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UN Women and AIHRC

Cease Fire, Seize Peace

Dear friends,

I am thankful for this opportunity to be with you today, to listen and learn, for this occasion to exchange and draw from your knowledge.

I’d like to express my gratitude to UN Women and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission: not only for hosting this important conference, but also for the work they do every day to lead and influence decision makers towards the insight that women’s rights and gender equality are paths to a sustainable peace.

And to all the women peacebuilders present, I would like to say that I have the utmost respect for the important work that you are doing. You are all key to the progress on the women, peace, and security agenda. Norway stands with you and we recognize the difficult tasks that you are facing.

Dear friends,

Women’s involvement in peace and security did not begin with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 already 20 years ago. Women have always been peace builders and key actors in conflict prevention.

We may be frustrated by the slow progress – the persistent gaps and women’s underrepresentation in peace and security structures. And we should be.

Failure to include women and integrate women’s needs, rights and priorities is not only unjust. It also makes our efforts less effective.

We still have ground to cover. Leaders still need to truly understand why it is important to increase women’s participation in peace and security processes.

Norway has women, peace, and security as top priority in our peace diplomacy because we are convinced that inclusion is the only way a better and more sustainable peace. It is not only important for women, but important for all, men and women, for our societies, for progress and for development.

It is a truism, but nonetheless true, that there can be no development without peace, and no peace without development. Women, inclusion and gender sensitive approaches are central to both.

Still - peace does not mean absence of war; rather it entails that warring parties reach to a peaceful political settlement that eventually leads to security, development, and prosperity.

Nevertheless, ceasefire is one of the most important trust building measure to peace building efforts in Afghanistan today.

I do not accept the assumption that women lack military skill and therefore are not competent in negotiating ceasefire and peace settlements. The truth is that women indeed have experience with both military operations and conflict resolution.

However, women’s’ experience is often a different experience from that of men. Afghan women know what war feels like, what it looks like.

All victims of war know this. A victim-centered justice approach will be important for an endurable and sustainable peace process.

Research is on our side and has shown that the participation of civil society actors in the entire chain of peace negotiations to political settlement and implementation, make agreements less likely to fail.

In other words, the participation of women in all phases of peace processes, including negotiating, drafting, and monitoring, ensures that agreements are more comprehensive and likely to last.

The brief on Gender Responsive ceasefires and ceasefires agreement by AIHRC and UN Women stresses the importance of quotas for inclusion of women in future agreements and committees.

It also recommends the development of processes and forums that feed directly into the negotiation process to enable women from diverse backgrounds to share topics, inform the agenda and establish joint positions.

Norway supports this. We know from other peace processes that quotas for women negotiators can be an effective tool to assure women their rightful place around the table and quickly draw on the value added of inclusion.

Evidence indicates that women peace negotiators are more focused on reconciliation, economic development, education, and transitional justice.

These are key elements of peace building and the realization of the peace dividend.

Dear friends,

Sexual and gender-based violence against women is not a private matter and must be recognized as a form of violence that needs to be addressed.

The brief presented today points out the importance of including such violence on the ceasefire violations list, to monitor it and to have clear and unambiguous language regarding violence that particularly affects women.

Norway shall be a driving force for a strong international effort against sexual and gender-based violence and we will use the full range of political instruments at our disposal.

We must understand that personal safety reach beyond the scope of cessation of violence. Achieving an agreement on ceasefire in order to seize peace is very important, but still only a first step.  

Transitional justice must include a victim-centered approach that responds to the needs and perceptions of families and local communities. One must put victims and vulnerable groups at the very center of justice.

When justice is not pursued, victims are twice victimized.

The result is lack of trust in the judiciary, as well as in the process towards reconciliation and the quality of the peace itself.

Crimes against humanity must be documented, impunity must end, and perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Concluding my remarks, I would like to remind that this year and the next, Norway is a member of the UN Security Council. Our priorities are peace diplomacy, promoting women’s participation and rights in peace processes, to enhance the protection of civilians, and highlight the links between security and sustainable development.

In the Security Council Norway is responsible for the penholdership on Afghanistan together with Estonia – meaning that all texts, statements and resolutions on peace and security in Afghanistan are prepared and drafted by us. This provides us with a unique opportunity for drawing the attention of the world community to the situation in Afghanistan and lines to take by the UN and UNAMA.

We will seek to use it wisely and with determination.

In our efforts for peace and reconciliation, and in our dialogue with the negotiating parties, I can assure you that we will take with us and promote the recommendations from the brief and the delegates here today.

We will:

-continue to push for women’s meaningful participation both in number and role in the negotiation teams

-work to create links between forums and processes and the negotiation teams to enable women to feed directly into the negotiations

-work to prevent sexual- and gender-based violence, to promote this issue to be included on the ceasefire violations list, and as an item to be monitored

and finally, we will

-use the window for political initiatives which is still there to obtain results on these important issues.

Thank you for your kind attention.