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Women’s leadership and gender perspectives on preventing violent extremism

Statement by Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide at High-level Group of Friends Meeting on Women’s leadership and gender perspectives on preventing violent extremism, 1 March 2019.

Welcome to the second High-level Group of Friends meeting. 

I would like to thank our co-host and partner from Jordan (Ambassador Sima Bahous) and give a special welcome to Secretary-General Guterres.

Let me also extend a warm welcome to member states, and to Sanam Anderlini and the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN).  

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A few weeks ago, I launched Norway’s fourth National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, together with four other ministers.

The launch took place at the Norwegian Nobel Center, and there was a long queue to get in. The room was packed, and people were even standing at the back. (Sanam, who was there, can confirm this).

The high turnout showed that the topic is one close to our hearts.  

And so it should be. Because we know that women’s participation increases the quality and sustainability of peace agreements. We know it leads to longer-lasting peace.

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However, we still do not know nearly enough about the roles women can play in preventing violent extremism, or the fate of women and children affected by extremism and terrorism.

These are issues countries all over the world will be faced with in the years to come, as the news headlines remind us almost every day.

The joint report by UNDP and ICAN, The Invisible Women, provides an excellent starting point for our discussion here today.

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Gender roles are now increasingly taken into account when discussing ideologies, recruitment to violent extremism, and preventive measures.

In recent years, several violent extremist groups have made it part of their strategy to attack women’s rights.

They have used human trafficking and sexual violence to this end, and have often targeted ethnic and religious minorities.

Despite these violations, extremist groups continue to recruit women to their ranks. Women in these groups are known to radicalise others or commit violence themselves.

We must acknowledge the diverse range of roles played by women.

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It is no coincidence that societies that have low levels of gender equality are particularly vulnerable to violent extremism.

As shown by the women, peace and security agenda: building understanding of the role women can play to build resistance and resilience against violent extremism can make a real difference.

If women are not included in our work, we lose a vital resource. 

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In 2015, ICAN approached us with a proposal to bring women-led organisations around the world together in a common endeavour to prevent violent extremism and promote peace.

A global network, the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), was launched in Oslo the same year.

It has become a success. Today, 60 member organisations in over 30 countries, from Indonesia to Yemen, are pushing this agenda forward.

One example of ICAN’s positive results comes from Northeast Nigeria, where educator Hamsatu Allamin has provided effective counter-narratives to Boko Haram, resulting in a 40 % increase in school enrolment for both girls and boys in the region.

I am impressed by your work, which clearly shows the importance of gender perspectives if we are to ensure effective de-radicalisation, reintegration and reconciliation.

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Gender perspectives should be included in all our peace and security efforts, regardless of the causes of the conflict or the tactics of war. 

Respect for human rights and the involvement of civil society are essential.

Our efforts to address the threat posed by violent extremism will be more effective in the long run and will have greater legitimacy if we include gender perspectives, respect human rights, and engage civil society.

There has never been a greater need for evidence-based gender analysis than there is now.

Let us keep up the momentum and ensure that women’s voices are heard as we seek to address the root causes of violent extremism.

Thank you.