Launch of Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security

Documentary and Educational Toolkit

Penny Williams, Australia's Global Ambassador for Women, E&OE

Parliament House

15 August 2012

Before I begin, I wish to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people – the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are meeting on today, and pay my respects to the Elders, past and present.

I would also like to acknowledge the Hon Dr Mike Kelly, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Dr Alan Ryan, Executive Director, Australian Civil-Military Centre, staff from the Office for Women, and Julie McKay, Executive Director, UN Women Australia, as well as the non-government organisations and individuals here this evening, many of whom have made a significant contribution to the women peace and security agenda.

It is a great pleasure to be here for the launch of this important documentary, Side by Side: Women, Peace and Security, and its accompanying educational toolkit.  

And I was honoured to be involved in the filming of Side by Side, in the company of so many inspiring women whose experiences and reflections have made this documentary an immensely valuable tool for all of us.

Women, Peace and Security global agenda and UNSCR 1325

The adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000 was historic and unprecedented. 

It marked the first time the Security Council addressed the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women.

The resolution recognised the under-valued and under-utilised contributions women make to conflict prevention, peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building.

And it stressed the importance of their equal and full participation as active agents in peace and security.

Resolution 1325 became the foundation of the UN’s agenda on Women, Peace and Security, an agenda which has been expanded and strengthened by subsequent Security Council resolutions.

Yet despite the important work which the United Nations has done towards the protection and empowerment of women and girls in fragile, conflict and post conflict situations, the disturbing reality is that women are still part of the battleground – they are raped, abducted, humiliated and made to undergo forced pregnancy, sexual abuse and slavery.

And women are also still largely excluded from formal decision-making processes around peace and security.

The shocking absence of women in peace processes is now well-documented by the UN which has reported that only 4 women participated in the 14 Peace Negotiations that took place in 2011.

As Sarah Taylor, Executive Coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security so usefully observes in the documentary, "How can you possibly attempt to create and maintain international peace and security when you’re excluding 50 per cent of the population?"

It is vital that we translate the intentions of the Women, Peace and Security agenda into action.

The good news is that national and international action is gaining momentum.

In my role, I have seen inspiring examples of innovative programs and approaches to address the impact of conflict on women and ensure their crucial role in building peace and security, both at home and abroad.

In the Pacific, a region that is a particular priority for me, I have been particularly encouraged by the work Australia is doing with regional police forces to facilitate women’s participation in law enforcement and to protect women and girls’ rights.  I have witnessed the benefits of this in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Civil society has been a robust advocate on Women, Peace and Security, and the government has responded with equal purpose and commitment.

On International Women’s Day this year, the Hon Julie Collins, Minister for the Status of Women launched the Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

Establishing a clear framework for a coordinated, whole of government approach, the National Action Plan builds on the broad program of work already underway in Australia.

It is work that is integrating a gender perspective into peace and security efforts, protecting women and girls’ human rights, particularly in relation to gender-based violence, and promoting their participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution.

Most importantly, the Plan commits the Government to action. Action such as that which today’s event celebrates.

I congratulate the Australian-Civil Military Centre, the Office for Women, the Australian Federal Police, AusAID and the numerous non-government organisations and prominent individuals involved in the Side by Side  project for their work, in partnership, to deliver several strategies and actions in our National Action Plan. 

This documentary and educational toolkit will go a long way towards raising awareness, facilitating dialogue, building understanding, and supporting trainers to encourage a shift in attitudes and behaviour to effectively protect women and foster their capacity as powerful agents for peace.

I also thank UN Women for their support for this project and for the vital role they play in promoting the women, peace and security agenda internationally.

And I encourage you all to use these products in your advocacy and training towards our shared goal of effecting lasting change. 

Thank you