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Gender equality

UNSC Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, 21 October 2021


In the last 18 months, COVID-19 has adversely impacted hard-won gains for gender equality and women's rights. The women, peace and security (WPS) agenda offers us a decisive and evidence-based framework to guide our responses to the pandemic. We must systematically mainstream gender in our responses to and recovery from COVID-19 to maintain the momentum towards gender equality and women's empowerment.

Recent challenges to women and girls' rights, security and safety in Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tigray highlight the critical importance of full and prompt implementation of the WPS agenda. Women and girls in all countries, including those in conflict and crisis, must be able to access education, employment, health and other essential services, including sexual and reproductive health services; participate fully, equally and meaningfully in all aspects of public life; and retain autonomy over their bodies, freedom of movement and decision-making.

In April, Australia launched its second National Action Plan on WPS. Guiding us to 2031, we will continue to contribute to the protection and promotion of women's and girls' human rights, prevention and resolution of conflict, and establishment of enduring peace. Women's full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and security remains at the centre of our efforts. We will also focus on reducing sexual and gender-based violence, and we will support resilience, security, and just responses to crises and conflicts. Our leadership will be accountable.

Implementation of the WPS agenda requires inclusive and sustained action at all levels, from the grassroots to global gatherings. It is essential that we work with, and support the leadership of, women civil society actors, human rights defenders and peacebuilders. Their voices and legitimacy must be projected and defended at all levels. For peace and security to replace crisis and conflict we need more women in analysis and decision-making roles. We also need men to take action on the WPS agenda.

As the Secretary-General noted in his annual report, we must invest in women peacekeepers and peacebuilders, including by resourcing local women's rights organisations and networks. Through the WPS Global Facility, Australia supports the Peace Village initiative in Indonesia, empowering 2,000 women leaders across 20 villages to build peace and social justice within their communities. We also contribute to the Women's Peace and Humanitarian Fund in support of women's agency and leadership in conflict prevention, crisis response and peacebuilding.

In the context of UN peacekeeping and security sector reform, women continue to face systemic barriers to full, equal and meaningful participation and leadership. We cannot afford for more decades to pass before there is gender parity among military troops in UN peacekeeping. This is why Australia will continue to support The Elsie Initiative to accelerate progress and ensure a safe and inclusive environment for deployed women.

The root causes of conflict and instability must be addressed for sustained peace and security. Eliminating gender inequalities and all forms of discrimination against women and girls is our shared imperative. We must promote, protect and defend the human rights of women and girls in all contexts. We thank Kenya for hosting this debate.

ENDS [508 word count]

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