Remarks at the CD Plenary on Gender and Disarmament
by Ambassador Wood
U.S. Permanent Representative to the Conference on Disarmament
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Thank you Madam President,
As we highlighted last August and again on March 8 on International Women’s Day, the United States supports the full inclusion of women in disarmament, non-proliferation, and arms control affairs and is committed to promoting women’s leadership and participation in the field of global security. Moreover, the United States acknowledges the vital role that women play in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and peace-building and is committed to their full, active, effective, and equal participation in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and international security.
The United States has a strong record of achievement in implementing policies and programs that grow women’s leadership capacity in all areas of political participation and decision-making. We know countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. Even more so, Ambassador Wood: we know that including women and their perspectives in our conflict prevention efforts, our efforts to end wars and bring about just and sustainable peace, our efforts to protect civilian populations and hold accountable those that commit war crimes and crimes against humanity— is absolutely essential to international peace and stability, and to U.S. national security. The United States actively supports UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. Wherever you look in the field of international security, American women have made their presence known. From negotiating a historic agreement with Iran, locking down nuclear material all over the globe, or negotiating cuts in U.S.-Russian strategic nuclear stockpiles, the common thread is that professional women from the United States played an indispensable role. In fact, a quick look at recent U.S. history would show that the majority of the senior leaders working on arms control and nonproliferation issues are women.
To cite but one example, twenty-five years ago, the world was confronted with a grave threat. The remnants of a Cold War rivalry—untold numbers of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons on the territory of Soviet Union successor states—were left vulnerable to theft or sale. Today, we are spared the threat of the most lethal agents and weapons falling into the wrong hands thanks, in large part, to five pioneering women who played essential roles in this effort, as part of the newly established Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. At a ceremony marking the 25 anniversary of the Nunn-Lugar Program, these five former Pentagon officials were given the first annual Nunn-Lugar Trailblazer Awards: Dr. Gloria Duffy, Laura Holgate, Dr. Susan Koch, Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall, and Jane Wales. In recognition of the service, Secretary of Defense Carter praised them as the working-level officials in the Defense Department responsible for getting the program off the ground and implementing its novel provisions.
We commend advances in international best practice that are increasingly recognizing, around the world, that women and gender perspectives offer strategic importance to achieving lasting peace and stability. For instance, these best practices mean that practitioners are taking into account several factors, including the experiences and needs of female ex-combatants, the protection needs of communities hosting and empowering reintegrated individuals, and the contributions of women leaders in those communities who are building trust and supporting reintegration. The United States routinely encourages measures to more systematically promote women’s active participation and the provision of gender expertise in disarmament. Now, more than ever, diplomatic, stabilization, and peace building efforts should encourage increased dialogue between gender, security, and disarmament experts. The United States likewise recognizes the contributions of women to practical disarmament planning and implementation activities—at all levels of decision making. This approach is at the heart of our commitment to inclusive security. Evidence shows that the equal participation of men and women in decision making is a sustainable approach to the prevention and reduction of armed violence and armed conflict, and in promoting disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.
The United States is committed to advocating on behalf of women and closing the gender gap on all fronts—whether that be access to justice, opportunities for education at all levels, economic participation or leadership in politics and the security sector. This is evident not only through daily practices, but through the work by the U.S. Mission in Geneva on the International Geneva Gender Champions initiative which our delegation highlighted most recently on March 8, International Women’s Day. The new initiative, which was launched by Director-General Michael Møller, U.S. Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto, and civil society leader Caitlin Kraft-Buchman last July, focuses on gender equality and the empowerment of women and urges institutional and individual leaders in Geneva to join the United States in making a commitment to do what we can to break down the systemic barriers that are preventing women from fully contributing.
The International Geneva Gender Champions is a unique initiative because it invites permanent representatives and observers, and heads of the United Nations and other International Organizations, to join in and commit to undertake three concrete, measurable, and accountable institutional actions to advance gender equality. The first of these actions is to sign the Geneva Gender Parity Pledge to urge panel organizers across Geneva to strive for gender balance at their events. Already, over 100 international institutions and individuals in Geneva have signed on as Geneva Gender Champions, including the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and a number of colleagues here in the Chamber today. I am a Geneva Gender Champion. The underlying premise of this initiative is not that it’s hard to make these commitments, but rather that it’s hard not to. In the future, the United States hopes to expand this leadership network to include more representatives, including leading NGOs and private sector partners who are interested in making similar commitments on behalf of their organizations. But most importantly, we can pledge to make a change, knowing that our world can reach its full potential only when women and girls are empowered to reach their full potential. In that vein, we encourage those who have not yet had an opportunity to do so, to join us in becoming Geneva Gender Champions.
In closing, the United States reaffirms the importance of promoting the participation of women in disarmament. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of UNSC resolution 1325 last year, a watershed moment that spurred global action in elevating women as equal partners in decision making about peace and security, the United States is committed to reaffirming that investing in women isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the strategic thing to do. Women, alongside men, should take their rightful places as technical experts, as representatives of civil society, as spokespeople, and as decision makers. We are committed to working with like-minded partners to achieve this goal.
Thank you Madam President.