Statement by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Video Teleconference (VTC) Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security, 29 October 2020
We thank Secretary-General, António Guterres, for his statement and welcome the briefings from Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Goodwill Ambassador of UN Women, Ms Danai Gurira; Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Adviser in UNISFA, Ms Nataliia Emelianova; as well as the Head of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation, Ms Zarqa Yaftali.
We join others in highlighting that the year 2020 is significant as we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Resolution 1325, the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Plan for Action, the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the 10th anniversary of the establishment of UN Women as well as the 5th anniversary of the Sustainable Development Agenda, amongst others. It is also the review year for “Silencing the Guns” on the African Continent. All these anniversaries are intertwined and pertinent in the advancement of the WPS agenda.
We also wish to take this opportunity to welcome and acknowledge the clear priorities announced by the UN Women Executive Director that will dominate the decade of action. This will further drive the momentum to fully implement the ten UN Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security.
We also welcome the progress that has been made in the implementation of the WPS agenda since the adoption of Resolution 1325 under the excellent leadership of Namibia, twenty years ago which also launches its International Women’s Peace Centre on 31 October 2020. This will be a valuable regional and international institution towards consolidating our efforts for the full implementation of the WPS agenda. However, we also recognise the need to accelerate the full implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda especially by addressing impediments to achieving the objectives of the agenda.
South Africa regrets the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on advancing the WPS agenda, particularly on refugees and internally displaced women. In this context, we take the opportunity to commend the work that has been undertaken by the humanitarian and healthcare workers as well as other frontline workers in mitigating the pandemic – a majority of whom are women. We also recognise that the impact of the pandemic on the WPS agenda has not been fully discerned yet.
It is, however, imperative at this stage that we also take note that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only presented challenges but also opportunities in terms of how the WPS agenda can be pursued, particularly in advancing the participation and representation pillars. This relates to utilising virtual means to expand participation of women in various peace processes. While virtual engagements have illustrated to us that the inclusion of women is possible, these should not be used to exclude women from physical interactions.
My country views the WPS agenda as an empowerment tool for women to actively immerse themselves in various peace processes particularly in prevention, peacemaking and peacebuilding.
In this regard, South Africa is committed to contribute towards reducing the gap in women’s underrepresentation in mediation, negotiations and leadership positions. We will continue to build the capacity of women negotiators and mediators by providing annual training to women mediators and negotiators at local and Continental level.
We are proud that many women who benefitted from these training programmes are actively involved in peace processes in their respective countries. These include women from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, to name just a few.
South Africa also wishes to reiterate our support for the Secretary-General’s system-wide Gender Parity Strategy and the Department of Peace Operation’s Uniformed Personnel Gender Parity Strategy that have had a significant impact on increasing the number of women represented within the UN’s leadership, as well as in peace operations. We are pleased that the recently adopted first-ever Security Council resolution on women in peacekeeping adds to the growing number of normative frameworks on women in peacekeeping.
This is important to us, as South Africa remains the leading female troop contributing country in UN peacekeeping operations with 15.1% of South Africa’s deployed troops being female.
We continue to recognise the pivotal role that civil society actors play in furthering the WPS agenda at local and national levels which is why we encourage strengthened collaboration between governments and civil society in advancing the WPS agenda.
In line with Resolution 2493 which was unanimously adopted a year ago, we continue to urge Member States to create safe and enabling environments for civil society, community women leaders, women peacebuilders, and human rights defenders, to carry out their work in advancing the WPS agenda without threats, intimidation and physical harm.
We continue to be alarmed by the persisting sexual violence against women and children in conflict and post-conflict countries. It goes without saying that there is a need for increased accountability for cases of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict societies. In this respect, South Africa reiterates its support for the work of the Office of the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
South Africa wishes to underline the pivotal role of regional organisations in advancing the WPS agenda and therefore request that future reports of the Secretary-General provide details on the efforts of regional organisations such as the African Union and its sub-regional organisations in promoting the WPS agenda.
Let me conclude by reaffirming South Africa’s commitment to advancing the WPS agenda. We are pleased to announce that we have recently adopted our first National Action Plan. This is an essential step for us to continue ensuring the meaningful participation of women in all levels of peace processes in a manner that is structured, monitored, and assessed regularly by all relevant stakeholders.
I thank you.
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