Last week, the UK held a Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial meeting in London. Defence Ministers and senior figures from over 70 governments and international organisations came together to discuss a new vision to improve UN peacekeeping. This vision is supported by three key pillars. First, better planning for missions, from before deployment to eventual drawdown; secondly, more pledges of personnel and equipment by a wider range of countries; and thirdly, enhanced performance through better training and leadership. We also heard from UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt who called on peacekeepers to engage more with women and for the UN to hold those responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse to account.
I am delighted that the Ministerial meeting recognised that women can - and do - play a very important role in every part of peacekeeping. We want them to do even more and not just because it is the right thing to do. Evidence also shows that countries are more likely to avoid a return to conflict if women are meaningfully involved in conflict resolution and peace processes.
Including women is also key to operational effectiveness. We want UN peacekeeping to be of the very highest standard. Having more women available to serve means we will be able to draw on a deeper and wider pool of talent. Deploying more women means the missions will be able to engage better with women in the local community. This should enable better information sharing and give the mission a better understanding of local issues. The presence of female peacekeepers will also make it more likely that women and girls will report incidences of sexual violence or exploitation and abuse.
At the Ministerial meeting I was delighted to present the inaugural UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year award to Major Aichatou Ousmane Issaka from Niger. She was recognised for her work in prioritising women's issues in peacekeeping in Mali, through training her fellow staff officers, developing projects to help the local community and making patrols more accessible to local women and children. She personified why the participation of women is critical to a mission's success.
That's why the new shared vision for peacekeeping sees women integrated into each of its three pillars. I am delighted that the participants at the Ministerial meeting supported this vision. They agreed that women must participate fully in planning. They called on the UN Secretary-General to double the number of women in UN military and police contingents by 2020 and to prioritise the appointment of more women in to senior leadership positions. They called on all governments to increase the number of women police officers, correction officers, mediators and gender advisers. Finally, they urged governments to make sure that their military training is gender-sensitive and that their troops and police know how to prevent and respond to sexual violence in conflict and how to guard against sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers.
I am proud that we were able to make the participation of women a central component of last week's Ministerial. The UK has been promoting the greater inclusion of women in UN peace and security matters for the last 16 years - ever since the adoption of the first UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security, UNSCR 1325. I am also proud that the UK is leading by example on this issue. Last year, our National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review set the target that 15% of recruits to the Armed Forces will be women by 2020. Women will also be able to serve in close combat roles following a change in policy being phased in over the next 3 years, beginning in November. All UK peacekeeping troops will receive training on Women, Peace and Security issues and we are revising all relevant doctrine to reflect these principles. We have established a cadre of gender advisers, three of whom are always ready to deploy. And we continue to provide training on these issues to other militaries, including training on preventing sexual violence to over 10,000 African peacekeeping personnel, over 5,800 Peshmerga troops in Iraq and 3,500 members of the Malian Army.
We will press for full implementation of the commitments made at the meeting and will continue to make the case, in the UN Security Council and more widely, for the participation of women in all aspects of public life. As we have pledged in our campaign for re-election to the UN Human Rights Council, we will "work to end violence against women and girls and to promote women's full participation and leadership in political and economic life". We will continue to work tirelessly towards that goal.
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