Speech/statement | Date: 18/06/2007
- We have recently seen that some Somali women are raising their voices and speaking out against the anarchy and the infighting between the various clans and factions. Today these women are becoming a voice for reason, and for peace and reconciliation among all Somalis, State Secretary Stenhammer said in her speech.
Chair, Ladies and gentlemen.
I appreciate this opportunity to speak here today and to discuss with you both the peace process in Somalia and the role of Somali women in the implementation of Security Council resolution 1325.
For far too long, the political situation in Somalia has been dominated by lawlessness, war and chaos, which has caused a great deal suffering among the civilian population in the country, not least among Somali women and children.
We had great hopes that the peace and reconciliation conference that went on for several years in Kenya would create the basis for a new, more peaceful and stable Somalia.
But the Transitional Federal Institutions that emerged from this conference were not able by themselves to establish peace in the country. New conflicts arose, and –- as we all know – Ethiopian military forces intervened in Somalia half a year ago in support of the internationally recognised Somali institutions.
Intense fighting was still going on in Mogadishu as late as the end of April. Hundreds of thousands of Somali families were fleeing their homes in the capital due to the violence.
As always when there is a war, it is the women and children who are the major victims.
On the other hand, we may ask ourselves: How many women do we see when deals are negotiated? When agreements are signed? When reconstruction starts?
I am sure that you agree that the lack of gender balance in peace and reconciliation processes is a problem. Because we know the facts.
Women bear the heaviest burden in times of war. They bear the heaviest burden in times of reconstruction. So their almost total absence from these processes is unacceptable, unfair – and unwise.
We know that women are key agents of change in post-conflict situations when peace agreements are to be implemented. When societies are to be rebuilt. When people are trying to get their lives back to normal.
Let us agree on this: peacemaking should not just be an exercise that only involves combatants. It must involve the other half of society, the other part, all of society.
It must include women.
And when we talk about the involvement of women, we must make sure that women are not seen as a uniform group, but as a diversified group of actors.
My own country, Norway, is strongly committed to gender equality and we believe that women’s empowerment is the key to social, economical and political development. We believe that the greatest gains countries can achieve, economically as well as politically, come with empowering women.
Norway for its part is working along several dimensions – in cooperation with likeminded partners, NGOs, the World Bank and the UN – to increase the participation and representation of women in peace processes and as stakeholders.
Our motivation is the simple fact that involving women ensures broader support for changes that affect people’s everyday lives.
Including women in ongoing peace processes and negotiations is important.
But first women must have basic security. Resolution 1325 is an important instrument in both regards. Although the resolution is widely known now, implementation is slow and fragmented. The accountability and monitoring mechanisms for its implementation are still weak.
On International Women’s Day, 8 March, last year the Norwegian Government launched the Norwegian Action Plan for the Implementation of Resolution 1325.
The action plan spotlights our ambitions and sets benchmarks for our efforts to increase the participation and representation of women in local and international peacebuilding processes. This also applies to our own teams of mediators.
On 8 March this year Norway launched a new three-year action plan for women’s rights and gender equality in development cooperation.
The plan is backed by financial and staff resources. And a specific budget line for women and gender equality was also introduced this year.
Somalia is at the very bottom of most of the social indicators used in the UN Human Development rankings, and women and girls tend to be extremely vulnerable in the traditionally clan and male-dominated Somali society.
Last week Norway signed an agreement with UNDP concerning support to the Somali national reconciliation process of more than USD 3.6 million.
Of this USD 1 million is direct support to the reconciliation congress itself, and approximately USD 1.5 million is support to governance, which will also include measures to promote women’s participation in public life.
Total Norwegian assistance to Somali this year will amount to somewhere around USD 35 million, of which a major share is humanitarian and emergency assistance. This includes assistance with regard to health, water, sanitation, shelter and education.
Norway is also participating in a major effort by the European Commission and other partners to map out a strategy for more long-term assistance and reconstruction of Somalia.
This initative is being carried out under the broader Reconstruction and Development Framework for Somalia, which has been developed by the UN and the World Bank.
As part of this work Norway last year financed a special gender profile on Somalia, which will constitute a major framework for international support and assistance to Somalia within this sector.
The gender profile was commissioned by the EC Somalia Operations Unit in cooperation with Member States and Norway as part of the preparation of its Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for Somalia.
This gender profile was necessary in order to ensure that issues and challenges associated with gender were taken into account and mainstreamed in the programmes.
The purpose of the profile was to analyse the impact of the war on gender roles and responsibilities in Somalia. It also identified indicators for monitoring women’s Rights in Somalia.
Key gender issues and challenges were identified, and benchmarks and indicators were proposed for political and public life, education, health and family planning.
Special focus was put on the possibility of creating an enabling environment for economic growth, to reverse the increasing feminisation of rural poverty in Somalia.
The full gender profile document is currently one of the CSP supporting documents.
Most Somali women today live under extremely difficult conditions due to the chaos and anarchy that have prevailed in the country for so long.
But progress is being made. We have recently seen that some Somali women are raising their voices and speaking out against the anarchy and the infighting between the various clans and factions. Today these women are becoming a voice for reason, and for peace and reconciliation among all Somalis.
This is a positive development which we in the international community should strongly support.
The views of the Somali diaspora are also an important factor here – their resourcefulness and their experience will be invaluable in determining policy towards Somalia. The Norwegian Government helped fund a Somali women’s conference in Oslo in May. This was the largest conference of Somali women in Norway to date, and I found it both stimulating and motivating.
The peace process in Somalia is currently at a critical stage. In a few days’ time, a new, major Somali National Reconciliation Congress is scheduled to open in Mogadishu.
This could be another new window of opportunity provided that the political leaders within the Transitional Federal Institutions and those who have opposed the TFIs are both ready to utilise that opportunity for the benefit of all the people of Somalia.
We know that the organisers of this congress (the National Governance and Reconciliation Committee) have reserved 20% of the seats at the congress for women.
This is a positive step forward, but we also want to see it be implemented, and that women are given same rights and access as men when it comes to influencing the proceedings and the outcome of the congress.
Somali women have been part of all the national peace and reconciliation conferences held since the collapse of the central government in 1991.
I have heard that Somali women also achieved results when they, by means of joint needs assessments and a gender experts group meeting, presented a set of declarations to the ministerial meetings on gender and women’s affairs. These declarations were later adopted by the Heads of State and Government at the IGAD Summit in March 2006.
With these achievements in place, there was a need for a symposium to summarise and to discuss both the road ahead and the continuing need to engage women in the process.
Norway therefore funded a women’s symposium, which was held on 19-22 February 2007 in Kampala, Uganda.
Over 140 women delegates were present. They came from all walks of life: both from the central government and from the autonomous regions, as well as from different African and international NGO and from the private sector.
The symposium was to evaluate and review the RDF (Reconstruction Development Framework) from a gender perspective, share experience and identify what was needed to implement the gender-specific recommendations in the Somali RDF.
The symposium agreed on a set of ambitious strategic priorities, such as the ratification of the Convention Against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Security Council resolution 1325.
The delegates also called for the establishment of a gender-responsive legal framework, 30% representation of women on all levels of governance, and providing and facilitating microcredit loans for women.
To sum up, women are security providers in their communities. But if they are to be effective, their own basic security needs must be met.
Women are needed as partners in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. But then their particular ways of organising their efforts and solving problems have to be taken into account.
There are numerous examples of women coming together across dividing lines created by war to find ways to put an end to violence and to work for peace.
The international community has an obligation to provide economic, political and logistical assistance for these efforts.
And we, the international community, pledge to be at the forefront in the fight to promote this cause.
Because this is peacebuilding in practice.