Response to the Secretary General’s Report on the Implementation of the 2004 OSCE Action Plan

As delivered by Political Counselor Christopher Robinson
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
October 25, 2012

The United States thanks the Secretary General for this comprehensive report and welcomes the Chairperson-in-Office’s Special Representative on Gender Issues, Ms. June Zeitlin to the Permanent Council.  The United States strongly supports efforts to gender mainstream all three OSCE dimensions.  We concur with the Secretary General’s perspective that advancing gender equality as a security issue is a prerequisite for the implementation of the OSCE’s cooperative and comprehensive approach to security.

The Gender Action Plan and the report on its implementation are important tools for the OSCE to assess its institutional progress in gender mainstreaming.  We particularly applaud the Gender Section’s determination to strengthen and improve the efficacy of the gender focal point network, and we urge the Gender Section to continue its advocacy for such concrete and effective change.  We also applaud the excellent collaboration among June Zeitlin, the Chairperson in Office’s Special Representatives on Gender Issues, Ambassador Miroslava Beham, the Senior Advisor on Gender Issues, and the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), advancing OSCE coordination on and efficacy in advancing gender issues generally.

Unfortunately, each year the Secretary General’s report demonstrates the disappointing reality that women hold few positions of leadership in the OSCE.  Too frequently, the United States emerges as one of the few leaders in seconding females to positions at the OSCE, including in senior leadership positions.  Confident that qualified female candidates exist across the OSCE space, we urge participating States to examine whether their recruiting strategies prioritize diversity and inclusion – including on gender balance.  In the last year, we have benefited from a number of special meetings facilitated by the Irish Chairmanship in coordination with the Gender Section and the ODIHR, which have addressed critical questions about diversity in leadership and management and identified the various obstacles and barriers women face across cultural lines and professional sectors.  We need to translate these lessons into concrete change by examining our own recruitment and retention policies.

We share the Secretary General’s view that the Gender Action Plan does not adequately facilitate assessment of progress among the participating States in the area of OSCE commitments on gender equality.  We concur with the call for a more structured approach to assess implementation and appreciate the new format of the report.  The United States also commends the special focus on implementation of the United Nation Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.  We welcome the initiative of Austria, Finland, and Turkey in introducing the draft decision on an OSCE Wide Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 and view this as a timely opportunity to leverage this important instrument in the OSCE.  These steps are an important way to focus on modernizing the implementation of the Gender Action Plan and promoting the OSCE’s relevance as a leader on gender equality.

For these reasons, we particularly welcome June Zeitlin’s critical reminder that much basic work remains for OSCE participating States:  the prevention of violence against women and enhancing women’s political and economic participation.  Domestic violence continues to persist across the OSCE space, and too many participating States have weak laws, poor law enforcement responses and limited resources to address this issue in a meaningful way.  Women who are not safe in their homes and struggle to meet basic needs for themselves and their families are greatly disadvantaged when it comes to accessing basic opportunities for advancement.  Strong domestic violence laws and opportunities for economic and political empowerment are critical in advancing the equality of women.  We urge June to continue to hold us to task on these commitments, draw greater attention to our shortcomings, and recommend concrete ways that the OSCE can address these issues more effectively.

The Vilnius Ministerial Council witnessed critical achievements to advance OSCE commitments on economic empowerment and on Women, Peace and Security.  The Irish Chairmanship and Ambassador Beham have utilized those Ministerial Decisions as a platform for action and advocacy.  These achievements reflect the shared political will of and relevance to all OSCE participating States in addressing gender issues across these dimensions.  We have high expectations that the forthcoming Chairmanships of Ukraine, Switzerland and Serbia will continue to achieve gains in promoting the equality of women across the OSCE.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.