UNITED NATIONS - Emphasising that women are  the most vulnerable group in armed conflicts, Pakistan has called for “urgent steps” to stop gender-based sexual violence and end impunity for perpetrators of sexual crimes. “In conflicts, violence against women is widely used as an instrument of war,” Ambassador Masood Khan told the Security Council as the 15-member body debated “Women, Rule of Law and Transitional Justice.” Noting appreciable progress towards promoting the women, peace and security agenda, the Pakistani envoy said much remained to be done in translating them into more tangible action on the ground.

Pakistan, he said, fully supports the objectives of the women and peace and security agenda. “We have played an important role in advancing these goals as a major participant in UN peacekeeping missions,” he said, citing the service of Pakistani women peacekeepers as police officers, doctors and nurses in missions in Asia, Africa and the Balkans. “Gender-sensitization is a mandatory part of training of our peacekeepers.”

The Security Council’s decisions and direction, he said, were helping women caught in armed conflict situations.

“We believe that the Security Council should continue to address these issues in accordance with its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security,” Masood Khan said.

He said rule of law is one of the key elements in promoting the women and peace and security agenda. Gender-responsive transitional justice and reform of the justice and security sectors were prerequisites for promoting and protecting women’s rights in conflict and post-conflict situations.

 Rule of law and transitional justice, he said, should continue to be developed to protect rights of women in conflict and post-conflict situations.

Masood Khan said the emphasis should be on addressing the root causes of conflicts. “Chronic conflicts and relapse into conflicts blight some countries and regions and keep them in a state of perpetual instability,” he said, “Resolution of conflicts therefore is the best way to promote and protect  the rights and interests of women in conflict situations.

“We must harness all our resources to prevent and resolve conflicts.” Given women’s strong stake in peace, their role as peacemakers and peace-builders must be integrated at different stages of peace processes, he said, calling for more investment in capacity-building and in the empowerment of women.

Given women’s strong stakes in peace in how peace is negotiated, kept and consolidated, the role  of women as peacemakers and peace-builders needs to be integrated into different stages of engagement, outreach and decision-making.