Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace, and Security

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 21, 2021


Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, for your report and for your remarks. I’d like to welcome Sima Bahous, the new head of UN Women, and we look forward to working with you in the future. I’d like to thank our two briefers who joined us this morning for this annual debate on Women, Peace, and Security and welcome all of our guests. But I’d also just like to take a moment and call out Bineta Diop and thank her for her years of commitment to African women. Wherever women have faced issues, Bineta has been there for more than 20 years. She’s never ever given up on her commitment even in the face of some of the most difficult challenges. Thank you, Bineta. And thank you so much to Kenya for convening us to fully reaffirm our WPS commitments and discuss how to further support and amplify ongoing efforts by women to craft and sustain peace.

Let me start by stating our firm and unequivocal commitment to the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, as laid out in Resolution 1325. By promoting women’s participation and leadership – in politics, in education, in mediation, in negotiations, in every aspect of public life – we promote more security and peace for all. So, this should not just be a priority for women; it should be a priority for everyone who values peace and progress.

For our part, the United States is proud of our tireless work to advance this landmark resolution and its tenets. The United States passed the Women, Peace, and Security Act in 2017, making us the first country in the world with a comprehensive domestic law promoting this key agenda. Since that time, we have made profound and tangible progress toward advancing the WPS agenda, which has greatly increased the safety and security of women, girls, and people around the world.

Internally, we have improved the capacity and technical expertise of our government personnel to add a WPS lens. Our Department of Defense, for example, has overhauled our WPS training and developed additional in-house training to meet the growing need and demands for WPS instruction. And our Department of Homeland Security trained hundreds of personnel to integrate WPS principles into their work.

Meanwhile, around the world, USAID provided critical healthcare, psychosocial support, legal aid, and economic services to more than 13.5 million survivors of gender-based violence. And our Department of State has invested approximately $138 million in women, peace, and security assistance, complementing our diplomatic and policy engagements in 60 countries.

My point is: These are not just talking points for us. They are genuine commitments, clearly codified in domestic legislation, that we are meeting as a key part of our overarching foreign policy.

In June, the White House provided its first report to Congress tracking our progress on this work. The challenges it detailed are very real. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to spiking and extraordinary rates of gender-based violence and erased decades of progress on efforts to protect and educate girls. Many of the girls affected will never return to school if the international community chooses to neglect and forget them. We can’t allow that to happen. We need to work together to promote the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda around the world because we know – we know – we make a difference.

For example, women played a leading role in Sudan’s 2019 transition, and women’s representation in subsequent political negotiations were crucial for maintaining peace and security. This was a moment where women took their seat at the table and pushed for resounding change in their country. Of course, the work is not done. These women – and others – need to be included in transition and reconciliation efforts to ensure there is real, sustainable peace in Sudan.

Or look at Colombia, where there has been significant progress following the truly inclusive peace process, which resulted in numerous gender provisions in the final peace accord. The United States continues to support efforts to monitor and advance implementation of the peace accord there, including provisions related to the safety, empowerment of women and girls, and the development of local peace councils.

These are just two examples of tangible progress, but the world is poised to produce many, many more. That starts with this Council’s work to prioritize the safety, perspectives, and participation of women in peacekeeping operations and special political mission mandate renewals.

Moving forward, we hope to see many more mandates promote the inclusion of women in operations, the perspectives and needs of women and girls and other groups at risk of violence and exploitation, and the protection of human rights defenders and civil society. We will continue to call for these commitments on behalf of women and girls around the world. But the challenges remain. We must continue to demand and defend the rights for Afghan women and girls. We must stand up against violence and targeting of women in war. We must defend girls’ rights to education, and so much more.

We hope other Security Council Member States will join us in adopting and implementing national action plans and strategies for Women, Peace, and Security Agenda. These important tools hold us all accountable to our commitments, including tracking progress on gender equality, addressing gender-based violence, ensuring women’s participation in decision-making forums that impact us and our commitment*.

The world’s women and girls need us, and we need them. Let us move forward, do right by women and girls, and use this agenda to advance peace and security for all. As we heard in the film, there can be no lasting peace without women.

Thank you.