In Security Council Debate on Civilian Protection, Speakers Voice Deep Concern over Alarming Reports of Violence against Women, Mass Displacement

SC/11760
30 January 2015
7374th Meeting (AM)

In Security Council Debate on Civilian Protection, Speakers Voice Deep Concern over Alarming Reports of Violence against Women, Mass Displacement

Chilling accounts of stonings, enslavement, rape and forced suicide bombings were among the current horrific targeted affects armed conflict had on women and girls, the Security Council was told, hearing from almost 70 speakers during its biannual day-long debate on civilian protection.

As the 15-member body had continued to receive alarming reports of unacceptable violence committed against women, including many settings in which control of their rights was at the very centre of the armed conflict, speakers today voiced grave concerns and offered suggestions on reversing the worsening conditions worldwide that had displaced millions and affected many more.

The Council and the international community must take steps to tackle the impunity that continued to fuel many conflicts, said Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, delivering a statement on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought to account for their crimes,” she said, adding that collective capacity must be strengthened to find political solutions to conflicts at an early stage rather than struggling to cope with the consequences.

Those consequences were getting increasingly dire, said Helen Durham, Director for International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), highlighting that 2014 saw the number of displaced persons rise to 76 million from 52 million.  As the single most important measure to improve the situation was making sure State and non-State parties to armed conflict complied with their legal obligations, the Council had a significant role to play by ensuring that their responsibilities were met in full.

“Sexual violence during armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law,” she said.  “It is not inevitable.  It must and can be stopped.  What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it.”

Sharing a view from civil society, Iwad Elman of the Non-Governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security gave Council members a number of recommendations, including the establishment of more responsive channels for communication of gender protection needs and of protection for female-led civil society groups.  Urging the Council to mandate gendered decision-making throughout the planning and implementation of civilian-protection strategies, and to increase the number of female staff in peacekeeping operations, she also called upon that body to insist on accountability for atrocities and ensure justice systems were re-established for that purpose.

Further, she said the Council should hold troop-contributing countries accountable for gender-based crimes.  In addition, sex-disaggregated data must be mandated for mission reporting, and clear, accessible and confidential complaint mechanisms must be provided by protection focal points.

When the floor opened, Spain’s representative summed up a common view that reflected a grim reality alongside a dire need to embolden current efforts.  Given that every minute a woman was raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said “we are clearly not doing our job very well”.

Many speakers pointed out that, over the last 15 years, the Council had sharpened its focus on the situation of women and girls in armed conflict, adopting a range of texts detailing its concerns, including resolutions 1325 (2000), 1888 (2009), 1960 (2010) and 2122 (2013).  However, Jordan’s representative said that, even though the Council’s resolutions on women and children had been turning points in addressing those issues, the Middle East and Africa had seen a rise in targeted attacks, including sexual violence and abductions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.  The fight against impunity, she said, was the greatest challenge.

Some speakers described current national and regional challenges while offering suggestions on how to quell the violence.  Nigeria’s representative said the activities of non-State actors had made protection actions more complicated and he demanded that all parties comply with international humanitarian law.  In addition, small arms and light weapons must be controlled and cooperation with regional organizations on eradicating sexual violence must be increased, particularly in regard to African Union efforts.

Representatives of some countries emerged in conflict shared their views.  Emphasizing that protecting civilians, including women and girls, was the primary responsibility of the relevant State, Syria’s representative said that, since the Council had begun its debates on civilian protection, double standards had been used for schemes that ran counter to the fundamental rules of international law.  One example, he said, was Libya, which States had intervened in under the pretext of protecting civilians.  A comprehensive global approach was needed with regard to protecting civilians, including ending unilaterally coercive measures, particularly measures imposed by certain States on Syria in terms of food, medicine and fuel.

Post-conflict challenges also posed obstacles to protecting civilians, some speakers said.  Afghanistan’s representative said, after three decades of war, his country continued to suffer today, with 2014 being the deadliest year for civilians since 2001, largely resulting from attacks by the Taliban and other extremist armed groups.  Women had borne the brunt of conflict over 30 years of conflict and were today often targeted with gender-based violence.  Mitigating the impact of conflict on women was a priority for his Government, which had implemented resolution 1325 (2000) through its national action plan and was pursuing a national reconciliation process.

Representatives from countries that had trained or contributed troops to peacekeeping forces, including India and Malaysia, supported the inclusion of a gender perspective in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.  Thailand’s representative said it was vital to increase the number of female peacekeepers and women’s share of senior positions in United Nations field mission.

A number of representatives anticipated the forthcoming high-level review of the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), hoping for progress in the text’s implementation.  Mexico’s representative said the analysis would provide a road map for meeting women’s needs in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Also speaking today were representatives of United Kingdom, Russian Federation, New Zealand, China, Chad, France, United States, Lithuania, Angola, Venezuela, Chile, Sweden (for the Nordic countries), Brazil, European Union, Germany, Israel, Switzerland, Colombia, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Senegal, Holy See, Uruguay, Canada, Burundi, Japan, Indonesia, Sudan, Egypt, Pakistan, Liechtenstein, Australia, Poland, Ireland, Albania, Guatemala, Netherlands, Argentina, Costa Rica, Latvia, Luxembourg, Turkey, South Africa, Croatia, Zimbabwe, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Iran, Morocco, Botswana, and Saudi Arabia.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 6:05 p.m.

Briefings

KYUNG-WHA KANG, Assistant-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, delivered a statement on behalf of Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  In the 15 years since the Security Council had broken new ground by recognizing the protection of civilians as central to its mandate, the body had taken important steps to implement those commitments, including prioritizing the matter in peacekeeping operations.  Yet, the need for protection had increased dramatically, she said, underlining that, during 2014, those in need of assistance rose to 76 million from 52 million.  Further, the brutalization of women remained a persistent feature of conflict, as witnessed in Iraq and Nigeria, and women and children also made up the majority of displaced persons.  Those situations were manifestations of deeper, systemic problems that needed to be addressed.

While the primary responsibility for protecting and civilians rested with parties to the conflict, time and again, violations with impunity held grave consequences, she said.  Parties to conflict must be pressed to do more to comply with their legal obligations and ensure accountability for violations, but the responsibility did not rest only with the parties themselves.  The Council and the international community must take steps to tackle the impunity that fuelled many conflicts, along with the endless flow of weapons and arms.  “There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought to account for their crimes,” she said, adding that collective capacity must be strengthened to find political solutions to conflicts at an early stage.  On the ground, efforts should be more attuned to the specific threats civilians faced and when early warning signs were identified, “we must be able to act quickly and effectively”, she said.

HELEN DURHAM, Director for International Law and Policy at International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that no significant progress had been made in the way armed conflicts were being waged, with civilians all too often targeted by warring parties.  As the single most important measure to improve the situation was making sure that State and non-State parties to armed conflict complied with their legal obligations, the Council had a significant role to play by ensuring that those responsible met their responsibilities.  Describing the current situation, she reminded Council members that women were made vulnerable by conditions imposed on them and not by their sex.

However, sexual violence remained comparably invisible, with many victims feeling shamed and silent for fear of reprisals, she said.  Sexual violence was a medical emergency and victims needed immediate assistance with the strictest confidentiality.  Perpetrators must also be brought to justice.  The ICRC had intensified its response, as humanitarian actors had a vital role to play in preventing sexual violence and assisting victims.  However, States must bear their primary responsibility in addressing victims’ needs, including through laws, regulations, policies, reparation schemes and processes of restorative justice.  “Sexual violence during armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law,” she said.  “It is not inevitable.  It must and can be stopped.  What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it.”

ILWAD ELMAN of the Non-Governmental Organization Working Group on Women, Peace and Security explained that the nature of her work was to provide emergency services for survivors of gender-based violence as a director of the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia, which was founded by her father, who was killed advocating for human rights.  Recounting the case of a girl raped by a Ugandan soldier from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), she stressed the “catastrophic consequences of violence against civilians and of protection strategies which are gender blind and have failed to meaningfully include women”.  In many contexts, women continuously reported feeling unsafe because of assistance strategies that did not take their vulnerabilities into account, such as distribution of food in areas that were not easily accessible, lack of sanitary needs and for collecting firewood and water.

To reverse that situation, more responsive channels for communication of gender protection needs was necessary, as was protection for women-led civil society groups, she said.  The Council should mandate gendered decision-making throughout the planning and implementation of civilian-protection strategies, and increase the number of female staff in peacekeeping operations.  In addition, she urged the body to ensure that missions with protection mandates had adequate logistical support and to address the protection needs of all humanitarian workers and human rights defenders.  Also, as a matter of priority, the Council must insist on accountability for atrocities and ensure justice systems were re-established for that purpose, and hold troop-contributing countries accountable for gender-based crimes.  Sex-disaggregated data must be mandated for mission reporting, and clear, accessible and confidential complaint mechanisms must be provided by protection focal points.  In general protection strategies, the impact of explosive weapons in civilian areas, must be addressed.  Implementation of international humanitarian law in a gender-responsive manner was an overall key.

Statements

MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said that the protection of civilians was the raison d’être of the Security Council, but every day brought new reports of atrocities, particularly those committed against women and girls.  To counter that situation, the underlying causes of gender violence and inequality must be addressed, not only in conflict, but in peacetime, as well.   His country strove to eliminate those ills domestically, but countries in conflict had a much greater challenge.  For example, one woman was raped every minute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Women must participate at every level in efforts to protect women and girls.  He reported his country’s aid to a range of countries for such protection, adding that gender-sensitive protection should be a priority for all missions, for which the appropriate training and support must be provided, along with a much tighter regime for preventing abuse by peacekeepers.  Gender-sensitive training should be a central part of security sector reform and concrete efforts must be made to increase women’s engagement in that sector.

EVGENY T. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) said that civilians, particularly women and girls, continued to be victims of conflicts around the world as there was no end to the indiscriminate use of force.  He condemned in that context the shelling of civilian areas in eastern Ukraine and called for investigations.  The number of victims had already exceeded 5,000 in that conflict and destruction of humanitarian infrastructure was widespread, he said, calling for inclusive, direct political dialogue to end the situation.  Humanitarian workers were sounding the alarm over a disaster there.  In protection strategies to counter such situations, it was critical to be guided by the United Nations Charter.  On the ground, the right kind of peacekeepers should be contributed according to the specific situation and well-constructed mandates.  At the policy level, the United Nations should avoid overlapping mandates of different organs.  Within civilian strategies, it was important, moreover, to focus strategies on the particular situation of women.

JIM MCLAY (New Zealand) said protection of civilians had become an important feature of peacekeeping mandates, but shortcomings were evident.  Discussions among stakeholders must focus on options for solutions.  Women and girls were important agents in preventing and resolving conflict, yet that notion was not being consistently applied in practice.  Persons with disabilities and the elderly were also especially neglected and vulnerable, he said, emphasizing that armed conflict could lead to disability, as well as affect persons with disabilities.  The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities had obliged States to protect vulnerable groups.  However, peacekeeper training should focus on the challenges facing those groups, who should be included in peacebuilding efforts.  If those groups were protected, it would mean overall progress in the protection of civilians.

WANG MIN (China) said the traditional challenges had intertwined with non-traditional threats amid terrorist activities, with women and children being targeted.  The root causes must be addressed and practical and effective measures were needed for national reconciliation and for preventing women from suffering the scourge of war.  Also important were national economic development, gender equality and respect for national leadership and capacity-building in countries concerned.  It was essential to address the difficulties faced by those countries, including financial needs.  Certain conflict regions of some countries had a role for women to play in mediation and conflict resolution.  Overall, coordination and cooperation should be strengthened with regard to protecting women and children.  United Nations agencies and bodies should also leverage their respective activities to promote the interests of women’s rights, he said, noting that the twentieth anniversary of the fourth World Conference on Women was an opportunity to refocus on those issues.

ROMÁN OYARZUN MARCHESI (Spain) said against a backdrop of disturbing reports of sexual violence committed against women in the 1990s, important steps had been taken.  However, gender violence was getting worse and the Council was lagging behind.  To be effective in protecting civilians, it was essential to address compliance with humanitarian law, accountability and the role of non-State actors.  Measures were needed to address the different types of threats facing women.  Hoping that the review of resolution 1325 (2000) would be a success, he said efforts were being made towards achieving a new gender architecture within the United Nations.  Accountability and the role played by women in peace talks were crucial elements.  Ms. Elman had provided the Council with grim figures on challenges facing women in Somalia.  Great efforts were now needed to find improvements and solutions to those and similar situations.  Given that every minute a woman was raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “we are clearly not doing our job very well”.

BANTÉ MANGARAL (Chad) said solutions were needed to address current situations, as described in Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which focused on women in armed conflict.  Resolution 2122 (2013) had strengthened those initiatives, providing technical elements to identify violence against women.  The Council had taken other steps, including in presidential statements, that had, among other things, encouraged Member States to strengthen the role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  The African Union was now finalizing a code of conduct for missions.  But, violence against women as a weapon of war was spreading, he said, citing examples in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The resurgence of armed terrorist groups had targeted girls, as was the case with Boko Haram in Nigeria.  Impunity and the lack of technical and financial resources were only exacerbating the situation.  Efforts should include stepping up and implementing the sanctions regime and creating a “black list”, which should resemble a similar list concerning violence against children.  He hoped the 2015 strategic reviews would contribute to progress.

TANGUY STEHELIN (France), noting the long list of perils faced by civilians in current conflicts, said that, in reviews of peacekeeping, emphasis must be placed on the need for dynamic action under robust protection mandates.  In addition, zero-tolerance policies for abuse carried out by peacekeepers must be strictly implemented.  In designing better strategies for civilian protection, women must be central participants.  Training must be provided to peacekeepers and communities for gender protection and impunity must be ended for crimes, with a focus on ensuring that victims could safely report them and other concrete tactics.

DAVID PRESSMAN (United States), describing atrocities committed against women by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria and by various parties in Africa, said that discrimination against women and girls must be addressed in conflict and in peacetime to help end such crimes.  Most missions were mandated already to protect civilians, but implementation had often failed.  In hundreds of attacks in such situations, it had been shown that peacekeepers had failed to act.  Training and early warning capacity must be improved for that purpose.  Further, peacekeepers who commit gender abuse must be strictly held to account.  The Council must also act in the face of emerging and ongoing atrocities.  There had been advances in reporting, but translation of reporting into action had lagged.  In addition, peace treaties had included more gender dimensions, but women’s leadership in peace processes was also lagging, even in the United Nations.  The best protection tactic was building societies and organizations that valued women highly.

USMAN SARKI (Nigeria), noting the widespread abusive of women, as well as their additional burdens in conflict situations, said it was vital that the protection needs of women and girls receive special attention.  The Council had developed tools to empower and protect women, but more action was needed.  Small arms and light weapons must be controlled and cooperation with regional organizations on eradicating sexual violence must be increased, particularly in regard to African Union efforts.  Civil society groups were also central for raising the profile of the women and peace and security agenda.   Noting that the activities of non-State actors had made protection actions more complicated, he demanded that all parties comply with international humanitarian law.

RAIMONDA MURMOKAITĖ (Lithuania) stressed that the primary responsibility to protect civilian populations rested with national Governments, but the international community should step in when that obligation was neglected.  To ensure protection of women and girls, implementation of relevant mandates must take into account specifics.  Women must walk to get water, food or cooking wood.  Where do they go to meet their basic sanitation needs?  What kind of terrain do they have to cross?  What pushes parents to give their underage daughters into early marriage?  Protection measures should include the presence of women’s protection advisers on the ground, strict implementation of a zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence among peacekeepers and creation of a legislative foundation that supported gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Establishing national justice and prosecution mechanisms was essential, but it would take time for a country emerging out of a conflict to do so.  Accordingly, the Council should consider a more systematic use of referrals to the International Criminal Court.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia) said that the three-tiered approach developed by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was useful in framing the discussion on the protection of civilians, particularly women and girls.  His Government also supported the Gender Forward Looking Strategy 2014-2018, which should be fully implemented in the context of fulfilling protection of civilians mandates, including by ensuring that an appropriate number of gender advisers and women protection advisers were deployed to peacekeeping missions.  Mindful of the need for multidimensional training, Malaysia’s Peacekeeping Training Center continued to collaborate with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  To date, it had trained roughly 2,000 peacekeepers from more than 50 countries.  With the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Japan, Norway and other donor nations, the institution introduced a new programme to cater to the complex nature of new missions, including modules on gender and cultural diversity in peacekeeping operations and protection of civilians mandates.

DINA KAWAR (Jordan) said even though the Council’s resolutions on women and children had been turning points in addressing those issues, the Middle East and Africa had seen a rise in targeted attacks, including sexual violence and abductions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.  The fight against impunity was the greatest challenge, and countries should have the means to prosecute violators.  To guarantee civilian protection, the international community should set up fact-finding missions and commissions of inquiries to investigate crimes, with cases of more odious offenses referred to the International Criminal Court.  United Nations organizations must also provide assistance to countries to build a system of equality and to set up legal assistance for victims.  A sustainable strategy was also needed to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against women and girls.  For its part, Jordan had hosted Syrian refugees, sending thousands of girls to school, and had taken measures to ensure the protection of women and girls in conflict situations and strengthened the role of women in the military.

JULIO HELDER DE MOURA LUCAS (Angola) said his country supported the peaceful resolution of conflict through dialogue and that prevention was the best way to avoid conflict situations.  The international community had a responsibility in addressing those problems.  Progress had been made regarding protecting women and children in armed conflict, including high-level commitments.  However, more remained to be done to address the current situation facing them, he said, adding that commitments made needed to be implemented.  The scheduled review of Council resolutions would hopefully result in action, he went on, adding that international law and standards needed to be respected.  Women also needed to be involved in peacebuilding.  For its part, Angola had recognized the importance of women in development and the reconstruction of his country.  Sexual violence used as weapons of war and attacks on women were unacceptable.  Greater coordination between the Council and regional and subregional organizations could result in improved strategies on gender rights.  His country supported the inclusion of additional forces and women officers in missions.

RAFAEL DARÍO RAMÍREZ CARREÑO (Venezuela) said armed conflict and recurring violence in post-conflict situations disproportionately affected women, boys and girls.  Access to justice and political participation only worsened for them in those situations.  Venezuela had guaranteed human rights for all, incorporating and institutionalizing gender equity.  Women in county were active in all parts of society, contributing to building a new social order based on law and justice, and violence against them was deplorable.  He said that women must be present in the peace resolution and peacebuilding process.  Resolution 1325 (2000) had the promotion and participation of women troops in United Nations missions among its tasks, yet women now made up only 10 per cent.  Their participation in peacebuilding and peacekeeping operations would facilitate actions to protect women and children and was crucial, he said, calling upon the United Nations to ensure its strict compliance with that resolution.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile), Council President, delivering a statement in his national capacity, said that the protection challenges facing women and girls demonstrated a need for a guarantee to access to law and justice.  It was also crucial to tackle threats to women’s security through protecting their rights and their empowerment.  Unacceptable practices must be eradicated, such as the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.  The violence meted out by Boko Haram must also end, he said, calling for the unconditional release of hostages taken last year.  Incorporating access to justice must also be ensured in reconstruction and recovery programmes.  The United Nations and the Council must consider the multi-dimensional nature of the current challenges and the concerns must be part of a post-2015 development agenda.  When examining the civilian impact of armed conflict on women and girls, resolution 1325 (2000) had provided solutions, he said, adding that the Council’s high-level review of that text’s implementation should try to trigger a synergy with the concurrent reviews of other peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations initiatives.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said extremism and terrorism — prominent features of conflict situations — often created new threats to women’s rights and lives.  Gender inequalities were at the heart of the issue, and as such, its root causes must be addressed by changing laws, norms, practices and attitudes that denied women and girls their human rights.  It also meant pursuing equal rights to inheritance and policies that secured sexual and reproductive health and rights.  The fight against impunity for sexual and gender-based violence was crucial and she supported the special policy of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to more efficiently investigate and prosecute such crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction.  The participation of women and men in mediation, peace negotiations, and humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts was needed, while the mandates of United Nations missions should be based on gender-sensitive conflict analysis.

ASOKE K. MUKERJI (India), noting that his country was the largest contributor of troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations, said that situations of longer-term internal conflict had created more complex challenges as the impact of instability had been felt by the most vulnerable of the civilian populations, especially women and girls.  Increased participation of women in addressing such challenges was critical.  India was at the forefront of that approach, having contributed an all-female formed police unit to the United Nations operation in Liberia.  In addition, he argued, as peacebuilding was most relevant for addressing the overall situation of women in armed conflict, the issue should be addressed through focused peacebuilding activities rather than adding them into complex multidimensional mandates, so that the transition to a post-conflict society could be sustainable, and so that humanitarian and development actors had greater scope for action against exploitation and abuse of women.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said that his country looked forward to working on upcoming reviews related to gender issues, affirming that women’s protection, advancement and empowerment should be at the heart of all activities fostered by the Organization.  The priority in all protection efforts should be the prevention of conflict and avoidance of the use of force.  Even when force was employed with the aim of protecting civilians, it did not make the resulting unintended consequences that caused civilian suffering less tragic.  In addition, full compliance with international humanitarian and refugee law was critical.  In that regard, the Council must employ a non-selective approach in protection of civilians, addressing violations in Gaza, as well as those in Syria.  Stressing that women’s participation at all levels of peacemaking and reconstruction was needed, he described mechanisms to foster gender equality in his country, emphasizing that women must be empowered in all societies, those at peace, as well as those in conflict.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union, noting that “troubling” events linked to conflict had led to mass displacements, humanitarian catastrophes and serious human rights violations, urged strengthened resolve in implementing national, regional and global commitments.  “We have the policies and mechanisms in place, but we need to make more efficient and better use of them”, he said, urging that innovative ways be found to communicate the international humanitarian law principles and ensure humanitarian access.  Protection and relief provided must correspond to civilian needs, especially those of women and girls.  He welcomed commitments made to tackle sexual and gender-based violence used as war tactics, calling for an end to impunity for such abuse and the systematic inclusion of women and girls in the development of policy guidelines, codes of conduct and training.  Gender advisers should be deployed in all peacekeeping missions and instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, better used.  The upcoming review of peace operations should envision a model that emphasized civilian protection and prioritized combatting sexual violence.

THOMAS SCHIEB (Germany) said that as the Council met, “IS” and Boko Haram were killing, raping and abducting women and girls, while in Syria, indiscriminate aerial bombings continued to result in civilian death, injury and displacement.  Women and children in conflict areas often lacked access to medical care and education, which, in turn, could lead to a generation of “lost children” who bore the trauma of war.  To better protect women and girls, gender-sensitive training for United Nations-led peace missions should be a prerequisite for deployment.  Accountability was also needed, he said, noting that conflict parties were more likely to use sexual violence as a war tactic if impunity prevailed.  Capacities must be in place to help victims of sexual violence find their way back to a normal life.  In that context, Germany had helped to set up six centres in Iraq for psychological trauma treatment.  Monitoring and reporting on conflict-related sexual violence was central to all protection, he added, citing in particular sex- and age-disaggregated casualty data.

RON PROSOR (Israel) said that far too many women in a range of countries were living in fear, not only those subject to rape, slavery or death at the hands of extremist groups, but also those living in repressive States where there was no justice system or independent media sympathetic to women’s rights.  Describing the plight of a woman recently hanged in Iran, he stated that it was critical to oppose extremists “who want to drag us back to the dark ages”.  It should be done by giving women a voice, especially victims of violations, he stressed, describing abuses in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Islamic State in Iraq and Sham (ISIS)-dominated areas.  A message must be sent that such barbaric crimes would no longer be tolerated.  As it stood, he could not imagine raising his daughter in any Middle East country other than Israel, where opportunities afforded to women transcended religion or ethnicity, he said, listing women-held positions in his country.  The international community must bring into reality a world with full respect for women and zero tolerance for violence against them.

PAUL SEGER (Switzerland), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Conflict, strongly condemned all violations of international humanitarian law.  Pointing to the abduction of girls and attacks on schools as particularly despicable, he said:  “We cannot tolerate impunity and we must ensure that all perpetrators of these atrocities are held accountable for their actions.”  More must be done to ensure that responses take into account the full range of violations and the specific impact on women and girls, through targeted strategies and disaggregated reporting.  Women must participate in all such responses, as well as becoming empowered in all societies.  Conflict prevention was critical in preventing abuses.  He encouraged the Security Council to strengthen the protection of civilians across its agenda and to focus on the topic in reviews of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ (Colombia) highlighted data showing that 2014 was the year marked by the greatest number of displaced persons and refugees since the Second World War.  That situation had created a number of challenges related to today’s debate.  Many armed groups operated outside the law; they did not act in the same way as States.  Colombia had experienced an internal conflict. It was clear that a comprehensive approach with a priority on victims was necessary.  The Government had undertaken such measures, including instituting a legal framework and creating public policy to achieve sustainable peace.  Establishing security in every corner of the country was also essential. In 2003, national policy for gender equality was enacted.  Those measures, however, did not speak as tangibly as a woman whose husband had been killed in a conflict.  She said a Government compensation programme for victims had allowed her to come home, study and get a job, providing a good example for her daughter.  There was a need for a paradigm shift and change of culture concerning use of force against women.  Women were the driving force in reconstructing society.

PASCAL BUFFIN (Belgium), citing the use by Boko Haram of girls wearing suicide vests to do its work, urged assisting States in prosecuting those responsible for such abuses and allowing international justice to be administered, notably in the International Criminal Court.  He also urged the Council to guarantee women’s increased involvement in developing policies and other initiatives.  Women must be more involved in the life of society through equal access to justice, education, means of subsistence, voting rights and the highest political offices.  For its part, Belgium had established its second “Women, Peace and Security” plan, which outlined actions to better protect women and enhance their participation in decision-making.  Combating violence against women was also a top priority for his country, he said, stressing more broadly that United Nations peacekeeping missions should have clear civilian protection mandates.

GABRIELA COLÍN ORTEGA (Mexico) said the protection of civilians called for respecting international humanitarian law and human rights law, and adopting measures to ensure that those laws were upheld.  International humanitarian law, in particular, outlined protections for victims of sexual violence, pregnant women and prisoners of war, and it was up to States to ensure that those protections were given.  Since its adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), the Council had helped to expose shortcomings on gender issues and had led the way for closing those gaps.  She expressed hope that the review of peacekeeping operations, implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) and the comprehensive study on that text’s implementation would provide a road map for meeting women’s needs in conflict and post-conflict situations.  Noting that the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations would take up the issue of protection of civilians, she called on the Council to take into account its recommendations on setting up and renewing peacekeeping mandates.

KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said that, despite encouraging examples of more women appointed as Special Representatives of the Secretary-General and Force Commanders, there was a need to recruit more women in civilian, military and police ranks.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations would have to increase its engagement with national security institutions of troop- and police-contributing countries.  Women should be trained to participate in civilian protection, peace negotiations, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes, management of camps and shelters for internally displaced persons, as well as in elections as both candidates and voters.  His country was among the 27 member States in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to develop a national action plan for resolution 1325 (2000), focusing on early warning and action, dialogue facilitation, mediation support and post-conflict resolution.  He also said that Kazakhstan, bidding for the Council’s non-permanent seat for 2017-2018, was committed to protect women and girls and would pledge to be a strong voice on their behalf.

CHAYAPAN BAMRUNGPHONG (Thailand) stressed that the protection of civilians was a core mandate of the Security Council, urging the body to fully utilize information, analysis and options on situations of serious protection concern provided by the Informal Expert Group on the Protection of Civilians.  His Government supported the Council’s authorization of 10 peacekeeping missions with protection mandates and welcomed that the United Nations attached importance to the development of the protection of civilian overarching strategy and action plan for 2015-2016.  It was vital to increase the number of female peacekeepers and women’s share of senior positions in United Nations field missions.  Thailand was envisioning to contribute more female peacekeepers and gender experts in the Council’s Roster of Experts in the very near future.  In partnership with the International Peace Institute, her Government would conduct a series of events focusing on women’s participation in peace process and peace operations, with a view that the outcomes of those events would greatly contribute to the Council’s high-level review on women, peace and security.

EMILIA GATTO (Italy) said gender-based human rights violations experienced by women and girls — killing, sexual violence and forced marriage among them — must be urgently addressed by the Council.  “This is not a matter of normative tools,” she said, noting that the Council had recognized women’s vulnerability in armed conflict and the importance of their participation in preventing and resolving such situations.  While welcoming that the United Nations Monitoring and Reporting mechanism had been set up, she said the global landscape for the rights of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings remained dire.  She urged strengthening cooperation among States, and with international jurisdictions, to fight impunity.  Those States not party to the Rome Statute could still contribute to the International Criminal Court.  Prevention efforts were essential, she said, citing the need to disseminate early warning mechanisms to prevent gender crimes, with due priority given to peacekeepers and police units.

IGOR VENCEL (Slovakia) voiced strong support for the full implementation of resolution 2151 (2014) on security sector reform, saying that such processes should be based on an inclusive approach and local ownership, as well as the involvement of women in all aspects, especially in management and oversight capacities.  Rather than focusing exclusively on training and equipping, he called for building effective oversight, management and accountability mechanisms, as well as reviewing the skills and training that should be expected from security personnel.  Sensitizing security personnel on human security concepts was essential.  Urging an end to impunity for international humanitarian law and human rights violations, he stressed the need for comprehensive, independent and impartial investigation of all abuses against civilians and the indiscriminate destruction of civilian infrastructure.

MARTIN SAJDIK (Austria), speaking on behalf of the members of the Human Security Network, said that the group had been created in the context of the Ottawa Convention prohibiting landmines and the protection of civilians in conflict had always been central to its concerns.  The Network condemned sexual and gender-based violence and was determined to address those crimes.  It also remained concerned about the difficulties in taking action to ensure the protection of civilians.  Preventive measures, as well as early warning and monitoring mechanisms to counter violence against women and girls, must be strengthened.  Fighting impunity and ensuring accountability under national or international jurisdictions was important.  Economic, political and social empowerment of women and girls reduced their vulnerability and enhanced their ability to protect themselves and exercise their rights.

Speaking in his national capacity, he noted that, since the adoption of resolution 1894 (2009), under his country’s chairmanship that year, considerable progress had been made.  To support and complement the work of the United Nations, Austria had developed an interdisciplinary training course on the protection of civilians open to national and international participants.  The course had recently received a certificate by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and was now recognized as a centre of excellence for protection of civilians training.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s recommendation to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas as it was an area of particular concern to his country.

GORGUI CISSE (Senegal) said armed conflict encouraged human rights violations, especially sexual violence.  He supported the strengthened standards set out following the adoption of resolution 1325 (2000), noting the increased number of peacekeeping operations with mandates to protect civilians.  Despite some encouraging statistics, women and girls continued to be treated as “spoils of war”:  rape, exploitation, forced abortion, prostitution and other abuses continued to flourish in theatres of operations and camps for displaced persons.  Following the Council’s adoption of resolution 1894 (2009), it was important to prioritize civilian protection and provide troops with enhanced training.  He urged States, beyond efforts to prevent sexual violence, to impose targeted sanctions and ensure accountability for the perpetrators of such acts.

JANUSZ STANISŁAW URBAŃCZYK, Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See, said that, although a focus on women’s protection and inclusion had been a mainstay of the Council’s deliberations, many gaps remained and must be addressed, as horrific reports of violence against women, sexual slavery, rape and trafficking were increasing in number.  Affirming that the sanctity of the life and dignity of all human persons was the foundation of Catholic social teaching, he also expressed concern over the lack of attention and priority to the protection of women and girls who were attacked purely because of the faith that they professed.  Due to that phenomenon, Christians faced extinction in some regions of the world.  People of all faiths were threatened, however, and a global commitment to fight such crimes was needed.  Describing assistance provided by the Catholic Church to victims of sexual violence in conflict situations around the world, he said that the “culture of enslavement” that engenders war and violence must be replaced with a “culture of life and peace”.

JOSÉ LUIS RIVAS (Uruguay) said his Government was committed to the protection of civilians in armed conflict.  As a troop-contributor, Uruguay could testify that civilians were the main victims of conflict, as had been seen in Syria and in Gaza.  He voiced deep concern regarding the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, saying that the use of sexual violence to obtain the support of a community was a constant feature of many armed conflicts.  He urged that expelled women be reintegrated into their communities.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, where Uruguay had about 1,000 soldiers, joint protection teams worked to identify signs on the ground.  In that context, he supported strengthening the role of communities in ensuring their own protection.  Recalling various abuses against refugees, asylum seekers, Stateless and displaced persons, he said Uruguay had sought to provide a humanitarian response to people in need in Syria.  He called on experts to investigate sexual and gender-based violence.  The Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations’ upcoming discussion of civilian protection would offer an opportunity to strengthen State commitment to that goal.

MICHAEL DOUGLAS GRANT (Canada), noting that civilians suffered disproportionately during conflict, condemned the increased targeting of women and children and urged the Council to address crises in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere.  State and non-State armed groups must respect their international legal obligations and violators must be held accountable.  Strongly condemning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) sexual violence campaign, he said Canada had also spoken out in the strongest terms against Boko Haram’s crimes against civilians, including the targeting of schoolchildren.  Voicing concern that humanitarian agencies faced growing challenges in gaining access to civilians affected by armed conflict, he urged strengthening the quality of casualty tracking and collection of disaggregated data, and ensuring that international work reflected the findings of gender analyses and data collection.  To best address protection challenges, there needed to be the full participation and empowerment of women and girls.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi) said that States had a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  Interventions must be in line with the principles of the Charter.  Fighters of negative forces were operating in the Great Lakes region of Africa in blatant violation of a protocol to the Geneva Convention.  Regarding the situation of civilians, bitter results had been seen in eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia and South Sudan.  Women, children, the elderly and persons with disabilities were the ones who “pay the price” in conflict.  The Council must put an end to atrocities through non-discriminatory targeted sanctions, and preventive diplomacy was also essential.  The Council should avoid a selective approach and double-standards, and any unilateral measures must be discouraged.  Parties to conflict must respect international humanitarian and human rights laws.  There was also a need for more frequent interactions with non-State actors, as they must be made aware of respecting those laws.  People could die from hunger after escaping gunfire, he said, stressing the need to step up humanitarian efforts.

HIROSHI MINAMI (Japan), associating himself with the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians, noted the greater suffering in conflict situations experienced by women and girls and called for more women’s participation in all peace-related processes to counter it.  It was crucial to implement Council resolution 1325 (2000); all sectors in Japan were working earnestly in that regard.  Women must be empowered to be active agents in society rather than being seen as objects of protection.  “Under suitable conditions, women can shine,” he said.  In that spirit, Japan had hosted the World Assembly for Women in September 2014, and had funded projects ranging from the training of female Afghan police officers to building the self-sufficiency of Syrian women refugees.  In order for such projects to bear fruit, Japan had also been assisting United Nations efforts to end sexual violence in peacetime situations.  All such efforts, he maintained, should be guided by the principles of human security.

MUHAMMAD ANSHOR (Indonesia) outlined ways in which civilians could best be protected when conflict erupted, saying that adherence to international humanitarian and human rights laws by all conflict parties was most important.  As States bore the primary responsibility to protect citizens, the United Nations should support the building of relevant national capacities, and enhance the synergy among various national actors.  All efforts to protect civilians should be rooted in human rights, security and development principles.  In that context, the Council should make use of inputs from various initiatives, such as the regional workshops and global conference initiated by Norway on reclaiming protection of civilians in armed conflict.  With that, he called for gender mainstreaming in peacekeeping missions at the policy and operational levels, and recognizing that women and girls had distinct needs, which required specific assistance to be arranged.  It was essential to ensure women’s full participation in the economic and political lives of their countries.

HASSAN HAMID HASSAN (Sudan) said after the Council had adopted its first resolution on the topic of women and armed conflict 15 years ago, civilians continued to make up most of the victims today.  The Council’s position should provoke the international community and Governments to act.  While many conflicts were examined by the Council, some had resulted in the body taking no measures, and there was a great deal of misinformation among Council members.  In many countries, in the absence of peace, peacekeeping operations were unable to protect civilians.  What would protect civilians was peace, including projects for reintegration of displaced persons and disarmament efforts.  Amid discussions on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and a withdrawal strategy, a third visit had yet occurred.  Concerned with political motivations, he said it was important to ensure compliance with the United Nations Charter, particularly with regard to the sovereignty of States.

OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said the Council had succeeded over the past 15 years in anchoring a legal basis for the programme for women, peace and security by adopting resolution 1325 (2000) and other texts.  By adding the protection of women and girls in efforts during and after conflict, the focus of that resolution had not dealt with violence against them committed by terrorist groups.  As a result, the measures taken by the United Nations were limited.  Follow-up on resolutions and the need to take a more organized focus were also needed.  Further, efforts should be redoubled to ensure justice measures took steps to prosecute perpetrators.  Women’s participation must also be ensured in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.  Financial guarantees were also needed, especially in regions where women and girls were being raped by terrorist groups.  Challenges to peacekeeping operations should be resolved by implementing effective strategies on the ground.  Dealing with the root causes of conflict was important.  Armed terrorism was posing a serious danger to the safety of women and girls, and the international community should act on that.  Donors must respond to that form of terrorism, which threatened the world, as well as development.

MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) said civilian protection was one of the core functions of the Council, yet civilians continued to be targeted, with women and girls disproportionately bearing the brunt of war.  Women and girls made up the majority of the current displaced persons and had also faced targeted attacks.  Violence against women was now being used as an “instrument of war”, with examples seen in a number of States.  Parties to conflict were bound to protect women and girls, and women must be “at the table” during and after a conflict.  The Council should continue to end impunity for perpetrators of violence against women.  Tools should be strengthened to bring criminals to justice, and the command and control of peacekeeping missions should pay particular attention to the protection of civilians.  Barriers to humanitarian access should be removed so that women and girls could be reached in areas trapped by conflict.  Efforts should also be linked to the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights up Front” initiative.  Further, the Council should hold a special session on violent extremism that was threatening civilians, particularly women and girls.

STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein), associating himself with the Group of Friends of the Protection of Civilians in Conflict, said protection could not be separated from participation.  Women must be part of the solution as empowered members of society who had the right to participate at every level of decision-making.  Further, vulnerabilities must be addressed before conflict erupted by investing in women’s empowerment and promoting gender equality.  The implementation of existing commitments was essential, with the United Nations Secretary-General, mission heads, Special Representatives and Force Commanders leading by example in deploying gender advisers.  National and international justice mechanisms had an important role in deterring criminality.  Noting that persons with disabilities were highly vulnerable during conflict, he said the problem was understudied and required urgent attention by humanitarian actors and the Council itself.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) urged the Council to “move early” to secure the protection needs of women and girls, and to consistently apply a “gender lens” across the breadth of its work.  To improve outcomes, States must ensure women played central roles in inclusive peace and security mechanisms, including the design and implementation of conflict-prevention initiatives and conflict-resolution strategies.  In designing peacekeeping and special political missions, the Council should ensure that mandates were implemented in a gender-sensitive manner, notably through the use of gender advisers.  Women’s economic and political empowerment was also important, as was ensuring that United Nations missions and agencies collected, analysed and provided to the Council data on gender-sensitive aspects of their work.  She called on those involved in the reviews of resolution 1325 (2000), and of the United Nations peace operations and peacebuilding architecture, to make recommendations on how the Organization’s peace and security architecture could better protect civilians in conflict.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland), associating his delegation with the European Union, said that the root cause of the unspeakable abuse of women in conflict situations was a lack of respect for women and girls, as well as multigenerational cycles of poverty.  For that reason, the full inclusion of women in all stages of peace efforts must be ensured.  In addition, perpetrators of sexual violence must be held accountable and reparations must be provided for survivors.  The United Nations had been in the lead of promoting women’s empowerment, but a more holistic approach was needed that integrated the efforts of all the major bodies and agencies.  Given the institutional initiatives taking place this year, protection of civilians, especially women and girls, should be at the centre of concern in 2015.  In that context, he described Poland’s support for women’s interests in a range of situations.

TIM MAWE (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, said that conflicts should be prevented to best protect civilians, but when they occurred, it was important to integrate human rights priorities into peacekeeping mandates with special attention to the situation of women and girls.  In that light, he strongly supported thorough implementation of the Secretary-General’s “Human Rights up Front” initiative.  The knowledge, experiences and perspectives of women should be factored into all conflict and post-conflict discussions and the number of women should be increased in positions of responsibility in all relevant sectors, including arms control and non-proliferation.  The United Nations must show leadership in that regard.  He called for gender advisers to be deployed in all United Nations missions, with protection of civilians at the heart of all peace operations.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), associating himself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union and affirming that civilian protection was at the core of the United Nations’ purpose, expressed concern at the “troubling developments and abhorrent crimes linked to conflict and terrorism” described as increasing in the Secretary-General’s report on women and peace and security.  The savage crimes of newly emerged terror groups, such as ISIS and Boko Haram, had prompted a moral responsibility to immediately respond and bolster Iraq’s efforts to protect its citizens.  Much more had to be done, however, and the Council had an undeniable role.  Significant progress had been made in a normative framework, but that framework must be translated into action on the ground.  International tribunals had represented an important tool for such efforts.  The experience of his country’s neighbour, Kosovo, in addition, showed the importance of support to women struggling with trauma from sexual violence; the twentieth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre served as reminder of the importance of protecting all people from gross crimes.

MÓNICA BOLAÑOS PÉREZ (Guatemala) stressed the importance of addressing the trauma women had experienced due to the heinous crimes being committed against them during armed conflict.  Women should not, however, be considered the only victims of war, but must be empowered to participate in peace process and community organization at all levels.  Protection strategies should evolve and all protection instruments the Council possessed should be utilized, with lessons learned kept in mind.  Impunity must end and all violators must be held accountable.  In addition, the responsibility of States must be emphasized and their capacity in prevention of crimes and justice must be built.  All units of the United Nations should be coordinated in efforts to protect civilians in armed conflict, with a special focus on women and girls.

PETER VAN DER VLIET (Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, said that as the rights of women and girls came increasingly under attack it was imperative to integrate their specific protection needs into the overall agenda on protection of civilians, and promote cooperation on the issue between all actors including Member States.  He gave examples of Dutch cooperation in that regard.  The Council should examine the challenges impeding the systematic implementation of protection mandates, he stressed, noting the efforts of his country to train peacekeepers for that purpose and to place more qualified women in senior positions in United Nations missions.  Ensuring the rights of civilians before, during and after armed conflicts was essential, as were conflict prevention, good offices and mediation.  When mass atrocities occurred, use of the veto should not impede Council action, and the principle of the responsibility to protect should be applied.  In conclusion, he stressed the importance of Council efforts to protect and support humanitarian actors.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL (Argentina) said recent reports had shown that there were gaps in efforts to ensure gender equality, including the latest UN-Women report to the Council.  While much had been done, there was much that remained to be accomplished in that regard.  As the United Nations marked its seventieth anniversary, the fundamental dignity and equality between men and women remained a central part of the Organization’s principles.  Yet, forced marriages, abductions and female genital mutilation were affecting many girls around the world.  “Something needs to change”, she said, pointing out that most of the 93 million children out of school were girls and every 18 seconds a woman was being abused somewhere in the world.  Words must be translated into deeds and the world should immediately end ongoing heinous actions and protect women.  The Council could do more to change the world and make women’s lives more dignified, she said, emphasizing that “the stakes are very high”.

ALI AHMAD HAYDAR (Syria) said the United Nations was marking its seventieth anniversary, but the Organization had been unable to meet its founding members’ expectations.  Since the Council had begun its debates on civilian protection, double standards had been used for schemes that ran counter to the fundamental rules of international law, he said, citing as an example the case of Libya, which States had intervened in under the pretext of protecting civilians.  Protecting civilians, including women and girls, was the primary responsibility of the relevant State.  The exploitation by member and non-member States of the Council had undermined that body’s role.  A comprehensive global approach was needed with regards to protecting civilians, including ending unilaterally coercive measures, particularly measures imposed by certain States on Syria in terms of food, medicine and fuel.  In addition, Israel must end its occupation of lands including the Syrian Golan, as many Council resolutions had demanded.  Turning to his country, he informed the Council that the so-called “international coalition” had conducted an air raid that had destroyed a health centre and other targets.

JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) said his country was deeply concerned that the rights of women had been attacked during conflicts involving extremist groups.  Women’s clothing, travel, education and employment had been targeted by those groups, an action that undermined society as a whole, as well as jeopardized international security.  Condemning the acts of Boko Haram and ISIL, he called on the Council to combat such barbaric acts and to consider options at its disposal and to use the sanctions committees more effectively.  He voiced concern about the use and impact of weapons against civilian targets.  Urging States to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and other weapons conventions, including cluster munitions, he highlighted the importance of including measures for protecting women in all United Nations mission mandates.  Extremist violence was not representative of any culture or religion, he said, and the culture of hate should be replaced by a culture of peace.

JĀNIS MAŽEIKS (Latvia), also speaking for Estonia, said that, despite achievements, challenges remained at the implementation level and in sustaining progress.  The 2015 review exercises should be an opportunity to recommit to the women, peace and security agenda, he said, pointing out that increases in conflicts and violent extremism over the past year had had a dramatic impact on civilians, particularly women and girls.  The recent attack in Mariupol by terrorists was a grim reminder of why work needed to be advanced and perpetrators must face consequences.  Concerned about sexual and gender-based violence and targeted attacks against women and girls, he said national authorities had a primary responsibility to provide accountability for serious violations.  Peacekeeping operations needed to be equipped with robust mandates that put civilian protection at their core, including training and close cooperation with local populations.  With the 2015 global review processes in mind, he said “we cannot afford backsliding on women’s rights”.

SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), aligning her delegation with the European Union, looked ahead to what she called important assessments relevant to protection of civilians due this year.  The conclusion and recommendations of all reviews should be presented in a coordinated manner.  Listing the many situations in which women were suffering greatly, she said that the Council must act in a cohesive way in order to ensure that perpetrators of crimes were brought to justice and that protection mechanisms were mandated to deal with specific situations.  Women must also be empowered to lead in all sectors and at all levels, she stressed, noting her country’s programmes to promote the political participation of women in post-conflict situations in various countries.  This year, she affirmed, the entire international community must mobilize to make the changes that millions of women were waiting for.

LEVENT ELER (Turkey) said that, in the face of growing threats faced by civilians in conflict situations, a stronger, inclusive and creative approach was required, driven by political will and lessons learned.  The elimination of the root causes of conflicts was the best way to prevent threats to women in a sustainable manner; adherence to principles of international humanitarian law in that context was particularly important, as was ensuring inclusivity of participation in all processes.  Turkey had gained much experience in dealing with the threats faced by displaced women, due to the tragedies in its neighbouring countries, Syria and Iraq, he stated.  Camp management and staff in Turkey had been trained to facilitate and encourage the participation of such women in camp community leadership and adequate women staff was employed to maintain a range of quality services.  Measures were being taken to prevent sexual violence in the camps, as well as ensuring schooling for women and girls was priority.  His country, in those efforts, required the strong support of the international community.

MAHLATSE MMINELE (South Africa) said, amid the ongoing violence against women and girls, the challenge was often a matter of a failure by States to implement key instruments regarding protecting civilians.  He called on all States that were committed to taking concrete steps for protecting women to implement all relevant conventions, including the Geneva Convention.  His country was strongly committed to implementing Council resolution 1325 (2000), but remained concerned at the apparent lack of political will to address generations of severe vulnerabilities and lack of protection in Palestine and Western Sahara.  While efforts were being made, challenges persisted, the most notable being the level of implementation of commitments.  He said he was pleased that the Council encouraged States to adopt minimum standards and codes of conduct in their armies and police services.  In 2014, the Council had made significant advances, adopting resolutions emphasizing the challenges and needs faced by women and girls.  Efforts, such as strengthening early warning mechanisms, were important, he said, adding that a vital factor was the development and significant changes in peacekeeping mandates, monitoring and training.

VLADIMIR DROBNJAK (Croatia) said the world had kept saying “never again”, yet genocide had occurred in Rwanda and Srebrenica, while horrible crimes were currently being committed in Syria and Nigeria.  While the United Nations had become increasingly concerned about civilian protection, “we are still far from succeeding in our efforts”, he said, expressing concern about reports on violence against women and girls.  Every story of every girl or woman victim of sexual violence and rape, in Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur or other conflict zones, were a reminder of the horrors women in Croatia faced in the 1990s.  It was of utmost importance that rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict were recognized as war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Victims needed assistance, and women and girls needed to be involved in peacekeeping and peacebuilding.  The International Criminal Court had a crucial role in protecting civilians in armed conflict as perpetrators of crimes against them must not escape justice, he said, underlining the importance of strengthening the relationship between the Court and the Council.

FREDERICK M.M. SHAVA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said unconventional threats associated with militias, armed groups, jihadists and terrorists linked to violent extremism had affected women and girls more than their male counterparts.  Noting that the majority the world’s conflicts were in Africa, he said States bore the primary responsibility to protect women and girls from gender-based abuse.  Women’s economic empowerment was essential in any prevention and protection response.

Citing gains, he said the African Union’s launch last June of a five-year gender, peace and security programme demonstrated its commitment to addressing the needs of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.  Regionally, the Community’s Protocol on Gender and Development aimed to harmonize commitments for achieving gender equality.  States needed to respond to the needs of women and girls in armed conflict and enhance the integration of a gender perspective in the work of the United Nations.  That involved addressing the root causes of conflict and strengthening national peace and reconciliation infrastructure.  “We know that women’s participation is essential for building sustainable peace,” he said.

PAIK JI-AH (Republic of Korea) pressed the Council to more systematically integrate women, peace and security issues into its work, and provide clear, decisive and consistent protection mandates in relation to women and girls.  Dispatching more women protection advisers and expanding sanction designation criteria to include gross violations against women were practical measures that could facilitate results.  Further, women’s empowerment and participation must be strengthened in peacekeeping, post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding processes.  Official development assistance (ODA) should be expanded to improve women’s capacity to take part in decision-making.  The Council could employ various means to end impunity for abuse against women and girls, notably through referrals to the International Criminal Court and mandating international commissions of inquiry.

ZAHIR TANIN (Afghanistan) said after three decades of war, his country continued to suffer, with 2014 being the deadliest year for civilians since 2001.  That was largely a result from attacks by the Taliban and other extremist armed groups.  Women had borne the brunt of conflict over 30 years of conflict and were today often targeted with gender-based violence.  Mitigating the impact of conflict on women was a priority for his Government, which had implemented resolution 1325 (2000) through its national action plan.  As armed extremists were launching attacks across the country, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces were engaged in large-scale counter-terrorism efforts, doing their utmost to ensure the safety of civilians.  Unfortunately, a number of civilian casualties had also occurred from explosive remnants of war, which posed serious threats to the public, particularly children.  That highlighted the importance of robust efforts to support the defence forces to mark hazardous areas and to ensure the clearance of explosive remnants of war while educating the public.  His Government was vigorously pursuing a reconciliation agenda with the armed opposition and engagement with countries in the region to move the process forward, he said.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA (Rwanda) expressed deep concern over the increasing number of conflicts around the world and the frequent targeting of civilians, including women and children.  Peacekeeping operations were ill-prepared to address large-scale violence against populations and could even collapse in such situations.  To prevent that from happening, appropriate mission mandates and the necessary resources to carry them out must be ensured.  In Rwanda’s region, the United Nations Operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Congolese Government needed to show more commitment in the neutralization of armed groups, following the expiration of the deadline to disarm.  Many other situations showed the need for better practices for protecting civilians and implementing resolution 1325 (2000).  To further reflect on how to better implement protection mandates of peacekeeping missions, he said that Rwanda was planning an international conference in Kigali in May.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said that protection of civilians was a human, legal and political imperative and required action from all actors.  Greater compliance with international humanitarian law was an indispensable prerequisite for improving the situation of victims of violence, as was ending impunity for perpetrators.  The challenges were enormous, however, as civilians, particularly women and girls were increasingly targeted.  Particular consideration must be given to the protection of civilians displaced by armed conflict, as well as to the capturing of individuals wrongly accused of not being innocent civilians.  His country continued to suffer from Armenian aggression and military occupation that resulted in violations of a wide range of rights of its citizens over decades.  He described recent cases of three men facing what he called fabricated criminal cases.  He called on the Council and all relevant international actors to intervene.

ANDRIY TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine) expressed alarm at the growing civilian casualties in conflicts and hoped that the upcoming review of resolution 1325 (2000) would provide an added push for protection and empowerment of women.  At the same time, he underscored that the full implementation of protection measures, including the protection of women, in the east of his country was being seriously undermined by what he called “systematic violations by the Russian Federation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its continuous aggression on the territory of my country”.  He relayed the large numbers subject to displacement and other harms.  In addition, illegal armed groups had been responsible for abduction and rape of women, he said, relating the case of a Ukrainian servicewoman, Nadiya Savchenko, who he said remained in detention in the Russian Federation.  He demanded her immediate release and pledged that those involved in her abduction would be brought to justice.

JAVAD SAFAEI (Iran) said he was taking the floor to react to the allegations by the representative of the Israeli regime.  The statement was totally irrelevant to the debate and it was absurd that the representative of a regime with the darkest record in the field of civilian protection could fabricate allegations against others, he said, pointing out that more than 80 per cent of victims of the 2014 invasion of Gaza were civilians.  “Interesting tactic, if you fail to defend your acts, then choose to attack others,” he stated, adding that it was ironic that a regime famous for its atrocities and apartheid policies would try to “preach” to others on the protection of civilians and purported to be the voice of victims.

ABDERRAZZAK LAASSEL (Morocco) said civilians were victims to crimes, including kidnappings and targeted bombings, especially populations living in refugee camps.  His country condemned those and other heinous acts which violated international law, including the Geneva Convention.  The Council’s adoption of resolutions had, over the years, paved the way towards the protection of women and girls.  Nonetheless, progress remained to be achieved in implementing resolution 1325 (2000).  The marginalization of women was a roadblock to lasting peace and the protection of the rights of women and girls was a collective responsibility.  Women must play a key role in repairing a social fabric ripped apart by conflict.  As the Secretary-General’s report had recommended, he said donors should make the necessary funds available to ensure those and related actions were implemented.

MPHO MICHELLE MOGOBE (Botswana) joined the international community in deploring gross human rights violations and all attacks on innocent lives that occurred in the increasing number of conflicts around the world.  To counter the situation, it was important to assist States to build the necessary institutions that would enable them to protect their populations.  In addition, when mass atrocities were liable to be referred to the International Criminal Court, the Council must assume that responsibility without fear or favour.  “Is it not time,” she asked, “that the Security Council said ‘not during our watch’?”  She gave the Council credit, however, for responding to scores of conflict situation with a variety of tools and said she looked forward to a comprehensive review of United Nations peacekeeping so that the challenges to those efforts could be better faced.  Finally, she stressed the need for increased participation of women in all decision-making activities.

MANAL HASSAN RADWAN (Saudi Arabia), responding to the statement by Israel’s representative, said that such an occupying Power should not speak about human rights in any way.  She condemned all its practices, which she called illegal, as well as the killing of civilians in Gaza and its siege against that area.  Israel had violated the rights of Palestinian women in a way that could be called war crimes.  The Council must recognize such crimes and bring all those who committed such acts to justice.

Taking the floor for a second time, Mr. ZAGAYNOV (Russian Federation) responded to the statement of Ukraine’s representative, stating that Kyiv’s actions in shelling civilians were followed by accusations against the Russian Federation, while his country’s calls for dialogue to end the conflict had not gotten a response.  He added that the woman that had been spoken of by the Ukraine representative as having been abducted was not a civilian; in addition, she had been accused of a killing.

Also taking the floor for a second time, Mr. TSYMBALIUK (Ukraine) asked the Russian representative to read the reports of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  He asked him to stop distorting the situation in Ukraine through propaganda.  The woman he had spoken of was indeed relevant to the discussion today, as she was a parliamentary representative, he added.

For information media. Not an official record.