Good morning and thanks for being with us this International Women’s Day – for the launch of Australia’s first National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting on today and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
Apologies for my Parliamentary colleagues - Warren Snowdon and Jason Clare, who can’t be with us here today.
A warm welcome to Sex Discrimination Commissioner Ms Elizabeth Broderick, Rear Admiral Tim Barrett and Ms Cate Buchanan from the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.
Also, the non-government organisations and individuals who have worked so hard with the Government to get the National Action Plan to where it is today.
It’s great that we have such a broad range of groups represented here today at Garden Island to launch this National Action Plan.
It demonstrates the key parts that so many groups play in implementing the UN’s Women, Peace and Security agenda - particularly when it comes to supporting women’s involvement in building and maintaining peace.
This includes local women, humanitarian workers, women diplomats and policy makers.
It also includes women serving as peacekeepers - both from the Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police.
I thank you all for being here.
Gender based violence in conflict zones
Women and girls experience conflict very differently from men and boys. Although often not engaged in combat, women and girls can be disproportionately affected.
According to the United Nations, up to 90 per cent of casualties in recent conflicts have been civilians and most of them have been women and children.
Unspeakable acts in decent society do, tragically, occur when war breaks out or when the post-conflict vacuum is filled by power groups with little or no regard for humanity.
All too often, this violence is gender based and women and girls are the principal victims.
This is unacceptable, morally reprehensible and wrong under international law.
Violence against women and their exclusion from the peace process are also major obstacles to a durable peace, security and the rebuilding of communities.
The equal status of women must be promoted and respected in all settings if we are to build a society worth living in.
I am humbled by the remarkable women who stand up for their rights in conflict areas where so often the dignity of women and girls is trampled on.
Many women are active agents of change, playing an important role in preventing and resolving conflict and rebuilding communities.
If only more were included in the formal decision-making processes around peace and security.
Currently, the peace process is dominated by men. You could call it a boys’ club.
Fewer than eight per cent involved are women. Fewer than three per cent of signatories to recent peace agreements are women.
No woman has ever been appointed chief or lead mediator in UN-sponsored peace talks.
This is despite the disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls.
The National Action Plan
We are here today to fulfil the Australian Government’s election commitment to the protection and empowerment of women and girls in conflict and post-conflict settings.
The Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security represents a concerted effort by the Gillard Government - and non-government organisations.
I know many of you here have been waiting for this National Action Plan for a long time.
Australia first supported the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in October 2000.
This plan identifies strategies and actions for Australia, both at home and overseas, to further implement UNSCR1325 and related resolutions over the next six years.
It is the outcome of combined efforts across government, including Defence, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, as well as the Status of Women.
The Plan in action
It complements the extensive work we are already doing on the ground.
At home, the Government has set a strategic agenda to reduce violence against women, improve women’s economic security and ensure women’s equal place in society.
We fund six National Women’s Alliances, which were established to act as credible, independent and effective advocates for gender equality.
Our Defence Force recognises women’s participation is vital. By 2016, selection for all positions in the Australian Defence Force will be based on ability rather than gender.
Defence has committed to meeting its responsibilities under the National Action Plan.
This will include examining training provided to ADF members.
The Australian Federal Police has been working in the Pacific to increase the number of women recruited into local police services.
The Australian Federal Police has also supported the development of a victim management program for Pacific police and delivered gender-based violence investigations training for police in Timor Leste.
The Australian Civil-Military Centre is currently working with the Australian Defence Force and Australian Federal Police to develop guidelines and rules on the protection of civilians.
The Office for Women will also collaborate with the Australian Civil-Military Centre to develop education kits on Women, Peace and Security and a documentary on empowering women for protection and peace.
The Gillard Government will continue to invest in improving gender equality across Australia’s aid program, with a focus on what works, what is effective and what will achieve results.
We will remain advocates for the integration of a gender perspective in peace and security efforts, particularly through the work of Australia’s first Global Ambassador for Women and Girls.
And we will ensure peace processes in which Australia plays a prominent role do promote the meaningful participation of women and consider local women’s needs, rights and capacities.
Working for the future
The non-government sector has played a critical role in advocating for and shaping the National Action Plan.
I thank you all for your valuable contributions during the written consultation process and NGO roundtable discussion.
Central to the successful roll out of the National Action Plan will be our ongoing partnership with the non-government sector.
We have asked the sector to nominate representatives to meet with the Women, Peace and Security Inter-Departmental Working Group each year.
The Government will table a progress report against the monitoring and evaluation framework in Federal Parliament every two years over the life of the National Action Plan to further strengthen its initial implementation.
The non-government sector will be encouraged to develop shadow progress reports, which will also be made public.
The National Action Plan will be independently reviewed twice during its lifespan.
The implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda is a long term and transformative piece of work.
This National Action Plan is both a symbolic and practical step forward.
It sets the direction to achieve better outcomes for women and girls affected by conflict.
It is a foundation document that will evolve over time, providing ongoing guidance to inform our work.
I am honoured to be able to launch Australia’s first National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
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