Following is the text of the remarks made today by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council meeting on women and peace and security:
Let me thank and congratulate the presidency of the Security Council for its initiative in holding this meeting on women and armed conflict. The theme you have chosen is crucial, for it brings together two vital parts of the United Nations mission. The Charter tells us that the Organization was created to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. It also proclaims the equal rights of men and women. We must live up to both challenges, or we shall not succeed fully in either.
As this Council knows better than anyone, the nature of conflict has changed a great deal in the decades since our Charter was written. The age of inter-State wars has been replaced by the age of ethnic conflict. Militias have multiplied and small arms have proliferated. International law has been flouted. Civilians not only make up the majority of victims; they are increasingly the targets of conflict. From rape and displacement to the denial of the right to food and health care, women bear more than their fair share of the suffering.
But women, who know the price of conflict so well, are also often better equipped than men to prevent or resolve it. For generations, women have served as peace educators, both in their families and in their societies. They have proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls. They have been crucial in preserving social order when communities have collapsed.
We in the United Nations know, at first hand, the invaluable support women provide to our peacekeepers -- by organizing committees, non-governmental organizations and church groups that help ease tensions, and by persuading their menfolk to accept peace. Partly for that reason, we are making special efforts to recruit more women for our own peacekeeping and peace-making missions, and make all our operations more aware of gender issues.
The United Nations has learnt the hard way that peace and security depends on rapid response to early indications of conflict. We know that conflict prevention requires imaginative strategies. We know that conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace-building call for creative and flexible approaches. In all these areas, we have seen examples of women playing an important role -- not least on my own continent, Africa.
And yet the potential contribution of women to peace and security remains severely under-valued. Women are still grossly under-represented at the decision- making level, from conflict prevention to conflict resolution to post-conflict reconciliation.
We are here today because we are determined to change that, and because we know that changing it is the responsibility of all of us -- men and women alike. This Council, in its statement on International Women's Day this year, acknowledged that women and girls are particularly effected by the consequences of armed conflict. You recognized that peace is inextricably linked to equality between women and men. And you declared that maintaining and promoting peace and security requires women's equal participation in decision-making.
I am here today to ask you to do everything in your power to translate that statement into action: To help ensure that women and girls in conflict situations are protected; that perpetrators of violence against women in conflict are brought to justice; and that women are able to take their rightful and equal place at the decision-making table in questions of peace and security. I am confident that Ms. King, Ms. Heyzer and others who will speak here today will help show you the way. Thank you very much.