Building Peace and Security in South Sudan: The Central Role of Women and Girls

Addis Ababa, 26 January 2015

Foreign Minister Børge Brende's speech in Addis Ababa on 26 January 2015.

                                                                    Check against delivery 

 

It is a great pleasure and honour to be here at this gathering in Addis Ababa with women from different parts of South Sudan. You have a clear, strong voice – I hear you.

Since the current conflict in South Sudan started in December 2013, the civilian population has suffered immensely. Trapped between fighting factions or often specifically targeted, thousands have died. The reports coming out of South Sudan document a deeply disturbing level of human rights violations. The women of South Sudan carry a major part of this suffering. Sexual and gender based violence has reached unprecedented levels. UN Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, stated in her report to the UN Security Council that the situation in South Sudan was the worst she had ever seen in her 30 years of experience.

This shocking fact underlines the relevance of Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This year we can celebrate the 15th anniversary for this land mark resolution – and since 2000 a strong normative agenda on women, peace and security has continued to develop under the UN Security Council.  This policy from the Security Council is, however, far from implemented in practise. We need to step up our efforts. The resolution has four components - prevention, protection, participation and recovery – and the women of South Sudan needs it all urgently.

I urge all fighting parties in the strongest possible terms to respect the laws of South Sudan, international law and UN resolutions and to prevent further violence and protect civilians. Stop the targeted attacks on women now. At the same time I urge the UN and UNMISS to step up its work on protection with a special emphasis on women and children in accordance with its mandate.

Women and children are often specifically vulnerable in armed conflict.  We need to understand their security needs, we need to ensure their protection. Having said this, I would warn against seeing women only as helpless victims. The civilian population in South Sudan have shown extraordinary resilience, courage and pure guts during decades of war and conflict.

When possible, they have returned to their villages, cleared the rubble and started afresh. Every time, women have been key in rebuilding society and their experience and ideas from doing that is required in the ongoing conflict and the efforts to reach a negotiated, political solution.

The conflict affects all of South Sudan. Therefore all of South Sudan must be part of the peace process. That includes women. A chair at the back of the room is not good enough. In all processes towards peace, including the IGAD-process, women have an obvious right to sit at the table where the decisions are taken. Decisions that concerns the whole population in South Sudan, not just half of it.

Norway has been active in pushing this point vis-à-vis the IGAD-process and I would like to thank the representatives of various women’s groups here today for your constructive inputs.

Increasing women’s participation in processes related to peace and security is pivotal in Norway’s new national action plan for women, peace and security. The plan has four thematic priorities: peace processes and negotiations, international operations, peace building and humanitarian efforts.

Preventing and combating gender based and sexual violence in conflict is a cross cutting element in all the four thematic priorities.

We will work more and smarter to achieve our goals. We give gender training to our staff in international operations.   We will support governments and civil society to increase women’s participation. We will include a gender equality perspective in all our work. Not as an add on, but as a way of working in all our engagements, be it in programmes we fund or as facilitators in peace processes. 

We have chosen to have five focus countries for the implementation of the action plan, in order to intensify the efforts and achieve results at the country level. South Sudan is one of the focus countries.

The national action plan is a clear expression and accountability mechanism of Norway’s commitment to the women, peace and security resolutions.

Today’s event is important. It underlines that women have resources and capacity that is needed to find solutions. Without women, peace processes and solutions will be limited in scope, content and ownership. And without full participation, no solution is truly sustainable.