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Annual Progress Report on OSCE Sexual Behavior Plan: UK Statement

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We would like to thank the Secretary-General for the release of the Annual Progress Report today. As you said, last year was really hard. It also shows how quickly hard-earned progress on gender equality can be reversed.

In this regard, we welcome the efforts made by the OSCE executive structure to ensure that gender equality is maintained at a high level on the OSCE agenda, including webinars, conferences, staff training and practical support for participating countries. We also thank Albania as the 2020 Gender Equality Chairperson and Sweden for this year’s efforts.

While your report highlights some progress towards gender mainstreaming, we are concerned about some regression of gender mainstreaming in programmatic activities at the political-military level and its limited nature in two dimensions. However, the gender balance of the panel improved, which is an important step and a visible sign of promise. It was also an integral part of the UK’s approach to Security Council meetings and helped to improve the quality and inclusiveness of the discussion.

In your report, I will focus on three areas of the impact of the pandemic on gender equality. OSCE work culture, including a zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment; The importance of fully implementing the women’s peace and security agenda, including the dispute resolution process.

First, the regression to gender equality we saw during COVID-19 is a cause of great concern. Addressing this issue and recovering better and more inclusively from the pandemic is the duty of all of us. We know that women are disproportionately impacted as frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19, which makes up about 70% of health workers worldwide, and are at high risk of contracting COVID-19.

At the same time, we have witnessed a shocking spike in domestic violence during the lockdown, with the majority of victims being women. At least 8,000 women appreciate OSCE’s rapid response to help address domestic violence issues, including providing practical assistance to victims who benefit. Having a comprehensive view of gender equality is essential. Crossover factors such as disability can significantly increase your chances of experiencing gender-based violence. Next year, I recommend focusing more on cross-factors.

Second, we welcome ethical concerns and a positive and inclusive work culture at OSCE. It is the responsibility of every organization to have adequate and effective internal governance systems and processes in place. It must protect employees from bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, and prevent sexual exploitation and abuse. The consequences of not doing so are severe for both the victim and the organization’s reputation.

We strongly support the efforts of the Secretary-General and the Secretariat in this regard. It is our responsibility as participating countries to support these efforts and ensure that the necessary resources are in place to support OSCE’s zero tolerance approach to such incidents. We expect this to be reflected in our next consolidated budget and our updated Code of Conduct and Employee Guidelines 21 later this year.

Third, the OSCE plays a key role in implementing the women’s, peace and security agenda. We appreciate the continued work of the enforcement structure to support participating countries in their implementation. We also remember the Joint Statement on UNSCR 1325 in Tirana, signed by the 52 participating countries. This includes potential actions to advance the WPS agenda.

We encourage you to focus on implementing these measures. We appreciate your continued commitment to conflict resolution and to ensure that a gender perspective is included in the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in the peace process at all levels of decision-making. Your report specifically highlights Geneva International Discussions’ internal strategy for inclusiveness. This approach is essential to the sustainability of peace. OSCE Toolkit: Women’s Inclusion and Effective Peace Processes is a valuable resource for conflict resolution in all OSCE conflicts and we continue to encourage full use of this tool.

Finally, we would like to thank everyone who contributed to promoting gender equality at OSCE. It is important that gender is fully integrated into the work of the organization. Your recommendations provide a useful framework for achieving this. We look forward to building on the positive developments this year while preventing retrogression, freeing ourselves from the epidemic, learning lessons from the OSCE region and building a more inclusive future.

Sources

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2/ https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/annual-progress-report-on-the-osce-gender-action-plan-uk-statement

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