Opening remarks at a High Level Seminar on Gender and Inclusive Mediation Processes

Oslo, 24 March 2015

State Secretay Bård Glad Pedersen's opening remarks  at a high level seminar on gender and inclusive mediation processes in Oslo 24 March 2015.

Thank you all for being here, and for the opportunity to meet with you.

We know, that the costs of war are enormous.

In four years in Syria, more than 200.000 people have been killed. A third of the population has fled their homes.

In four years, what used to be the country where refugees went, in hope of a better future, has now generated the worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

What was a middle-income country only four years ago, has since halved its GDP.

Four years ago, women were doing better in Syria than in many countries of the region.

Today, we are shocked, outraged and saddened by the abuse and violence that the Syrian women are enduring.

The costs of war are immense: so comprehensive and so profoundly destructive.

There can be no doubt, that whatever we hope to achieve, in any domain,peace and reconciliation should be at the top of our agendas.

It certainly is for Norway. And I know it is for you.

Thank you all for taking part at this seminar, for sharing your insights and expertise.

Creating peace is a tall order. This is why we need to make use of all the wisdom and all the experience we can.

Even when peace agreements are reached, which in itself can be a battle, they do not automatically lead to peace.

More than 50 % of all peace agreements fail within five years of being signed.

We have witnessed the re-emergence of old conflicts in South Sudan and Mozambique. There were different reasons for this, and they were complex conflicts. But a lack of inclusiveness and reconciliation was clearly seen in both cases.

In Colombia, the peace talks are providing an opportunity to reunite a society torn apart by conflict.

Decades of violence have created marginalised populations from rural indigenous communities to the urban poor, from persecuted political movements to demobilised combatants.

Each country and conflict is unique, and each requires its own solutions.

But one lesson that has been learned is that inclusive peace is a prerequisite for lasting peace.

Inclusion is about age, it is about culture, ethnicity, language and religion. And it is about gender.

Inclusiveness is about including all of those who have a stake in the ongoing process. All those with hopes and dreams, fear and anger, ideas and strategies. For the future they hope to create. Whether we like them or not. Whether we understand them or not. Because inclusion fosters sustainability.

UN call for the full inclusion of women

But if husbands will not include their wives. If brothers ignore their sisters. If fathers exclude their daughters. How can we move towards inclusiveness?  

UN Security Council resolution 1325 was adopted in 2000. It calls for the full inclusion of women in every aspect of international peace and security, including the prevention, the mediation and resolution of conflicts.

15 years later, we still have a long way to go. A study from 2012 reviewed 31 peace agreements. It found that only 9 % of the negotiators were women. And only 4 % of the signatories.

Women make up half of the population in most countries. Even more in countries of conflict.

The inclusion of women is a moral obligation.

Besides, women often experience the effects of conflict differently from men. Their particular concerns and rights must be addressed as well as the men’s. During a peace process. And when the time comes to implement the peace agreement.

Inclusion is certainly about women’s rights and dignity. But inclusion is also necessary to create peace. To create lasting peace.

What kind of peace are we building when only half of the population is represented at the negotiation table? How sustainable will peace be when only half the people’s needs are taken into account? When only half of society’s perspectives are reflected in the public debate?

What kind of prosperity can we hope for, if only half a nation’s resources are made use of, if half its creativity and talent is ignored or wasted?

Norway has experienced itself that the inclusion of women makes sense in a very measurable way. The participation of women in the work force is a more important factor in our economy than our oil and gas revenues.

And this is not unique to Norway. The IMF has found that eliminating the gap between male and female participation in the economy leads to big jumps in income per capita. For South Asia, for instance, the potential increase is estimated at 23 %. If only women have the opportunity to contribute.

When we get involved in a peace process, we have a responsibility. Because we know that without the participation of women, development suffers, democracy suffers, and peace and stability suffer.

Political crisis and upheaval can provide opportunities for change. Some of you (UN and CMI) have worked to promote the role of women in the Yemeni national dialogue. We can assist women as they seek to gain access to the political arena.

Norway encouraged the establishment of a sub-commission on gender in the Colombia peace negotiations. The commission will review the peace accords to ensure that the gender perspective is included - that women’s voices are heard. This is unique. The parties to the conflict are part of this commission themselves.

Dialogue with women's organisations

In Afghanistan, we have a regular dialogue with women’s organisations about their expectations for Afghan reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. Norway is assisting them in strengthening their negotiating skills.

Norway will work with Afghanistan to safeguard the progress that has already been made, and to ensure that more women take part in politics and peace talks in the future.

The participation of women is a priority for Norway – both nationally and internationally.

Last month our Prime Minister lauched our new strategic plan for women, peace and security. We are strongly committed to this agenda. Peace processes and peace negotiations are focus areas.

We have two goals:

  1. First, to increase the participation of women, for all the reasons I just mentioned.Inspired by the African Women Mediators Network, we have now taken the initaitive to establish a Nordic Women Mediators Network.
  2. Second, to integrate the gender perspective in peace processes and agreements. Peace agreements are often the political and institutional foundation for the future of a country. It is vital that they are non-discriminatory and inclusive.

We aim at being strategic, committing to the integration of the gender perspective at an early stage. We want to see more gender-sensitive peace agreements. Because we want them to last.

Thank you.