Closing remarks by Ilze Brands Kehris
Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, OHCHR New York
18 January 2022
Thank you so much to all of you who have spoken this morning, in particular the valuable reflections from women human rights defenders and peacebuilders.
As the Secretary-General stressed in Our Common Agenda and his Call to Action for Human Rights, the ability of people to speak their minds and influence their futures is central for resilient societies. Yet, in too many contexts, human rights defenders must take huge risks to speak up, oftentimes putting their lives on the line to do so. The enabling environment that lies at the heart of the women, peace and security agenda is still desperately wanting.
My Office sees participation as intrinsically linked to protection. There cannot be any sustainable peace, security or development without the effective participation of women, in all their diversity; but their meaningful participation simply cannot happen when they remain exposed to threats, attacks and harassment. Therefore, in addition to an enabling environment, the participation of women human rights defenders in peace and democratic processes relies on ensuring their protection. I am therefore delighted to see this fund will simultaneously address both needs, supporting women with the resources to enable their contribution to key events, but also providing timely, emergency assistance, when needed.
The flexible nature of this new tool, which has been tried and tested with earlier WPHF funding windows, will also likely prove its fundamental comparative advantage. When activists are under immediate threat, they do not have the luxury of time to grapple with cumbersome bureaucratic processes. Moreover, their individual protection needs, and those related to their colleagues or loved ones, vary enormously across contexts and according to their intersectional identities. We owe it to those championing human rights on the frontlines, in particular those who have cooperated with the UN, to provide them with timely and accessible funding that is responsive to their realities and can be used for whatever purpose that will protect them against reprisals.
I would like to close this launch by reiterating a huge thanks for the hard work that has gone into making this tool a reality and open for business. At OHCHR, we look forward to supporting an initiative which will have life-changing and life-saving impacts, and in turn serve whole communities, for whose rights these women fight.
The WPHF Secretariat will likely be inundated with requests before this launch is even over. So, all the very best of luck Ghita to you and your team!