Security Council Briefing: Peace and Security in Africa

Statement by H.E. Karel J.G. van Oosterom,
Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York

New York, 10 July 2018

Thank you, Madam President.

And in honor of the Swedish Presidency of this Council, let me try to say this in Swedish:

Tack so mucket, ordförande.

Madam President, we are very grateful to you for organizing this debate. It is important to keep asking attention for meaningful participation of women in matters concerning peace and security. Be it in Afghanistan, as we did on the 8th of March in an almost all female meeting of this Council and be it in Sahel, as we do today. In our view, meaningful participation of women is the right thing to do, and it has concrete positive effects on peace and security.

We sincerely thank you, Madam President, you, Deputy Secretary-General and you, Special Envoy of the African Union for debriefing this Council on your joint visit. It shows how useful joint AU-UN high-level missions are and they are also a means to deepen the African Union – United Nations partnership.

In particular, we were impressed with your meeting the victims of sexual violence and meeting those who are vulnerable of sexual violence. And when you paid testimony to the woman who said ‘I would prefer not to be raped’, it touched us.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is deeply appalled by these horrific acts of sexual violence and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

This debate allows us to shed light on the crucial role of women in issues of peace and security in the broader Sahel region. In that context, I will focus on three issues:

  1. The security implications of climate change on women;
  2. The challenges posed by the widespread conflict between farmers and herders;
  3. The importance of women’s participation in decision-making.

1. Climate change, security and gender

My first point: security implications of climate change. Climate change disproportionally affects women in the Sahel, especially because of its effects on stability and security. Madam President, your statement was very clear with concrete examples.

Climate change increases the number of livelihoods that are lost as a result of conflict. It reduces women’s access to essential resources, such as water. It further reinforces the negative consequences of conflict for women.  

As elsewhere, the most vulnerable in the Sahel become even more vulnerable. And too often, this means that women and girls are the most effected.

In that light, our responses to peace and security challenges in the Sahel must be both climate and gender sensitive.

In this context, we reiterate the need for adequate risk assessments and risk management strategies. This Council already emphasized this in resolution 2349 and it has repeatedly recalled it since then.

2. Conflict between farmers and herders

Madam President, this leads me to my second point. Climate change intensifies conflicts between farmers and herders in the Lake Chad Region and in the wider Sahel region. These conflicts have devastating effects for women and girls.

Widows are evicted from their farmland. Women and girls become even more vulnerable to economic predation and sexual violence and exploitation.

Conflicts between farmers and herders are reportedly now killing more women and girls than the Boko Haram crisis. And Boko Haram in itself was the cause of a staggering 1000 cases of conflict-related sexual violence last year in Nigeria alone.

Conflicts between farmers and herders are becoming multi-dimensional threats affecting the entire sub region.

We join the Secretary-General in calling on ECOWAS and its Member States to develop regional, long-term and integrated strategies in response. We feel that the UN system should support this. It is important to develop these strategies in consultation with affected communities, and of course, in particular women involved.

3. Participation

Madam President, my third point: participation. You and others rightly spoke of the vital role of women participating in decision-making.

We had an open debate on the 28th of March, here in the Council, on peacekeeping. And there we had a briefing by Fatimata Touré, from Mali, she briefed the Council. She spoke of the severe underrepresentation of women in the mechanisms set up for the implementation and monitoring of the peace agreement in Mali. And she told us that currently only 3% of the people involved are women; that number is way too low.

The Security Council rightly urged the parties in Mali in resolution 2423 to ensure equal and meaningful participation of women.

Madame President, the Deputy Secretary-General last year visited Nigeria. She was able to obtain agreement that food distribution in refugee camps would be in the hands of women.

We found that was an excellent example of women empowerment. An approach that we believe deserves to be followed-up elsewhere; both in the Sahel and beyond.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Madame President. Women’s empowerment and gender equality are closely connected to peace and stability in society. There is overwhelming evidence to that effect. Meaningful participation of women has the potential to transform societies and to build peace.

Let’s all work towards that goal. The women and the girls in the Sahel and elsewhere need our support. They need the commitment of this Council.

Thank you very much, Madam President.

Belongs to