Speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the opening of the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network Meeting

09.04.2018 - Speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf not only of the Federal Foreign Office, but also of the Federal Government, I am delighted to welcome you to the Women, Peace and Security Focal Points Network Meeting in Berlin. Germany has organised today’s meeting as chair of the network in 2018. In doing so, we worked very closely with Spain, which set up the network and served as chair last year, and Namibia, which will take over as chair in 2019. I would like to thank our partners, which include UN Women, for their outstanding support.

And I am also delighted that we are not only welcoming focal points from all over the world and from regional organisations, but also representatives of the United Nations, civil society and the parliamentary sector. Ms Lochbihler, your presence here today underlines the importance Brussels attaches to this subject, so I would like to welcome you in particular.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In 2018, we will celebrate two important anniversaries related to today’s topic, namely the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, here in Germany, the centenary of women’s suffrage. These were very important steps on the path to greater equality and social participation for women.

However, we see that there is still a long way to go before women truly participate as equal partners in politics, peacekeeping and security. It is simply grotesque that some people still dare to argue in 2018 – and unfortunately, some of them are in Germany – that there are not enough qualified women for top jobs. We really should bury this argument. The reality tells a different story. Women are better educated today than ever before. More women than men graduate from German universities. We also still have work to do at the Federal Foreign Office. Although we have already significantly increased the percentage of women working in a large number of areas, we still need to do more both here in Berlin and in our missions abroad.

More women in top positions in all fields is an urgently needed first step. The #metoo scandals have shown that if certain sectors and companies are run entirely by men, that does not only prevent genuine equal opportunities, but can also create an environment for sexualised violence. And it is very clear that sexism starts long before it becomes a criminal offence. That is why it is crucial to tear down social structures that facilitate discrimination on the basis of gender.

I am thus grateful that you will also address the topic of sexualised and gender-based violence today. The Secretary-General of the United Nations regularly publishes reports on sexualised violence in conflict, thus documenting the worst human rights violations perpetrated worldwide by the use of sexualised violence as a war tactic. That is simply perverse.

Your answers to the question of how we can create accountability and prevent this despicable form of violence will further the discussions in New York. And progress is badly needed. We cannot merely criticise this state of affairs. We need to do something about it and we need to do it visibly and effectively.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Women can and must play an active role in conflict prevention, peace talks, reconstruction, reconciliation in societies and particularly in postconflict situations.

That is the key message of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and that is what we have been working on for 18 years since its adoption in New York.

One aim of today’s meeting is to highlight how alliances can promote this agenda – alliances with regional organisations or strong partners such as the G7, with other networks and initiatives, but also, and very importantly, with civil society.

Civil‑society stakeholders play a crucial role in implementing the resolution, with Bündnis 1325 the most important organisation in this regard here in Germany. I am also very pleased that Ms Salamanca from Colombia and Ms Askira from Nigeria are here with us today and will tell us about the views of civil society during the panel discussion later on.

Particularly at a time when many countries are curtailing the scope for civil society – something that is happening in far too many places in the world – we need to listen to and support civil society.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Germany regards the implementation of Resolution 1325 as a cross-cutting task. The six ministries involved make it part of their day‑to‑day work to achieve its aims. And in its coalition agreement, the new Federal Government has undertaken to implement the second National Action Plan for Women’s Equal Participation in Crisis Prevention, Conflict Management and Post‑conflict Peacebuilding.

In the Federal Foreign Office, we see this as a task for all of our activities worldwide, that is, our crisis-prevention and stabilisation policy, humanitarian aid, international human rights policies, and even our disarmament policy, which will keep us busy in the coming years.

We also support activists like you. In concrete terms, we support the African Women Leaders Network, an initiative launched by the African Union and UN Women with representatives from over 40 African countries, which plays an important part in strengthening women’s role in crises, armed conflicts and shaping stable peace orders. Two of today’s panellists, Bineta Diop, the African Union’s Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security, and Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria together recently for this very reason. We look forward to hearing about your impressions and experiences during the panel discussion.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is a close connection between equal opportunities, the protection of human rights, sustainable development and the preservation of peace and security. The central organ in this field, the United Nations Security Council, is of particular importance. Germany is a candidate for a non‑permanent seat on the Security Council for 2019/20.

If we are elected on 8 June, I can promise you that the agenda for women, peace and security will be a priority in our work.

For today, I hope you will have productive discussions and plenty of opportunities to share your experiences with each other.


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