National statement at United Nations Peacekeeping Ministerial, Women in Peacekeeping, Accra, Ghana

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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6 December 2023

I thank Sweden for hosting this event, and am honoured to take this opportunity to speak on behalf of Australia.

Australia is committed to the full implementation of the women, peace and security agenda and proud of the tremendous contribution made by our Defence women to peacekeeping.

Major General Cheryl Pearce, who is here with me today, served as Force Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus - the first Australian to hold this position and the UN's second-ever female force commander.

Today she serves as Deputy Chief of the Australian Army, and through her leadership is inspiring the current, and future generation of women leaders in Defence.

Australia currently has more women serving in the Australian Defence Force than at any other point in history – just over 20 per cent.

And while this reflects important progress, we know that much more work remains. We see the participation of more Australian women in UN peace operations both as an asset for the Australian Defence Force and as key to the legitimacy and success of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts.

Australia is exceeding the 2022 UN Uniformed Gender Parity Target of 20%, with women comprising more than 34% of Australian Staff Officers deployed to UN peace operations.

Australia will continue to advocate for gender equality across all peacekeeping and peacebuilding processes, supported by implementation of our second National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

Tomorrow I will pledge that Australia will partner with UN Women to deliver the Women’s Military Peace Operations Course (WMPOC) in South-East Asia, to prepare military officers for UN peacekeeping roles.

Australia is also a proud supporter of the Elsie Initiative Fund, to enable meaningful participation of uniformed women across the globe in UN peace operations, and we commit to ongoing funding.

The impact of this work is being felt right here in Ghana, where the Elsie Fund is supporting the Ghana Armed Forces to deploy a Gender Strong Unit to Lebanon, improve recruitment of women and develop gender appropriate accommodation facilities.

The importance of gender-responsive leadership cannot be understated.

Personally, I want to use this opportunity to reinforce Australia’s commitment to partnering and sharing lessons from our own experience. 

Without a global conversation and global data set, progress will remain slow. 

Australia is pleased to be supporting the work of the DPO Gender Team to ensure women civil society voices are actively considered in Mission planning and activities. 

And we reinforce the importance of applying a gender lens in the planning and conduct of all military operations.

The Australian Government is a committed global champion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and we will continue to support efforts to enhance women’s participation in peacekeeping and peacebuilding.


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