Statement by DPR Gert Auväärt at UN Security Council Arria meeting on strengthening an integrated approach to peace and security in the Sahel through a gendered lens

UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting: Strengthening an integrated approach to peace and security in the Sahel through a gendered lens: Launch of the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel

I thank the organisers of today’s Arria formula meeting for raising this important topic. Estonia is honoured to be one of the co-sponsors of today’s event and to join the Group of Friends of Women of the Sahel.

We fully support the aim of this initiative. Women have long played key roles in the peace processes in the Sahel and can be a driving force for change, but their participation at various levels of decision-making and thereby their impact is constrained. Among others, it is restrained by the threats and vulnerabilities faced by women peacebuilders and human rights defenders.

The cornerstone for women’s participation, in the Sahel and anywhere in the world, is their full enjoyment of human rights, gender equality and empowerment.

I would focus on three key aspects of women and girls’ empowerment in the Sahel. Namely, addressing the existing fragilities such as climate change, access to education and other state services, and the fight against impunity and ensuring accountability.

First, the negative effects of climate change are an everyday reality in the Sahel region, contributing to heightened tensions between communities and driving people out of their homes. Women and girls are often more vulnerable in these situations – a gender-responsive approach and the inclusion of women and girls needs to be part of addressing the interlocking security, development and economic challenges.

Secondly, access to education, as well as to basic state services is crucial. We need to ensure that all children regardless of their gender have no constraint to attend school. We also need to make sure that all girls who walk or take the bus or minivan to school actually make it there safely. Here the region’s states can play an important role by ensuring that the state is present in all areas of their territories and initiatives to support access to education in cooperation with international partners.

An important part of women’s and girls’ empowerment is the fight against impunity. It is crucial to ensure that all perpetrators of violence against women and girls, including sexual and gender based violence, are held fully accountable. Only in this case can women and girls who want to make a difference in their country and community, step forward without a threat of reprisals.

To conclude, we believe that the Group of Friends, which brings together Member States, important regional actors, the UN and other stakeholders, is well placed to analyse and advocate for a gender-responsive approach on the Sahel and the inclusion of the voice women and girls in its future. I can assure you that Estonia as a Security Council member has and will continue to do so.

Thank you.