Check against delivery.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends.
I am honored to be here with you today, at an event hosted by South Africa, with whom we have a longstanding partnership for Women, Peace and Security.
It was South Africa’s efforts to create a network of women mediators that inspired the Nordic countries to establish a Nordic network of women mediators in Oslo in 2015.
The African Union, the Mediterranean countries, the Commonwealth and ASEAN have all followed suit, establishing regional networks and registers of women mediators. It has become an unstoppable movement.
More than 100 countries are represented in these networks. It is our hope that other regions; Asia, the Americas, Oceania, and other European countries will be inspired to join.
The networks members are presidents, politicians, diplomats, civil society leaders, experts and mediators. They have extensive experience in the field of conflict resolution, peace processes and reconciliation. And they make it impossible to claim that it is too difficult to find qualified women.
They provide visibility for women. But they also push for other women’s participation and influence in peace processes, and a gendered approach to conflict resolution and peace building.
The networks are now joining forces. Representatives of the various regional networks and mediation actors met for the first time in Oslo a year ago. Then again in New York in October. A contact group has been established to facilitate information sharing and common strategizing. The contact group will meet in Rome next month. We are looking to launch a global alliance of the networks in New York this fall.
It all started in South Africa, and the networks have become a force to be reconed with. Already an important building block in Norway’s efforts to promote women’s participation and gender in peace and reconciliation.
Let me also recognize Namibia’s leadership in this field. From the Windhoek declaration that created part of the backdrop for Security Council resolution 1325, to Namibia’s present leadership of the network of National Focal Points for Women, Peace and Security, Namibia has shown commitment to this agenda.
We have partnered with Namibia on Women, Peace and Security for many years, and our deputy minister is looking forward to attending the meeting for National Focal Points in Namibia in April.
We will see little progress without the political will of the UN member states. The Focal Points network drives us forward and keeps us accountable.
And so does this event, that connects the dots between women, peace and security and inclusive, stable societies that cater to its population’s rights and needs.
These are dots that need connecting.
Because it is difficult to lead with no education.
It is hard to make a difference where legal obstacles bar the way for participation.
It is challenging to take up office when harassment is widespread.
Dangerous to engage in peacebuilding where violence and abuse are on the increase.
Mind you, countless women do just that.
With confidence and expertise, they lead efforts for peace and reconciliation that have great impact on women and men alike. Despite the many obstacles they face, and their dire circumstances.
But surely, the fact that some are braver and stronger than most, should not deter us from doing our part.
If we want women to participate in peace and security efforts on an equal footing with men, we must do more than encourage them to take part. We must do our utmost to get rid of the barriers that make participation so hard and so costly.
This means amongst other things that we must address power relations and gender stereotypes. It means that men must take responsibility too, to engage women and raise issues related to gender. And it means that we must retain the same focus on women’s participation and rights in our support to the implementation of peace agreements as in the negotiation phase.
With Norway’s new national action plan for women, peace and security, we commit to supporting the parties’ and civil society’s efforts to promote women’s representation in constitutional committees and security sector reform, in transitional justice and peace monitoring missions.
We will highlight the gender perspective in disarmement, demobilization and reintegration.
And work to ensure that cease fire and peace agreements are implemented in such a way that it benefits both women and men, girls and boys.
It also means that we need to do in conflict contexts what we do elsewhere. Because whatever is hard in times of peace, is made worse when crises hit.
With our new national action plan we commit to following up our foreign and development ambitions for gender equality in countries in conflict and post conflict. Not only because it is right – but also because it is a means to strengthen conflict prevention and resolution, building peace.
We will support girls’ education.
And make schools safe. Because education enables the next generation of girls to make an even greater impact.
Education builds confidence as well as competence, and sets the positive spiral in motion: decreasing child marriage rates, enables improved health, economic opportunities for women and in turn, better lives for their children.
Support women’s political empowerment.
Because women’s role before a conflict affects women’s engagement in peace and security matters during a crisis.
If women are on key committees, take part in decision making in times of peace, women are more likely to have political access in times of conflict. And working for women’s political participation is part of reconstruction efforts after conflict. Inherent in a successful implementation of a peace accord and the building of sustainable peace.
Including women is cost beneficial - in that you utilize an untapped source of human capital within the nation. Inclusion of women in peace is comparable to inclusion of women in the workforce.
Norway has experienced itself that the inclusion of women in the workforce makes sense in a very measurable way. Studies have shown that the participation of women in the work force is a more important factor in our economy than our oil and gas revenues.
And this is not unique to Norway. The IMF has found that eliminating the gap between male and female participation in the economy leads to big jumps in income per capita. For South Asia, for instance, the potential increase is estimated at 23 %. If only women have the opportunity to contribute.
This is one of the reasons why inclusive peace processes is a key priority in Norwegian peace diplomacy.
Work for women’s economic participation.
Because it is essential for economic growth and inclusive development. Important in a fragile situation where tension is growing. And in post conflict situations.
Women’s economic empowerment affects self-confidence, gives leverage and power.
It is part of what we need to focus on also in the reintegration of women ex-combattants.
Fight violence and harmful practices.
Unfortunately, women’s security is often threatened even before a conflict erupts.
Sexual and gender-based violence increases when tension rises.
Conflict-related sexual violence is endemic in many conflicts. Child marriages and forced marriages tend to increase in crises, often resulting from desparation and fear.
Women peacebuilders are under great pressure. We hear testimonies from women in Colombia, Egypt, Yemen. Violence against these women is a threat to the women themselves, and to peace.
If ever we needed to fight violence against women and harmful practices, it is in times of conflict and crises.
Defend, protect and promote women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The need for sexual and reproductive health services often increase during times of war, amongst other due to abuse. Yet, at the same time, such services are less available.
Menstruating girls and women, pregnant women, pregnant girls, newborn babies and their mothers, violated women and men, boys and girls. They all need medical care, their rights must be protected, their needs met. We have made that our priority.
Our work for women’s rights and gender equality and our longterm development partnerships
are both the platform we build on in many of our peace and security efforts, and part of what our peace and security efforts are to enable.
It relates to both conflict prevention and resoultion. Sustaining peace.