Tories tout plan for women in war zones as vote nears
Published Tuesday, October 5, 2010 7:23PM EDT
OTTAWA - The Harper government touted a sweeping new plan Tuesday to protect women in global war zones -- one week before the crucial election that decides Canada's bid for a UN Security Council seat.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has announced Canada's action plan in support of a Security Council resolution designed to bolster the fortunes of women and children in armed conflict zones.
Adopted 10 years ago, Resolution 1325 was the first Security Council document to address women's rights in conflict, emphasizing their role in post-war reconstruction efforts. Canada's announcement Tuesday places it among 20 countries that have come up with national action plans in support.
Government officials played down the timing of the announcement, which comes exactly one week before the 192 member countries of the United Nations chose between Canada, Germany and Portugal for two temporary seats on the powerful Security Council.
"Everything we do on the international front in advancing the values Canadians share is a concrete commitment to our foreign affairs' priorities," said a senior government official.
While she welcomed the plan, the decision will have little effect on the next week's vote for the two-year Security Council seats, said a senior official for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
"Canada's position on women, peace and security is already very clear. Plan or no, that won't make a difference to that particular discussion next week," Anne-Marie Goetz, UNIFEM's chief adviser for governance, peace and security told The Canadian Press Tuesday from New York.
"The fact that it hasn't had a national action plan up until now has actually been a matter of some concern amongst women peace activists, who see Canada as a leader in this regard. So, therefore, it is significant that Canada has finally produced a national action plan. Around the world, women peace activists will be very pleased about this."
The new plan contains several new initiatives, outlined in a statement:
- the Defence Department will craft its own strategic response to 1325 to better train deployed personnel to deal with issues related to women, peace and security.
- Creating a list of Canadian specialists with expertise in crafting peace deals.
- Ensuring that non-governmental agencies have codes of conducts in dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse during humanitarian crises.
"Our action plan will guide the way Canada develops policy, how we select, train and deploy Canadian personnel, and how we ensure they have the right knowledge and guidance for implementing Canadian policies effectively in the field," Cannon said in a statement.
"It will steer Canada's interventions abroad so they encourage the participation of women and girls, promote their rights and advance their equal access to humanitarian and development assistance."
Goetz said that if Canada is successful in winning one of the two seats in next week's vote, it will be expected to push women's rights "at every possible occasion" as well as backing its words with significant new spending.
"I would hope there's a strong financial element there as well as the training element, as well as using diplomatic leverage."
Cannon summarized some of Canada's contributions to the well-being of women and children in conflict during a Sept. 25 meeting on Resolution 1325 at the UN General Assembly.
He told the assembly that Canada has funded UN police training in Sudan's Darfur region to help investigate sexual violence and gender-based violence. He said 200 officers had been trained and other 50 would follow.
Canada also recently pledged $13.5 million to strengthen local organizations in the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi "that are mandated to eliminate violence against girls and young women."
In a speech one year ago this week, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon urged all UN countries "to take action" before the 10th anniversary of Resolution 1325. Four countries answered Ban's call to produce an action plan before Canada's announcement on Tuesday.
"A growing body of evidence suggests that bringing women to the peace table improves the quality of agreements reached," Ban said at the time.
Canada has chaired a working group of "friends" of 1325 that has provided input into an upcoming report by Ban on women's participation in peace building, Cannon told the assembly.
In his recent speech, Cannon signalled that Canada is keen to take up the issue when the Security Council considers it next week.
"We will showcase the types of actions required -- and the issues most in need of urgent attention -- in order to further implement Resolution 1325. In so doing, we will prepare ourselves for the Security Council's consideration of this matter in October."