Estonia aligns itself with the statement to be delivered by the European Union.
We thank the Secretary-General for his truly substantial report and the briefers for their presentations. We welcome Ms Bahous at her first briefing to the Security Council and look forward to a continued strong leadership by UN Women on women, peace and security.
The Council’s annual debate on Women, Peace and Security is not the only time in 12 months when we should focus on this topic – we need to do this throughout the year, but it is a time to take stock. Of where we have failed and where we have made steps forward.
The situation in Afghanistan has presented a clear question whether and how we as the Council are able and willing to stand up for women’s rights and their participation in political and peace processes. There can be no sustainable peace without women – anywhere.
The reports of widespread conflict-related sexual violence in Tigray – as the SG notes “a horror of unknown scale but familiar patterns”, is only one example of the sexual violence against women and girls, most of it continuing unreported and with impunity, as demonstrated by the UN listings.
Women have been attacked, tortured, or detained for participation in protests from Belarus to Myanmar. Targeted killings of women judges, activists and human rights defenders throughout 2020 and 2021 aimed to silence women in Afghanistan. That’s silence that we cannot afford as the Council.
The report presented by the SG is a reflection of the gradual and at times slow progress made in implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda. In this connection, I would stress the following:
- UN leadership in encouraging and supporting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women remains essential from Syria to Yemen, Libya and South Sudan. Our progress here remains slow, and the lack of gender provisions in ceasefire agreements undermines women’s participation in the future peace processes.
- UN peacekeeping and political missions can support this leadership. Investing in women peacekeepers, mediators and providing resources for gender and women protection advisors provides a foundation for this.
- The link between women, peace and security was affirmed by the Council over 20 years ago and yet it continues to be questioned in almost all of our deliberations. We therefore welcome the WPS Trio Presidency and its aim to set WPS right at the centre of each discussion we have, i.a. through country briefings dedicated to WPS, heightened visibility of the topic and systematic integration of WPS language in Council decisions. We look forward to the continuation of this tradition in the Council in the years to come and pledge to continue to support this work on our part.
- The Security Council informal expert group on WPS plays a key role in supporting this link. We welcome its relevant and timely meetings and recall that it is, first of all, down to us to ensure that its analysis and recommendations are taken forward in Council deliberations.
- Threats and attacks against women activists and civil society representatives cannot lead to their exclusion or self-censorship. They need to be heard, in the Council and at local level. We call for enhanced support frameworks and resources, including by the UN, to support their participation and safety. Estonia supports the Women´s Peace and Humanitarian Fund and support to women human rights defenders is part of the activities foreseen in our action plan on WPS.
- We need to break the pattern of impunity. The inclusion of sexual violence and human rights related benchmarks, such as for the sanctions regime for South Sudan and designating and using criteria related to sexual violence, including against politically active women, as by the Yemen sanctions committee, are a welcome part of this effort.
- Lastly and simply put – we need more political will and resources. Women, peace and security remains a priority in our daily work in the Security Council. As a catalytic member of the Women, Peace and Security and Humanitarian Action Compact, Estonia will continue to support UN Women, UNICEF, UNFPA and the offices of the SG’s Special Representatives on Sexual Violence and Children and Armed Conflict in their activities.
- I can assure you that our work continues beyond our term in this Council.