security for their excellent work and contribution in this regard.
We also need to prepare for 2020. 20 years after adopting resolution 1325, we need to remind Member States that they need to step up implementation! We will ask Member States in April to put forward commitments on how they intend to increase women’s participation in peace processes until October 2020.
Finally, we will need to make use of the Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security as a dynamic tool of the Security Council – you will also have opportunity to discuss this point in more depth during this workshop.
I am keenly looking forward to the results of the discussions that you will have in the next two days and am pleased to be able to assure you: Germany remains committed to the WPS agenda, during its membership on the Security Council and beyond.