Statement by Her Excellency Ms. Sigrid Kaag in the UN Security Council on International Women's Day

Statement by Her Excellency Ms. Sigrid Kaag
Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation

New York, March 8, 2018

International Women’s Day

Distinguished delegates,

We discuss the situation in Afghanistan on an important historical day.

On this day, 110 years ago, 15,000 female workers marched through the city of New York, demanding their rights.

So it’s a particular honor for me to speak to the Security Council on this very day, marking international women’s day.

For a long time, this Council has been attentive to women, peace and security.

On Oct. 31, 2000, this Council adopted resolution 1325.

The Netherlands was member of the Security Council then and contributed actively to it.

The resolution is a political framework, making clear that without women, peace doesn’t stand a chance. Peace will not thrive.

This resolution is a clear acknowledgement of how women and girls often suffer and are particularly vulnerable in wartime and times of conflict.  

But also of their role and responsibility in leading and bringing about a sustained peace.

Every country is encouraged to make a National Action Plan.

A minority of the countries (73) have done so, like – notably – Afghanistan with a very active Afghan women leaders network.

Worldwide however there is still a great gap to bridge between the norms established for women and the bitter reality women face especially, but not only in conflict situations.

There are still too few peace negotiations where women play a meaningful part, let alone a lead role.

But resolution 1325 is not only about political participation and representations. It is also about protecting women and girls from sexual and gender based violence especiallty in conflict situations.

That is the responsibility of all of us, member states, the UN and NGO’s, but citizen’s at large. There should be no room for complacency, let alone impunity.

There should be zero tolerance. In any situation.

Women in Afghanistan

For women in Afghanistan there are clearly rays of hope.

In the days of Queen Soraya, in 1919, Afghan women were allowed to vote – earlier than in many other countries.

In modern-day Afghanistan, First Lady Rula Ghani successfully promoted women’s rights.

We hear of female judges, we hear of women in government, ministerial level, ministers parliamentarians, female police officers as referenced earlier.

Between 2013 and 2017 the female literacy rate doubled. The statistics also shows however much remains to be achieved, especially for women and girls in the rural areas.

The courageous filmmaker Roya Sadat sold her wedding jewellery and apartment to make a movie that speaks to gender inequality and particularly brings the issue of violence against women out into the open. A courageous decision. Brave women show us that with perseverance and will almost anything is possible. As for many Afghan women, their own situation remains to dire to overcome it alone. Facing violence, exclusion and discrimination.

They will continue to need our support and helping hand, where they seek those assistance.

Distinguished delegates,

It is clear: many positive changes have taken place in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime.

But many of the reforms also remain vulnerable, some times fragile and by no means irreversible.

As we all know, Afghanistan continuous faces many problems.

High levels of violent attacks, poverty, corruption, discrimination, and lack of opportunities for young people. The new generation.

Today,  as we renew UNAMA’s mandate unanimously allow me to offer a couple of recommendations.

  1. We can only build peace through inclusive negotiations led by the Afghan government, an inclusive government. The right instrument is in place: the Kabul Process is both an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation mechanism. It deserves our support. Last week’s gesture for peace by the Afghan government at the Kabul II conference is a step in the right direction. The message is clear: the Afghans are taking  the lead, and we will continue to support you. Afghanistan needs a functioning security apparatus, and a workable peace deal. This is no small task and it will require continued political courage, perseverance, and assistance.
  2. The international community should focus its energy on supporting the peace talks. Clearly, the solution has to be political. This won’t be possible without true commitment and constructive engagement from regional partners. Donor countries should unify their efforts. All too often, donors have parallel and sometimes conflicting goals. Yet there is an obvious solution: the Afghan government sets the priorities and UNAMA coordinates the OneUN response. Effectively, conclusively and efficiently.
  3. Afghanistan to emerge sustainably from conflict,  there is a need for a truly integrated approach. One that strengthens coherence between all sectors; political, security, development, and human rights. Central to all endeavors. That requires creative thinking. Also in and by the UN system. Supported first and foremost by the Security Council. But also the member states. We should work jointly in the prevention of conflict and in support of durable peace and inclusive prosperity. The Kingdom of the Netherlands will remain a reliable and constructive partner for Afghanistan, not only more largely. And we have done zo for 17 years.  
  4. We strongly support the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and live up to our promise to allocate 50% of our support on budget, in close cooperation with other partners.

Having said all this, allow me to conclude distinguished delegates. The progress made in Afghanistan over the past 17 years is impressive. I commend the work of SRSG Yamamoto and the outstanding efforts and hard work of his team. I also very much welcome the Secretary-General’s decision to host the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan in Geneva on 28 November this year.

I am confident this Council will continue to support Afghan-led efforts to achieve peace, harnass and nurture stability and reinforce inclusive rights based development in Afghanistan, a process that should be consistently inclusive, with a particular view to gender and goals.

Thank you.