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 Statement by Venezuela at the Open Debate of the United Nations Security Council Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
 
Mr. Ramírez Carreño (Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela) (spoke in Spanish):
 
On behalf of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, allow me thank you, Mr. President, for convening this open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict on the theme “Protection challenges and needs faced by women and girls in armed conflict and post-conflict settings”. We welcome the concept note (S/2015/32, annex) prepared to guide our deliberations. We also welcome Ms. Kyungwha Kang, Ms. Helen Durham and Ms. Ilwad Elman and we thank them for their valuable briefings.
 
 Armed conflicts and the recurrence of violence in post-conflict situations specifically and disproportionately affect women and children. We often receive alarming reports of unacceptable acts of violence that have been perpetrated against them. The inequality, lack of access to justice, restricted or no participation and representation at all levels and areas of society that women face daily are exacerbated in situations of armed conflict, thereby increasing their vulnerability.
 
The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has established a development model focused on the human being, in which equality between men and women and human rights for all are guaranteed. The Bolivarian Constitution of 1999, considered one of the most progressive in world, incorporates and institutionalizes gender equality in our society. It also enshrines gender equality and non-discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. And it ensures the promotion and protection of the human rights of women. The inalienable rights of children are also protected by our Constitution.
 
Venezuelan women have a leading role in the political, economic, social and cultural life of our country, as well as in the decision-making process, thereby contributing directly to the building of a new social order based on justice and the law. Equality and gender equality are State policies in Venezuela. Implementing the gender perspective in public policies, defending the rights of women and promoting women’s empowerment and leadership form a substantial part of our social policies.
 
Violence against women is the most repugnant aspect of religious intolerance and violence in society. For that reason, Venezuela strongly condemns discrimination, exclusion and violence against women. We therefore address promoting women’s rights as a priority of our agenda at the United Nations and throughout the world, especially with an emphasis on those places where armed conflict has destroyed a part or all of the social fabric.
 
While women’s participation, representation and leadership in the national life of countries have a crucial role in protecting the rights of women and children, it is equally important that women be involved in all areas and at all levels of United Nations peacekeeping and peacebuilding missions. It is inconsistent to pretend to properly care for half of the civilian population affected
by armed conflict — women and children — without understanding the human characteristics and historical legacy of their social and political vulnerability. Neglecting the vision, needs, interests, experiences and capabilities of this population serves to undermine any initiative that aims to effectively and comprehensively address efforts at maintaining and consolidating peace.
 
Resolution 1325 (2000), adopted 15 years ago, has among its goals fostering the participation of women in the police, military and civilian components of the peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. However, the results were not as expected: women’s
representation does not yet exceed 10 per cent. That commitment remains unfinished business for the United Nations.
 
We firmly believe that the participation of women in all levels and areas related to the protection of civilians greatly enhances the management of peacekeeping operations, making it more appropriate, assertive and comprehensive. We also believe that the participation of women in peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations facilitates and enhances access, support and follow-up
for women and children affected by armed conflict; broadens information-gathering capacity, including for reporting and preventing sexual violence; and has a positive effect on the promotion of gender equality and security of the local populations.
 
In short, we believe that the participation of women in United Nations missions is crucial to prevent the discrimination, marginalization and exclusion of and violence against women and girls, and to protect and meet the needs of local populations. We therefore call on the Organization tirelessly to ensure strict compliance with the provisions of resolution 1325 (2000). Reports to the Secretary-General on violence against women and children in ongoing armed conflicts and peacekeeping missions are unacceptable and must be investigated, and those responsible severely punished. We cannot allow inaction to persist. We must ensure that all peacekeeping operations incorporate broad women’s participation and that their main mandates always include the protection of children and women. We must do better as an Organization to go beyond mere words and achieve results in alleviating the human tragedy facing these people.
 
Our delegation agrees with the Secretary General’s statement in his report on the work of the Organization, that

“humankind will not enjoy the peace and prosperity
that it seeks as long as half the population faces
violence and discrimination and mindsets that see
women and girls as second-class citizens.” (A/69/1,
para. 7)
 
Venezuela reaffirms the distinction between protecting civilians and the concept of the responsibility to protect. The protection of civilians has gradually been accepted, universalized and codified in international law over the course of decades. The Fourth Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols represent the highest international legal expression thereof. The concept of the responsibility to protect, however, is nothing more than a political statement on which there is no consensus within the Organization.
 
 A fundamental distinction between the two approaches concerns the use of force. The responsibility to protect implies military action against the sovereignty of a State without its consent to bring an end to alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law falling within the definition of four specific crimes that are often not verified in a transparent and independent way. The protection of civilians, on the other hand, does not address the strategic use of force and is applied in the context of full respect for the Charter of the United Nations and the guiding principles of peacekeeping operations, including the consent of a host State or parties to a conflict.
 
It is important always to recall that distinction, as the protection of civilians must never be used as an excuse for military intervention violating a country’s sovereignty against its will, fomenting regime change, destroying its infrastructure, dismantling its institutions and leaving its citizens in chaos. We have all witnessed such examples in recent history, in which the Security Council has played a leading role.
 
In conclusion, we wish to reaffirm our absolute commitment to the empowerment and protection of women, and to thank you, Sir, for having convened this important debate. However, given the importance of the topic, in our view, our discussion should transcend this setting and be held in the General Assembly, which is the universal democratic forum par excellence.
 
 

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