Ambassador Holland thanks OSCE Secretary General Helga Schmid for presenting the Annual Progress Report on the Implementation of the OSCE 2004 Gender Action Plan.

Neil Holland

Thank you, Secretary General, for your presentation of the Annual Progress Report to the Permanent Council today.

Gender equality, empowering women in politics, and combatting all forms of violence against women and girls are crucial to the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security and stability. We appreciate the work of the organisation to ensure gender equality is promoted across all three OSCE dimensions, and to incorporate meaningful participation in all aspects of peace processes and conflict resolution.

The UK recognises the challenges faced by the organisation in promoting gender equality during the 2023 reporting period. As you mention in your foreword to the Report, we are currently facing a significant global rollback in the rights of women and girls, which threatens hard-won progress. Along with the 50% increase in UN-verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2023, this trajectory is deeply concerning and must be reversed.

In the OSCE region, mounting documented evidence of conflict-related sexual violence committed by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war indicate its use as a tactic of war. This evidence exists because of the brave testimonies of survivors. We also recognise the essential role played by women in Ukraine in humanitarian, political, and security efforts in the defence of their country.

Amid the challenging global and regional context, the OSCE has delivered some important initiatives during this reporting period to promote gender equality. We welcome the WIN programme’s targeted support to women’s civil society groups in Ukraine on participation in public life. We recognise the organisation’s work towards improving gender equality, including the progress made towards gender parity among OSCE international staff. The UK was pleased to be able to contribute extrabudgetary support last year to the launch of organisation-wide training modules on Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA), supporting the Staff Instruction on PSEA issued in 2022.

The OSCE will continue to have a key role to play in implementing the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. We appreciate the Secretary General’s initiative to launch and develop the OSCE Networking Platform for Women Leaders Including Peacebuilders and Mediators, including through the launch of the Young Women for Peace Initiative pillar earlier this year. The UK strongly believes that the full, equal, meaningful and safe participation of women – in all their diversity, and at all levels of decision-making and leadership – leads to better outcomes during and after conflicts.

Secretary General, I would like to thank once again those who contributed to advancing gender equality and the WPS agenda in the OSCE over the last 12 months. I would also like to congratulate this year’s winners of the Gender Champions Award and White Ribbon Awards. This recognition of your important roles in promoting gender equality across the OSCE is well-deserved.

Madam Chair, on behalf of the UK I would like to underline our appreciation for Malta’s continued focus on gender equality as Chair this year, and to recognise North Macedonia’s efforts as CiO in 2023. It is important that gender continues to be fully mainstreamed into this organisation’s work.

Before I conclude, I would also like to pay tribute to the Secretary General’s personal commitment to this agenda. Helga, your dedication and passion in promoting gender equality is clear for all to see and we thank you for that.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Published 11 July 2024