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Speech by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Launch of Consultation Draft of Australia’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Location: Parliament House, Canberra

Good morning and welcome to everyone here today for this momentous occasion – the launch of the Consultation Draft of Australia’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

The issue: Women in conflict

We want a fair, safe and secure nation for all Australians.

A nation where all citizens – men, women and children – can live freely without fear.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where many women and girls around the world live in very dire circumstances.

Reports to the UN have shown that some 70 per cent of casualties in recent conflicts have been non combatants – most of them women and children.

Women’s bodies in fact have become part of the battleground for war.

They are raped, abducted, humiliated, abused, forced into slavery, and ostracised from their families and communities.

Four of the five conflicts referred to the International Criminal Court (Uganda, DRC, Central African Republic and Sudan) have all seen mass sexual violence, including mass rape and sexual slavery of women and girls.

Almost half of all people indicted by the ICC and other international tribunals over the past 10 years have been charged with rape or sexually violent crimes – either as perpetrators or as officers who have ordered it.

This is a chilling reminder for all us here today.

These women and girls are suffering physically, mentally, emotionally and economically.

It is a call that no country, no government and no community can refuse to answer.

That’s why I’m pleased to say that our Government, with your help, will be delivering a National Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

This Plan will respond to Australia’s commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

As many of you know, when the UN adopted Resolution 1325 11 years ago, it was widely celebrated.For the first time it recognised the impact of conflict on women and girls, their increased vulnerability to sexual violence in conflict and their exclusion from peace agreements and post conflict reconstruction.

Internationally, and at home, the Australian Government has supported Resolution 1325, since its adoption in 2000.

But today marks a significant step towards the realisation of our goal – to integrate gender equality in all Australian peace and security efforts.

The road to the Plan

I’d now like to talk to you about how the draft Plan came about and what is in it.

In particular, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge some of the organisations and agencies that have contributed to this Plan.

In 2009, the Australian Government funded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom to undertake national consultations on the development of a National Action Plan. The League worked with other Australian NGOs and released a comprehensive discussion paper on developing an Australian National Action Plan.

I am pleased to say that key recommendations from that report have been vital in the development of this Plan.

I would also like to acknowledge the interdepartmental working group who have been responsible for developing the draft Plan for the community’s consideration.

This is an outstanding example of the community and Government working together to achieve an international result – and I would like to thank you all for your contributions to the Draft Plan.

I would also like to say that your work is not over yet!

Your feedback and the ongoing involvement of Australian civil society will be vital in the delivery of the final National Action Plan and the successful implementation of UNSCR 1325 more broadly.

Content of the Plan

Now to the detail of the Plan.

The Draft Plan is about four key things.

One: incorporating a gender-sensitive approach to conflict prevention strategies.

Two: promoting the participation of women and recognising them as powerful agents of change.

Three: the protection of women and girls in conflict and post conflict settings.

And four: incorporating a gender-sensitive approach in all relief and recovery efforts.

All four are important aspects and one cannot exist without the other.

We know that armed conflicts affect men and women differently.

That’s why the draft Plan reflects a comprehensive approach to peace and security which is gender-sensitive, respects women’s and men’s rights and interests, and recognises the contributions of both men and women.

The Draft Plan adopts strategies to ensure that the needs, rights and voices of women are an integral part of Australia’s peace and security work.

We all know that women play a critical role in resolving and managing conflict resolutions.

We can see the evidence of this both in Papua New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands.

Women played a central role in ending the conflict in Papua New Guinea by directly negotiating with members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

And in the Solomon Islands it was women who brought together the main groups in the ethnic tensions and to build a culture of peace.

And in both instances, this Government, through our overseas aid program, supported these women.

This is why we need more women in decision-making roles in conflict and post-conflict settings, both at grassroots and political levels, if we are to have lasting change.

Women must have greater participation and say if we are to have peace.

We need to ensure women have every opportunity to participate.

Critical to this is our close and strong partnerships with the non government sector, along with international governments, to ensure that we increase the wellbeing of families and communities in the long term, in both conflict and post-conflict settings.

Launch of the Plan

That’s why I am pleased to launch the Consultation Draft of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security – better known as the Draft National Action Plan – here in Parliament House.

The very place that represents the rights and values of all Australians.

The Draft National Action Plan represents a first for Australia.

It is the first step in the development a comprehensive approach to protecting women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The Plan is also this Government’s first explicit statement of support for the full participation of women and girls in peace processes throughout all areas of Australia’s international engagement.

This National Action Plan is also the first opportunity for all Australians to have their say on finding new pathways to peace.

Today I am encouraging all Australians to comment on the draft Plan.

I want Australians to draw on their own experiences, knowledge and understanding about peace and security for women and girls.

Everyone has an opportunity to have a say on how we can do better to protect and promote the participation of women in peace and war.

Conclusion

When this Government signed on to develop a National Action Plan, we made a promise.

A promise to protect women and girls around the world from violence, and to break down the barriers that stop them from equal participation.

We made that promise and we intend to see it through, not only here but with other governments.

It is up to all Australians, both men and women to be agents of change and peace.

And without further ado, I wish to launch the Consultation Draft of the National Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

The consultation will be open for two months.

I encourage you all to get yourself a copy of the Draft National Action Plan, and of course, to contribute by providing your input into Final Plan.