Address at Norwegian Launch of the Global Women, Peace and Security Index

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide's address at the launch of the Global Women, Peace and Security Index at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Prio).

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Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues and friends,

Often, women's rights and security are threatened long before any gunshots are heard. Women's mobility restricted. Their freedoms taken away. As the level of tension rises, the abuse of women's rights increases.

We know this. Yet we have very rarely monitored respect for women's rights and security as a way of predicting conflict.

Some of our civil society partners, some of you, have been telling us for a long time: That if we want to know what lies ahead, we must listen to women. That it could help us prevent conflicts too. Those who are locally rooted have insights we need.

We need women's influence in all our peace and security efforts. Without a gender perspective, we are loosing out. That is why women, peace and security remains a key priority for Norway.

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I am pleased to take part in the launching the Global Women, Peace and Security Index today. The index was launched at the UN in New York a month ago. Since then in Washington DC and London.

Given the part Prio has played in developing the index – and Prio's prominent role in this field – it is only right that Oslo is following suit.

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This index is also about listening to women. It is a different kind of listening. We are listening to the data that tells us about women's lives:

  • About security threats to women;
  • Access to justice or the lack of it;
  • And opportunities for – and obstacles to – participation in decisions that concern women's lives.

The index we are launching here today has eleven indicators. It is a comprehensive index on women's lives, measuring for instance parliamentary representation, partner violence and legal discrimination. Only one indicator in fact measures organised violence - insecurity in society due to armed conflict.

Yet, ten of the twelve countries that rank lowest on the index are on the Security Council's agenda.

It is hard to establish cause and effect, but what we can say with certainty is that where there is conflict, women suffer on all levels. Women's rights, justice and security are all undermined.

This, in itself, should be a call to action.

But given what we know about women's contribution to development and prosperity, to resilience and peace - we might also want to consider another interpretation:

That gender equality, or a lack of it, affects peace and security. And by that, the level of conflict in a country.

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When women are not secure, have no access to justice, are not fully included – it is a matter of human rights. But it is also a matter of national and international security.

Experience has taught us that women's influence is paramount if we are to build sustainable peace and resilient communities.

This is why we strive to ensure women's meaningful participation in all of our mediation, peacebuilding, peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts.

However, it is not easy to wield influence when you face legal or other barriers to participation.

It is difficult to lead while suffering abuse.

It is hard to reach far if your mobility is restricted.

That said, there are countless examples of women who do participate, influence and lead processes. Even in the very worst conditions.

But if we are to succeed in moving the women, peace and security agenda effectively forward – it is surely our responsibility to end human rights abuses and identify obstacles to women's empowerment.

So that women can reach our full potential - with less suffering and fewer struggles – for the benefit of us all.

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The Global Women, Peace and Security Index is the first index that combines data on women's inclusion with data on justice and security. We already have indices on conflict and security and indices on women's rights and inclusion.

But until now, no index has brought all of these areas together. This index could help us identify synergies and break down systemic silos.

It is already being recognised by key stakeholders:

When it was presented to ambassadors in New York, Security Council members suggested that it should be used actively in briefs to the Council, to provide more information about the context in which armed conflict and violence takes place.

Several ambassadors indicated their intention to turn their own countries' low scores into "to do lists". Because the index leaves all countries with homework to do. Norway is no exception.

Senior UN leaders recognized that the index responds to a data gap.

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Norway has supported this innovative work by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute Oslo. And I am pleased to announce that this partnership will continue.

The focus will now be on ensuring that key data is studied in depth – and on launching a new index in two years' time. The 2019 index will not only provide insights into the status in each country. It will also allow us to monitor changes.

Knowledge is power. Data is powerful. Because data not only measures progress, it inspires it.

That is why we believe that listening to the index will make our conflict prevention efforts stronger. And enable us to target our women, peace and security interventions more effectively.

It is a timely index. The first gender index that builds on the Sustainable Development Goals. Urging us to take a holistic approach to both development, rights and security.

Both conflict prevention and conflict resolution rely on a more integrated approach. Listening to women, and to data that speaks of women's lives, are clearly part of that picture. It is a matter of sustaining peace.

Thank you.