Australian Embassy and Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia

Implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security: Australian perspectives

Implementing UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security:

Australian perspectives


Meeting of the OSCE Asian Contact Group – 14 October 2016


Presentation by Australia


David Lewis, A/g Head of Mission

Permanent Mission of Australia


Good morning.


Thank you for the opportunity to address the OSCE Asian Partners Contact Group about Australian perspectives on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and about our efforts to strengthen the link between the international arms control and women, peace and security agendas.


We see this as a valuable forum for exchanging views and experiences, and I look forward to the presentation by Ambassador [Miroslava] Beham on opportunities and challenges regarding the role of the OSCE in implementation of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.


This is an important issue for Australia, and a conversation we are keen to continue – building on the topic we chose for the OSCE-Asian Partners Conference we hosted in 2013, ‘improving security for women and girls’.


Earlier this year, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the Australian Government’s new  Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy, which emphasises that empowering women and girls is critical to supporting economic growth, poverty reduction, development and security, particularly in our region.


The Strategy, the first of its kind, requires that we consider gender equality in all our efforts – foreign policy, aid and trade – and will drive progress in three areas: ending violence against women and girls; women’s economic empowerment; and women’s participation in leadership and peacebuilding. 


Australia is highlighting these priorities through our bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement, as well as in our aid and economic diplomacy agendas.  Australia’s Ambassador for Women and Girls, a position established by the Government in 2011, is central to pursuing this agenda.


The Strategy builds on Australia’s efforts to prioritise gender equality across our foreign affairs and aid efforts. Since 2014, we have set an ambitious target requiring that at least 80 percent of Australian aid effectively address gender equality throughout implementation, and established a Gender Equality Fund to accelerate support for gender equality in the Australian aid program.  The fund is $55 million this financial year.


Before I turn to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, I would like to play a clip from Lieutenant-General David Morrison, then Chief of the Australian Army.


I think you’ll agree that those were powerful words.  General Morrison is an outspoken advocate against domestic violence, and was appointed Australian of the Year in 2016 in recognition of his continued efforts.


General Morrison’s statement reminds us very clearly that violence against women is unacceptable in any circumstance.


It sets the scene for the zero tolerance approach Australia takes to violence against women, including in armed conflict, where women and children are disproportionately affected.


United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 provided a watershed moment for the women, peace and security agenda when it was adopted in 2000.


For the first time, the Security Council linked women explicitly to the peace and security agenda.


It recognises that women are disproportionately affected by conflict – although not engaged directly in combat, up to 90 per cent of casualties in contemporary conflicts are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children.


It recognises that the experiences and needs of women and girls differ from those of men and boys in conflict and post-conflict situations, particularly in relation to human rights violations such as sexual and gender-based violence.


It affirms the active role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, and peacebuilding, and stresses their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the promotion of peace and security.


And it affirms the need to integrate a gender perspective across UN operations.


Australia is a strong advocate of UNSCR 1325. 


Our National Action Plan (2012-2018) sets out what Australia is doing, at home and overseas, to integrate a gender perspective into its peace and security efforts, protect women and girls’ human rights, and promote their participation in conflict prevention, management and resolution.


There are four main purposes for the National Action Plan:


  1. to articulate Australia’s ongoing support for the UN Security Council women, peace and security agenda;


  2. to establish a clear framework for a coordinated, whole of government approach to implementing UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions;


  3. to identify strategies and actions that Australia will undertake at home and abroad to implement UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions, and measure the effectiveness of this work; and


  4. to highlight the important work that Australia is doing in partnership with the international community to respond to women’s needs, recognise their roles, promote equal participation, and protect women and girls’ human rights in fragile, conflict and post-conflict settings.


The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Strategy reinforces and amplifies these efforts.


The National Action Plan seeks to integrate a gender perspective into Australia’s activities and policies through the so-called ‘4 Ps’: perspective, participation, protection and prevention.  Briefly speaking:


  • Perspective: Perspective is important because we are bound by our own mindsets. The way we see the world impacts how we behave in the world, for example how we draft policy, what we focus on, and what we omit.  The end result is that the way you view the world has a practical consequence


    • it is important to understand your own biases and what issues have a ‘gender implication’


  • Participation: If women are not included in peace processes, their voices are not heard and it is unlikely issues affecting women will be addressed.  The end result is that peace processes that do not take account of issues affecting 50% of the population are less likely to be sustainable


    • it is important to ask ‘who needs to be at the table’, and to ensure that women’s perspectives are taken into account in the development of policy.


  • Protection: Conflict affects different people in different ways.  Women and girls experience conflict differently to other groups, and are often targeted for sexual violence.  The end result is that if you do not recognise gendered experiences, you cannot develop policy that will take these differences into account


  • And finally, Prevention: Because prevention is better than cure.  Good policy should contribute to the prevention of conflict, and the prevention of risk to women and girls.


This approach recognises that gender is not a standalone issue; the ‘4 Ps’ approach is a useful framework to use in developing appropriate policies.


The National Action Plan sets out five strategies for implementing UNSCR 1325:


  1. integrating a gender perspective into Australia’s policies on peace and security, using the ‘4 Ps’ approach I just outlined;


  2. embedding the women, peace and security agenda in the Australian government’s approach to human resource management of Defence, Australian Federal Police and deployed personnel;


  3. supporting civil society organisations to promote equality and increase women’s participation in conflict prevention, peace-building, conflict resolution, and relief and recovery;


  4. promoting women, peace and security implementation internationally; and


  5. taking a co-ordinated and holistic approach domestically and internationally to women, peace and security.


Implementing UNSCR 1325 is an ongoing task across a range of thematic areas.


To give one example, and as I mentioned at the outset, strengthening the link between the international arms control and women, peace and security agendas was a key feature of Australia’s work during our term on the UN Security Council in 2013-14.  Australia worked closely with other Security Council members to advance gender equality as a crosscutting issue in all areas of the Council’s mandate. 


Both issues are focuses of the OSCE’s work.  It is critical that these agendas intersect closely to build peace which is equitably experienced among women, men, boys and girls.


Connecting these agendas also provides an opportunity to address harmful gender norms which sustain the use of weapons, gun cultures and militant masculinities linked to the perpetuation of violence, including gender based violence.  I saw this first-hand as a peacekeeper in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, 15 years ago, where we worked to ensure that the important role that women played behind the scenes in the peace process was brought to the fore – including through the process of weapons disposal.


The arms control and women, peace and security agendas have become increasingly connected within international norms and agreements.  The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a prime example. As a longstanding supporter of the treaty, it was a particular honour for Australia that we were President of the Security Council when it was adopted in 2013.


The ATT is the first treaty to recognise the link between violence against women and the international arms trade. It is the first international instrument to include violence against women as a component of a risk assessment. It requires states parties to take into account the risk of small arms being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of violence against women before authorising their export. This is landmark recognition that acts of violence against women in conflict-affected areas are often facilitated by the irresponsible and unregulated transfer of arms.


It is an operative part of the treaty. If implemented robustly, it will have a real impact on the arms trade and will save lives.


Australia has been actively engaged in promoting the effective implementation of the ATT. Many states will have to strengthen their national export and import control systems. Australia is contributing funds to a number of programs worldwide that support implementation of the treaty, including the UN Trust Facility to Support Cooperation on Arms Regulation (UNSCAR).


A second important advance in linking the women, peace and security and arms control agendas is the 2013 UNSC Resolution 2117 on Small Arms and Light Weapons.  UNSCR 2117 recognises the particular needs of women and children in armed conflict and urges states to ensure full and effective participation of women in decision-making on these issues.


These same concerns underpin CEDAW’s General Recommendation No. 30 of 2013, on Women in Conflict Prevention, Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations.  Through this recommendation, the Committee notes the importance of robust and effective regulation of the arms trade in preventing the use of arms in serious acts of violence against women.


Australia’s advocacy helped deliver a strong outcome for gender equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including a specific target to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, agreed by the United Nations in September 2015.


Some progress has been made, but persistent challenges remain.  We must ensure that ongoing advances in linking these two agendas are mutually reinforcing.  And we must continue our efforts to accelerate outcomes for women and girls.  Without gender equality we cannot have sustainable, inclusive and prosperous societies or durable peace.


We look forward to working with the OSCE and its participating States toward this end.