Dear CMI Community,
this CIMIC Messenger is exclusively dedicated to the 10th Anniversary of the CCOE, which we celebrated in front of a packed audience this past October 10th. Herein you will find transcripts of all the speeches, key notes and addresses, as well as links to our most recent CCOE video (25 Years of NATO CIMIC), as well as the picture gallery from last week.
The included program flyer will provide you with the overview of all the key participants and the course of events. With this, we are already looking forward to the 2018 CIMIC Award of Excellence.
By October 19th, we will also make available on the CCOE homepage the 10th Anniversary publication ‘CIMIC in Missions and Operations – Reflections on History, Current Affairs and Perspectives’.
Leo tells Nina what Civil-Military Cooperation is. Click for the video.
Seeing so many, who followed our invitation, I will not even try to name all of you as you would deserve it during the few minutes which have been allocated to me.
However, if I may, I would at least welcome by name the Deputy Mayor of The Hague, the City that hosts us, Mrs. Saskia Bruines, her Excellency Mrs. Hester Somsen, Director of Security Policy in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his Highness Karl von Habsburg, President of Blue Shield International and Mr. Josef Reiterer, head of the civil-military liaison section of UN OCHA. Please be all asured, we are honoured by your distinguished presence here and today at NATO’s CIMIC Centre of Excellence.
As a child of the “Cold War Era”, I have experienced 25 years of Stabilization Operations with more than a decade in the business of CIMIC. Therefore, I am well aware of the changing paradigms in civil military interaction during this time.
This 10th Anniversary of the founding of the CIMIC Centre of Excellence provides for a unique opportunity to reflect on the current and future role and purpose of armed forces within a changing conflict environment, and the utility of the CIMIC function to facilitate this purpose. Future conflict scenarios will not play out along old-fashioned politics or traditional military planning. A dated Cold War scenario cannot be the blueprint to answer the challenges of a rapidly growing global population which gathers in mega-cities and is intensively connected through social media networks globally. Some years ago, various threats and scenarios had begun to challenge the assumption of a conflict free Europe: at the Northern and North-Eastern borders of NATO, an increasing number of destabilizing hybrid activities occurred against our partner states, as well as the massive migration and refugee trails from conflicts in the South and South-East, all culminating in and beyond the 2014/15 window and probably there is more to come.
Recent events have shown a sophisticated and fragmented employment of covert military, propaganda, separatist, ethno-religious, criminal, economic and cyber activities. This is mirrored by the impression that the actors resorting to hybrid aggression are in a better position and do have a good understanding how to integrate civilian and military means of power than we do. This said, the possibility of major tank battles in the Northern plains of Europe, is likely to remain a ghost of the past. In the near future, NATO is much more likely to be confronted by more complex and population centric challenges, which do not immediately reach the threshold established by NATO’s collective defence articles. As much as the changing conflict environment will be the focus of an aggressor, the role of CIMIC also needs to be significantly adjusted to these emerging challenges.
So far, CIMIC has often been perceived as a supporting function on the tactical level only, focussing on feel-good projects. Yet in a world, where any tactical military activity, or counter-activity, is likely to have a fast ripple effect onto both the operational and strategic levels, the role of CIMIC also needs to be empowered to stand the test on these levels. Other destabilizing challenges such as fragile National and Collective Resilience, Mass-Migration and Refugee Movements can also not be answered, less even be resolved, in a traditional military way. With regard to capacity building, which is relevant at both the Northern and the Southern borders of the Alliance, the buildup of territorial CIMIC capacities needs to develop into a significant contribution of NATO CIMIC for contingency planning. Very positive examples for these CIMIC capacity building programs can be seen beyond our borders in Lebanon. In consequence, in a heavily population centric conflict-environment, CIMIC might need to adjust its role from a supporting military function to one which is heavily supported by the other, more traditional military functions. Looking at these trends, it will be most important for us as a think tank to make our counterparts, both in the military as in the non-military environment, much more aware about the relevance of CIMIC in countering these new challenges. And our professional advice to this end must be rendered on the tactical, operational and strategic levels.
Thus, the CIMIC Centre of Excellence, and with it CIMIC in NATO, will have to be highly pro-active in both the civil and the military domains in order to get visibility and acceptance for their relevance and competence. It is our focus for the coming years to reach out to the number of non-military relief and development organizations, with whom NATO shares a common humanitarian understanding such as Rule-of-Law, Good-Governance, Gender Equality, Children in Armed Conflicts, Cultural Property Protection, Anti-Corruption, Human Trafficking and the general Protection of Civilians in Conflicts. To make it very clear, it is not the ambition of CIMIC to become the experts in all of these areas of substantial impact in operations. But CIMIC aspires to act as honest brokers between the military and the non-military actors. At the same time, CIMIC personal need to engage as an early warning system or last line of defense for Commanders on all levels to prevent violations on these issues with significant collateral damage for the mission.
For 2018, we in the CCOE will focus our efforts on the significant number of international, governmental and non-governmental organizations, which are still unaware of the CIMIC function; and with its still largely un-resourced abilities to mitigate the effects on the civilian population in crisis situations. And this will be done by reaching out and engaging with civilian stakeholders and entities in crisis resolution in a decidedly non-military way. This said, I do hope you will find todays’ program inspiring and thought provoking and I do encourage you to engage actively in the exchange of your perceptions and impressions, today, or in the future.
Thank you for your kind attention!
The city whose honour it is to house the NATO Civil-Military Centre of Excellence.
I would particularly like to welcome Archduke Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen, President of Blue Shield International. As well as a heartfelt “far away” greeting to Ms Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President of Croatia. I hope that the Croatian ambassador will kindly convey this to her. The NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence is now ten years old. I would therefore like to warmly congratulate director Wolfgang Paulik and all the staff on this international anniversary. I would also like to congratulate Ms Grabar-Kitarović on receiving the CIMIC Award for Excellence. And rightly so! Her relentless dedication has helped to improve the situation for women and girls all over the world.
The Hague is pleased that the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation Centre is based here. The presence of many other international bodies here in The Hague, made it attractive to you. And that is precisely what The Hague is aiming for in good and close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The concentration of so many international organisations dealing with peace, justice and security means that The Hague can offer an excellent environment for cooperation in all of these areas. Our role as a city is to initiate, encourage and connect the organizations. Because we believe that cooperation with partners is the key to success.
The Hague also actively promotes and facilitates innovation. Including in the field of humanitarian aid. The Hague therefore actively invests in an environment that facilitates start-ups and innovative businesses to work with non-profits and knowledge institutes. We believe in the vital role of businesses. To achieve this, we have developed The Hague Humanity Hub, the centre of our innovation ecosystem, where cross-overs will lead to investable projects that can change the world. An ecosystem where the knowledge and expertise of individuals and institutions in the fields of peace, justice and humanitarian aid come together. The Hague Humanity Hub will open its doors at the end of this year. The Hub will be the world’s leading innovation space, where data-driven technology is used to find solutions for global humanitarian challenges. It will house many organisations, including the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) that will be opening a new data centre here. We are delighted, of course.
Because digital tools are also increasingly being used to protect the individual.
And not only in that area. Also for the protection of cultural heritage in areas affected by crisis or conflict, for example. Which is the key note theme of Archduke Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen. I hereby challenge the NATO Civil-Military Centre of Excellence and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to discuss the possibility of data exchange in the area of cultural heritage. How can we apply The Hague Convention to cyberspace? I am sure that there are interesting points to be found from which you can begin.
The Hague is always willing to get involved and contribute its thoughts and ideas.
Congratulations once again!
I wish you all a thought-provoking evening.
Q: Sir, would you tell us more on your military engagement with the Austrian Armed Forces?
A: After living abroad, I moved back to Austria, deciding to start as an officer in the Reserves. Initially, I served for three years in the Army and then I joined the Air Force, where I was offered to become a pilot; not as a combat pilot but in air transport and liaison roles. After serving as a pilot for sixteen years, I was recommissioned to become initially a cultural property protection officer for the Air Force division. Later I continued this engagement in the Territorial Command at Salzburg and finally as a specialist for international humanitarian law at the Army Headquarter.
Q: This sounds like a perfect CIMIC career path. Did you already commence your expertise in peace-keeping missions at that time?
A: No, I was never involved in UN missions while serving in the Austrian Armed Forces. Yet, my time as a reservist provided me with sufficient opportunity to travel to several conflict areas at the time, and to carry out my duties as an advisor to many minorities in conflicts with the population majorities of their respective countries. So, I basically experienced armed conflicts, yet but not in the capacity of a military officer.
Q: How did your engagement in the field of Cultural Property Protection come about, leading you from the military experience, also as a cultural property protection officer, to the Blue Shield?
A: My country Austria occupies a very specific position when it comes to cultural property protection and the military aspects of it. This is probably because it has the longest tradition in the world in the post-WW-II era of having soldiers specifically trained and tasked for this role. This goes as far back as the 1968 uprising in Prague: for the first time, Austria was considering to invoke the 1954 Hague Convention. There was the imminent threat of troops of the Soviet Union marching across Austrian territory, in order move from Bratislava to Prague, where they were intended to be. In the ensuing years through today, we developed a specific training curriculum for cultural property protection to include seminars, as well as the entire legal background and the related directives for this topic. This knowledge has since been widely used in the international field, including several UN missions.
In Austria we consider Cultural Property Protection as a true force multiplier: indeed, this goes well beyond the mere military peace-keeping, and reaches through to the issue of nation-building into the cultural background and identity of a country. This has turned out to be very important also in the academic field where we ask ourselves how to integrate Cultural Property Protection into the military command and control structure.
From a personal perspective, the work that has been done related to both The Hague Convention of 1954 and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, was key to my involvement with UNESCO, and then, at a later stage to my role as a cultural property protection officer of the Austrian Armed Forces.
At the international level there had already been several national committees of the Blue Shield, yet no overall umbrella organization, despite a common desire to establish such a frame. It then took quite some time for that organization to evolve, and finally, in a 2008 meeting in The Hague, I received the honor to be elected as the founding president of Blue Shield International, now affiliated with the UNESCO. During that conference, Austria was also recognized as the country with the most solid experience in the military aspects of the 1954 Convention. Since then, we have created strong national committees, which are more capable to handle the military related aspects of Cultural Property Protection than before: indeed, before 2008, Blue Shield was much more oriented on CPP caused by natural and man-made disasters, than by armed conflicts.
At that time, it was my main goal to bring awareness to the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq, for example, and therefore to importance of the military protection aspects in cultural property protection.
Q: In one of your interviews, you compared the current conflicts near the Southern and Eastern shores of the Mediterranean to the conflicts that had shaken Europe for many centuries, culminating in the Thirty Year war (1618 – 1648). In this scenario the drawn out Sunni-Shia conflict, a conflict with core religious, territorial, economic and ethnic drivers, where do you see in this new Thirty Year war the role of the Blue Shield specifically?
A: I would definitely not try to define the role of the Blue Shield within a specific conflict. I would rather like to underline, also in light of the huge work done with UNESCO, that cultural heritage is also world heritage. It does not belong to a specific country or people, but it is basically our common heritage. And this heritage is directly cemented into today’s conflicts.
Those are indeed non-traditional, inter-cultural, inter-ethnic, inter-religious conflicts, sometimes not even connected to national borders anymore. And this, what is at stake here is: identity. And when identity is at stake, cultural heritage is at stake, which often does not belong to some specific ethnicity. This is where the international community, including organizations like Blue Shield, should intervene. When I took over my role in 2008, I had only a limited idea of how these conflicts would evolve and how much our work would multiply in the ensuing years.
Q: You have been to many zones where cultural property is at stake. In the recent past, we seen Daesh taking over world heritage sites in the Mesopotamia region and Palmyra, threats to grand cultural monuments in Tripolitania and Cyrenaika in Libya, as well as the vast deliberate destructions in Timbuktu, committed by religious extremists. What moves your heart when you experience such cultural property destruction in person?
A: First of all, I look at cultural heritage as something owned by all mankind. And as a consequence of that, I am convinced that we have to increase the awareness on this issue.
For example, at this time the awareness on the necessity of Cultural Property Protection is not the same on the national and international levels. Therefore, we have to raise the awareness on the importance the cultural heritage with the local populations, and at the same within military units regarding the importance of cultural heritage for the future stability within a conflict zone.
Here it is also important to focus attention on what is happening with regard to the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage. In Syria for example, I have to acknowledge that in such a scenario there is not much, which an organization like the Blue Shield can actually do, apart from raising awareness for the abuse of cultural heritage generate illicit profit. For example, we have learned of several cultural heritage objects, which had allegedly been destroyed, when actually only copies had been destroyed, with the original pieces sold for profit. So indeed, raising the awareness for our common human history and heritage is what we have to do, as well as very much my driving force.
Q: As a the head of one of the most historic and royal ancestry lines in Europe, dating back well into the Middle Ages, is it too much to say that someone like you would have a natural drive to protect the heritage of the culture your family had such an important impact on through history?
A: Well, of course, I am dealing with history a lot, since part of my family history is part of the history of Europe. This has also created a strong awareness in me, which I am very proud to express, where ever possible. But I look at the responsibility of protecting that heritage from a much broader perspective, regardless of my ancestral background.
Q: Your organization has been growing in the last years: where does it stand now? And do you have an idea of how many buildings, structures, or sites have been designated with the Blue Shield, as worthy for the cultural identity of mankind?
A: As far as statistics are concerned, I am aware of the number of countries which have ratified The Hague Convention, or other related conventions. Those countries themselves should utilize the Blue Shield as a symbol for cultural property protection, which does not only include buildings but also collections and many other objects.
Over the years we have seen how fast some countries will act, if there is the desire to actually protect cultural property. For example, some countries in Latin America, in the beginning, did not have a clear idea about the implications of being part of the Blue Shield family. Then, when I went there to assist with the implementation of the task assigned through The Hague Convention, I was able to see first-hand how much passion they developed for their own history and how fast they were working to improve.
As a major step on the supra-national level, we established a cooperation with the UN Peacekeepers Association, enabling Blue Shield to serve as an additional link between UNESCO and UN Peacekeeping.
Q: The aim of Blue Shield International – the protection of mankind’s cultural heritage – is a very broad one. Yet, if you were to formulate an attainable goal for the organization, which one would that be?
A: Definitely, our focus today is The Hague Convention: so basically we have to deal the conflicts of our time. We will not disregard natural or human-made disasters, since a lot of work from the past is also linked to those cases. Yet, The Hague Convention is mainly about armed conflicts, and this is where our main responsibility will be.
However, I think it is really important for the Blue Shield to already operate in the time ahead of a conflict, and during the conflict itself, as this is the time when the most damage occurs. In pre-conflict scenarios, it is crucial to support countries in the implementation of the requirements of The Hague Convention. There are many organizations very much involved in post-conflict scenarios, but on the contrary, only very few ones active in pre-conflict and during-conflict scenarios.
Another major task for us has become the liaison activity between the academic side and the military, since those usually operate in different worlds, which do not communicate very well with each other. For this purpose, it is certainly one of our great strength that we have indeed highly specialized military experts and academics among our members. And we are currently planning to establish an academic, university-based international competence center to offer teaching, as well as to conduct basic and applied research.
Q: Many thanks for your time, Sir and we are looking forward to you key note at the 10th Anniversary of the CCOE on October 10th this year in The Hague.
Today’s celebration marks the tenth anniversary of the accreditation of the CIMIC Centre of Excellence. It is my distinct pleasure to be here with you today. Our coming here today, first and foremost, marks a decade of cooperation between the now seven sponsoring nations and our many international partners. As I look around this theater, I see friends from across the world. Many of us, including myself, work in government offices around the globe. Others serve our societies by wearing the uniform. And I can also see some of us here who represent international organizations or NGOs. But no matter what our formal job titles may look like, all of us are in the business of protecting civilians. It is obvious that our work take different forms. In the past decades, we have learned the value of combining these different contributions. The so-called integrated approach both to conflicts and to stabilization, allows us better to address the root-causes of insecurity and instability.
In Afghanistan, Mali but also in Iraq the Dutch have experienced this in the field. By working together, we become more effective in reaching our common goals. That shared purpose has brought us here today and I believe that is worth celebrating. Because everyone agrees: the protection of civilians has never been as important as it is in 2017. We only have to take out our mobile phones. Open our browser and we will see how civilians verywhere become the victims of state violence or the targets of terrorist attacks. From Myanmar to Mosul and from Las Vegas to Luhansk: today’s threats take different shapes and have various sources. Of course, threats to human security have been around for centuries. Evidently, many of our current worries existed ten or twenty years ago. If I take a look at my own institution: our 2007 budget already identified globalization, insecurity, immigration, economic decline, environmental degradation and shifting power relations as sources of concern. Developments that are still on top of our minds. However, what seems to have changed is the interconnectedness of all these factors. The boundaries between the realms of politics, the military, society and economy have always been thin. Yet due to globalization and technological advancement, those borders now only exist in the mind. In addition, internet nowadays connects us to everyone with a phone – and with more than 2.3 billion smart phones in the world – that almost literally means everyone.
in the face of this changed strategic context, it is critical that we continue to update our response to insecurity and instability. For we cannot solve today’s problems with yesterday’s thinking. That is why the work of the CIMIC Centre of Excellence has been so important. And why it is such a pleasure to be here with you today. Because this ceremony also serves to mark an important fact: this Centre of Excellence has been at the forefront of the development of our thinking for the past decade. With its courses, training and contributions to doctrine development, the CCOE’s work has informed and helped shape our response to current – and future – security challenges. During my time in Lebanon, the importance of the Center has become crystal clear for me. Against the backdrop of enormous regional and national challenges, the Lebanese Armed Forces is tasked to provide stability to their population. One of the most important steps they took was adding CIMIC to their toolbox. Key prerequisites for any government trying to create long-term stability include addressing the needs of ordinary citizens, earning their trust and harnessing their support. This holds particularly true in our time of Facebook and YouTube: millions are able to witness a poorly executed police intervention or military action. Without respect for civilian life and property, we risk that interventions to stop terrorist attacks on the short run, produce the fighters of the future. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Lebanese Armed Forces have shown true leadership in this matter. In close cooperation with the CCOE they have established a fully staffed civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) Directorate within the J3 (operations) branch of the Army. I want to congratulate former commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, general Kahwaji, General Jambey, Deputy Chief of Staff for operations, and Brigadier General Eli Abi Rached for their important work and vision in this field.
With the doctrine and field handbook now in place, the next step is to convince field commanders that CIMIC is a necessity for the success of their operations. After all, we must acknowledge that CIMIC is sometimes still set aside as a soft response to hard, security threats. Still I believe that, especially in a country like Lebanon, CIMIC can help to ensure that the Lebanese Armed Forces are perceived as the key security actor. And that the local population sees that the army operates for the benefit of all of the country.
In addition, CIMIC allows to access information that is crucial to counter threats in the field. It sometime seems that we respond to security threats by acquiring more or new weapon systems. But this is actually old thinking: because how can you employ weapon systems if you lack the information on where to use them? Access to information is crucial and so often, good relations with a local population help produce that information.
The Lebanese Armed Forces have recognized this. As members of the international community, there is an opportunity for us to support Lebanon in facing instability through CIMIC. Rather than sending soldiers, we should harness the strength of the Lebanese forces. After all, the Lebanese Armed Forces are better equipped than any international force to understand the local context. They speak the language, can better relate to local needs, earn trust and mobilize support. In conflict and post-conflict situations around the world, we have learned – sometimes the hard way – that these elements are crucial for obtaining necessary information to fulfill the objective of stabilization. Investments in local forces are investments for the long run. The experience in Lebanon with CIMIC can serve as a model for other instances of instability – notably in Iraq and Syria. I hasten to say that there are obviously risks associated with local stabilization troops. If armed forces do not represent the ethnic or religious composition of their respective societies, it becomes hard to create long-term stability in cooperation with the local population. If armed forces then also violate or seem to violate the rights of civilians, this becomes almost impossible. Once again: the protection of civilians should be at the center of any military action.
I come to a conclusion: around the globe, we hear calls for increased investments in security. I will be clear: I share the need for more investments in our security – and I want to echo the heartfelt words of now retired General Middendorp, former Dutch Commander in Chief. Who stressed in his farewell speech why it is so important to invest in our armed forces or ‘basic insurance for our country’ after 25 years of very limited budgets.
However, I want to add that those investments need to be comprehensive. We need more means for our colleagues to do their jobs at the Ministry of Defence. Similarly, we need to strengthen our Ministry of Development Cooperation, our embassies around the world and for first class diplomacy.
And – this will not be a surprise – we should continue to invest in our CIMIC capabilities and spread our joint knowledge to others, thus promoting long term stability to the benefit of us all.
it is my distinct pleasure now to introduce to you a president who has enhanced our understanding of conflicts throughout her career. We have come to know her as a staunch advocate for the interests of civilians in conflicts – most notably that of women and girls. As an Assistant Secretary General at NATO and ambassador, she has always been committed to a strong trans-Atlantic alliance. But rather than defining her work as gender advocacy, I propose that we see her as someone who contributes to the update of the thinking we need to solve today and tomorrow’s problems. Without understanding the full impact of conflicts or military action on all civilians – both men and women – it is virtually impossible to develop long-term stability. And by empowering women and girls anywhere we create more advocates and drivers for stability. The CCOE recognizes the important work that the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitavoric has done in this field.
On behalf of the CIMIC Centre of Excellence, I am therefore privileged to introduce President Grabar-Kitarovic as the honoree for the individual CIMIC Award of Excellence 2017. Due to urgent matters of State, President Grabar-Kitarovic could not be with us here today. However, she has graciously provided us with a statement … [which has been included into the book, which you will receive later on].
it has already been said many times today: but there are numerous threats to human security in our time. We see the needs of more than 65 million refugees around the globe, scores of terrorist attacks and violence against civilians everywhere. One cannot help to wonder how to meet those challenges. But as the Austrian-British philosopher Karl Popper said: ‘work for the elimination of concrete evils rather than for the realization of abstract goods.’ One organization that has excelled in doing so has been the Civil-Military Coordination Section of UN OCHA.
For more than two decades, the CMCS has increased the effectivity and efficiency of humanitarian action. By bringing military and civilian mechanisms together, the response to humanitarian needs has become better.
The CIMIC Center of Excellence wants to recognize the important work of CMCS during these difficult times.
On behalf of the CCOE, I am honored to introduce UN OCHA’s Civil-Military Coordination Section, represented by its chief Josef Reiterer, as the honoree for the 2017 institutional CIMIC Award of Excellence.
Today, I have the great honour to represent my nation and our President, H.E. Mrs. Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, here at the 10th Anniversary of the NATO CIMIC Centre of Excellence. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the president was, regrettably, unable to join us today and accept the CIMIC Award of Excellence for 2017 in person. However, allow me to now convey president’s personal message on this occasion:
President Grabar – Kitarović would like to express her sincere appreciation and gratitude to the NATO CIMIC Centre of Excellence and its directors for nominating her for this award. She would like to point out that she is particularly honoured to receive this award since she is very well aware of the valuable contribution made by CIMIC personnel to NATO missions and operations. The President was able to witness this first hand during her visits to Afghanistan as the NATO Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy. In the eight years since joining NATO, and four years since joining the European Union, Croatia and its people have made great strides to significantly contribute to the political and humanitarian mandates and goals of both organizations. Together with our President, we also consider this award as a recognition of our efforts.
One of the areas in which CIMIC plays a vital role is the empowerment of women and girls, a subject that is of particular interest to the president personally, which she has addressed in more detail in the CIMIC publication of which we will hear later on, but the president would like me to highlight some of them additionally. Conflicts and disasters have terrible consequences for families all around the world, basic human rights are being violated on a daily basis and international commitments and standards are being ignored. Especially many women and girls in many parts of the world suffer horrendous ordeals. Changing things will require more than our earnest repetitions of the „leave no one behind” statement, it is crucial that globally we do more than just check the boxes, prepare our annual reports and brief the media on what we have concluded.
We need to act. Every step counts. The president sincerely wants every girl to have an opportunity to succeed. We want all our daughters to achieve so much more than we ever have. Therefore, on this occasion, the president would like to call again for us to do this together, – to give our daughters a chance to make a better world. In such an undertaking organizations such as the CIMIC Centre of Excellence play a truly vital role. Furthermore, today, when the importance of civil – military cooperation and links for achieving success on the ground is more than ever evident, we celebrate the extremely valuable contribution made by CIMIC Centre of Excellence and convey our support for the continuation of your work.
Finally, allow me to once again thank you for the Award and congratulate you on your 10th Anniversary for your tremendous work and continual support of our Alliance, its goals and tasks.
Conflicts and disasters have terrible consequences for families all around the world and unfortunately women and children are increasingly the victims of gender-based violence, rising extremism, discriminatory norms and stereotypes. Basic human rights are violated on a daily basis and international commitments or standards are being ignored.
The empowerment of women and girls is very important to me personally and to my country, all of us together, as humanity must do more to support and encourage women globally to stop the violence and discrimination. I was 23 years old when the war broke out in Croatia. My youth was defined by that war in so many ways, Today, I can say that I was not a child of war but I was certainly a youth of war. However, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones because tens of thousands of women and girls in Croatia, in the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo and also in so many other parts of the world went through a horrendous ordeal – sexual violence, mass rape, stripping of dignity, will to life, and any ambition to personal and communal development became weapons of war. It has taken years for some brave women to speak out and share some of their horrible experiences as victims of war and to find the strength to begin their fight for justice. I have spoken to many women on several occasions, in the Croatian City of Vukovar and in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the town of Srebrenica, where so many women and girls have been violated and so deeply wounded, some as young as twelve years old were subjected to sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Today, I remain in awe of those courageous women for what they have gone though and for what they have become today. They have become advocates for women’s rights to end sexual violence and to empower women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations.
In one of the most heart-wrenching stories that I ever heard, a woman after years of therapy wanted to finally tell her husband that she had been a victim of mass rape. When she started to tell him what had happened very little kept him from killing her and himself. He was overwhelmed with fury and the emotions ignited his natural instinct for self–defence. Thankfully this story had a positive end and this woman is now helping other women and families.
Unfortunately however, today this is the reality in so many countries around the world. I have visited Afghanistan often and it is just one of the countries ridden with conflict. I have worked with women and girls in Afghanistan for many years encouraging their full involvement in society. We have all read many stories and I have heard many testimonies of the horrific crimes committed against women, both physical and psychological. But when you see a woman clad in a blue burka, sitting by the side of the road, and the cars passing by splashing mud all over her, you cannot but feel ashamed for all of us, for the whole of humanity, you cannot but ask yourself: why have we left so many women and girls behind?
More than 15 years ago we adopted Security Council Resolution 1325, but what have we really done to implement it? The problem is not that we lack a blueprint for action, the problem is our inability to use appropriately and decisively all the instruments at our disposal.
Our world demands change and there is hard work ahead of us. Together we must work to eliminate violence against women and girls, change stereotypes and continue to fight against all forms of prejudice.
I would like to highlight some of the steps that we should take together.
First, we need a change in mindsets. We need to build a new political culture conducive to equal participation of women which aims to change widespread gender stereotypes. Sexual violence is not a fact of war and stereotypes are not part of one’s culture or religion. It is high time we stopped using such excuses for our inaction. We need to continue to promote the role of women’s groups but also encourage greater involvement of men in this conversation.
Next, we need to provide for the basic conditions necessary for human development – change in conflict-ridden areas but elsewhere as well. We need to ensure that women are not treated just as victims but as agents of change. Focusing on what really works, listening to women in the field, taking into account different backgrounds and different experiences and ultimately helping women voice their problems and improve their status. This will contribute to achieving long-lasting peace and stability.
Thirdly, we must put an emphasis on education. Education is crucial in our effort to prevent future violence, terrorism, totalitarianism, corruption, conflicts and other major threats that the global community is facing today. Education is the strongest weapon against any radical ideology and against enslavement. Therefore it must be our priority in all conflict prevention actions and post-conflict programs.
The fourth step is to encourage the economic empowerment of women. I have seen first-hand so many cases where the economic empowerment of women has positively changed many areas of society both at the local and national levels. Women who have become economically independent have indirectly contributed to combating terrorism by supporting their families and eliminating the need for husbands and sons to join insurgency groups.
Another step would be to encourage political and communal participation. As civil society actors, women play a vital role in engaging their communities both in the prevention of and response to conflict. And their role in post-conflict reconciliation and rebuilding is irreplaceable. With the involvement of women in the peace process, it is more likely to succeed.
Finally, we must foster ambition. We need to tell women and girls all around the world that they can do it. Together we must support, encourage, empower and promote women and girls in their efforts.
Changing things will require more than our earnest repetitions of the „leave no one behind” statement. All governments need to back commitments with public spending and implement policies which will lower the barriers faced by the most disadvantaged. We need everyone on-board to make things change. Reforms are necessary at the local, national and global levels and our response has to be a holistic one – combining a comprehensive political, security, humanitarian and development response.
I can confirm that Croatia will continue to focus its development policy on conflict and post-conflict societies, assisting in the protection of human rights of vulnerable groups, especially women and girls. We have been quite active despite our limited resources: we have built a school for girls in Mazar-e-Sharif, educated midwives to decrease the maternal mortality rate, promoted and financed many projects for the economic empowerment of women supporting self-sustainability and we have also promoted the social and political inclusion of women.
Croatia will continue to work on the implementation of gender equality policies and further support the empowerment of women, both at home and abroad. The empowerment of women is a crucial part of our foreign policy priorities and we will continue to achieve them through bilateral relations and our activities within the UN and other international organizations. However, I must be frank and say that it is crucial that globally we do more than just check the boxes, prepare our annual reports or brief the media on what we have concluded. We need not only to change our approach but we also need to act upon it.
Every step counts. Personally, I have been asked often by women in Afghanistan why do we want to help. I want every girl to have an opportunity to succeed. I want my daughter and all our daughters to achieve so much more than I ever have. Let’s do this together, let’s give our daughters a chance to make a better world.
Her Excellency the President of the Republic of Croatia
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