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Launch of Action plan on Women, Peace and Security

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide held the following speech when the Action plan on Women, Peace and Security (2019-2022) was launched.

Excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen,
dear friends
and colleagues.

Launching Norway’s fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security along with four colleagues (and Secretary General Hattrem) is both an honour and a pleasure.

The good turnout clearly shows that this is a topic close to our hearts.

***

Women have the same right as men to take part in decisions concerning their future.

Inclusive peace is more likely to withstand the test of time, and research shows that women’s participation increases the quality and sustainability of peace agreements.

Yes, the agreements become more complex when more considerations are done, but the agreements are to a greater extent implemented when ownership is broader.

Excluding 50% of the population will not create sustainable peace, stability and growth.

For these simple reasons, women peace and security has been on my agenda for years.

As chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. As Minister of Defence, and now as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The women, peace and security agenda is an enduring and cross-party priority in Norway’s peace and security engagement.

***

According to the UN, only 2% of the mediators in major conflicts between 1990 and 2017 were women.

Of the 11 peace agreements that were signed in 2017, only three contained gender- sensitive provisions.

Which is ironic because conflict does not discriminate.

You are affected, although in different ways, whether you are male or female.

***

As we strive to find solutions to ever more complex conflicts, we must draw on the resources of both men and women.

If we are to correctly identify the wounds that need to be healed and the issues to be resolved, women must take part in the same way as men.

In political decision-making, and on the ground.

Because the people caught up in conflict, will ultimately also be the ones to build peace.

***

This morning, some of our key civil society partners and representatives from UNDP and academia discussed gender and violent extremism and the role of women in mediation and peacebuilding.

This teamwork is vital to the women, peace and security work.

I want to thank the representatives of civil society and the UN that are here today for the cooperation.

For inspiring and challenging us. For urging us to do more.

***

And, as the action plan we are here to launch clearly states, we will do more.

Let me elaborate on three points that are new or adjusted:

1. We will lay the groundwork for inclusive peace processes at an early stage:

Where Norway plays a role, we will contribute to preparing the ground for inclusive processes in the initial phase of peace talks, even before the formal negotiations have started.

We will encourage the parties to fulfil their women, peace and security obligations.

We will support civil society partners and women’s groups that could play a role if a formal peace process comes further down the road.

***

Gender balance remains key. Women, peace and security is not a women’s issue.

We will strive to ensure that the global actors appoint female special envoys and work for gender balanced mediation teams. Norway will certainly do the same.

We will encourage women and men alike, to champion the cause of women’s participation and rights.

In doing this we will build on what we have learnt from the Colombian peace process, from South Sudan, from the Geneva-based Syria talks, to name only a few.

At the same time, we will emphasise that innovative approaches to inclusion should complement, not substitute, efforts to ensure women’s representation in the formal peace negotiations.

We will strive to connect the different tracks in mediation processes, and support civil society initiatives for peace.

***

To achieve this, the value of the regional networks of women mediators cannot be underestimated.

In March 2018 representatives of all these networks of female mediators met for the first time – here in Oslo.

These women are former presidents (they are even current presidents), politicians, diplomats, civil society leaders, and mediators.

And let me tell you – the energy, talent and practical experience present in that room – it is hard to beat.

To make sure women are included, we must draw attention to the many capable women working for peace every day.

Because the claim that it was “impossible to find qualified women” - is just not true. And gathering the networks in Oslo was partly done to make sure this argument is never used again.

2. We will maintain the same focus on women’s participation and rights in our support for the implementation of peace agreements as in the negotiation phase.

We will support the parties’ and civil society efforts to promote women’s representation in constitutional committees and security sector reform, in transitional justice processes and peace monitoring missions.

We will highlight the gender perspective in connection with disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration.

Put simply: We will start earlier and keep our engagement running for a longer time.

3. The action plan for women, peace and security guides our humanitarian response.

A main priority in our humanitarian strategy is protection. Women and girls are especially vulnerable, including to the risk for sexual violence.

Through our humanitarian partners, we will engage local actors, including women’s groups, and work to ensure that the humanitarian response as a whole involves women and protects and promotes women’s rights. This includes sexual and reproductive health.

Conflict-related sexual violence is a widespread problem in humanitarian crises and remains a huge concern.

It is not a side effect of war – it is a weapon of war. A weapon that comes for free, and which use is too often rewarded with impunity.

Women and girls are particularly at risk, but men and boys are affected, too.

We must respond to the needs of children born of war, and to the needs of internally displaced people and refugees.

We will step up our efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence, including and end to impunity, and increase our humanitarian support for sexual and reproductive services in crisis situations.

Norway, together with OCHA, will host a conference this year on sexual and gender-based violence in conflicts and humanitarian crises. We want to do something new: Donor conferences are always linked to a country or a region. With our conference we want to direct attention direct attention to a topic – sexual and gender based violence.

***

As the new national action plan demonstrates, our domestic and international policies and programmes are interconnected.

It underscores the long-term work to promote women’s rights is – from a conflict prevention and peacebuilding perspective.

While acknowledging the different roles women can take in conflict, this -and the previous action plans- build on the insights and work of those who have suffered from conflict.

Women like Nadia Murad, who in her Nobel Acceptance speech (and I quote) “expressed hope that this is the beginning of a new era – when peace is the priority, and the world can collectively begin to define a new roadmap to protect women, children and minorities from persecution.”

Keeping the momentum in the women, peace and security agenda is vital to make her hope a reality.

***

Dear friends,

The number of female mediators, negotiators and facilitators – is still too low.

The same goes for peace agreements with gender-sensitive provisions.

Nevertheless, the number of women and girls that are bearing the brunt of war, conflict and humanitarian crisis worldwide is not low

It is our joint responsibility to deal with this.

When the new Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Sewde - who is also a member of the African Union’s network of women mediators – took office she gave a clear warning:

“If you thought I spoke a lot about women already, know that I am just getting started.”

On this note, I invite my colleagues to join me on stage.

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