Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec at the Women, Peace, and Security Conference

U.S. Ambassador Kathleen Kavalec delivers remarks at the Women, Peace, and Security Conference in Bucharest, Romania. November 7, 2023, Palace of Parliament, Bucharest. Photo: Women, Peace, and Security Conference

November 7, 2023

Good morning,

Members of Parliament,

Minister Oprea,

Minister Bucura-Oprescu,

Ambassadors, friends,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to represent the United States for the opening of the Women, Peace, and Security Focal Point Network conference in Bucharest, together with Ambassador Rao Gupta – our ambassador for global women’s issues- and Major General Sheryl Gordon – the commanding general of the Alabama National Guard and a good friend of Romania.

I am also appreciative of the UN leadership on this topic and our Romanian partners who like on so many other issues stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in defense of our shared democratic values.

The United States believes unequivocally that the safety and meaningful participation of women in the political and security decision-making processes is essential to achieving sustainable global peace and security, which is why we are focused on advancing the women peace and security agenda as part of our national security efforts. As you’ve heard, research shows that when women participate in negotiating peace agreements, those deals are 35 percent more likely to endure. As Secretary Blinken put it recently as part of the launch of our updated Women, Peace, and Security Strategy and National Action Plan, “When women’s rights are respected, we know that societies are safer. They’re more stable. They’re more prosperous.”

We are meeting today against the backdrop of a degradation in the security and safety of women and girls across the world. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by violence, rising authoritarianism, poverty, food insecurity, and other global challenges. Around the world, women and girls are under threat from conflict and repressive regimes, including by Russian forces in Ukraine.

A revitalized security architecture that will address these complex conditions requires partnerships that are based on shared values, like those shared by the partners gathered here, and requires equal inclusion and participation of all members of our societies, including importantly women and girls.

Forums like this one can bring us closer together so that we can both condemn and shine a light on every act of violence, including sexual violence, against women and girls, irrespective of nationality, identity, race, or religion of the victims.

That is why the United States has been a part of the UN Women, Peace, and Security Focal Points Network since its inception in 2016 and why we are thrilled to be co-chairing for the first time with our partner, Romania.

The United States has long been a committed leader on this cause. In 2017, we signed a stand-alone Women, Peace, and Security law – the first and only one of its kind in the world. In 2019, President Biden released the first U.S. Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), outlining how we plan to close the gender gap in leadership by mobilizing U.S. diplomacy and programs, engaging partners, investing in women’s safety and rights, and amplifying the voices of women leaders and organizations. And on October 31 we updated the Women, Peace, and Security Strategy and National Action Plan to encompass the growing commitment to this issue. Over the last year, the U.S. State Department alone has provided more than $120 million to these priorities.

Still, implementing this vision will not be simple. As United States Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield put it last year, “our charge is to make this vision a reality. Not just in words, but in deeds and actions.”

Co-Chairing the Focal Points Network together with Romania is another step in the U.S. journey to implement the Women, Peace, and Security Agenda outlined by UN Resolution 1325. The agenda is simple, but it has a transformational vision in which women and girls are protected, included, and play an essential role in fostering peace.

We have come a long way in the 23 years since the passage of UN Security Resolution 1325, which recognized the unique role women play in conflict prevention, peace negotiations, and post-conflict reconstruction. But, we still have a long way to go.

Women and girls continue to face barriers to education and basic rights, and women and girls consistently remain largely excluded from decision making about war and peace, the future of their countries, or even their own bodies.

Though the situation has improved over the past decade, we can clearly see that women are underrepresented in politics and public life across the globe, including in the United States and Europe. We all need to continue proactive initiatives to increase women’s participation and representation, including in the most senior positions.

We have our work cut out for us, but fortunately, we have a framework to advance this vision. Women have already shown that they can excel in the highest positions in diplomacy, government, and leadership across all sectors and I am glad to say that many such women are represented here today.

Thank you and I look forward to working with all of you to keep moving forward in the cause of global women’s rights to build a safer and more prosperous future for all of us.