On January 10, at 9:00 a.m. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer will convene and deliver remarks at the first international Working Forum on Women, Information and Communication Technologies and Development (WICTAD) at the Institute for International Education (IIE) in Washington, DC. Co-hosted by the Department of State’s Office of Global Women’s Issues and UN Women, WICTAD will bring together representatives from civil society, academia, government, the private sector, and the UN to assess the social, economic, and political implications of the gender gap in Internet access. Participants in the two-day forum will explore opportunities for increased collaboration as well as identify quantifiable goals and strategies for expanding women’s and girls’ access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), related services, and opportunities in the ICT field. Learn More
As an international forum on ending violence against women concluded in New York on December 14th, 12 countries have announced new, concrete initiatives to address this gross human rights violation. Responding to a call by UN Women under its initiative COMMIT, countries from every region have pledged actions ranging from improved services for survivors to national advocacy and educational campaigns, initiatives to address workplace harassment, National Acton Plans and other innovative interventions. Read More
The United States co-sponsored the following statement read by the United Kingdom at the Human Rights Council July 2 on behalf of 66 countries.
20th Human Rights Council
July 2, 2012
Women’s Rights, Peace and Security
We recognise women’s vital role in achieving and maintaining international peace and security and as such understand the need for equal political, civic and economic participation in times of peace, conflict and during periods of political transition. We also recognise that failure to respect human rights impacts on the wider peace and security agenda and reaffirm that women are equally entitled as men to the same rights enshrined in the UDHR and the two international covenants.
As such, we call on States:
- To protect the rights of women, especially in conflict and post-conflict situations;
- To promote equal involvement in all aspects of life during times of transition;
- And to ensure women’s access to positions of decision making in order to build and maintain democratic and stable societies
Sexual violence, specifically during periods of armed conflict, insecurity and transition as well as in post-conflict situations, disproportionately affects women and girls. Such violence not only undermines the safety, dignity and human rights of women and girls, but also undermines the critical contributions they make to society and hinders s inclusive and sustainable peace processes. Sexual violence must therefore be addressed throughout all stages of conflict resolution, starting with ceasefire agreements, and we encourage the presence of adequate gender expertise at the peace table.
The Vienna World Conference on Human Rights expressed its dismay at massive violations of human rights including systematic rape of women in conflict. It stressed that perpetrators must be punished and such practices immediately stopped.
Sexual violence may constitute a war crime or crime against humanity and states are responsible for complying with their relevant international obligations to prosecute these crimes. We therefore commit to work through appropriate national and international mechanisms towards the prevention, early warning and effective response to sexual violence in conflict-related situations, including through tackling impunity and increasing the number of prosecutions.
We remind all States, particularly parties to conflict, of their obligations under applicable international law with regard to the prohibition of all forms of sexual violence.
Times of transition have many causes. Elections or political change, conflict and natural disasters can all create uncertainty and upheaval. Whatever the cause, these times can present a period of immense vulnerability for women, but also a unique window of opportunity. Human rights violations and abuses must be prevented and the foundation for women’s longer term empowerment must be laid.
To this end, we call upon all States, including those affected by conflict and undergoing political transitions, to protect and promote the human rights of women including such rights as education and to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. We encourage all States to take proactive measures to address the barriers that prevent and discourage women from meaningful civic, economic and political participation, such as gender-based violence, poverty, unequal access to financing and to justice; We urge States to ratify CEDAW and implement their obligations under it. We urge all States to implement fully Security Council Resolution 1325 and its follow-up resolutions on Women and Peace and Security and General Assembly Resolution 66/130 on women and political participation
Finally we reaffirm and express full support for the important role of the UN in promoting gender equality between men and women and advancing the status of women. We welcome the role of UN Women and efforts to strengthen internal accountability and coordination. We especially note the role that the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures could play within their respective mandates in supporting implementation of 1325.
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming. What I’d like to do is, as Mark said, go through the program of work, tell you a bit about what we plan for the month, make a few comments on Mali—which we discussed this morning in the Council and which I otherwise would have briefed you on but was briefing the non-members of the Council just now and then coming to see you here, so I thought we could kill two birds with one stone— and then, of course, take your questions, all before joining the Secretary-General at lunch with women PRs and senior women in the secretariat.
Let me go through the program of work as swiftly as I can. I hope you all have the latest version in front of you. I want to just highlight various agenda items without necessarily going through it in chronological order. Let me begin with the subject of the 19th of April, which is a session on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and security. From the U.S. point of view, the greatest danger that we and all states around the world face is a nuclear weapon in—or nuclear material falling into—the hands of terrorists.
As you know, at the beginning of his Administration, President Obama put nuclear security and nonproliferation at the very center of our foreign policy agenda and set out concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons in his Prague speech three years ago this month. A crucial part of this effort was the adoption, as you will recall, of Resolution 1887 during the Security Council’s historic, summit-level event in September 2009, chaired by President Obama when we were first in the presidency of the Security Council. Resolution 1887 recognized the need for all states “to take effective measures to prevent nuclear material or technical assistance becoming available to terrorists.”
With the conclusion of the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul last month, it’s appropriate, we think, to take stock of international efforts on this issue. And so the goal of the upcoming Council session is to highlight global efforts to combat the threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism and to underscore the international community’s broadly shared interests and responsibilities to respond to these threats. It’s also an important opportunity to reinforce the Council’s support of the work of the IAEA as well as the importance of each UN member-state implementing Resolution 1540 to prevent proliferation of WMD and related materials.
I also want to point to the event on the week—the day—of April 25th, the following week, in which there will be an open debate on the illicit flow of materials, goods, and people. The title of the event is Threats to Peace – International Peace and Security: Securing Borders Against Illicit Flows. And the Security Council has consistently identified, through its resolutions and presidential statements, how such transfers—whether we’re talking about WMD, small arms, drugs, terrorists, even human trafficking—can fuel some of the most critical threats to international peace and security and trigger instability; that these threats, these flows, we often look at in a sort of stovepipe fashion—each individual threat—and we have instruments, both in the secretariat and in some of the specialized agencies, that are designed to assist states that need assistance and want assistance to build their capacity to deal with each of these threats, whether it’s drug flows or terrorism or what have you.
And we have the CTED, we have the 1540 Committee, we have sanctions panels of experts, we have UNODC—all essentially trying to assist states to build their capacity to deal with the same essential problem. Whether—whatever the good or person that is being transferred across borders, it is in fact securing borders. It’s building the capacity of states to control what’s coming in and out of their sovereign territory. And so we wanted to look at this issue from a more holistic point of view and to see these efforts, these mechanisms, and these challenges as part of a larger whole.
And while there are substantial bilateral, regional, and multilateral efforts under way to help states develop effective customs and immigration systems or to foster enforcement and intelligence cooperation, the Security Council has never undertaken a comprehensive effort to consider how the UN structures can most effectively support states in addressing illicit trafficking.
So this session will provide the Council with an opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General, who will also brief on the 19th on nonproliferation and nuclear security, and we’ll hear about the structures that the UN has to help states accomplish better control of their borders. And we’ll consider in a PRST asking the secretariat to provide us with a better understanding of what the current structures are and how they might be strengthened and streamlined to better support member-states.
Let me turn to some other items on the agenda. Throughout the month, we’ll have at least a couple of sessions on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, which, as you know, remain high on the Council’s agenda. On the 11th, the Council will get a briefing—which may shift potentially, but we’ll see—by the head of mission and force command of UNISFA on the situation in Abyei. On the 26th, we’ll hear from Under-Secretary-General Ladsous on Darfur, and we will remain ready as a Council throughout the month to address the situation between Sudan and South Sudan, which, as you know, is quite fragile and volatile at the moment, as needed.
With respect to Syria, obviously that remains an important perennial on our agenda. We had the briefing yesterday by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. We heard that the regime has apparently committed to begin and to complete by April 10th the cessation of all forward deployments, the use of heavy weapons, and to withdraw its forces from populated areas.
The Security Council is now working on a draft presidential statement, which we introduced this morning as a presidential text—it will be negotiated today and probably tomorrow—which is essentially aimed at trying to give support—further support—to Joint Special Envoy Annan’s initiatives and to underscore the central importance of the Syrian Government adhering to its commitment to halt all offensive actions by April 10th. And I’m sure we can return to that in question-and-answer.
But let me say that from the U.S. point of view—and I think the point of view of many member-states – what we have seen since April 1stis not encouraging and that, should the Government of Syria use this window rather than to de-escalate to intensify the violence, it will be most unfortunate, and it will be certainly our view that the Security Council will need to respond to that failure in a very urgent and serious way. We will be talking with Joint Special Envoy Annan about the potential to have him return to brief the Council soon after April 10th so we can have an update and proceed accordingly.
Quickly, let me also mention that on the 24th we have a session on women, peace, and security, where UN Women head Michelle Bachelet will brief the Council—so her semi-annual briefing—and she’ll be joined by Under-Secretary-General Ladsous. We are eager for the opportunity to do this, given, as you know, that President Obama has launched a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and has built a foundation for powerful change in the way that the world prevents war and makes peace, bringing the role of women to the front and center of that.
Let me turn to one other point, and that relates to young people. We think—the United States thinks—that it’s very important for the Council to bring the voices of half the world’s population, those under 25, more directly and immediately into the work of the Security Council. It’s the lives of young people that are being shaped by what we do or don’t do every day, and in so many ways, they have the greatest stake in the work we do. That’s why 15 months ago, when the U.S. last held the presidency of the Security Council, we organized what was an unusual, even unprecedented, opportunity for young people to participate in a discussion with members of the Security Council on what they viewed—these are young people from around the world—what they viewed as the most pressing issues facing the world and indeed the Council today.
This time around, we want to return to the theme of youth and do it in a somewhat different way. So I hope over the course of the month, you’ll be seeing a few younger faces around the halls, including in the Council itself. We’ll be partnering with high schools, universities, and NGOs to invite younger people, young audiences, to come to open sessions of the Security Council. We’ll be organizing a special program for young journalists that I hope will be of particular interest to you. We’ll be inviting them to come to the UN to report on what we believe is an issue of critical importance to young people and their generation, which is, of course, the issue of proliferation of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons technology. We’re going to draw young people from area schools but also from several Council member-states who will able to participate via video.
We will—hope that you will take some time to join us in engaging with these young journalists, encouraging them while they’re here, and if they happen to break a story ahead of you, that you don’t let professional jealousy get in the way of bringing up the next generation.
Finally, as we close, I will take, at the end of our press conference, one question that has been selected among many that were submitted via Twitter, and the question comes from a handle entitled @freeppl. And the question I’ll answer at the end is: Why are you not acting swiftly towards the killing in Syria like you did in Libya? But I’ll come back to that at the end.
Let me say a few quick points on Mali and then open it up for questions. This is the readout of our session this morning. We heard a briefing from Under-Secretary-General Pascoe on the situation in Mali. Mr. Pascoe told the Council that the situation has taken a turn for the worse over the course of the past several days. The MNLA and Ansar al-Din groups have capitalized on the confusion caused by the military seizure of power in Bamako and key towns, including in Timbuktu, and these towns in the north have fallen to the rebels. And Pascoe reported that government forces are effectively abandoning their positions in the north without much of a fight.
The Council is working on a PRST on this topic as well, which we hope will be issued as soon as possible. We heard from Under-Secretary-General Pascoe that ECOWAS, as you well know, has imposed measures as of yesterday including border closures, blocking access to financial accounts of junta members, and a travel ban, among other steps. And he also reported that ECOWAS has placed a force of some 3,000 troops on standby, both to respond, if necessary, to the coup d’etat as well as to respond to the rebellion that is of grave concern in the north. Pascoe also noted that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating and underlined that IDPs have increased to 90,000 and refugees to 130,000.
Council members were united in their demand that the junta leaders immediately step down and restore constitutional order.
Let me stop there and take your questions. Mark.