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8 March: women are needed in political decision-making and conflict resolution today more than ever

Annicka Engblom
©Council of Europe

“The Russian Federation’s attack on Ukraine is also an attack on the core values of the Council of Europe: human rights, the rule of law and democracy. As the international community multiplies its calls to Russia to unconditionally stop the aggression, it is also important to give visibility to a human rights violation that seldom breaks the news: the violation of women’s rights. This includes violence against women and girls, which surge in number in war and conflict situations, as well as women’s exclusion from political decision-making and conflict resolution,” said the Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Annicka Engblom (Sweden, EPP/CD), in a statement to mark International Women’s Day (8 March 2022).

“Structural inequalities put women in a situation of vulnerability to aggression. Despite this, women all over Europe are refusing to continue to be victims of violence and conflict, both at home and in society at large. They are leading peace movements, are part of peacekeeping and peacebuilding forces, and their presence contributes to longer, more resilient peace. They are also the first to work at grassroots level to rebuild broken societies in the wake of conflict.

There is ample evidence suggesting that gender equality inside our organisations creates more balanced policies outside, and that women’s participation in political decision-making and peace processes contributes to more sustainable policies, as well as to longer, more resilient peace after conflict. The Assembly has, on a number of occasions, called for the increased participation of women, both in political decision-making and foreign policy, as well as in peace operations, negotiations, and crisis management. And yet women remain largely invisible in, and excluded from, peace processes and negotiations.

The ongoing war in Ukraine is a stark reminder of this. I would like to pay tribute to all the courageous women in Ukraine who are currently resisting aggression. I also very much look forward to the report now prepared in our Committee by Yevheniia Kravchuk from Ukraine on protection and justice for women in peace reconciliation and the roadmap for future action that it will contain.

There is also ample evidence that war and conflict have devastating consequences especially for women and girls. It is important to recall that the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, applies both in times of peace and in situations of armed conflict. I also wish to recall important guidance provided by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, as well as the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

On this International Women’s Day, I express the hope that we will continue learning from our past mistakes and will keep working together to attain true equality for women, everywhere and in all circumstances. More than ever, we need all our conflict resolution and peace building capacity to be fully on board and operational.”