Legitimating the work of women human rights defenders

Utenriksminister Ine Eriksen Søreides åpningsinnlegg på et sidearrangement under FNs kvinnekommisjons 62. sesjon i New York, 16. mars.

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Minister Labidi, Excellences, ladies and gentlemen,

Every day, all over the world, our sisters defending human rights show enormous courage, often despite the risk of severe consequences. They see others around them harassed, their families threatened, their colleagues disappearing.

The threats, harassment, persecution, imprisonment and even killings faced by human rights defenders and their families around the world are simply unacceptable.

Women human rights defenders are especially vulnerable to gender-based discrimination.

They have the same universal rights as everyone else. However, they often need protection in order to exercise the same rights.

Together we must stand up for them.

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The #metoo movement has shown how much remains to be done.

Women are still being held back by inequalities in power relations and deliberate discrimination.

Women are systematically excluded from decision making.

We must all take action against practices and social norms that condone violence against or the exclusion of women.

Such attitudes and actions is contrary to everything we stand for.

They undermine everything we seek to achieve.

When half the world's voices are not heard, we all miss out.

I have been working on the women, peace and security agenda for almost ten years now, and it has always been extremely important for me that it has to be the main event, not an optional extra.

The same goes for supporting women human rights defenders.

Women's rights must not be purely a women's issue.

Men must promote women's rights and support women working for human rights in their communities.

Gender equality in decision-making is essential to develop a more inclusive society.

Effective, just and sustainable development is only possible if women are able to assume their rightful place.

Women human rights defenders are in the front line in this battle.

They deserve our whole-hearted support.

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As governments, we have to defend the defenders.

This is exactly why the Norwegian Government regularly raises the difficult situation of women human rights defenders.

We support a wide range of civil society actors and human rights defenders worldwide.

We are pleased to work with Amnesty International, the International Service for Human Rights, the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, the Government of Tunisia (the cosponsoring partners of today's event) and a range of other countries in various regions.

2018 is a significant year for human rights.

It will see the fifth anniversary of the resolution for women human rights defenders, the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In other words, it is a great year to step up our collective efforts. Strengthening the UN's capacity to support human rights defenders should be a priority.

Two weeks ago in Geneva I signed and MOU with the Office of the UN High Representative for Human Rights on strengthened support and co-operation. The agreement implies 20 million USD a year from 2018-2021.

We do this because only through increased and long-term funding can we make sure measures and resolutions on human rights are implemented in practice.

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We can all do more to support our sisters defending human rights on the front line.

Political, religious, social, media, business and military leaders should express public support.

We all have a responsibility to condemn cases of harassment, violence and killings.

Last autumn Norway led the work when the General Assembly adopted a strong and unanimous resolution that recognises the role and work of human rights defenders. Given the atmosphere for normative General Assembly resolutions, this is quite an achievement.

I am convinced that with the help of the coming generation we will make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and towards the vision of leaving no one behind.

Norway will give priority to access to quality health care, to enhancing sexual and reproductive health and rights, and to quality education for girls and young women.

Thank you.

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