Remarks at a UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on Reprisals Against Women Human Rights Defenders and Peacebuilders

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
February 21, 2020


To begin, we’d like to thank the Dominican Republic and the United Kingdom for convening this meeting on this important and concerning issue. We look forward to working with newly appointed Assistant-Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ms. Ilze Brands-Kehris, as we address cases of intimidation or reprisals against civil society briefers. A very special thank you, as well, to the briefers who are here with us today for sharing their experiences and insight. You and your colleagues from civil society help us do our jobs better, and you often do so at great personal cost. Especially in light of the challenges you face, we appreciate your willingness to do this important work.

The United States strongly supports women’s human rights defenders and peacebuilders and their participation at the UN Security Council and in subsidiary bodies. Civil society representatives have valuable and unique perspectives on issues that the Security Council faces. Their critical insights cannot be ignored. To uphold justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators, human rights defenders often work in dangerous environments. UN Security Council Resolution 2493 specifically recognizes the specialized expertise and resources they provide. This is why the rise in reprisals against civil society briefers at the UN is so alarming. Acts of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the UN as a whole and the Security Council in particular.

In his September 2019 report on reprisals, the Secretary-General referenced the challenges facing women human rights defenders. The report notes that these women often face restrictive state policies that hinder their registration or the provision of their travel clearances. Women defenders have reported travel bans, online harassment, interrogation, arbitrary detention, and physical attacks before and after meetings. This is unacceptable. The United States unequivocally condemns these acts of intimidation and reprisals against women human rights defenders and peacebuilders. Civil society briefers must be allowed to carry out their vital work, which provides an inclusive, gender-sensitive perspective to conflicts on the ground, and the ways they disproportionately affect women. Civil society upholds universal human rights, promotes good governance, and plays an integral role in holding member states accountable for the commitments they have made. For these reasons, the United States believes it is essential that civil society voices, and especially the voices of women human rights defenders and peacebuilders, continue to be integrated into discussions held at the Security Council and in subsidiary bodies. We must coordinate with our respective missions abroad to better protect these women from reprisals before or after meetings.

Both men and women civil society members have consistently shown that their voices are instrumental in making the UN a more transparent, inclusive, and diverse institution. The United States is committed to supporting the participation of women human rights defenders and peacebuilders in their work at the United Nations, while working to protect them from reprisals at home.

Thank you.