Norway is pleased to be co-sponsoring this very timely event, which is being held in response to the urgent call to action from women human rights defenders – and from all those who depend on their tireless work.
I would like to start by conveying my deep respect for you all, and for the women human rights defenders who sometimes literally stand on the front line, fighting for the human rights and fundamental freedoms to which we are all entitled.
Women human rights defenders risk violence, prejudice and exclusion for their courageous work.
They are often more exposed to attack than their male counterparts, especially in cases where their work involves playing roles that are not culturally acceptable for women.
We are in great debt to you. We need women human rights defenders if we are to correctly assess the situation of the whole population, and tap into the expertise and resources of all members of society.
Women human rights defenders may also represent vulnerable and marginalised groups, in which case they give a voice to the groups and individuals that would otherwise be at risk of being left behind.
The oppression of human rights defenders, whether male or female, is a threat to our overall enjoyment of our human rights. It is also a threat to peace and security.
We know that an inclusive peace process has greater credibility and legitimacy, and that this enhances the sustainability of its outcome. Inclusive peacebuilding is key to lasting peace.
The most logical way of ensuring that our peace and security efforts include women is to support the women who are already playing a role in this area. The very least we can do is ensure that we are not in their way; that they are free and safe to fight for universal rights, and to build peace.
Creating a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders is therefore a high priority for Norway.
Under our leadership, the General Assembly adopted the first ever resolution on protecting women human rights defenders in 2013. It gives a clear message that violence against women human rights defenders is unacceptable, as are oppression or criminalisation of them.
The resolution has played an important role in promoting better protection for women human rights defenders, including in conflict and post-conflict situations. But there is still much more that can be done by states and other stakeholders to support their work.
Norway recently launched its fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. It specifically highlights the need to monitor the situation of women human rights defenders, and to support their work politically and financially.
And I can assure you that we will. Our new plan sets even higher goals for our work with human rights defenders than the previous plan.
Please keep us informed about the challenges I am certain that you will encounter in the time ahead, but also about all your achievements, of which I am sure there will be many.