OSCE Asian Conference
Session 1: The role of women in building confidence, peace and security – sharing experiences and lessons learned between Europe and Asia
Wednesday 15 June 2022
Delivered by Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls, Ms Christine Clarke
Thank you, Chair.
I am delighted to contribute to the discussion today.
I begin by acknowledging the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians of the lands on which I speak to you from, and I pay my respects to their elders’ past, present and emerging. I also extend my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here with us this today.
Achieving gender equality is a priority for Australia.
We have a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific, while actively responding to the global challenges to the human rights of women and girls.
We recognise that the Indo-Pacific can sometimes seem a long way from Europe; but geographic distance quickly fades in significance when it comes to our shared values and goals – protecting and promoting the human rights, gender equality, peace, security and prosperity.
As we respond and recover from the COVID pandemic, active and sustained leadership on gender equality is more important than ever.
Prior to the pandemic it was estimated that it would take 99 years to close gender gaps. Since the pandemic, an estimated additional 37 years will be needed. We cannot afford further regression.
As Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, I work to promote Australia’s leadership in gender equality across our diplomatic, development, and regional security efforts.
Australia is staunchly committed to advancing women’s and girls’ leadership, economic empowerment, freedom from violence and safe and adequate access to essential services, including health and education. We are also staunch advocates, and implementers, of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
Last year the Australian Government released its second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, renewing its commitment to the full and equal participation of women and girls in peace and security arrangements. This is an evidence-based and human rights-driven policy, with a sustained commitment.
Australia supports such global efforts as the Women Peace and Humanitarian Fund and UN Women’s Global Facility on WPS that undertake a range of important activities.
A few examples:
- Research and policy on enabling women’s contribution to peace, security and COVID-19 pandemic recovery processes
- Online media and literacy skills training to increase digital literacy and promote peace and conflict prevention through alternative social media narratives that counter hate speech and radicalisation
- Support to local women’s rights movements
- Enhancing the roles of women in peace and prevention of radicalism
- Support to the Secretariat of the Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations.
All women and girls, in all their diversity, should have the opportunity to fully and equally contribute to their communities, including in decision-making and command of resources. The Australian Government recognises that women and girls in fragile and conflict-affected environments have the right to voice their needs and have them met.
We know that when women are fully included in decision-making, societies are more likely to prevent and resolve conflicts, and establish enduring and resilient peace outcomes.
Chair, crises and conflicts impact the lives of women and girls differently to that of men and boys. It is also critical to see and respond to the diversity that exists within these binary categories. Intersecting inequalities must be tackled for there to be peace and security.
We have witnessed – and experienced – the devastating consequences of conflict over generations, in Europe and Asia and across the globe. We are witness to this today – in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ukraine, and Syria, and other countries with protracted conflicts.
In this forum we have heard the concerns for Afghan women and girls as their rights to safety, education, work, bodily autonomy and freedom of movement further regress under the Taliban regime.
Afghan women and girls make enormous contributions to their country. Achieving peace, stability and economic development requires their full and equal participation in shaping Afghanistan’s future. Their human rights must be protected and fulfilled.
Chair, we must also recognise that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to exact a devastating humanitarian toll.
In recognition of the humanitarian crisis and human rights violations, Australia has provided $65 million in humanitarian funding to ensure life-saving assistance reaches at-risk Ukrainians, particularly women, children, and older people.
In times of conflict and crisis, the imperative to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda heightens.
The research is clear – where women are involved in peace processes, parties are more likely to reach agreement, and the agreements reached are more likely to be successfully implemented and sustained.
Having spent much of my life serving in Australia’s military, I can attest to the life-saving and life-changing effects of having women leaders at negotiation tables.
We need to push for formal positions of institutional power. Women’s contributions are critical to our international security and stability goals.
We also need to acknowledge and support women’s influence at the local level and the work that they do – saving lives, enabling recovery, strengthening resilience, and preparing for what comes next.
The equal and full participation of women in building confidence, peace and security is not yet a reality – not in Australia, our Indo-Pacific region, Europe or anywhere else in our world. But it can be.
We know that conversations, resources, shared responsibilities, accountability and persistence are needed.
We can continue to build upon our shared experiences, knowledge, networks and insights. We can continue building on the gains made by those who paved the way before us. We should ensure the path that we leave behind is easier for all who follow.
And we pay our respects to the women across the world, confronting conflicts and crisis, and fighting for gender equality where they live, work and lead, for lives of equality, rights, peace and security.