Speech given by State Secretary Pascale Baeriswyl at the conference "Women, Peace and Security: Reclaim Prevention!"


Speaker: State Secretary, Pascale Baeriswyl

ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends and colleagues,

  • It is a great pleasure for me to officially open this Conference on Women, Peace and Security. Let me first thank the organizers – KOFF Swisspeace, Peace Women across the Globe and the Feminist Peace Organization (cfd) – for this invitation. You have been strong partners of our Swiss National Action Plan 1325 for so many years: a partnership that proves us every day, how important cooperation with civil society actors is and how crucial it is to listen to your critical voice. 
  • We have a beautifully diverse audience today: ambassadors, parliamentarians, experts from partner countries, representatives from NGOs and civil society as well as of several ministries (including the Ministry of Defense with the Competence Center for Military Peace Support, the Ministry of Justice and Police, the State Secretariat for Migration, the Ministry of Interior’s Office for Gender Equality, and our colleagues from MFA). A very warm welcome to all of you!
  • The adoption of Resolution 1325 by the UN Security Council in 2000 was historic by many means: It was the first time the Security Council passed a resolution on the role of women in conflict. This not only underscores their risk of becoming victims but also stresses their potential as actresses in peace processes. Together with the resolutions on “Protection of Civilians” and “Children and Armed Conflict, the women, peace, and security resolutions form (what we call – the protection architecture). It was a shift of paradigm to no longer understand security exclusively in military terms, but from the point of view of the individual, as “human security”.
  • UNSCR 1325 is also a pioneer resolution, because it was the years-long persistent lobbying work by civil society organizations and peace activists that paved its way. Today, Resolution 1325 is certainly one of the most famous Security Council resolutions of all times. It was also the first time that such a resolution asked for a National Action Plan (NAP), therewith linking the global and the national levels. This became a model for many other topics, including, for example, the fight against terrorism.
  • And it was by no means only women who campaigned to have UNSCR 1325 adopted. The campaign gained much traction thanks to efforts of male government representatives, especially from countries in the Global South such as Bangladesh and Namibia. I remember how the then Ambassador of Bangladesh, Mr. Chowdouri, strongly supported this resolution. He stepped up against all critics with fullest conviction, when as President of the Security Council on 8 March 2000 he literally had to fight his way to the press to declare violation of women’s rights a potential threat to peace and security.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • Today, we would like to do two things: launch with pride our fourth Swiss National Action Plan 1325, and at the same time, reflect critically on our work on women, peace, and security.
  • Switzerland has had a National Action Plan 1325 for 12 years,. Every year, we try to learn lessons and search for efficient ways to make this agenda a more sustainable reality. We ask ourselves which approach and which activities can bring the best results.
  • Our new Action Plan highlights four principles that have been the core to Resolution 1325 ever since its historic adoption. This remains crucial when working towards sustaining peace:
  • First: women’s leadership and expertise shall be at the center. Women are capable actors. In addition to building women’s abilities, we need to challenge existing structures – for example, introducing smarter and more transparent recruitment processes and stronger political commitment for gender parity.
  • Second: we continue to promote a strong link to women’s human rights mechanisms, such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Switzerland has been promoting the cooperation between the UN Security Council in New York and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for a long time. We therefore welcome the newly established framework cooperation between the Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence in Conflict and the CEDAW Committee. 
  • Third: women and men shall share the responsibilities. Gender-equality is a matter of partnership and it requires a burden- and power-sharing.
  • Finally: strengthen the support of and cooperation with civil society and local women’s organization. They work on peace and conflict prevention every day, often without salary and acknowledgement. Local initiatives need our attention, local experience should inform our policies and local contributions to peace must be promoted at the highest level.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

  • I remember very well, when we celebrated the 10th anniversary of Resolution 1325. I was heading the political team at the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York. We organized an exhibition at the entrance of the UN building, no one could get to the Security Council without paying attention. Some of our then partners are present here today, for example Peace Women Across the Globe who built a curtain with postcards of thousand peace women. A peace table with a broken leg stood in the hall, symbolizing the misbalance of women and men represented at peace tables around the world. On the floor, a timeline indicated in which year countries have launched their national action plans. Not without pride can I state that Switzerland was one of the first countries with a NAP 1325. Today, there are 82.
  • Traditionally, the Swiss Action Plan is “outward looking”, focusing on gender equality and peace in our humanitarian aid, development collaboration and peace building activities in partner countries.
  • With our current Action Plan, we want to stimulate discussion within Switzerland and make the link to domestic issues on gender-equality, peace and security. This conference is a unique occasion in this regard.

Let me present the five thematic pillars of our 4th National Action Plan 1325:

  1. First and most importantly: the effective involvement of women in conflict prevention. Switzerland is convinced that gender-equality is an asset for peace and security. This motivates us to promote political and economic empowerment of women, to support women human rights defenders and to learn from women’s experience when designing measures to prevent violence. The project on “Women, Peace and Security and the Prevention of Violence” of which you will hear more today, is an excellent example for such “learning” from local women’s voices.
    When the Security Council calls on Member States “to better link their work on women, peace and security, counter-terrorism and countering violent extremism” – what does this mean for women living in areas affected by such violence? The research project asked these women, discussed with experts and peace activists around the world and brought the findings to Switzerland, to again, discuss with thematic experts and staff in our administration. This bottom-up process resulted in concrete recommendations for Member States and for Switzerland specifically.
  2. The second pillar is women’s influence on conflict resolution and peace processes. We support global networks that bring women to the negotiation tables in Colombia, Sri Lanka, or Nepal in order to strengthen their influence. We also do our homework and reach out for more female mediators in Switzerland.
  3. Thirdly, an important pillar remains the protection from sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, refugee and migration contexts. We know that sexual violence is an indicator for conflict. Switzerland will continue its efforts to support victims, and bring justice to survivors. We further encourage others to join us in lifting the taboo about men being victims of sexual violence and better understand their vulnerabilities.
    In Switzerland, we want to make sure that the women and girls seeking asylum receive the protection and services they need in order to feel safe. A recent study conducted by the State Secretariat for Migration identified protection needs and proposes concrete measures.
  4. The forth pillar concerns women’s participation in peace missions and in security policy. Women are significantly underrepresented in security policy or arms control. Switzerland works for instance with the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN Office on Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) on a mentoring program that trains young women in arms control and disarmament. This is also a topic that we bring forward when meeting representatives of international organisations. I had the opportunity to discuss women’s participation in peace missions when I met the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smaїl Chergui, earlier this year, but also with the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who considers equal representation of highest importance.
  5. The fifth pillar finally concerns our multi- and bilateral commitments: Switzerland stands ready to support other countries for the development of National Action Plans, as we are currently doing in Chad and Mali. Switzerland is a member of the global Women Peace and Security Focal Point Network and will, together with South Africa, hold the co-chair of the Network in 2021.

Ladies and Gentlemen

  • This tour-de-horizon shows the potential of the Women Peace and Security agenda. It will remain a priority for our foreign policy to continue a preventive and inclusive approach towards peace and security.
  • Let me end on a personal note: The conviction of the relevance of peace and gender-equality have accompanied me throughout my career from the early days on. As I am leaving Berne as state secretary next year and taking over as head of the Swiss Mission to the UN in New York, you can rest assured that I will keep on carrying women, peace and security as a priority of the Swiss multilateral agenda – particularly as we will celebrate 20 years of resolution 1325 next year. I am looking forward to seeing many of you in October 2020 in New York, but even more so to hear your creative ideas to improve implementation of the resolution.
  • Meanwhile, rest assured that also here in Berne, we will continue the exchange between domestic and foreign policy stakeholders, civil servants, and civil society with the aim to enhance peace and security for all.
  • I wish us courage and optimism for this continuous work. And now, I wish you a successful continuation of this conference.

Thank you.