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UN chief, Clinton call for action on women

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and diplomats from many nations said Tuesday it's time for actions — not more words — to end sexual violence in war and include women in decisions on peacemaking.

On the 10th anniversary of the first U.N. Security Council resolution to call for women's "full involvement" in efforts to maintain and promote peace and security, diplomats from more than 80 countries addressed the U.N.'s most powerful body.

Speaker after speaker said there had been some progress but immense challenges lay ahead.

The secretary-general warned that "resolution 1325 will never be implemented successfully until we end sexual violence in conflict."

"We must hold those responsible to account, whether the crimes are committed by state or non-state parties," Ban said in a video message from Southeast Asia. "We must intensify efforts to prevent brutality against women and girls. ... And let us eliminate stereotypes and ensure women's meaningful participation at all stages of peace processes and decision-making."

Clinton said the only way to achieve the goal of reducing conflicts, eliminating rape as a weapon of war, combatting the culture of impunity for sexual violence, and building sustainable peace is to ensure that women and men contribute fully to every aspect of peacemaking and peacebuilding.

"Women's participation in these activities is not a 'nice thing to do,'" she told the Security Council. "It's not as though we are doing a favor for ourselves and them by including women in the work of peace. This is a necessary global security imperative."

It advances national security interests and promotes political stability, economic growth and respect for human rights, Clinton said.

"Just as in the economic sphere we cannot exclude the talents of half the population, neither when it comes to matters of life and death can we afford to ignore, marginalize and dismiss the very direct contributions that women can and have made," she said.

Clinton, Ban and many others pointed to the mass rapes in 13 villages in conflict-wracked eastern Congo this summer as a reminder of the challenges ahead. According to the U.N., 303 civilians were raped — 235 women, 13 men, 52 girls and three boys.

"Those rapes and our failure as an international community to bring that conflict to an end and to protect women and children in the process stands as a tragic rebuke to our efforts thus far," Clinton said.

A year-long study of six countries or regions still in conflict or emerging from it — Indonesia's province of Aceh, Colombia, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Liberia, Sri Lanka and Uganda — found that the resolution's goal of putting women in decision-making at every level of peacemaking and peacebuilding is not being met.

The 50-page study organized by the MIT Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Washington-based International Civil Society Action Network said governments in the six countries failed to take steps to ensure women's participation in resolving conflicts.

While U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy declared that "the challenges ahead remain immense," he also reported some positive developments including gender advisers in peacekeeping operations, more female peacekeepers, and training for soldiers on gender issues and sexual violence before deployment. Ban said he has appointed 11 women as top U.N. envoys or deputies to peacekeeping operations and special political missions.

Clinton cited U.S. programs to train 600 Namibian peacekeepers on women's issues and to promote women's participation in politics in Nepal, Guatemala and Uganda.

She announced that the United States will commit nearly $44 million to initiatives to empower women, with $17 million earmarked for civil society groups focusing on women in Afghanistan.

The Security Council approved a statement encouraging the 192 U.N. member states to use a new set of indicators to monitor implementation of the resolution, a demand of many diplomats who said that at the moment it is difficult to assess progress.

Clinton noted that the statement calls for another stock-taking in five years, and warned that "we better have accomplished more between now and then, otherwise there will be those who will lose faith in our international capacity to respond to such an overwhelming need."

There is usually no applause in the Security Council from diplomats, but it was packed Tuesday with representatives of many groups that promote women rights. Clinton received a round of applause but the loudest clapping was for Thelma Awori, speaking on behalf of the Civil Society Advisory Group to the U.N. on Women, Peace and Security.

She said the past decade had been "expensive to women's health and to women's well-being."

"Let us look at the past 10 years as years of preparation, of building awareness of the breadth and depth of the problem, of putting in place the structures and tools," she said. "It's time for action, not words. ... This second decade must be the decade of action on Security Council resolution 1325."

Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet who now heads UN Women, the new agency promoting women's equality, gave her maiden speech to the council to a round of applause.

She said UN Women will support efforts to improve protection for women during and after conflict, include women in conflict prevention and ensure that peacebuilding is guided by women's perspectives.

"Let us make this the beginning of a new decade in which women can put their stamp on conflict resolution so that throughout the world we can have more effective peacemaking and more sustainable peacebuilding," Bachelet said.