Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 29, 2019


Thank you, Madame Chairman.

Thank you, to the Secretary-General for his briefing and report on Women, Peace, and Security. And thank you to each of our special guests for speaking so candidly. We recognize the report’s candor and share its sentiment. Thank you as well, to the Foreign Minister Pandor, for convening us to discuss the Women, Peace, and Security agenda.

When it comes to conflict resolution, women are indispensable. The truth was reinforced for me by a gathering of women I met in Malakal, South Sudan following the Security Council’s trip to Juba. These women have endured and are continuing to endure more than most of us can possibly imagine. What is so difficult for these women is not what they…[pause], the terrible secrets they are carrying; it’s that they cannot even share even the simple truths of what has happened to them because doing so would put their families in danger. One of the very brave women in Malakal walked over two hours just to sit with us and share in confidence, in a place of safety. These women, and so many like them, have important matters to express. Are we ensuring that they have a voice? Are we paying attention when they speak?

The United States believes the role of women is so essential that in 2017, we signed a stand-alone Women, Peace, and Security law – the first and only one of its kind in the world. And in 2019, the President released the US Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security. The strategy outlines how we plan to safeguard women’s participation in peace and security matters and advance the Women, Peace, and Security agenda domestically and abroad. Participation begins with having a seat at the table. How are we doing on that front?

In the United States, as we speak, we are hosting nearly 80 women leaders to build cross-cultural understanding and advancing the Women, Peace, and Security agenda. And earlier this month, the U.S. hosted a high-level forum on Women, Peace, and Security in the Middle East, with dozens of female participants, including women from Syria. These actions align with the aims of the Resolution 1325, including mandatory increases in representation of women at all decision-making levels and the provision for the special needs of women and girls in conflict. But ensuring a seat at the table for women is just the bare minimum. We must also see to it that women are empowered once they have that seat.

Alaa, that’s why we are proud to have supported your travel to the United States. Briefings like yours strengthen civil society’s role in civic life, and underscore for us the role that women play in conflict resolution. While we want to empower women abroad, we must also attend to this issue at home. So, we are ensuring that our own national security institutions are fully prepared to support women. The United States is enhancing training for our diplomats, development experts, our military personnel so that our public servants actively promote gender equality.

Lastly, our partner governments must work toward full equality for women, including girls, and secure women’s inclusion in all stages of conflict resolution. The NGO Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security recently and rightfully called on us to defend the legitimacy of the work of human rights defenders and their role in promoting peace and security. We read their open letter to Member States with great interest and agree that women’s full, effective and meaningful participation in all aspects of peace and security must be non-negotiable and safeguarded.

One place we can heed this call is in the Secretary-General’s report on the Verification Mission in Colombia, which stresses the need to address killings of human rights defenders and social leaders, and the specific risks faced by women leaders. We can also heed this call by responding to the Secretary-General’s request for more Member States to create national action plans to advance the Women, Peace, and Security as Colombia is now doing through a joint partnership with the United States. The U.S. is ready to support all Member States in crafting and implementing Women, Peace, and Security action plans and strategies.

But if there is one lesson I have drawn from the past few weeks, it is that this entire Council has a moral obligation to follow through. So many women in Malakal, in South Sudan, and in conflict zones around the world are faithfully walking the road to peace. But they need to know they are not on this road alone. And so, I need to ask you the final two questions.

Will we all commit to ensuring that all women have a voice? Will we pay attention to what they are telling us?

Thank you.