Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Etobicoke Centre, for introducing this important motion to establish an ambassador for women, peace and security.
This is a very special topic for me as I have first-hand experience in this area. As a Canadian woman who has served as a civilian peacekeeper in Bosnia and Kosovo and alongside the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as a recipient of the Governor General's Peacekeeping Service Medal, I know first-hand the positive outcomes of having more women engaged in global peacekeeping.
I am a woman. I was a peacekeeper. I was not deployed. Like so many other civilian peacekeepers, I volunteered to go. I did it because I could not stand by and watch what was happening to women and children in those countries. In Bosnia and Kosovo, sexual violence against women was used as a weapon of war. I am very proud of all the Canadian women who have served as peacekeepers, military and civilian, in some of the most dangerous and difficult corners of the world.
I am equally proud of another woman, Justice Louise Arbour, who was instrumental in making sure that rape could be considered a war crime.
In the Congo, 48 women are raped every hour. I worked directly with those women. I saw their strength and their resilience, their determination to make a better world for their daughters and sons. It is for that reason that I am so proud to be part of a government that has done so much on a feminist foreign policy and on the national action plan on women, peace and security.
Gone are the days when warlords can get together behind closed doors, divide up the spoils of war and call it a peace agreement. We know that peace agreements are more durable, in fact two-thirds less likely to fail, when women are at the table and involved in the implementation of those agreements.
In today's armed conflicts, civilians are the primary targets. Rape is used as an instrument of war, and violent extremism has added an ideological spin that attracts people from far and wide. Women and girls are often targeted and subjected to violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including sexual and gender-based violence. Children, both boys and girls, are forced to join armed groups, and the number of refugees and people displaced by armed conflicts continues to rise every day.
While everyone is affected, women and men, girls and boys generally experience conflict differently. They bring different perspectives to conflict resolution and peace building. Women broaden the agenda beyond that of the warring parties. The link between their meaningful participation and durable peace agreements has been established, yet women are often excluded from those peace processes.
In recognition of the different impact of conflict on women and girls and the unique abilities they bring to prevent and recover from conflict, the United Nations Security Council has, since 2000, passed eight resolutions, starting with Security Council resolution 1325 forming the basis of the women, peace and security agenda.
Members will recall that I spoke about Security Council resolution 1325 in my maiden speech; it was that important to me. I am very proud of how far our government has come to making it a reality.
Today's motion will go even further. When I worked in Norway, the project was implemented under its gender ambassador. I saw that giving women a strong voice at the highest possible level, an ambassador, had tangible results. Taking a feminist approach to peace and security is a smart, practical solution to address hard security needs.
We must deal with the serious problems of sexual violence and conflict as well as sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and other international personnel. We must ensure that the particular needs of women and girls are met during conflict and humanitarian crises, including access to sexual and reproductive health services. Addressing these problems has direct benefits for women, including those who are courageous defenders of peace or survivors of sexual violence. It also clearly contributes to the stability and security of all.
The full breadth of the Canadian government is united in the belief that gender equality serves as a foundation for more peaceful and secure nations and communities. Canada's second national action plan for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security was launched last year.
The plan includes an increased number of federal partners, which has enabled our government to broaden its reach under the action plan to areas such as the protection of refugee women and countering violent extremism in Canada.
New commitments have increased available funding. We have launched multiple new initiatives, increasingly worked with civil society, and called upon Canadian officials at home and abroad to mobilize support for women as active agents of peace.
Canada's ambitions for change are bold, but are coupled with the understanding that lasting peace and change take time. For example, at the November 2017 Vancouver UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial, Canada launched the Elsie initiative for women in peace operations. It is a bold and innovative pilot project to increase the meaningful participation of women peacekeepers globally, make their work environment safer and more inclusive, and ultimately enhance the effectiveness of UN peace operations.
We believe that gender equality in UN peace operations is an important goal in itself, and that the inclusion of more military, civilian and police women peacekeepers can also have important benefits for operational effectiveness.
Throughout Canada's G7 presidency in 2018, the government has worked to promote gender equality through many different channels. It mobilized G7 members to support a G7 summit announcement in which they committed to investing nearly $3.8 billion to increase educational opportunities for women and girls in crisis and conflict situations. The G7 Women, Peace and Security Partnerships Initiative jointly launched by G7 members and eight partner countries is advancing gender equality and the rights of women in fragile and conflict-affected states. Canada also partnered with the United Kingdom and Bangladesh to launch the Women, Peace and Security Chiefs of Defence Network in order to bring about transformative cultural and institutional change in national armed forces.
Through the women's voice and leadership initiative, Canada is supporting local grassroots women's rights organizations. The new gender equality partnership with philanthropists and the private sector will bring new investments in support of women's rights.
Our government is committed to meeting its targets and investing where necessary to deliver on the objectives outlined in its renewed action plan.
Canada has a long history of advocating for and supporting gender equality, of promoting the empowerment of women and girls, of calling for the protection of their human rights, and of fighting sexual and gender-based violence, including in conflict settings.
Canada was instrumental in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, and in bringing the issue of sexual violence against women to the UN's attention.
In 2000, Canada formed the group of friends of women, peace and security in New York, an informal group of over 50 UN member states. This group, currently chaired by Canada, shares information and best practices, and conducts periodic joint advocacy in the UN context. Canada founded a similar group in Geneva earlier this year.
Canada will continue to play a leading advocacy role at the UN on advancing the women, peace and security agenda, and engage with key UN agencies and a wide range of member states.
Commitments were made, funds were disbursed and new programs are being implemented. However, obtaining sustainable results that fulfill the government's ambitions will require regular and honest reviews of the areas needing improvement. The Government of Canada remains fully committed to working with all stakeholders of the group of friends of women, peace and security to ensure that we make ongoing, well-considered and steady progress toward achieving our common goals. The women, girls and all those living without peace and security deserve no less.
The Government of Canada remains engaged on this important issue. We are proud of our accomplishments, but are aware that there is more that can be done to advance this issue, both globally and nationally.