This statement was delivered in writing.
I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and my own country, Sweden.
Repeated attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, a growing number of reports of sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances and reported massacres.
The list of unfolding horrors in Ukraine, many of which may amount to war crimes, goes on and it is reminding us of some of the worst atrocities in history. We condemn Russia’s unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful aggression in the strongest possible terms and demand Russia to immediately stop its aggression and withdraw all forces. We also strongly condemn the active involvement of Belarus in this aggression against Ukraine. We call for accountability and stand with the Ukrainian people and all actors inside and outside of Ukraine who are standing up against this injustice and promoting peace.
We commend and thank Albania, the US and the UK for making today’s crucial meeting possible.
What is happening today in Ukraine is having immediate impact on the lives of millions and is going to have a long-term, structural impact on Ukraine, the region and globally. Who is represented and what is discussed in peace, political and humanitarian decisions and responses will play a key role in determining whether the invasion’s vast gender implications are taken into account.
Today’s meeting provides an important reminder to the international community that Women, Peace and Security and gender equality are integral to all analyses, responses and decisions in relation to Russia’s aggression. Women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes is a matter of rights, but also a prerequisite for sustainable and legitimate processes. In addition, the inclusion of gender and intersectional perspectives is a must for identifying and addressing the needs of different groups.
Let me stress four points:
One, we must defend civic space. Civil society actors are leading key efforts on the frontline – responding to protection needs, monitoring the situation and providing peacebuilding and humanitarian support. Their voices are essential and must feed into policy and decision-making. Yet, their work comes at a great risk. We – Member States and the UN – have a responsibility to support an enabling environment, offer spaces to be heard by policymakers, prevent and address reprisals and provide adequate, rapid and flexible funding, in particular to organizations focusing on women’s full enjoyment of human rights.
Two, accountability must start now. Not later. It starts with gender-responsive monitoring and investigations of the alarming testimonies of SGBV, including allegations of rape, and the indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals, which may amount to war crimes. It starts with ensuring immediate survivor-centred support, access to rights and services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Nordic countries are taking action in support of investigative measures, for example, through financial support and seconded personnel to the ICC.
Three, we need to focus on the link between participation and protection. Promoting women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in peace and political processes requires support to safe and enabling environments. In addition, if we are to create effective protection mechanisms, this cannot be developed without the inputs from affected communities, not least diverse women and LGBTQI+ human rights defenders and peacebuilders. The diverse knowledge and experience of women politicians, civil society leaders, activists, peacebuilders and human rights defenders already active in policymaking at all levels within Ukraine's society, and not least working with conflict-related issues since 2014, is a considerable resource.
Finally, we must be able to address both immediate and long-term issues simultaneously. The international community must have the readiness to address both the humanitarian and refugee crises while providing support to long-term peacebuilding efforts. Gender and women, peace and security-related issues must be integrated throughout. The millions of children that are internally displaced or forced to flee Ukraine are particularly vulnerable and facing a crisis that could last for generations. Their homes, schools and medical facilities have been destroyed. Immediate and long-term support – and the bridge in between – will be particularly essential for their protection, psychosocial and educational needs.