Dear EPD Executive Director Nargis Nehan, thank you for inviting me, ladies and gentlemen,
Women’s meaningful participation in the peace process is a requirement to sustainable peace.
No one knows this better than the women of Afghanistan - all families have suffered, all have lived in conflict.
Now there is a historic opportunity for peace, a realistic opportunity to live the peace is within reach.
Since coming to Afghanistan I have observed considerable engagement for peace from the civil society – and from women’s networks in particular.
A common denominator is the shared goal of inclusivity and empowerment through participation.
Some few weeks back the Norwegian embassy hosted a discussion with Women Ulemah to hear their views on the Afghanistan peace talks and listen to their needs and requests.
One such request was capacity building for preparation and meaningful participation.
I am pleased to see such initiatives taking form – and growing in importance and political effect. We need to think of extending such programs not only to women all over Afghanistan, but also to youth, victims, other groups – and to include men in this effort.
I want to recognize the EPD - Equality for peace and democracy – for their political foresight, sense of responsibility and dedication, and not least – personal courage – in taking a lead in the empowerment of women and youth in Afghanistan.
Over its 10 years of existence, the EPD has worked quietly, but consistently, and with determination - and with hard-headedness – for development, peace building and democracy. You have worked with an aim to helping women and youth have their rightful voice.
Capacity building is at the heart of this effort – and I truly congratulate you on your effort and achievements so far.
Only a few days ago, in Doha, the Afghanistan peace negotiations arrived at initial draft agenda points for the next phase of the negotiations.
January 5 is not far away. I hope the recess will be used well, and that the negotiating teams will prepare for what will be a real round of important topics for peace.
The talks need to move forward. It is important that a possible peace agreement safeguards what has been achieved since 2001 in areas such as democracy, human rights and gender equality.
So what can Norway do for you – what can we do for peace and security in Afghanistan?
We have two tracks to follow – and they hang closely together:
Our role , although informal, in the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations, where we are in the Host Country Support Group together with Qatar, Germany, Uzbekistan and Indonesia.
In this capacity we have been present with a team in Doha since 12 September. And we will be there again, or elsewhere if the next round of talks is moved to another venue. And we will be there for what ever help and assistance you desire – in full respect of the need for the talks to be Afghan led and owned.
The talks must be your own – in order for the peace to be your own.
The other important role we can play is by the difference we can make for Afghanistan as we in the years 2021-22 take up a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. There we will have an opportunity to ensure that this, the world’s highest and most important body for peace and security in the world, directs sufficient attention and efforts to Afghanistan.
And more than that – Norway is together with Estonia given the role of penholder for Afghanistan in the Security Council. This means that we will prepare and draft all Council Resolutions on Afghanistan, we shall pen down on paper all Security Council decisions on Afghanistan.
This gives us an important opportunity to work for and with Afghanistan – and we will use this opportunity well here in Kabul.
Ladies and gentlemen
First some words on the peace talks:
Norway’s experience in peace mediation provides overwhelming evidence that the likelihood of lasting and sustainable peace, is significantly enhanced when all groups, regardless of ethnicity or gender, are adequately included.
Strengthening women’s role and voice, both at the negotiation table, as well as in the consultative mechanisms, will strengthen consensus for the Afghan peace talks. The formation of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) is an important step towards a consensus–driven peace.
Women are powerful actors in peace negotiations, effective peace brokers, community leaders and first responders. I would like to take this opportunity, to encourage the decision makers in the peace process, to include more women in the different consultative mechanisms.
Women make up more than half of the population in Afghanistan, and suffer more during conflict and war. Women’s’ active participation is needed to build a broad coalition for peace – women’s leadership contribution is critical to ensuring meaningful and sustainable peace.
In less than two weeks Norway will enter the UN Security Council as an elected member. We have identified Afghanistan as a country of priority and women, peace and security as a topic of priority.
We look forward to working closely with the UN system and Afghan women to promoting equality and inclusion in peace talks. I am convinced that this will also strengthen the consensus for the Afghan peace process.
Norway will use the experience gained from many years of engagement in peace and reconciliation efforts, to build bridges and seek solutions to the seemingly intractable conflicts on the Security Council’s agenda. International law and human rights will form the basis for our efforts
Let me share some of the things we are considering to proceed with using our UNSC membership:
- We are committed to promoting women’s rights and inclusion.
- Women, peace and security will be a focus area as we work on mandates, resolutions and presidential statements, as we go through reports and take part in field visits.
- We will strive to ensure that recommendations from informal expert groups on women are taken into account in the Council’s work, and that the voices of those who live the conflict are heard in the Council.
- We will invite women peacebuilders to brief the council and encourage others to do so too.
- We will keep a keen eye on the security of women peacebuilders and human rights defenders in all our peace and security work. This includes keeping Security Council briefers safe before, during and after their reporting to the council.
Let me also mention that the UNSCR 1325 on women peace and security is a priority for Norway and that Afghanistan is a priority for Norway’s National Action Plan for Women Peace and Security.
We support this agenda through Norwegian NGOs in Afghanistan.
We are determined to work jointly with UN, in particularly UNAMA and UN Women, but also other international stakeholders to support women of Afghanistan through government and civil society efforts.
We strongly believe that the civil society, and awareness building also at grass root level is vital to peace building and development efforts.
Later today the Security Council will convene its quarterly meeting on Afghanistan. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), shall brief the Council on recent developments.
Ms Shukla Zadran, Afghanistan’s Youth Representative to the UN, will also brief.
Zadran is likely to emphasise the role that youth and civil society should play in the peace negotiations and the need to give young people a voice as the talks progress.
As it stands, there are officially no youth delegates – no representatives under the age of 30 – at the peace talks.
I am sure that SRSG Lyons and Zadran, and all Security Council members, are likely to express concern over the endemic violence in Afghanistan and call on the parties to work swiftly towards a reduction of violence and a ceasefire agreement.
In recent weeks, high-profile assassinations included the killing of journalist Malalai Maiwand in Jalalabad. As to violence targeting the media, ten journalists and media workers have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year.
The UN Secretary-General has warned that the high levels of violence can erode trust in the peace process. He calls for a de-escalation of conflict to save lives and protect public confidence – noting that
“including the voices of victims in the early stages of the peace process will be a critical step towards achieving true reconciliation”.
I expect that today Council members will underline the need to facilitate the meaningful participation of youth, women and minorities in the peace process as the parties prepare for the substantive talks.
The alarming humanitarian situation will be discussed at today’s meeting. According to the latest UNAMA report, in 2021 18.4 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance, due to violence, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are warned of an acute food insecurity crisis, with upcoming “emergency” levels of food insecurity in Afghanistan—one of the highest of any country in the world.
This puts into perspective the momentous tasks ahead of us, you and my country and many others.
It is in our power to do something with all three disasters – violence, natural disasters and the Covid-pandemic. With the high level of violence we can do the most, our response can be swift – we can simply just end it. An end to violence in Afghanistan is within reach.
The EPD aims at mobilizing women and youth to contribute to social and security stabilization in Afghanistan is facing. The platform for women and youth that you have established through your work is a platform for peace – a platform for all Afghans, and that the whole of Afghanistan will one day rest on.
Afghanistan shall, through governmental political and institutional leadership, and the involvement of civil society, with organizations like the EPD, succeed in making Afghanistan
- a democratic country and an inclusive political system
- where all enjoy the rights and values enshrined in your Constitution,
- and at peace with itself and free of all forms of violence and discrimination.