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Security Council – Meeting in Arria – Formula on “Women Human Rights Defenders and Women Peacebuilders”

Statement delivered by Italy at the Security Council – Meeting in Arria Formula on “Women Human Rights Defenders and Women Peacebuilders” —

Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the Representative of the European Union, and wishes to add the following remarks in a national capacity.

We thank the Missions of the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic, and the co-sponsor Countries for this initiative, and all the briefers for their inspiring insights. It is essential for the Security Council to hear the perspective of women, for better informed and more thorough decision making. We therefore welcome the increased participation of Women Human Rights Defenders and women peacebuilders in SC briefings.

We are also aware, however, that their increased exposure opens the way to higher risks for their safety. The rise in episodes of violence against woman human rights defenders and women peacebuilders cooperating with the SC, as highlighted by the UNSG, is indeed worrisome.

In our view, the main root causes of this phenomenon dwell in the failure to recognize women as full actors and game changers, the belief that they can be forced into silence through physical or psychological violence, or the fear of it. A paradigm shift is therefore needed. Only by encouraging a cultural change that entails the full and meaningful participation of women and girls in the decision making processes, can this culture of violence be effectively fought.

All the recommendations that have been voiced this morning are valuable means to address this phenomenon.

On the one hand, accountability at the level of the SC is needed, and States should be encouraged to increased protection measures for the WHRD and WPB and accountability for their offenders. Even though progress towards combating the culture of impunity has been made, the lack of accountability as well as non-compliance with UNSC resolutions are still an open wound, and much remains to be done.

On the other hand, it is fundamental to affirm a culture of full gender equality that entails full and effective participation of women and girls in all spheres. Women are key drivers of peace, and must play a significant role across the whole cycle of peace, including in conflict prevention and mediation.

We believe that States have the primary responsibility to promote women’s empowerment and ensure the protection of Women Human Rights Defenders and Women Peacebuilders. We welcome the increasing adoption of National Action Plans on Women Peace and Security, and we consider it essential that these Plans include specific provisions for the protection of WHRD and WPB and are funded with adequate resources, in order to ensure their effective implementation.

WHRD and WPB are mostly vulnerable in conflict situations.
In order to allow them to work in a safe environment, without fear of reprisals and intimidation, it is essential that the UN peacekeeping missions step up their protection. We welcome the fact that several peacekeeping missions have strengthened their strategic engagement with women human rights defenders and women peacebuilders, and we believe that their protection should be systematically included in the mandate of UN peacekeeping missions and UN special political missions.

Mr. Chair, the protection of human rights defenders is among the main priorities of Italy’s current mandate on the Human Rights Council. In our voluntary pledges, we committed, among other things, to continue actively supporting human rights defenders and step up the efforts against all forms of reprisal with a view to creating a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity. We strongly support the work of the Assistant Secretary General in this regard.

We also support the important role of women peacebuilders and human rights defenders in promoting and advocating the realization of all human rights, at the local, national, regional and international levels, including by engaging with Governments and contributing to the efforts in the implementation of the obligations and commitments of States in this regard.

Establishing a stronger women presence in UN missions should also be a priority, in order to facilitate the dialogue with local populations and encourage victims to speak out and to enhance mandate’s delivery, in particular with reference to the protection of civilians. Italy is stepping up its efforts in order to increase the numbers of female peacekeepers. Over the last few years, our Ministry of Defense has incorporated the gender perspective in its policies and training curricula, has appointed a Gender Advisor and has established a Joint Council on gender perspectives.