Statement by Alice Walpole Deputy Special Representative of Political and Electoral Affairs Annual Conference on Violence against Women 13 October 2018

Your Excellency, President of the Republic,
Excellency, Speaker of the Council of Representatives
Your Eminence, Sayyid Ammar Hakim,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Excellencies, Representatives of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Civil Society Representatives, Tribal and Religious leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted and honoured to be at this significant gathering, which marks the Islamic day of opposing violence against women – a timely event which coincides with our celebration of the eighteenth anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 which sets out a range of ways to involve women in peace and security. And also, as we are all aware, just a few days after Nadia Murad, an Iraqi, was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon in armed conflict.

Distinguished participants,

The theme of this year’s conference, “empowering women socially and politically”, is instructive because it reminds us, at this time of political change and important social advances in Iraq, that there is a host of capable, competent women standing ready to take up leadership roles, in both their local communities and on the national stage. In parliament, in the judiciary, in state institutions, in academia, in business. After the years of Daesh barbarity and oppression, women are seeking their rightful place in peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts across this country. Iraq was the first country in this region to establish a National Action Plan to implement the measures contained in UNSCR 1325, and that plan offers us a blueprint for better engagement by women in peace and security.

Which is why it is disappointing that qualified women remain largely absent from Iraq’s national and local decision-making structures. More than half of Iraq’s population is female, yet not a single woman has yet been promoted to a key public post. I am encouraged by the small positive step of the appointment of a woman as a Council of Representatives rapporteur and as the interim head of the legal committee. I urge all those now engaged in selecting candidates for key public roles to appoint qualified women to ministerial positions. Not because they are women, but because they are qualified.

Special Representative Jan Kubis, at the recent consultative meeting on the implementation of UNSCR 1325, noted that “Gender inequality continues to prevail in Iraq with worrisome signals that it is deepening and requires intensified efforts and coordination in developing a new action plan on implementing United Nations Security Council resolution 1325”. The theme of this conference is a reminder that all stakeholders, at all levels of government, should accelerate implementation of the 1325 National Action Plan – in particular, ensure that it is allocated an adequate budget. I note, in this context, that tribal and religious leaders are a strong force in the community to champion equality rights.

Distinguished Participants

During the visit earlier this year of Ms. Pramila Patten, United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Government of Iraq and the United Nations jointly launched an implementation plan of the Joint Communiqué on Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence. Whilst this is a positive step, there is much more to be done. Stigma, shame and silence continue to hinder survivors of sexual violence from rebuilding their lives, returning to their homes, and accessing public services. We all must do much more to promote acceptance of, and support for, survivors of sexual violence and children born of rape.

In summary, I would like to encourage the incoming Council of Representatives to reflect carefully on measures to help and support women. For example, by accelerating adoption of laws that would protect women, notably the Anti-Domestic Violence Bill which is still pending. And establishing a dedicated institution - with a budget and genuine authority - to coordinate the implementation of national frameworks and policies which support women.

The United Nations and its Agencies, Funds and Programmes will continue to provide support to the Government of Iraq and its people in taking forward these important measures. Together we can promote the representation and meaningful participation of women in the life of this country.

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