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UK National Plan on Women, Peace and Security

Volume 755: debated on Monday 14 July 2014

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their implementation plan for the United Kingdom National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

My Lords, the implementation plan is being developed and will be published before the end of the year. It underscores our commitment to provide clearer monitoring and evaluation of progress on the women, peace and security agenda. The plan will establish baselines to show our current support for women and girls, with key milestones to be achieved by the end of 2015 and final targets to be achieved by the end of the current national action plan in 2017.

I thank the Minister very much for that response. However, will the implementation plan be accompanied by a fully costed budget which clearly lays out proposed spending across all five of the new national action plan’s outcome areas—including, of course, the one on building national capacity—to deliver the UK’s women, peace and security commitments?

The noble Baroness will be aware that this action plan, as currently published, is the third in the series. Although a series of principles have been set out each time, they have not always formed the basis of an implementation plan, so I think that this in itself is a step forward. The National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is funded through the Conflict Pool and its successor, the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which is about £1 billion-worth of funding. This part of the work will not be ring-fenced but will be done out of that broader Conflict Pool work.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the Ministry of Defence’s new report Global Strategic Trends out to 2045, which finds that the number of women participating in terrorist groups and in armed resistance movements will increase very significantly in the developing world? Can she tell the House whether the Conflict Pool’s thinking in that regard will apply across the board to the focus group countries listed in the UK’s action plan?

My noble friend makes an important point. It is a new and developing area. For that reason, the women, peace and security plan must remain flexible. The MoD is committed to a number of issues under this plan. As my noble friend will be aware, responsibility for the plan is held by three different departments and includes training, employment, deployment and the work around NATO. I will certainly take back the issue that my noble friend raised and find out whether it is part of the thinking.

My Lords, given the vital role that women played in conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, can the Minister explain why the resolution on women, peace and security is not being applied to Northern Ireland, thereby leaving these same women feeling powerless and voiceless? Will the Government look again at this issue following the recommendation of the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women?

The noble Baroness will be aware that the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security relates to foreign countries. Therefore, Northern Ireland would not fall under it. We do, of course, have a national action plan in relation to violence against women and girls, but I am not sure whether it covers the specific issue of women as peacebuilders. I will certainly write to the noble Baroness with information on where that element of work would fall.

My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the Commonwealth network is potentially an enormous pressure group for gender equality as well as for peace and security? Can she assure us that our support for the development of the Commonwealth network is part of the action plan?

The national action plan forms the broad basis of work that the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence do. There are six focus countries where the action plan will be delivered. I do not think that it has been split between Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth countries—it is a broad plan that works across the world.

My Lords, is there a specific budget to cover the need for comprehensive in-country consultations with local women’s organisations?

There is no specific budget but specific work is being done. Money is available, but it is not ring-fenced in that way. We would not say, “That money has been put aside to consult with women’s groups on the ground”. However, money is available to consult with women’s groups on the ground. It has certainly been done in Libya and in Tunisia. It was, and is, also being done with women from Syria, as happened in the lead-up to the Geneva II discussions.

Will the Minister tell us what the Government propose to do about the incalculable suffering of the women of Gaza as it goes on now? They have no shelter to take their children to. They have very little food and no clean water, and night after night they have to try to protect their children from the obscene war that is being waged on them.

My Lords, it is a fact that women and children suffer most in conflict regions, and, of course, Gaza is no exception. I am sure that a number of noble Lords will be interested in and concerned about the situation as it unfolds in Gaza. I will therefore be repeating a Statement later today that the Foreign Secretary will make in about an hour’s time in the Commons.

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House what proposals the Government have for supporting women and human rights defenders in Afghanistan when British troops leave—the women who run the girls’ schools and women gynaecologists who do surgery on female victims of sexual assault? Such women have had their sons abducted and murdered. Surely we cannot leave them to the fate of the Taliban.

This is an incredibly important area. I am sure that the noble Baroness met with Samira Hamidi, Parwin Wafa and Dr Dida Pighla last month when they visited, these incredibly inspirational human rights defenders in Afghanistan. As the noble Baroness will be aware, Amnesty International has now raised this issue on a number of occasions. I have commissioned a specific piece of work, and it is apparent from the initial research papers that I am getting back that there is a lot of support for human rights defenders, and specifically women’s human rights defenders, in Afghanistan, but there is also a real problem in relation to these women being aware of the support that is available. There is certainly some work that needs to be done to bring that work together. Some clearer work needs to be done on signposting and possibly on having an arm’s-length body that would take some of this work forward. However, I will certainly keep the noble Baroness updated. This is something that I am acutely aware of.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on making the renewed commitment to fulfilling our obligations as outlined under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. I want to return to the funding and resourcing of this, because none of it will happen unless the funding is available. I am slightly concerned that it would be easy for it to be squeezed under these circumstances. If the noble Baroness feels the need for us to mount a campaign to strengthen her arm on this, she has only to ask.

I am always happy to have support from the sisterhood. However, I can honestly say that, on this particular occasion, the concern that I have is that if you ring-fence an amount of money, say it is for women, peace and security and appoint somebody to do it, effectively that feels like you have done women, peace and security. I am quite keen for this work to be mainstreamed so that it is part of all the work that we do in relation to human rights, so that every Minister is responsible for women’s rights and so that all the money that is available to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—and, indeed, to DfID and the MoD—can be made available for women, peace and security. However, if I need the support, I will certainly call upon the noble Baroness.