Speech by The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Launch of the United Nations Population Fund’s State of the World Population Report

Location: Parliament House, Canberra

E and OE proof only.


It is a pleasure to be here today for the launch of the State of World Population 2010 report by the United Nations Population Fund.

The report – “From Conflict and Crisis to Renewal: Generations of Change”, is a reminder to governments, both here and governments abroad, that while we have made inroads, there is still so much more to be done to address the challenges women face in conflict and in humanitarian emergencies.

I think that this is a timely launch today. Not just on the 10 year anniversary of 1325 but also in a week where our Parliament is debating the war in Afghanistan; in a week where I will be contributing to that debate on the particular implications for women.

A time when I do think we need to be reflecting upon the impacts that these conflicts have on women. Not just those women whose families have been unsettled, not just on those women who are taking part in formal education for the first time but also for the women who are playing a role within the Australian Defence Forces.

There are so many stories there that must not be forgotten but also of course that they are much more than stories just to be noted. This is a call to action.

And the Government does share your vision – for all men, women and children right across the globe to have full participation in economic, social and political life, without prejudice, without violence, without barriers.

We know that it is essential that the needs and interests of women, as well as men, are part of the development processes and this is particularly the case in situations of conflict and crisis.

And this is why the release of this report today is so very important.

For me, the report explores how conflict and protracted humanitarian emergencies affect women and girls. As the report states and as Virginia mentioned “women rarely wage war but they too often suffer the worst of its consequences

The devastating reality is that women and girls are often strategic targets of armed conflict. They are “disempowered by rape or the threat of it and by the HIV infection, trauma and disabilities that often result from it. Girls are disempowered when they cannot go to school because of the threat of violence, when they are abducted or trafficked, or when their families disintegrate or must flee.”

This report here today is absolutely a call to action.

Australia strongly supports the efforts of the international community to end sexual violence in armed conflict and to support women’s roles in peace-keeping.

Just this year, the Government announced an extra $1.25 million to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women in the developing world.

Through this we have recently funded the development of an Analytical Inventory of Peacekeeping Practice to help address sexual violence in conflict.

This is a world first. It is the first-ever review of efforts by uniformed peacekeepers to prevent, to deter and to respond to widespread and systematic sexual violence.

It forms part of a broader agenda to improve the capacity of peacekeepers to protect civilians and it outlines the best practices for more effective responses by peacekeepers to women’s security.

But even in this report, we also know that it is not all doom and gloom. The report also makes clear that women often play a key part in resolving ongoing conflict, and are able to lay the foundation for peace and rebuilding communities in the aftermath of conflict or natural disaster.

It doesn’t just talk about the negative and disturbing incidences of how conflict and crisis impact women, it also highlights the critical role women can play in prevention, in resolution and in peace building.

And as I read, conflict and crisis can also create opportunities for the empowerment of women, and new avenues for us to address gender inequality.

We saw that yesterday in the Prime Minister’s contributions about the impact of education take up for women in Afghanistan. We know that through rebuilding we can challenge gender inequities and we must do that.

But we also know that the report‘s theme also recognises the 10-year anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

This highlights the importance of women’s roles in preventing conflicts, and of their full involvement in peace talks as well.

During the election campaign our Government made a commitment to develop a National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security to directly implement the principles of Resolution 1325.

A plan that will be gender-sensitive, that will respect the rights and interests of women and girls and recognise the contributions of both women and men.

And I am really happy to say the development of this Plan has already benefited from community input in its early stages. Close consultation with the non-government sector will continue as the plan takes shape. And I am really looking forward to releasing a draft in the near future.

I want to make this final point – the Australian Government is committed to working with you to ensure women’s equal place in society is reached, both here and abroad.

So it has been a pleasure to be here, to help launch this report today but I also look forward to many more years of a cohesive and productive partnership between the United Nations Population Fund and the Australian Government.

It is something that we are deeply committed to progressing.