Warsaw Process: Closing Remarks

Closing remarks with David Schenker, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

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I counted at least 24 in all and that is great. Thanks very much. Look forward to the ministerial gathering plan for spring of next year and I’ll turn it over to the emcee. Thank you all.

Thank you Mr. Mayberry. Thank you everyone for your interventions. At this point, we’re gonna have closing remarks by the senior representatives of the co-host countries, United States and Poland. So, first I’ll introduce Assistant Secretary Schenker and then I’ll ask Under Secretary Przydacz to the podium. First introduce Assistant Secretary Schenker. David Schenker was sworn in as Assistant Secretary Near Eastern Affairs on June 14th, 2014. Prior to joining the State Department, from 2006 to 2019, Mr. Schenker was director of the program on Arab politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2002 to 2006, he served in the office of the Secretary of Defense as Levant country director. In that capacity, he was responsible for advising the Secretary, and other senior Pentagon leadership, on the military and political affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. He was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense medal for Exceptional Civilian Service in 2005. Before joining the government in 2002, Mr. Schenker was a research fellow at the Washington Institute and a project coordinator of a large centrally-funded, USAID project in Jordan and Lebanon. Mr. Schenker attended the University of Vermont, the University of Michigan, and the American University in Cairo. Thank you. Assistant Secretary Schenker.

Thank you for the introduction. It’s my pleasure to be here with you as we begin to wrap up the Warsaw Process working group on human rights around the world. Around the world, Warsaw Process working groups are meeting and mobilizing the international community to look closely at how we best can partner, and counter security threats in the Middle East and North Africa. We face no shortage of security challenges. Consolidating the global coalition’s defeat of ISIS, and pushing for political solutions to the conflict in Iraq and Yemen. Our working group gathered today, because we share the belief that a key element to bringing peace to the region is doing more to ensure women’s voices are heard, and women are at the table as decision makers. I can think of no better way for us to celebrate the International Day of the Girl, by convening this policy discussion and how we can do more to concretely realize the vision set out by the UN Security Council resolution 1325, and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. We’ve had some amazing panelists in the past couple days speak on these issues, and the working group statement we just heard, lays out the challenges at hand and imperative for action. My fellow U.S. government colleagues have all too accurately described our own domestic government challenges in this space. The U.S. knows we must lead by example, and though we have come a long way in terms of gender equality, we have much work to do, just like everyone else. As President Trump has said, investing in women is an investment in peace and the future. The United States is committed to leading by example in this area, as well as on the global stage to address women’s under representation, and efforts prevent conflict and promote security. In my role as Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, I’m committed to implementing our intra-agency women, peace, and security strategy. I’m committed to building a leadership theme at home and in the field, that reflects the gender balance and the diversity of the United States. As an observer and an analyst of this region for decades, I’m glad to see this issue has received the attention it deserves. I know firsthand the importance of women participating in a substantive way in the political process. Women have been at the forefront of protest movements for change in the region, throughout decades of struggle for progress on human rights and personal freedom. Women in the region continue to make strides, but all too slowly. In 1959, Iraq was the first Arab country to appoint a woman as a cabinet minister. But it took 50 more years, until Lebanon became the first Arab country to appoint a female Interior Minister. For the first time, women lead the Iraqi, Kurdistan regional parliament and woman is the president of the UAE’s Federal National Council. Saudi Arabia also appointed the first woman ambassador to its embassy in Washington D.C. We’re committed to increasing support for recruitment of women in decision-making roles, especially within key security and political institutions. Our team has taken a holistic look at our policies and assistance programs in the region, and how we are doing to ensure that women and girls have the ability to participate in preventing and resolving conflict, and rebuilding communities that are impacted by security crisis and terrorism. Our teams on the ground already, have strong relationships with your countries and civil society, and we will work to continue to build on these relationships with our male colleagues and women-led groups that can yield greater access for women to peace processes, because engaging men on this issue is important too, in conflict countries, where we’ve put the majority of time and effort to date. I’m proud that our efforts to achieve a political resolution in Yemen, have been matched by active programming to increase awareness and participation among women in local and national dialog efforts and peace-building initiatives. Hundreds of community leaders have been trained, who have in turn reached thousands of Yemeni stakeholders in the peace-building process. In Syria, continue to work closely with local councils, led by women and men equally, and have found that this creates power-sharing dynamic that leads to better local governance, and in Iraq we worked closely with leaders, as the conflict came to an end last year, to respond to the string of murderers targeting women asserting themselves as business owners, and female-led households. This has translated into important work on the ground on a new gender-based violence law that we know will help the country hold perpetrators accountable, because safety and protection of women is essential to security. I understand that a number of you will be joining a working lunch to explore how we can collaborate on supporting and reintegrating women displaced by ISIS activity, or the fight against ISIS. Addressing these challenges is a long-term, strategic effort that must extend far beyond our discussions today, but we’re off to a great start. With that, I’d like to thank you for participating in this event, again. And I look forward to working with you on this important initiative. Thank you. (audience applauds)

Thank you Assistant Secretary Schenker. Under Secretary Przydacz may I invite you to return to the podium.

Excellencies, Mr. Minister, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, let me start by thanking you for your participation in this meeting, in this working group and your active involvement in our discussion. I would also like to express appreciation to the United States for hosting us and this very meeting. The Warsaw Process would not be such a unique form of reflection on the Middle East and beyond, if we did not properly address the issue of human rights, particularly the rights of women. Protection of human rights is even more important in today’s world as we face terrorism and violent extremism, which pose a growing security threat. In this context, let me mention, that the on-going armed conflicts in the Middle East, puts religious minorities there at a higher risk of persecution, or even death, because of their religion and beliefs. We hope for peaceful solutions to these conflicts, securing this country’s multi-ethnic character and religious diversity, including the improvements of situations of Christians, who suffered so gravely from the ISIS violence. I’m convinced that we all agree that we need more women in mediation and in conflict prevention. And when conflict already erupts, an effort for sustainable peace, reconciliation, economic and social recovery. And yes also in identifying and bringing to justice those who committed acts of violence during such conflicts. Impunity never serves a sustainable and lasting peace. Therefore, United Nations Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, which was recalled and discussed here many times during the last two days, constitutes such a valuable tool to advance more peaceful worlds with engagement of women. We also need to underline the importance of national action plans, which are instrumental in allowing states to identify and set priorities with regard to the implementation of women, peace and security agenda. And let me recall in this context, example of my own country Poland. We focused our national election plan on four priorities. First, the need to guarantee meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and peace-keeping. Second, financing the implementation of the UN sustainable development goals in relation to women, peace and security agenda, as an important tool of implementation policy. Third the support for activities aiming at raising the effectiveness and increasing the responsibility of perpetrators for acts of conflict-related sexual violence and assistance to victims of conflict-related sexual violence, who apply for international protection in Poland. And four, the promotion of women, peace, and security agenda in Poland and through international cooperation. Ladies and gentleman for the last two days a number of government representatives, academics, and practitioners have looked at the issue of the women, peace, and security from various angles. We analyzed the most difficult elements of building up a visible presence of women in mediation and peace processes and the lessons the international community has already learned. We have heard the reports of participating states on the implementation of the NAP and the ways implementation of these plans contributes to women, peace and security agenda. These discussions, experience and recommendations are crucial in understanding what really is at stake when discussing women, peace, and security agenda. We also agree that the presence of women in security structures and organizations on the international level, should be more visible and would be appreciated. Stimulating exchanges of good practices and technical expertise on the women, peace, and security, especially within specific region, can provide valuable insight and solutions aimed at fostering presence of women in peace processes. The same applies to identifying formal frameworks, which would allow a greater inflow of female candidates to key security and political institutions dealing with conflict and peace issues. Close collaboration with women civil society representatives of conflict-affected areas is from our perspective of utmost importance. This dialog is pivotal if we truly are to ensure greater access of female leaders, experts, and local community representatives to the peace processes. The working group opted for committing itself to a number of concrete initiatives aimed at wider opening of the security policy box for female decision makers, experts, and uninformed staff. It is encouraging that there is such common notion that women can be genuine game changers, help to stop vicious circles of violence, and set their conflict-affected countries onto the path towards peace, reconciliation, and social and economic recovery, thus achieving goals set for by the UN Security Council Resolution back in the year 2000. The working group statement we have adopted, which will be read very soon, and which will convey to the Warsaw Process Ministerial Meeting next year, is a step towards enhancing a truly significant role of women peace efforts and security policy making across the globe. Thank you for the immense effort the Warsaw Process Working Group on Human Rights has undertaken. As I mentioned before, this was a meeting of the second working group established within the framework of the process inaugurated by Polish and the U.S. governments at the ministerial conference in February this year in Warsaw. The five remaining groups will convene in the next weeks. Our work has been a part of a broader international effort to promote international rules and standards, and I’m really glad to observe that this task has been successfully advanced. Thank you very much. (audience applauds)

Thank you Mr. Under Secretary. As the Under Secretary noted, before we close this conference, we need to read the working group statement. To do that, I ask to come to the podium Miss Megan Wong, who is a special advisor on women’s rights for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor here at the State Department. She’s also the lead coordinator for this conference, meaning she organized this wonderful event. So without further ado, please Miss Wong come to the stage.

Good afternoon. Well it’s a privilege to be here with you as I’ve been working on the issue of Women, Peace, and Security for almost 10 years since the U.S. launched its NAP first in 2011. So thanks for your participation. I will now read the working group summary and we appreciate the contributions that all delegations have made to this process. Armed conflicts in the Middle East have affected more than 47 million people and resulted in the forced displacement of over 17 million in recent years. Women and girls have been disproportionately affected by armed conflict, emerging as heads of household in displacement, confined in homes by bombs, checkpoints and militias, victimized and targeted by terrorist groups, and deprived of their rights and freedoms. Proponents of radical ideologies in particular, seek to undermine women’s human rights. Women have also emerged in many cases as pragmatic leaders who confront challenging situations in areas of the region to advance peace and security, often at great risk to their personal safety. National, regional, and international efforts aimed at increasing women’s role and participation in promoting comprehensive regional peace and security must be consistent with the UN Charter, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law, as applicable. The Warsaw Process Working Group on Human Rights discussed advancing women’s ability to participate equally with men in conduct of public affairs, which they should enjoy free from violence or intimidation, and restoring women’s freedom of movement, association and expression, which have been curtailed by armed conflict. To this end, the working group discussed an increased role for women in preventing and sustainably resolving armed conflicts, mitigating the lasting effects of war, and reinforcing peace and security in the region. Delegations also discussed the role state and non-state actors in the region play in contributing to armed conflicts that disproportionally impact the lives and livelihoods of women and children. Despite positive steps taken in the region, women leaders from the Middle East are under-represented in power centers where decisions are made about their nations’ and communities’ futures. At the working group, delegations discussed the barriers to women’s meaningful participation, including under-representation in political leadership, pervasive gender-based violence, persistent inequality in public and private life, and hard economic and social conditions. The working group emphasized that a country’s path from insecurity and armed conflict to peace and development requires the full participation of all members of its society. It further emphasized that promoting half the population’s meaningful inclusion and participation across efforts to restore security, promote human rights and democracy, and support economic development is not simply a women’s issue, it is a national security issue and vital for human progress, which should be dealt with in full respect for the principles of the UN Charter and in consideration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Working Group on Human Rights aims to support ongoing regional and national efforts to promote the meaningful participation of women in all phases of conflict prevention, resolution and recovery, as essential to achieving long-term peace and stability. Evidence indicates that women’s meaningful participation in conflict prevention and resolution advances security interests. Yet peace initiatives are still too often negotiated only between small numbers of men. In the nearly two decades since UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was issued by the UN Security Council, there have been concerted efforts by women leaders, often with support of the international community, to participate in some aspects of peace processes and lead grassroots conflict resolution efforts in some of the most complex conflicts. While such efforts are sorely needed, they often fall short of their intended objectives. Too often women participants, whether government officials or civil society experts, are routinely marginalized, disregarded, and uninvited to conversations that matter. And when they are present, they are far outnumbered by their male colleagues. It is our collective responsibility, and in our collective interest, to improve outreach, consultation, and inclusion of capable women leaders in decisions that decide their futures. The working group discussed ways of ensuring that women’s participation is both consistent and meaningful, not only from a human rights standpoint but also from a practical one, because when women play an influential role in peace processes, peace agreements are more likely to last. As such, delegations of the Warsaw Process Working Group on Human Rights discussed how to advance the following actions individually and collectively through the region and committed to continuing collaborative efforts in the context of the working group process. Concretize commitment to Women, Peace and Security by encouraging and providing support upon the request of states in drafting, implementing, and adequately resourcing National Action Plans in consultation with women civil society leaders and taking into consideration a holistic approach. Those who have not yet taken initial steps are encouraged to work in earnest to finalize their NAPs. Member governments with existing NAPs are encouraged to take the critical step of allocating budget resources to help galvanize political will to operationalize existing plans for maximum peace and security outcomes. Prioritize exchange of intra-regional technical expertise on good practices while collectively identifying and addressing barriers, logistical, social, institutional, that prevent qualified women from exerting greater presence and influence on formal peace processes. Promote the recruitment of and equal opportunities for qualified women in decision-making roles within key security and political institutions related to peacekeeping, conflict resolution, and post-conflict recovery and reconciliation, while identifying the best practices of relevant international and regional arrangements, while actively mitigating societal barriers that entrench institutional patterns of gender inequality. Finally, encourage wider outreach and consultation with a wide range of women civil society groups active in conflict-affected areas in the Middle East to proactively build relationships that can yield greater access to peace processes for capable women leaders and elicit technical and qualitative expertise to inform donor and host country policies as they seek to prevent, mitigate and resolve regional conflicts. Thank you again for your participation in this meeting. And for making this a dynamic and productive working group. (audience applauds)

Thank you Miss Wong. I won’t attempt to add anything to that profound statement. I think the statement says it all. So I will bid you adieu with two points. First, housekeeping, if you have a badge, please leave it at the front desk just like yesterday. Second, I wanna express the gratitude of the United States Department of State to our friends, partners from Poland, but all of you for your participation and for the exchange of ideas and friendship here today and yesterday. So with that I wish you safe travels. Thank you so much. (audience applauds)

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