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Peace and security for all. Norway’s implementation of SCR 1325

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Meeting of the Standing Committee on Women (Scow), Oslo, 17 November 2011

The UN Security Council resolution 1325 is a key to a broader and fuller understanding of contemporary conflicts. And it is a tool that can help us prevent, manage and solve conflicts in more effective ways, and – not least – it can help us protect the peace and rebuild societies after conflicts have ended, Foreig Minister Støre said in his remarks.

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Dear friends,

It has been said that it is more dangerous to be a woman – a civilian – than a soldier in contemporary conflicts.

From Afghanistan to Libya, from Congo to Colombia, we witness more complex operational environments and grave breaches of international humanitarian law. Civilians are the subjects of targeted attacks, and conflict related sexual violence is widespread. The battlefront has moved to the home front.

According to the UN, civilian causalities in war climbed from 15% during World War I to more than 90% in the wars of the 1990s. How is the international community meeting this new reality? Are we prepared?

There is growing recognition of the need for a gender-sensitive approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

The UN Security Council resolution 1325 is a key to a broader and fuller understanding of contemporary conflicts. And it is a tool that can help us prevent, manage and solve conflicts in more effective ways, and – not least – it can help us protect the peace and rebuild societies after conflicts have ended.

Promoting women’s inclusion in peace and security issues is a priority for the Norwegian Government, and we continue to improve our policies and efforts in this area.

Firstly, we believe that women should have the same rights as men. This is a matter of democracy and universal human rights.

Secondly, we believe that women’s inclusion leads to more sustainable peace agreements and more effective peace operations.

Let me first touch upon why a gender perspective and women’s participation is important in managing and solving conflicts – in making and keeping peace. Then I will explain some of the things we try to do to effectively implement SCR 1325.

An adequate analysis of any conflict must take into account how women are affected. While men are shot and killed, women are “only” raped, maimed, widowed and displaced. I see no reason why wartime threats against women should not be given the same attention as other threats against peace and security.

The direct targeting of civilian populations often has further indirect consequences such as poverty, weak health systems, food insecurity, displacement and lack of access to clean water and hygiene. Women suffer more severely from many of these indirect effects. For instance, a decline in basic health care hits women harder because of their reproductive roles. In Afghanistan, one woman dies in connection with childbirth every 27 minutes.

Sexual violence by armed rebels and government troops is being used as a cheap, effective strategy to terrorise communities, force people to flee and to humiliate and destroy communities. It is not a new phenomenon, but has been an element in many wars throughout history. The breakdown of social order and the subsequent brutalisation fuels aggression against women, who suffer sexual and gender-based violence in many conflicts. Examples include DR Congo, Darfur, Liberia, Colombia, Haiti, the Balkans in the 90s, Myanmar – the list goes on.

Security threats against women are, however, too often dismissed as belonging to the private sphere or not being part of the real conflict. We know now that targeted attacks against women, including sexual violence, can be just as deliberate and destabilising as more traditional methods of war.

It is vital that a gender perspective is applied in conflicts where the international community is mandated to provide security and protect the civilian population. Unless the threats against half the population are known, how can operations serve their security needs effectively?

Dialogue with both women and men gives personnel in international operations a far better understanding of the conflict. Local women can provide information that men are not aware of or do not focus on. For instance, women at the local markets are often the first to know when armed groups are mobilising.

Adopting a gender perspective in peace processes can bring interventions more in line with local needs and realities on the ground. Gender analysis, understanding the needs of women and men respectively, can be an effective tool for more realistic and sustainable peace building.

An example of the cost of failing to include women in peace processes is the story of Angola. Looking back on the first peace process in the 90s, Donald Steinberg described the negotiations he was part of facilitating as “men with guns forgiving other men with guns for crimes they had committed against women”. Around 40 men, and no women, sat around the table during the talks. 

This imbalance meant that issues such as sexual violence, human trafficking, abuses by government and rebel security forces, reproductive health care, and girls’ education were given short shrift, if addressed at all. 

The peace accord was based on 13 amnesties that forgave the parties for atrocities committed during the conflict. The failure to address the widespread sexual violence during the conflict affected the efforts to rebuild the justice and security sector. It showed Angolan women that the peace process was intended for the benefit of the ex-combatants and not them. After a few years, the process faltered and war re-emerged.

This story is one example, among many, of how not to build peace. Of the 39 conflicts that have erupted in the past 10 years, only eight are entirely new; 31 are recurrences of conflicts that were never fully resolved. A growing body of evidence shows that including women in peace processes increases the chances of reaching durable and robust peace agreements.

More than 10 years after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325, the realm of hard politics is far from being gender-sensitive. However, resolution 1325 has influenced our thinking, our norms and our attitudes in fundamental ways. There is a strong momentum for women’s empowerment and participation. Countries like Norway have a responsibility to translate the words of the resolutions on women, peace and security into action on the ground.  

Promoting the participation and roles of women in conflict management, in peace processes and in peacebuilding is a strong priority for the Norwegian Government. Our support for the implementation of the Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security are part of our efforts to promote gender equality and international peace and security. The two are closely linked.

Earlier this year, Norway launched an updated action plan – a new strategic plan on women, peace and security for the next three years. The plan includes concrete measures to increase women’s participation and influence in peacebuilding and in peace negotiations.

I believe a truly integrated approach is a key to success. We need to make women’s rights and participation a natural part of the whole range of peace and security issues that we are involved in, and we must continue to change the attitudes of policy-makers, mediators and peacekeepers. This issue is being raised and promoted across various divisional boundaries in the Ministry and by Ambassadors from Kathmandu to Kabul, from Khartoum to New York.

In addition to mainstreaming gender in our work, we continue to provide targeted support for women on the ground and to promote women’s participation in peace processes. Women in conflict are not just vulnerable victims passively waiting for our protection. Women have always carried out vital work on the ground in conflict areas – protecting children, giving support to victims, mediating between groups, protesting, and reconciling communities.

One of the reasons why I so strongly welcome this year’s Nobel Prize is that it puts a spotlight on the many women who take on this work.

Norway has a high and visible profile internationally in relation to the women, peace and security agenda. We raise the issue of women’s participation and protection in a large number of political meetings, in the UN and in NATO and in other regional organisations.

For instance, Norway has been a vocal supporter of the rights of Libyan women during the transition process, and we have pushed for their participation and constitutional rights. We have also continuously raised the issue of Afghan women’s rights and participation in several meetings with the Afghan Government, including with President Karzai. We actively support their right to participate in shaping Afghanistan’s future.

When we act as facilitator or mediator in a peace process, we use our role, our voice, our financial means and technical assistance to secure the best possible representation of women in all aspects of – and on various levels of – the peace process. For example, resolution 1325 is high on our agenda in our work in the Philippines, and we are pleased to see the high level of women’s representation in the process. Norway has supported the UN Gender and Mediation strategy, and we continue to promote women’s participation in peace processes and give visibility and a voice to women on the ground at every opportunity.  

Our Government also gives high priority to following up 1325 in the security sector, both in the military and the police. We are implementing special measures to increase women’s representation both in Norway and in international operations. Just as important as improving the gender balance is ensuring that all our personnel, both men and women, understand how to apply a gender perspective in their work.

Our Minister of Defence will make sure that Norwegian military operations are based on a gender analysis and that our operational demands are adjusted accordingly. Therefore, we have increased and improved training on gender and resolution 1325. We emphasise this issue in our contributions to the UN and other organisations and we cooperate closely with our Nordic neighbours in order to keep improving our work.

In recent years, Norway has paid special attention to one of the cruellest aspects of armed conflict: sexual violence. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls – as well as boys and men – have been victims of rape and sexual violence over the past two decades. We have increased our support to the victims, including medical, judicial and economic assistance. For instance, we have supported mobile courts in DR Congo, which has resulted in the successful investigation and prosecution of perpetrators. An effective fight against impunity is one of the most important ways of preventing these abuses. We have helped to keep the issue on the international agenda and seek to ensure that it is treated with the same sense of urgency as other threats against international peace and security.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasise once again our strong commitment to women’s participation and protection in peace processes and in conflict management. Unfortunately, there is still a striking gap between words and action when it comes to implementing the Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security. We must do more to ensure that women can play their rightful roles in international peace and security. And we must do more to ensure that threats against women in armed conflicts are recognised for what they are: real security threats.