"Women and PVE: a strategic priority for Switzerland"
New York, 20.09.2016 - Address by the Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter a the occasion of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (High Level Meeting on Women’s Leadership and Gender perspectives on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism) - Check against delivery
Madam Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Terrorism and violent extremism constitute a grave threat to international peace and security today. On a daily basis, we hear about atrocities perpetrated by terrorists against civilian populations.
According to different sources, more than 10 per cent of the estimated 5,000 Western foreign terrorist fighters who have travelled to Syria and Iraq are women.
But women are also among the main victims of violent extremism. Violence against women is used as a deliberate strategy of terror. According to a recent report by the UN Secretary-General, conflict-related sexual violence committed by violent extremist and terrorist groups (such as ISIL, Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Ansar Eddine, the Taliban and Al-Qaida) continues unabated.
Attacks by violent extremist and terrorist groups disproportionately affect women and girls. They are often targeted as the repositories of cultural identity; as the relatives of perceived fighters; or as the bearers of future generations who will populate disputed territories.
Facing such horrors, we have to act decisively at the global level and even more at the regional, national and local levels.
At the global level, the Secretary-General has shown his willingness to act in launching the “Plan of action to Prevent Violent Extremism”. Member States have shown their commitment in resolutions adopted recently by the UN General Assembly and by the Security Council. They also presented their commitments and plans of action at the Geneva Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism this spring.
At the regional and cross-regional levels, organizations such as the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) can play an important role. Switzerland plays its part, with other countries and actors, within such organisations. In the GCTF, during its chairmanship of OSCE two years ago, or next November when Switzerland will propose, with the support of others, a resolution on PVE at the Francophonie Summit in Madagascar.
Switzerland has also contributed to international efforts by launching a Foreign Policy Action Plan on Preventing Violent Extremism, launched this spring at the Geneva Conference. The plan identifies 3 strategic priorities:
1st priority - youth: We are working on the ground to give young people the chance to attend school, get a job, earn a living, be part of their society. In short, to give them alternatives to violence. For example, one project that Switzerland is supporting in a marginalised part of Tunis aims to improve young people's involvement in social and political life by bolstering their participation in local governance. Switzerland has also launched an international initiative calling for the development of standards and best practices for juvenile justice in a counter-terrorism context, which will be adopted tomorrow morning by the GCTF at ministerial level. Over the last four years, Switzerland has given 300,000 people, mostly young people, the opportunity to receive vocational education and training in 20 countries. We intend to increase these activities together with the private sector, which plays a major role in promoting skill acquisition and creating jobs.
2nd priority - the role of Geneva: In Geneva, a great number of actors are working towards the same goals: to prevent and resolve conflicts, build peace, protect and promote human rights, international humanitarian law and refugee law: all of which are essential in preventing violent extremism. These organisations and institutions offer tremendous potential. Switzerland has founded organisations like the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) and the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF). Geneva also hosts the headquarters of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). All these organisations are active in areas related to the prevention of violent extremism. We need to connect all pillars of global stability even better and bring them together to increase our impact.
The third priority of our action plan is what brings us together here today: the role of women. Women can be victims of terrorism. They can also be a major part of the solution. . Among its priorities, Switzerland is seeking to promote the in¬volvement of women as actors, stakeholders and target groups in the prevention of violent extremism.
Switzerland is also helping to make certain that gender aspects are sys¬tematically incorporated into strategies and action plans to prevent violent extremism and in the governance of the security sector. For example, Switzerland is supporting the training of female police officers in Afghanistan in order to strengthen the response of the security sector to the widespread violence against women.
Efficient prevention of violent extremism will only be achieved by advocating for the active participation of women in decision-making processes. In Tunisia, Switzerland supported through the UNDP the political participation of women in the national elections, where nine were elected and now have a seat in the national parliament.
This is encouraging news. However, we need to redouble our common efforts. Switzerland will continue its engagement. And we count on you all.
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