Swedish statement at the UN Security Council Debate on Afghanistan
National Statement delivered by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden Annika Söder on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Debate on Afghanistan, 8 March 2018, New York.
Thank you for giving me the floor and let me also thank you for convening today's briefing on Afghanistan, with its focus on women, peace and security. The correlation between gender equality and peaceful societies is clear. Afghanistan will not achieve the peace and development that its people so strongly desire without unleashing and embracing the agency of Afghan women.
I align myself with the statement to be made later on behalf the European Union and its member states. I would also like to thank Special Representative Yamamoto for his comprehensive briefing; as well as the important interventions by Dr Sarabi and Ms Safi.
While there have been genuine improvements in women's enjoyment of their human rights over the past 15 years, more is needed, as Afghan women continue to seek to play their role in Afghan society.
And this is a particularly critical moment for women's participation in shaping the future of Afghanistan.
As the country prepares for elections in 2018 and 2019, we expect the government and electoral management bodies to take all necessary steps to develop and implement gender-sensitive security and election plans to enable an environment in which both women and men can safely run for elected office, campaign freely, and vote, not least in remote and rural districts.
The government's continued efforts to realise its vision for peace are essential. Violence from terrorism must be stopped. We commend the hosting of the second meeting of the Kabul process last week. During the meeting the government presented a constructive roadmap for peace. We call on the Taliban to engage in a dialogue on the roadmap. In order to ensure the legitimacy of the peace process, it must be inclusive and uphold achievments made. And, regional actors are expected to make their contribution for peace – which is decisive in fighting terrorism and breaking the vicious circle.
In each of our meetings we must reflect on how the women, peace and security agenda translates into real change. Built on the knowledge that the slogan "more women, more peace" is certainly true. On the basis of our Feminist Forign Policy principles of the "four R:s" – rights, representation, resources and 'reality check', I want to highlight four areas where increased efforts could make a real difference for Afghan women.
Firstly, safe access to health care and education remains essential to furthering women's empowerment. Women and children continue to suffer disproportionally from the persistent high levels of violence in Afghanistan, and amount to almost half of reported civilian casualties. In this area, the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan has over the past 35 years carried out tremendous work delivering health and education services.
Secondly, invest in women. Afghanistan is one of only two countries in South Asia with a National Action Plan for women, peace and security. Providing adequate human and financial resources for its implementation will enhance women's agency and their enjoyment of human rights.
Thirdly, violence against Afghan women and girls is a grave violation of their human rights and must be ended.
It also undermines women's and girl's full participation in society and negatively impacts on families, communities and national development. We welcome the Afghan government's efforts to prevent violence against womenand to amend the penal code in this regard. Sweden supports Women for Afghan Women, a commendable organisation working to build a national protection and prevention system for gender based violence with shelters, family counselling and mediation.
Fourthly, women should be present across the whole of Afghan society. We welcome improved gender equality in business, civil society and the civil service. The notable increase of female participation in the Afghan National Police and Army, and the judiciary is encouraging. Women should never have to fear making their contribution to society. The new anti-harassment law is an important step towards improved conditions for women in the workplace.
Today's briefers, Dr Sarabi and Ms Safi, have devoted much of their professional lives to women's participation. They have demonstrated that Afghanistan does not lack strong female leaders; yet they are not often enough at the table when decisions about peace and security are being made.
Sweden will continue our dialogue and mediation training of local female actors to build their capacity to lead in local peace and reconciliation efforts.
We welcome the adoption of a renewed UNAMA mandate and that women, peace and security is mainstreamed as a cross-cutting issue. We commend the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as penholders, for the constructive manner in which they conducted the negotiations.
UNAMA plays a critical role in support of national efforts towards a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. Its continued support to national efforts to integrate women into the political, economic and social life of Afghanistan is of particular importance; as is its support for the full implementation of Afghanistan's 1325 National Action Plan.
The renewed mandate of UNAMA must now be backed up with adequate and sustainable resources for the mission to fulfil its mandate. This Council must continue to support UNAMA as it carries out its work.
After years of conflict and violence, Afghanistan has reached yet another milestone. Elections are around the corner and the outlines of a path to peace are on the table. The potential for peace must be fully realised with the meaningful participation of Afghan women. We will do all we can to continue to support them to play their role.