Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the opening of the Women, Peace and Security College

10.05.2021 - Speech

It’s already two years, Nadia, since the two of us sat together at the UN Security Council table in New York, where you spoke to us about the barbaric crimes committed by the IS terrorist militia against Yazidi women. One comment in particular has stayed with me: “The hopes and aspirations of entire generations were crushed”.

Yes, when women are stripped of their dignity, it’s not just a question of justice. When women are stripped of their dignity, you extinguish the future prospects of entire generations.

This comment should be heard here again today because we’re standing before a new generation of German diplomats. I would prefer to have you all here in person but I can see you back there on a screen somewhere in the corner. And we want to take this opportunity, today’s event, to give you three messages for your future work. For it will be extremely important for Germany – not only for Germany as a country but also for the people living in this country:

Firstly, remain compassionate! Don’t look away when you’re confronted with crimes against humanity or human rights violations, such as those committed in Iraq back then, in your future work. You’re not only Germany’s antennae in the world. You should be that, but not only that – for you also have a responsibility to ring the alarm bell. Keep this in mind, no matter where you work in the coming years!

Secondly, as German diplomats, your place is by the side of those whose rights are under threat. Of those who need protection and support.

This is not a matter of blind idealism. Ultimately, it’s a matter of peace and security. For where human rights are being trampled underfoot, there can be no long‑term political stability. Respect for the rights of women and girls is a vital indicator here. That is one reason why the Women, Peace and Security agenda has become a core element of our, of German foreign policy in recent years.

On the day of your speech to the Security Council, Nadia, we worked together to push through Resolution 2467 on sexual violence in conflict. The resistance was considerable, even from quite unexpected quarters.

However, standstill would have been a victory for those who want to deprive women of the right, for example, to make their own decisions about their bodies or their health.

With your appeal in our ears, we have made many more important decisions in the last few years:

We enabled female activists to be heard in the UN Security Council more often than any other member before us.

We’ve strengthened the role of women in many peace mission mandates. We also need more female peacekeepers.

Over the past four years, we’ve launched some 700 measures to support women and girls in crisis contexts and to boost women’s participation in peace processes – from support for survivors of sexual violence in the Congo to protective facilities for peace activists in Afghanistan and training courses in negotiating techniques for women in countries in transition such as the Sudan.

And that brings me to my third message: no matter where in the world you’ll soon be posted – tackle this issue. Raise awareness of this political priority among your colleagues. For that’s what it must remain. Support our newly appointed contact persons responsible for women, peace and security at the missions abroad – above all, of course, in crisis countries. Perhaps you can simply recall this day and the words Nadia Murad is going to address to you. This is about justice and the hopes and aspirations of entire generations. Including your generation!

The new name of this Women, Peace and Security College stands for the mandate you have, for the mandate we all have. For we all have a role to play. For that reason, Nadia, it’s a special honour and pleasure for me today to be opening this college together with you and our foreign service trainees.

Thank you very much.


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