KYIV, 7 October 2019 – “I am struck by how much progress — genuine progress — has been made. But we need to build on this and keep the momentum going,” said the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Gender, Melanne Verveer, concluding her five-day visit to Ukraine. In line with the focus of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák, on the crisis in and around Ukraine, Verveer’s trip centred on the role of women in peace and security, as well as the effects and prevention of gender-based violence. The visit included activities in both Kyiv and Donetsk regions.
The Special Representative on Gender had a series of meetings in Kyiv with government officials and the Ukrainian representative to the Working Group on Humanitarian Issues of the Trilateral Contact Group. The discussions centred on the implementation of Ukraine’s current National Action Plan on UN Security Council resolution 1325, in particular on efforts to increase the participation of women in defence and security sectors, legislative reform, the engagement of civil society, and cross-agency leadership in the area of women, peace and security. In the Donetsk region, Verveer’s focus was on the challenges and opportunities in implementing Resolution 1325 on the ground.
Listening to the stories of grassroots actors was the main priority for the Special Representative during her visit. She met with NGO leaders and representatives in Kyiv and Kramatorsk, including peacebuilders, and service providers to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and survivors of gender-based violence.
The role of women in reconciliation was another focus of the trip. During a civil society briefing in Kyiv, Verveer met with women who had, days earlier, come from either side of the contact line to meet at the bridge at Stanytsia Luhanska. These women, who are part of a group of informal peacebuilders from both sides of the contact line, also called for changes on the ground — from improved conditions for people waiting to cross checkpoints to an end to the violence. Praising the women for their determination, Verveer noted that this story of hope and reconciliation could not come at a more opportune moment, as the ongoing disengagement process allows for badly needed repairs to the bridge of Stanytsia Luhanska to begin. “There is clearly a momentum building, and we need to keep it going,” she added. “Reconciliation and peacebuilding are essential. These steps will have to grow in the days ahead.”
During her trip, Verveer met with Henrik Villadsen, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, to discuss the projects being implemented by the OSCE, such as innovative training to law enforcement actors on response to gender-based violence. She also met with the Chief Monitor of the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine, Yaşar Halit Çevik, as well as the Mission’s Kyiv-based Gender Unit. As part of her trip to the Donetsk region, which was hosted by the field-based monitoring team of the SMM, Verveer discussed the crucial role of the SMM monitors in ensuring accurate reporting of the situation on the ground in respect of both men and women.
“The OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine acts as the eyes and ears of the international community on the ground,” Verveer said in Kramatorsk. “I strongly commend the Chief Monitor, as well as the women and men across the SMM working to mainstream gender — many of whom are operating in high risk situations. Their work embodies the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security. And, because of it, we know the true human toll of the ongoing crisis, and how much is at stake if the sides don’t find a way to end the violence soon.”
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