Statement delivered by Ambassador Mariangela Zappia, Permanent Representative of Italy to the United Nations, at the Security Council Open Debate on Promoting the implementation of the women and peace and security agenda and sustaining peace through women’s political and economic empowerment —
Quiero felicitarme con Bolivia por la organización de este importante debate.
Italy aligns itself with the statement by the European Union and by Canada on behalf of the Group of Friends on Women, Peace and Security.
Conflict prevention begins in times of peace and it must start with gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. There is indeed strong evidence that women’s empowerment and gender equality lead to more peaceful and stable outcomes. By contrast, the larger the gender gap and the marginalization, exclusion and lost opportunities of women, the more likely a country is to be involved in inter and intrastate conflict and to use violence as a first response in a conflict setting.
Here I would like to present some lines of action for an enhanced commitment of the international community as a whole.
First, setting the standard. We commend the fact that since the launch of the Gender Parity Strategy, many UN entities have made parity commitments and now include gender parity in their performance evaluation processes. More Countries are also joining the Circle of Leadership on Sexual Harassment, launched by the Secretary-General last year, to implement a zero-tolerance policy on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and other stakeholders working with the UN feel compelled to follow the path.
In this regard, Italy has made gender equality a central commitment of its foreign policy. Last year, we held the first-ever ministerial meeting of the G7 entirely dedicated to gender. This year in the framework of our OSCE Chairmanship, we are mainstreaming a gender-perspective into all initiatives, and the implementation of the OSCE Gender Action Plan is high on our agenda. Italy is part to the Circle of Leadership of the Secretary General; has signed its Voluntary Compact and is honored to be the top donor to the UN Trust Fund in support of victims of sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN personnel.
Second, ensuring meaningful participation of women across the peace cycle. Numbers show that we are still very far from reaching this objective: as the Secretary-General said this morning, between 1990 and 2017 women comprised only 2% of mediators, 8% of negotiators. 5% of witnesses and signatories of peace agreements. In order to facilitate the appointment of women mediators and Special Envoys at the local and international levels, Italy has launched the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network. The purpose of the network is twofold: prevention and mediation on the one hand, and capacity-building on the other. In the Mediterranean region, where migration issues are compounded by human trafficking, transnational organized crime, rising violent extremism, and refugee and humanitarian emergencies, women have a major role to play in helping countries prevent conflicts and strengthen national reconciliation processes. They do so by ensuring a gendered and inclusive perspective on issues of security, justice and governance, which are often the root causes of violent conflicts. This network is also a concrete way for women to acquire and develop capacity and expertise to work successfully as official UN mediators or mediation experts. I am proud to see that some of the women mediators of our Network are here today in the room.
Third, in conflict situations, we need effective peacekeeping operations. This can achieved first of all by raising the numbers of female peacekeepers. Female peacekeepers can access populations and environments that are closed to men, thereby improving intelligence regarding potential security risks. Women peacekeepers improve dispute resolution build trust with communities, are more likely to be accepted by civilians, thereby advancing stability and the rule of law.
Effective peacekeeping requires also appropriate training. This is what we try to do with the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (CoESPU) in Vicenza, Italy, which provides high-quality training and specialized courses for peacekeepers on rule of law, protection of civilians, sexual and gender based violence in conflicts and the broader Women Peace and Security Agenda.
Fourth, accountability for violations. Unfortunately, sexual violence is still an effective weapon of war and it comes with no cost if there are no consequences to these crimes. Over the past few decades, the international community has taken progressive steps to put an end to impunity for sexual and gender-based crimes at the global level. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court expressly lists various forms of sexual and gender-based crimes as underlying acts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. Also, as mentioned some days ago in an interesting Arria formula meeting on this topic, the Council should impose targeted sanctions against individuals who have committed sexual violence. Together with other partners, we initiated it in January 2017 when sexual and gender-based violence was included as a stand-alone designation criterion in the renewal of sanctions on the Central African Republic. Now it is up to this Council to establish sexual violence as an automatic designation criterion.
As emphasized by the Secretary-General, there is still a huge gap between commitments and reality. Women remain underrepresented, marginalized and vulnerable to the most heinous consequences of conflicts. The commitments undertaken in this and other chambers must be translated into the financial and political support needed for the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. Increasing the number of women peacekeepers, achieving full parity in UN management positions, targeting investments into women especially in conflict areas are lines of action, pointed out earlier by the Secretary-General and Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka, which Italy supports strongly: they pave the way for a radical change in gender culture and for a meaningful participation of women, especially in decision-making processes.