Statement by Ambassador Leendertse at the side event, “Responding to the Invasion of Ukraine: The Impact of Feminist Foreign Policies”, April 22nd, 2022.
I would like to thank the PRs of Ukraine and Sweden and Columbia University for organizing this webinar and also extend a special thanks to Government Commissioner for Gender Policy of Ukraine, Kateryna Levchenko, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in person during CSW.
The situation in Ukraine is daunting. The Russian aggression has unbearable consequences on the lives of Ukrainians and the humanitarian situation is deteriorating by the day: Ukrainians are starting to run out of food and medicine, a still uncounted number of civilians have been killed and millions have already fled the country. Last week at the Security Council, I have underlined that women in particular are first in line when it comes to shouldering egregious consequences of this war. They are the ones who are the main targets of conflict-related sexual violence, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Women are fleeing the country in masses, taking care of family members, children and elders. Where women stay behind, they are often in charge of providing basic services to ensure the survival of families and communities while fear, mourning and trauma prevail.
Like Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock stated it in front of the German Parliament: Feminist Foreign Policy “is no knick-knack, but fit for our time” – a time where we can no longer stay inactive in front of rape used as weapon as well as in front of other sexual and gender-based violence that continue to mark way too many conflicts.
Foreign Policy must address these gendered dimensions of conflict to be more efficient. In the case of Ukraine, it means that while we continue our efforts to stop this unjust war, we must at the same time work equally hard to mitigate the immediate effects of the war on the Ukrainian people, including the specific hardships endured by women. Human security, solving the humanitarian crisis, addressing the profoundly gendered implications resulting from conflict: These are not secondary considerations, they are central to our foreign policy decisions.
That is why Germany’s feminist foreign policy focuses on three Rs: rights, representation and resources.
First, on rights – We must address violations where and when they occur. That is particularly the case during war and conflicts, when women and girls are especially exposed to sexual and gender-based violence, to domestic abuse, to human trafficking. And since women are the most affected, we need to address their needs and rights through our policies. That is why it is key to take into account the gender dimensions of this war in all accountability efforts, mainly, the work of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the Commission of Inquiry and the independent investigation led by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan.
Secondly, representation – Studies show clearly that peace processes, for instance, have proven to be more effective and more sustainable if they are more inclusive. Women have not only a right to be represented in all decision-making processes, but they also noticeably contribute to their effectiveness.
And last but not least, resources: – We need to ensure that women have access to the means they need – finances, health care, education, to name just a few. But we also need to allocate enough of our own resources to promote gender equality.
a fourth vital element of our feminist foreign policy is “D” for diversity, as it is not only about women – it’s about inclusiveness, equal rights, equal representation and adequate resources for all those who are discriminated against - whether it’s due to their gender, their origin, their religion or belief, their sexual orientation or identity or to any other reason..
This is particularly relevant in security matters: If large parts of the population are unable to participate as equals, societies cannot reach their full potential and we will not be able to achieve sustainable peace and security.
Let me conclude by stressing that Russia’s war against Ukraine is an attack on the Ukrainian people, but also on our rules-based international order and has far-reaching effects across the globe. We need a holistic security approach to respond effectively to this war – and this is what a feminist foreign policy is about. Let’s prove it by our actions, by taking concrete measures for women and girls in Ukraine, so that no one is left behind.