Statement by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at a gender equality meeting in New York, 26 September 2015.
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President, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Yesterday the UN Member States adopted Agenda 2030. An agenda with 17 goals, including a strong commitment to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This is ambitious, but possible. But to reach these goals, we need more gender equality.
This is reflected in the new sustainable development agenda, where gender equality is not only a stand-alone goal, it is also acknowledged as a key to achieving the other goals.
Today we want to discuss how we can speed up the implementation of our commitments.
Before I turn to this in more depth, I would like to thank President Bachelet for co-hosting this breakfast. Michelle and I share a strong personal commitment to gender equality. We both know how important it is that women play an active part in political and economic decision-making.
I my view there are three important elements for achieving gender equality.
First education. Education is the key to empowering girls and women alike. Educated women are in a better position to make good decisions for their families, communities and countries. Education is not a quick fix for gender equality, but it is one of the best tools we have. I have made it a priority in Norway’s development cooperation.
Second, the involvement of men. I salute the many women who have fought for their – and other women’s – rights for decades, many under extremely difficult circumstances.
Nevertheless, gender equality is also about men. Men need to be engaged, and men need to take more responsibility for gender equality.
It has been used before, but the comparison with football is a good one: you won’t win the game, if half the team is just watching.
We need men, including the men around this table, to become, or continue to be champions of gender equality and peace. Gender equality is important not only for the sake of women, but also because it has positive impacts for women and men. I am proud to tell you that all the male ministers in my government have joined the UN Women campaign “HeforShe”, and have thus taken a clear stand for gender equality. (And in case you are wondering – these men constitute exactly half of my government.)
The third important element is that we must not accept the use of tradition, culture or religion to deny or scale back women’s human rights. Some people believe that there is a contradiction between believing in God and believing in gender equality. This is not the case.
I believe that these three elements are essential for achieving gender equality. I believe they are also crucial for peace and security.
In October, the Security Council will have a meeting on women, peace and security. I am glad that our Spanish colleagues have set themselves high ambitions for the outcome of this meeting.
When we launched our new national action plan on this topic earlier this year, I highlighted the threat of violent extremism. Not only to individual women’s safety and lives, but also to women’s rights in general. And I urge the Security Council to put the issue of violent extremism on the agenda for the October meeting.
Extremist movements are tapping into the identities and dreams of men and women in order to recruit followers. They understand the influence that women can exert in their families, so they want women on their side. On the other hand, they want to silence women who offer an alternative vision of society. But it is exactly these voices that must be heard! This is why it is so important for me that we include the gender dimension in our efforts to prevent and combat violent extremism and address its root causes.
For Norway, the other important focus area for the implementation of the Security Council’s resolution on women, peace and security is women’s participation and opportunity to influence developments. Women and men experience conflict differently. Without women’s voices at the negotiation table, vital perspectives are lost. Important issues like gender-based violence, livelihoods and ownership of land will receive less attention. There is evidence that the effective participation of women in peace processes increases the chances of drawing up a lasting peace agreement.
Finally, I welcome the new alliance of women’s organisations against violent extremism, which is represented here today. The work they are doing is having an impact. It is important that they are heard and can influence decisions. I am especially looking forward to hearing what the civil society organisations have to say in today’s discussion.