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Swedish Statement at the UN Security Council Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security
National statement delivered by Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström on behalf of Sweden at the United Nations Security Council Open Debate on Women Peace and Security: Promoting Implementation of the WPS Agenda and Sustaining Peace through Women's Political and Economic Empowerment, 25 October 2018, New York.
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, dear colleagues and friends,
Maybe you know that when the formal peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) opened in Havana, Cuba in November 2012, only one of the 20 negotiators around the table was a woman. A year later, civil society leaders organized a first-ever National Summit of Women and Peace and out of that summit came a clear demand for an inclusive peace process. Two years later women comprised 20 % of the government’s negotiating team and 43 % of the FARC delegates.
So, what happened? By organizing themselves, these women contributed in crucial ways to the peacemaking effort, including by broadening the agenda. Women addressed some of the primary grievances of affected communities such as land restitution and the right to justice and reparation for victims. Women furthermore negotiated local cease-fires, and thereby improved the local security situations in towns and villages across the country.
In addition, because of demands by female negotiators and civil society, FARC undertook several confidence-building measures, such as an apology process and the release of child soldiers, which allowed the process to continue. This increased accountability. Finally, women built coalitions and rallied public support in favor of the peace talks. By repairing relations in communities affected by the conflict, women and civil society laid the groundwork for peace-building efforts necessary for the agreement’s long-term success.
The peace agreement in Colombia is a model when it comes to inclusion. Women were key for success in the peace process, and their continued involvement will be key in the implementation of the peace process and for consolidating the peace.
Mr President and Mr Secretary General,
Thank you very much for your report, Secretary General. I think it made chilling reading partly, but it was also an enormous challenge put on us. I also thank you for your “to do list” that you presented here - the things to do for the UN system but also for us as Member States. I really hope that we will all bring it with us back home and start to implement it.
We welcome the focus on participation in this year’s debate, and wish to thank Bolivia for putting emphasis on political inclusion and economic recovery. We also thank Randa Siniora Atallah, the Executive Director of UNWOMEN, and the Secretary General for all their valuable input.
Participation is not about counting heads but about having influence. About being recognized as party to the peace. About making sure that women’s and men’s situations are taken into consideration when making plans for the economy, for the infrastructure, for the justice system.
This is evident in the Sahel, where decreasing livelihood opportunities are directly linked to the risk of conflict, and women play a role as agents of change. I had the pleasure of visiting this region this summer together with distinguished colleagues from the UN and the African Union.
As you have heard already: in the Lake Chad region, where people are facing a food and nutrition crisis, we heard how the shrinking lake and growing insecurity have had severe consequences for people who traditionally have sustained themselves by fishing activities. The fisher women we met in the village of Bol told us that they wished for only three things: bigger boats, better nets – and to not get raped.
Many of the women and girls we met had suffered from violence and inequalities, and are now seeking to use their experiences to transform societies and structures. We were encouraged to see that women were coming together in networks to address the challenges they face, including sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to basic social services.
The role women have played and continue to play in Colombia and the Sahel respectively demonstrate the very apparent need for including women in all aspects of decision-making, and how this in turn leads to more sustainable peace.
That is why we, as a member of this council, have consistently asked - where are the women? We will only ever be effective if we translate the women, peace and security agenda into concrete action and tailor responses to the specific situations on our agenda.
This has yielded results: All political and peacekeeping missions now have a Women, Peace and Security mandate. Discussions in the council are better informed, mandates are more precise, decisions are more inclusive and the number of CSO-briefers has increased considerably, leading to better input. In July, for the first time - but hopefully not the last – there was gender parity among briefers to the council.
However, agreements in the Security Council or advancements in our work do not automatically translate into changed realities on the ground. There needs to be a shift in mentality, a shift in analysis, and a shift in action.
First of all, making tangible progress requires ownership and accountability at the highest levels of leadership in the UN system as well as among us Member States. In the UN, Special Representatives and Special Envoys should be measured on how they implement and deliver on women, peace and security.
Second, the agenda must be taken seriously in the field. Senior gender expertise in political and peacekeeping mission should be strategically positioned.
Third, A gender dimension need always be taken into account throughout strategic planning processes in conflict contexts, and never become an add-on or an afterthought. Such approaches must permeate all sectors, whether military, police or civilian.
Fourth, missions must also step up efforts to engage with civil society, not least women’s organizations.
Fifth, we need better analysis. Conflict analysis that inform decision making must include gender equality. Much work remains to make women’s and men’s situation visible in each setting. Gender disaggregated data in reporting from the field should be a minimum, including in the reports to this council.
Sixth, and last, peacekeeping and political mission budgets must be gender responsive. We have shared more detailed recommendations on all of these aspects with the Secretary General.
We still witness too many peace processes where the absence of women is apparent. This should no longer be accepted. I have realized that there are four myths on gender in peace mediation that we need to dispel once and for all.
The first myth is that there are distinct ‘women’s issues’. While conflict affects women and men differently, that does not mean that certain topics are relevant for one gender only.
The second myth is that peace process starts at the negotiating table. Women are usually invited when formal talks are already convened, long after pre-negotiations, consultations and agenda-setting have already started. In the earlier phases, a broad range of perspectives about the drivers of conflict and peace are most needed.
The third myth is that mediation is “political magic in smoky rooms”, or as somebody said “men in fancy hotels”. Mediation is not some political game played by charismatic, mysterious personalities. Such narrow view of mediation risk closing the door to many skillful women.
A group of people that challenge this myth are in the audience today: the representatives from five regional women mediator’s networks. They bring incredible experiences as negotiators, mediators, political decision makers, civil society leaders and experts and must be recognized and drawn upon by the UN and member states.
The fourth myth is that we need more evidence. Women frequently need to justify their participation by presenting evidence of the benefits of women’s participation. Male counterparts never have to do that. Women should be able to participate simply because it is their right.
I believe that inclusion of women mediators form all around the world will change the dynamics of peace processes.
Finally Mr president,
No woman needs to be “given a voice”. Everyone has a voice. What is needed is more listening. Sweden had the pleasure of hosting the first ever multi stakeholder Forum on WPS earlier this week, where security council members had the opportunity to listen to more than 50 civil society representatives. Among the many themes that were raised, representatives from civil society stressed the need for addressing root causes, investing in protection of human rights defenders, and addressing gender equality within economic recovery efforts. They also called on the Security Council to act as a role model, and as an “influencer” within the system.
Empowering women and increasing women’s political participation is one of the most effective tools for advancing global peace and security. It’s also a prerequisite for preventing sexual and gender based violence, which sadly still affects an appalling number of women every day. We salute the heroic efforts of Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege, the winners of the Nobel Peace prize 2018, who treat, speak up for, and seek justice for women who fall victim to such violence. Their work, as well as the work of thousands of activists, peacebuilders and women human rights defenders around the world should be an inspiration to us all.
In conclusion, let me pose a challenge to all of you ahead of 2020. In two years’ time, Security Council Resolution 1325 will turn 20. By then, we need to ensure that the commitments we have made matter. Let us collectively pledge – politically and financially - to ensure that the agenda becomes a priority and a reality.
I thank you for your attention.