CSW60: Understanding and Countering Violent Extremism

Statement by State Secretary Tone Skogen at a CSW60 side-event on Gender Sensitive Understanding and Women's Roles in Violent Extremism, 17 March 2016.

| Commission on the Status of Women

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Three high-level reviews of the UN's peace and security efforts have pointed to the need to do more and better to prevent conflicts. The international community is now working to ensure that this results in concrete action.

We have not found all the answers yet. But, one thing is blatantly clear: any strategy to prevent conflict must include women's participation and a gender perspective.

Violent extremism is a threat to individual women's lives and safety. It is a threat to women's rights in general. And it is a threat to peaceful societies and sustainable development for all.

Women are not the only victims of violent extremism, but they are certainly hit very hard. In many cases, women and women's rights are specifically targeted.

We have been shocked and deeply moved by the fate of individual women and girls. But the consequences extend beyond their individual suffering. Without the participation of women, our societies will not prosper. When women are barred from participating in political processes, even denied their right to education, this affects our societies – not only today, but also in the future.

At the same time, extremist groups aren't just attacking women's rights, they are also recruiting women. We need a thorough gender analysis of these developments. As we understand more, we will be able to identify more effective solutions.

It is high time that we took a gender perspective on preventing and countering violent extremism. And this must include looking more closely at the role of men and masculinity.

Women have a role to play in countering extremism through influencing their families. But this is just one way in which women can make a difference. Women's empowerment is pivotal to our efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism. This means opportunities for economic and political participation, changes in legal frameworks, and support for women human rights defenders.

We must mobilise action – not only against extremists, but also against traditionalists and conservatives who are unwilling to accord women their rightful place.

We must mobilise for solidarity and peace; we must work tirelessly to ensure that young women and men can be confident that they have a future.

The visions of women are often different to those of men, and can offer alternatives to extremism and violence.

These must be heard, which is why we are supporting the work of various women's organisations. One of them is the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) and its project Women Promoting Rights, Peace and Security.

Women have to be key partners if we are to counter violent extremism. Women have a central role to play in building an alternative movement of peace.

This is why Norway wants women's perspectives to inform our policies. We are funding the Women's Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), a new alliance of women's organisations against violent extremism. These women are experts. They have networks and insights that will help us understand extremism, and make us more effective in our work to prevent and counter extremism.

WASL is not only doing great work in the field. It is also facilitating the flow of information from international processes to the grassroots level and vice versa. This is absolutely essential if we are to be coherent and consistent in our approach.

Many of the groups we are supporting are working on the frontlines; they have no exit strategy. They are committed to promoting peace and pluralism because the alternative is an existential threat to them.

We must make sure that in supporting them we are not exposing them further, and thus making them more vulnerable. As we involve women in conflict solution and peace building, we must consider carefully what risks they are running and how we can address these risks.

We need the involvement of women to help resolve conflicts in the short run. And we need women advocates in the long run if we are to take a more diversified approach to preventing extremism.

Thank you.