SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very, very much and good morning, everyone.
PARTICIPANTS: Good morning.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Wonderful to be with you and particularly wonderful to be with you for this event.
To our co-chair, my friend, the Foreign Minister Luminita, and to the UN Women’s Executive Director Sima Bahous: thank you, thank you for your leadership on this vital issue. And it’s very gratifying to know that Romania will be carrying the torch going forward. Thank you for that.
And to my fellow ministers from countries across this network: thank you for your partnership.
We’re also joined by U.S. Representative Lois Frankel. Where’s Lois? Somewhere in the house?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: All right, we’re joined in spirit – (laughter) – by U.S. Representative Lois Frankel, who has been a champion of women and girls as a co-chair of our congressional Women, Peace, and Security – or WPS – Caucus.
So it’s been more than two decades now since the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325.
That landmark statement recognized the particular devastating ways that conflict harms women and girls. Combatants use rape, forced marriages, and other forms of gender-based violence as weapons of war. Fighting interrupting access to essential health services, including critical maternal care. Compared to boys, girls living in conflict zones are more than twice as likely to miss school and then less likely to return to the classroom afterward. And all too often, efforts to prevent radicalization and stop violence forget that women can be combatants, too.
At the same time, the Security Council declared that women play a critical role in building peace and strengthening security. When peacekeeping forces include women, they’re better able to build trust with the communities they’re protecting and address the unique challenges that women and girls face in post-conflict societies. The research also shows that when women are meaningfully involved in negotiating peace agreements, there is a higher chance the deal will be reached. And those agreements, in turn, are 35 percent more likely to endure.
Now, I get to see this day-in, day-out in my work. I know that it is real, and it’s very powerful.
Women’s leadership is essential in times of war and in times of peace. So it’s imperative that the experiences and perspectives of women – in all of their diversity – are included in initiatives to deliver aid, to end conflict, and to strengthen security.
For the United States, we are deeply committed to making progress on these fronts, including through the State Department’s Office of Global Women’s Issues led by Ambassador Geeta Rao Gupta, who is with us today and I am so glad to have leading our efforts. This year, we’re co‑chairing the Women, Peace, and Security Focal Points Network. This is the organization established to try to translate the words of Resolution 1325 into concrete action.
So in this work, we are trying some new strategies. For example, we saw the need for more collaboration at a legislative level as more countries across the globe strive to pass laws, including women and girls in matters of peace and security. So, in partnership with other governments, civil society programs, and our own congressional WPS Caucus, the United States is now helping to launch a network of women parliamentarians, and we’re calling it Global WPS Caucus.
Through this group, we’ll build new partnerships, new exchanges, and we will strive to exchange in particular best practices. One of the things I’ve been convinced of – doing this for now 30 years – is that on any given issue, for any given problem, there’s probably somewhere in the world someone who has actually found a solution. But if we don’t share that information, then we reinvent the wheel time and again. So the power of these networks, of these connections, of these groups, particularly in sharing best practices, is we can really speed up bringing them to bear in a much greater part of the world than we otherwise would. This will include lessons that the United States has learned as the first country to turn our commitment to these issues into a federal law through the 2017 WPS Act. So by comparing notes, we will all find ways to make our policies more inclusive and more equal.
As we’re building this new initiative, the United States will also continue to bolster the global fight for women and girls and the entire community that is fighting for them.
One new way we’ll do this is by supporting the WPS Centers of Excellence that are building connections between government officials and civil society leaders, and helping them integrate gender perspectives into peace and security policies. Now, whether that’s developing responses to climate disasters that address the needs of women and girls, or working to combat gender-based violence in partnership with local community leaders, we’ll be at this in a variety of ways.
Finally, later this fall, our government will release our updated Strategy and National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. This document is informed by years – quite literally years of research, years of consultation with civil society, experts – and it outlines how we’ll incorporate the needs and the perspectives of women and girls into our own diplomacy, defense, development policies going forward in the years ahead. So I am very much looking forward to bringing this to fruition and sharing the results with so many of you.
The last note I wanted to leave you with. As we move forward with these efforts, we will continue to draw support and inspiration from this network and all of its members.
I am convinced that together we actually have an opportunity to make the world just a little bit safer, a little bit more peaceful for women and girls, but in turn, for all of our people. And if we can do this together, I think we will be able to take great satisfaction in actually having made some progress.
So I thank you all not just for being here today but for being there every day in this work. As I like to say, these gatherings are important because it focuses all of our minds and attention on a critical issue. But it’s one day. It’s the 364 days that follow that really make the difference.
Thank you. (Applause.)