I want to thank Gabon for organizing this timely debate – and the Deputy Secretary-General, Executive Director Bahous, Special Envoy Bineta Diop, and Ms. Zahra Nader for providing the necessary context for our discussions.
Thanks to commitment and hard work within the Security Council, the General Assembly, and other UN bodies, the norms for protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls have gradually been strengthened.
Yet, the daily lived experiences of women and girls- and the human rights defenders who defend their rights- has been rapidly deteriorating in many countries. This mismatch between words and reality should concern us all. We must all act in partnership to break this vicious cycle.
We fully support the theme for this year’s annual debate, and would like to share some of Norway’s experiences:
Where we engage in support of peace processes, Norway always advocates for the formal inclusion of women- in all their diversity. Yet, we also know that the conversations that advance peace and security processes often happen in informal spaces. There, the leadership of local and regional women mediators, peacebuilders, and human rights defenders, is vital.
One such example is the persistent engagement by local women in Yemen, where Ms. Ola al-Aghbari- a mediator from Sheba Youth Foundation who briefed the Council in January- managed to restore water reservoirs for the citizens of Taiz, after several districts had been cut off by armed groups for years.
And we hear your call, Zahra. And we have made the devastating human rights situation for Afghan women and girls the core of our messaging to the Taliban. Many Afghan women continue to ask the international community to create a platform for them to engage directly with the Taliban. We will continue to look for safe spaces for them to do so.
In Colombia, in partnership with UN Women, we have long supported women’s organizations in strengthening the implementation of the gender provisions in the peace agreement. And their advocacy must have left a mark: the unique needs and priorities of women human rights defenders are at the centre of the government's new Emergency Protection Plan.
In Somalia, women and girls bear the brunt of the perils of insecurity, exclusion, poverty, drought, and a devastating humanitarian crisis. Yet, they remain largely underrepresented in formal and informal decision-making bodies. Here, Norway is working for a stronger role for Somali women in peace and reconciliation.
And in Syria, Norway is actively supporting the Syrian Women Advisory Board, who advise the UN Special Envoy on the political process- including the work of the Syrian constitutional committee.
We also support the work of women in the Monitoring Committee of the Peace Agreement in Mali. They continue to remind the parties of the need to prioritise peace dividends, and the return of basic social services; they are also mobilizing broad support for the peace agreement in their constituencies.
Regrettably, women in public life are often targeted as a strategy to silence, humiliate, and discredit them- including through sexual violence and threats. However, the risk of threats and violence should not be used as a pretext to deny women their right to participate. We support the development and implementation of national action plans on Women Peace and Security, because the commitment of States is key both in prevention and accountability.
Norway commends the many good examples and recommendations in the Secretary-General’s report on how women’s protection and participation can be enhanced. In particular, we applaud the call for a more coordinated and systematic approach to support women human rights defenders.
In January, OHCHR, UN Women, and the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security facilitated consultations with more than 40 civil society representatives and experts on reprisals against women human rights defenders in conflict-affected areas. I encourage everyone to read the summary report and to engage in follow up on their recommendations.
I want to encourage both present and future Security Council members to join the Shared Commitments on Women, Peace, and Security. It is important to maintain this cross-regional initiative. One which has created a significant shift in the systematic implementation of:
WPS in the Council’s own work; and support to women peacebuilders and human right defenders safely engaging with the UN.