Using women as tool of war must end

Women diplomats should “raise their voices” against the use of women as a weapon of war, Baroness Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said at a recent lecture hosted by the Women in Diplomatic Service.

“I have been sickened by the appalling abuse I have seen,” she said, describing her meetings with displaced and refugee women fleeing conflicts in Syria, the DRC and Mali.

“Talking to them, these women feel hopeless, as if they had been abandoned. It is our job to make sure they are not abandoned.”

Baroness Amos urged women diplomats to become “strong advocates” against sexual violence against women in conflicts and to put in place measures to prosecute those soldiers who use violence against women as a tool of war.

She also appealed to women diplomats to challenge violence, discrimination and abuse wherever it occurs and t0 support those, such as Malala Yousouf Zai, who were fighting for their rights to education.

“These are strong young women and they need our support. Do what you can to show collective support. Go on Twitter or social media and let them know they are not alone in their fight. Do not underestimate the confidence this can give these women.”

Baroness Amos also raised her concerns to WDS members about the politicisation of humanitarian aid. While she accepted it was difficult to divorce national interests from universal values, she said this should not stop diplomats using their influence to persuade their governments to deliver on the international commitments they had signed up to.

Baroness Amos also reminded WDS members that countries may have different national interests but want the same outcome.

“It is the task of diplomats and leaders to bridge the gap. So for instance in Syria, while Russia and the US have very different national interests, they both want the same outcome, which is a stable Syria. And through diplomacy on a very personal high level they need to find a way to work together.”