SRSG Ján Kubiš Remarks Global Open Day Consultative Meeting on the Participation of Women
24 October 2017, Erbil
Excellency Mr. Karim Sinjari, Minister for Interior, Kurdistan Regional Government,
Excellency Mr. Falah Al-Mustafa, Minister of the Department of Foreign Relations
Excellency, Ms. Pakhshan Zangana, Secretary-General, the High Council for Women’s Affairs, Kurdistan Regional Government
Excellency, Mr. Safin Dessaye
Excellences, Distinguished Guests,Colleagues and friends,
This year we mark the Global Open Day on UNSCR on 1325 Women, Peace and Security in an atmosphere of great victories – and huge sacrifices – of the Iraqi people, the people of the Kurdistan region against terrorist Da’esh. Heroism and sacrifices of Peshmerga in this battle against the global terrorist threat of Da’esh will be remembered forever, as will be the massive support that the people and the authorities of the KR-I have selflessly provided to many hundreds of thousands of mostly Arab IDPs regardless their own hardship.
At the same time the post-Da’esh period has brought to the fore many serious problems that accumulated over the years and remain unresolved. That concerns among others, critical issues of Baghdad-Erbil relations, including deficiencies in the implementation of the Iraqi Constitution. Challenged by a unilaterally declared independence referendum, Baghdad has taken steps to re-assert the constitutional order, to re-establish its authority. All that resulted in confrontation between the erstwhile partners in the joint battle first against a dictatorship and now the terrorist Da’esh, added another layer of insecurity, fragmentation and challenges, triggered waves of displacements, this time mostly of Kurds. A solution lies in stopping the military activities, in de-escalation, including in public inflammatory statements and confrontational actions, in continuous coordination and establishing a mechanism for a joint management of the military and security situation, where appropriate, in the disputed territories, in respecting the Green line, as established in 2003, and notably in an urgent start of a partnership dialogue and negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil on the basis of the Constitution. This is critically important for preserving the unity and re-establishing stability of the country, for future peaceful coexistence amongst all components and minorities based on equal rights and justice for all citizens of Iraq in the condition of good and democratic governance.
Both sides publicly expressed their willingness to engage in such dialogue and negotiations, on the basis of the Constitution. The UN is ready to assist, if requested, as it assists already in dealing with the humanitarian consequences and human rights violations that are tragically occurring as well, in Tuz Khormatu, Kirkuk and some other places.
Let’s nevertheless not forget, that we have gathered here to speak about the 1325 UNSC Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, about how to promote and protect the rights and equality of women as positive agents of change and reforms, peace, stability, reconstruction and development.
In the past three years, Da’esh terrorists in pursuit of their inhuman ideology have been particularly brutal to women and girls. The UN will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to provide to affected women and girls emergency medical care, mental health and psychosocial assistance including to survivors of sexual violence. These women and girls are victims and deserve all support as victims, however difficult that might be in the light or prevailing social traditions, practices and norms. I applaud the position of many religious leaders in Iraq - Yazidi, Shia, Sunni, Christian – that indeed have recognized them as victims that bear no guilt and have requested support and protection for them, for their children.
Also, this September the UN Security Council passed resolution 2379 on accountability for Da’esh crimes. This resolution calls for the establishment of an Investigative Team headed by a Special Adviser, to support domestic efforts to hold Da’esh accountable. I am pleased to inform that Secretary General Guterres has been taking all the necessary steps to implement this resolution and to establish this team.
While we acknowledge that women and girls suffered disproportionally during the conflict with Da’esh, we also proudly recognize that they too played an active role in fighting Da’esh - in the ranks of Peshmerga but equally importantly, in supporting their families, the most vulnerable – children and elderly - amidst situations of war and terror, displacement, insufficient resources and reduced economic opportunities. The devastation suffered by the Iraqi, including Kurdistani families has seen an increase in the number of widows and female-headed households. The country, the society owes them a lot. Support must be provided, for families of the martyrs and survivors. Women must be given access to income-generating opportunities ensuring that they are not left behind in the recovery and rebuilding efforts. It is important that they get more space, more recognition in the media, in the narratives about women resisting and fighting terrorism or sharing the heavy burden of this fight behind the frontlines so as to counter narratives that glorify terrorism and/or appeal for extremism and intolerance.
Women must get a full chance to play a key role in shaping the post-Da’esh future of this country, of the region. Equality and empowerment of women must be central to all peace, justice, reconciliation and reform efforts. Only such approach will guarantee the inclusion of gender specific-provisions and adequately ensure that specific needs of women are not neglected, as so often happens in political negotiations that are usually the exclusive domain of men. Women’s participation is thus crucial for an effective, successful and sustainable peace processes and reform. Only through their direct and meaningful participation their voices will be heard. We also need male champions to fight for their rights – and a more proactive approach of the UN. That also concerns the youth. It is time to ensure the implementation of the participation pillar of the Iraqi National Action Plan on the Security Council Resolution 1325 which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.
On this note, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Cross-Sector Task Force on the implementation of the Iraq National Action Plan on 1325. Regardless all issues between Baghdad and Erbil, the collaboration of women group representatives from both Baghdad and Erbil has been remarkable. It is a good model of constructive cooperation that should inspire also the process of finding solutions to the current crisis between Baghdad and Erbil. Women must play a key role also in these endeavors.
UNAMI recently organized a consultative forum in Erbil with political leaders to discuss the shrinking political space for women, the impact of the battle against Da’esh. A number of recommendations were tabled by the participants during the event, including: (i) to take into consideration women’s role at the level of political party leadership in the upcoming meetings and negotiations among the political parties in Kurdistan; (ii) to include women in delegations negotiating outstanding issues with Baghdad and negotiating issues affecting women with international entities; (iii) to ensure representation of women in various committees formed in preparation of the elections and reactivation of the Parliament.
UNAMI also organized follow-up meetings with senior political leaderships in July and August, in both Erbil and Suleymaniyah to encourage political leaders to deliver on their commitments to advance the role of women, to incorporate gender perspectives in the political manifesto and to ensure representation of women in high level positions.
The upcoming parliamentary and provincial council elections in 2018 in Iraq as well as the now postponed parliamentary and presidential elections in the region are other avenues how to strengthen women’s political participation and how to improve existing legislation to achieve this objective. The 25 percent constitutional quota for women’s representation in the CoR is a minimum. UNAMI notes with disappointment that despite continuous strong advocacy for better representation of women as members of the Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission, yesterday the CoR endorsed the list of nominees to the Board without woman or minority representatives. This demonstrates that political commitments and pledges have again not translated into concrete action. Instead of progress we again register regress. This documents continuous lack of a genuine political will to remove obstacles and barriers impeding the women’s meaningful participation in the political and electoral processes and bodies that prevent them from obtaining their adequate representation also in the newly elected and formed representative and executive organs, including in the leadership positions.
On the brighter side, joint efforts continue between the UN and the CRSV High-level focal points at federal and regional levels with the aim to develop an action plan on the implementation of the Joint Communiqué of the Republic of Iraq and the UN on Prevention and Response to Conflict-related Sexual Violence. I urge the Government to speed up the establishment of an inter-ministerial taskforce to oversee its implementation.
Let us all continue working together at all levels to advance the women peace and security agenda by ensuring their fair representation at decision-making level in peace and reconciliation, electoral, political, economic and social processes. Let us work together to find a just and partnership solution of the current crisis between Baghdad and Erbil, on the basis of the Constitution.
The United Nations Secretary-General continues to reiterate that as long as violence against women continues and as long as they cannot fully and equally participate in the political, social and economic life of the country we cannot claim to be making real progress towards sustainable peace, security and development. The UN remains committed to assisting the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government, to working with the political and civil society in putting in place and strengthening instruments and measures, including institutional and legal ones, to ensure that women can fully enjoy their rights and equality.