Speech/statement | Date: 23/11/2014 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
'As we meet today in Oslo, following up on last year’s very important gathering at Georgetown University – and looking ahead to the London meeting in two weeks, we know and understand that our role is to support your endeavours,' Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende said in his speech at the high-level symposium in Oslo on 23 November.
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First lady Rula Ghani,
Prime Minister Erna Solberg,
dear women of Afghanistan,
friends and colleagues;
ladies and gentlemen.
- For the first time ever, Afghanistan has seen a democratic transfer of power.
- For the first time, an incumbent leader stood aside peacefully, as the new President was sworn in.
- And for the first time, Afghanistan was introduced to its First Lady.
- Congratulations, First Lady Rula Ghani.
- Congratulations, women and men of Afghanistan.
- These are truly, important steps forward for all.
- This is a critical juncture for the people of Afghanistan.
- A time for action.
- A time for change.
- And change is needed.
- Afghanistan is still one of the ten poorest countries in the world.
- Decades of warfare have left 2 million dead. 700 000 widows and orphans.
Millions of Afghan refugees.
- The human rights situation gives cause for great concern.
- The security situation is precarious.
- Every day, schoolgirls and women in public life are exposed to threats and violence.
Sexual Violence. Honour killings.
- Far too often, the perpetrators enjoy impunity.
- Women still face discrimination in all areas: At home, in the health care system, at school, at
work, and in politics and culture.
- Life for women and girls is more difficult in Afghanistan than almost anywhere else in the world.
- We still have a long way to go.
- Yet, there has been significant progress.
- Having seen the women in this audience, having heard your strong voices, and looking back at my visit in Kabul recently,
- I feel hopeful that the progress will continue:
- In 2001, Afghanistan had less than 500 health care facilities in operation.
Today there are more than 2 000.
- 60 % of the population now lives within a one-hour walking distance of a health care centre. And the results are readily evident:
Life expectancy for women has increased from 44 years in 2001 to 64 years today.
Maternal mortality has dropped by 80 %.
- Ten years ago, less than one million children in Afghanistan attended school.
Almost none of them were girls. Today, nine million children attend school, and 41 % of them are girls.
- These numbers should encourage us.
- All of this could signal the start of a new era.
- But we cannot take progress for granted. This is why we are here.
- We know that even sustaining the progress that has been made, will require effort.
- Peace is paramount. War is profoundly destructive.
- If there is no peace, there is little progress.
- Therefore, we need to focus on reconciliation efforts and inclusive peace processes.
- Good governance and rule of law are pillars of a thriving society.
- Politicians must be held accountable.
Impunity must be fought.
Corruption must end.
- Sima Samar, who is here today, recently stated:“No peace, no development, no progress without women.” And you are right, Sima.
- Peace is not sustainable when only the needs of half the population are taken into account.
- I know that many of you who are here today, work tirelessly to bring about change.
- Norway will remain your committed partner.
- We will stand by the Unity government and the civil society.
- We will remain a major contributor to Afghanistan.
- Education for girls, women’s rights and equal opportunities are our main priorities.
- We will do our part. Yet, the role of the international community is limited. You play all the leading roles.
- As we meet today in Oslo, following up on last year’s very important gathering at Georgetown University – and looking ahead to the London meeting in two weeks, we know and understand that our role is to support your endeavours.
- We will be listening to you.
- We will carry your recommendations with us to London and beyond.
- We will continue to be your partner, fighting for a brighter and safer future for the young women and men of Afghanistan.
- Thank you.