Good morning.  I am pleased to join you today at this first of its kind Memorandum of Understanding signing for a WPS Center of Excellencehere in Colombia. This is an important moment for multiple international, diplomatic, and policy reasons, and is another positive step forward in our bilateral relationship with our Colombian partners. But I would like to take a moment to reflect on two specific reasons why I see this as a marked movement forward for the WPS agenda globally.

First, we have all recognized the rising incidence of global conflict and its exacerbated impact on women and girls in all their diversity. It is easy to feel that there are no avenues for progress, that our efforts are not working, our collective security goals are being obliterated. To that, I say it is more important than ever for us to take stock of what is at risk if we do nothing.

WPS is not only a framework for strategic security partnerships, but an avenue for increased domestic, regional, and international security. When all of society is included, respected, and counted as vital to policies and decisions which impact people on an individual level, we know our collective security is all but assured. Inclusion of women and marginalized groups leads to adaptable solutions for conflict and crises, more inclusive processes with sustainable outcomes, and comprehensive policies and processes.

To do nothing with this work, this global agenda to advance these goals, is to risk further escalation of conflict, less preparedness to address crises, and increased instability at all levels. We must continue to do this work because, to be frank, there is no alternative.

That is why this WPS Center MOU signing is not just a moment for Colombia and the United States, but indeed for the WPS Agenda globally. It shows our progress in utilizing WPS as an avenue for real sustainable partnership and facilitates opportunities to tangibly move this work forward.In short, this WPS Center is a culmination of the reason we all do this work.

Second, one of the core tenets of WPS is leading with authentic inclusivity. Colombia exemplifies this through your leadership with gender parity in peace processes, exceptional and extensive civil society consultations, in particular with underrepresented women leaders and organizations, and your forthcoming WPS National Action Plan and Feminist Foreign Policy, and so much more.

The United States, on October 31st, the Anniversary of UNSCR 1325,  launched our U.S. Strategy and National Action Plan on WPS, the first Strategy of its kind under the Biden-Harris Administration. This is one of many gender-equality, whole-of-government strategies, including but not limited to, new policies focused on key sectoral issues such as Gender and Climate, Gender Based Violence, and Women’s Economic Security.

We know that such policy initiatives are not enough. Which is why it is crucial to highlight that we aim to coordinate with our partners outside of government in civil society, academia, the private sector to ensure that we are sharing best practices, lessons learned, and not duplicating efforts on our shared areas of interest.

This is the core of the vision for all of the WPS Centers —a coordination of existing initiatives, with an aim to collaborate and develop important policy goals with tangible avenues for implementation. This is also one of the reasons I look forward to working with and learning from our Colombian partners on how they have already been doing this work, and how they will continue to do so with the advancement of the WPS Center as an avenue for implementing the WPS NAP, Feminist Foreign Policy, and other WPS and gender-equity goals.

We look forward to this partnership. We have already seen an amazing example of the WPS Center work through a workshop coordinated by our Colombian partners earlier this week which brought together Mayors from across Colombia and focused on WPS implementation at local and national levels. Based off this work, the Colombian WPS Center will have many more successful engagements and opportunities to advance the regional and international goals.

It is always a delight to work with our Colombian counterparts, and even more so to have such a crucial effort to engage on. This is only the beginning of some truly impactful work, and we look forward to continuing this support and partnership.

U.S. Department of State

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