DoD/Botswana Defence Force Women, Peace, and Security Working Group Signing Ceremony Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Howard Van Vranken

Friday, September 22, 2023, Gaborone, Botswana

As prepared for delivery

Dumelang, bagaetsho! Senior officials, officers and soldiers, thank you for hosting us today as we affirm our bilateral commitment to Women, Peace, and Security (WPS). You are all key in forging the strong relationship between the United States and Botswana, and we are honored to be here with you today. All protocols observed.

The United States and Botswana are like brothers and sisters. Our long history of partnership is based on shared values—a commitment to democracy, rule of law, human rights, and international law, and a prosperous economy where people are free to build their own futures.

Our unwavering security partnership makes us and the region stronger and safer. Today, we pledged to advance that partnership by focusing resources and attention toward equitable gender integration in the defense domain. This signing ceremony sets the strategic direction between our two militaries that will guide your WPS efforts over the next five years. Your focus on the three key lines of effort of sexual harassment/assault response and prevention program, social welfare, and organizational reform is unquestionably important to growing our defense relationship and further solidifying the BDF as an exporter of security.

Although our militaries hold themselves to the highest standards, they are not immune to the problems we see in the greater society. Both our countries face a scourge which is difficult to articulate and address: Gender Based Violence (GBV). GBV is a serious human rights violation and a threat to life, health, and well-being with serious implications for society. Anyone can fall victim to GBV. Women and girls are especially at risk. It is our collective moral imperative to address GBV at every opportunity. We recognize that GBV is preventable and that each of us has a role to play.

One key catalyst to improving the lives of women and girls around the world is to increase the number of women in positions of power, including in defense and security. The perspectives and skills that women bring to leadership consistently result in more equitable opportunities and outcomes including economic, social, and political advancement for all members of society. We are proud to work together with the Botswana Defense Force as you continue to recruit more women into the military, promote them increasingly to senior ranks, and meaningful integrate them more fully in key decision-making processes.

I believe in America. And I believe in Botswana. We will get it right, and we will work together closely, like brothers and sisters, until we do. Our partnership is strong, our mutual respect is deep, and our commitment to our friends remains steadfast. The work you’ve done this week is only the beginning. Now comes the challenge of moving beyond words to action. I know as military members that you will not stop until the mission is complete, as you always do. Thank you.