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Remarks by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen during the Arria Formula meeting on reprisals against women human rights defenders and women peacekeepers - February 21, 2020

21.02.2020 - Speech

(check against delivery)


Thanks very much. First, I would like to welcome the ASG for Human Rights. You do not have the easiest job at the UN and I wish you good luck, courage, and be bold. I would also like to welcome here the two briefers. These were very, very powerful briefings that you gave and it was, of course, very sad, to listen to you about the examples of briefers and how they were treated back home and what they had to face. Thanks, to the Dominican Republic. We join you as co-sponsors, but I have to admit, we jumped on the train, so in particular, it's thanks to you two Dominican Republic and the UK.

What I like about this meeting is that we are not only concentrating in general about human rights defenders, but we actually look very specific at human rights briefers, which I will come to in the end.

We believe in general that civil society is key for peace and security. Civil society in general are the drivers for change, the drivers for peace, for humanity, for respect of human rights. When we look at what happened in Sudan, this was the result of the activities of civil society. Even just to see what the what of Friday's For Future movement does, what a girl like Greta does, in actually mobilizing societies and politics.

Now, we need civil society briefers in the Council for many reasons. First, and most importantly, the Security Council has to deal with conflict and women are those who are most affected by conflict. While we are speaking  abstract, there are also concrete terms: we have the bombing of civil society up in Idlib, where we have 900,000 civilians being bombed out of their houses. 80 percent of those are women and children. We need to deal with these issues and have them women civil society briefers here. They provide, the real insight into conflicts and can tell us how their situation actually is. Also, they are needed for sustainable peace. We know about the statistics that peace agreements have held much better when women were participating in the negotiations. On the ground, women, of course, create the preconditions for peace and security.

Now to the concrete issues of  briefers in our presidency. Last year in April, we I think had a record number of briefers from civil society and record numbers of women. And we also know of concrete cases of women who have been briefing during the German presidency who afterwards had had created reprisals. In Germany, we have a program to protect women, human rights defenders in general and briefers specifically. We do this basically through our embassies. We give political financial support. Some provide physical protection, support, give support to women networks, support for safe houses. We also have projects strengthening their resilience. I think we cannot just do it on a bilateral basis, I think we have to look more to the UN

First of all, again, in general terms, we have to see that in our peacekeeping operations, that where we have our resident coordinators, where we have the UN in place, we have to have human rights components. But there we also have to be honest, it's not the easiest task to get the funding for it. I mean, those who know about the Fifth Committee know how difficult it is to get the funding for human rights components. In the Security Council, let's be let's be honest. On a on a humanitarian catastrophe like Syria, we didn't get the nine votes to have the Commissioner for Human Rights brief the Council. So, I mean, these are facts. We have to face it. We don't live in a in an ideal world.

So what I like very much was the proposal made by the speakers, but also by the UK ambassador about I think you said about the docking point in the UN. I think we have to do that. We cannot continue that each presidency looks after its own briefers. Some have more capacity than others. I think we have to centralize this. There has to be a docking point, as the British ambassador put it. Maybe we need a guideline or guiding principles for briefers so that we take all the different steps that have been mentioned that have to be taken. Maybe have to work on an informal basis to get this working. If you want to do that, we are happy to contribute to it.

We in the Security Council, we have to try to promote this. We have we should continue to have women briefers from civil society. We know that there is also a trend against that and that there are trends to not have so many NGOs brief. Also, we have to in the Security Council regularly look at it. We tend to do things a bit too horizontal on, for example on Resolutions 1325 and 2467. But we have to look at each and every peacekeeping operations, each mandate so that we anchor these issues into the mandate. Each and every one of us in the Security Council have to look at that each and every time. And then it's Security Council. And we have to condemn reprisals and include that in press statements, etc. So, again, thanks very much for putting this on the agenda.

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