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Oberservance of the International Women's Day
New York, 8 March 2002

Mr. Secretary-General, Your Majesty, Mrs. Laura Bush, Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

If there is no security for women, there is no security.

This simple fact has many implications for how to effectively achieve peace and security. Finding ways to address them requires knowledge, political will and teamwork. The Security Council stands ready to strengthen its cooperation with other relevant actors to promote and facilitate gender mainstreaming into efforts for conflict prevention, resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation. I therefore welcome the invitation to participate in the UN observance of the International Women's Day in my capacity as President of the Security Council.

The Security Council has increasingly recognized the connection between gender equality and peace. The work of Ms. Angela King and her colleagues in the Secretariat - and I must also mention Ms. Noeleen Heyzer and her team at UNIFEM has been invaluable in this respect. The engagement and inputs from nongoverrunental organizations have also contributed substantially to this positive development.

The landmark Security Council resolution 1325 of October 2000 laid the basis for increased efforts towards ensuring the full and equal participation of women at all levels of decision-making and in the implementation of peace processes, including conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. The most recent Presidential Statement on the issue from October last year also welcomed the Secretary-General's proposal to strengthen the Department of Peacekeeping Operations by appointing gender advisers at a senior level. Resolution 1325 can make a difference. But only if we translate its recommendations into concrete action.

Progress has been made. A UN Inter Agency Task Force on Women, Peace and Security has been established and a system wide implementation plan developed. The Department on Peacekeeping Operation's work on gender mainstreaming is yielding results. Several recent peacekeeping operations include a gender component. Peacekeeping personnel are trained in gender sensitivity. Attention is being paid to the need for more women as military observers and civil police. In a few months, the comprehensive studies now underway on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building, and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution will be presented. This will provide the Council with an opportunity to make further progress in incorporating the role and needs of women into its activities.

While progress has been made, much remains to be done. I can think of no better example of the magnitude and urgency of the challenges ahead than the situation for women in Afghanistan.

Afghan women have high hopes and expectations for the future and represent a tremendous resource for Afghanistan. The participation of Afghan women in the Bonn negotiations, the Afghanistan Interim Administration and the recovery and reconstruction activities in Afghanistan is an inspiring example, and serves to underline the need to strengthen representation and participation of women in decision making for peace and security.

The Security Council has expressed its strong support for the Afghan people and for the establishment of a transitional administration that will lead to the formation of a broad-based, multi-ethnic Government fully representative of the whole Afghan people. It should respect human rights regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. The Council has underlined the clear need for the participation of Afghan women in all these efforts. It has been suggested that the UN could play a leading role by appointing women in higher categories among its staff in Afghanistan. The Council is also committed to providing security in Afghanistan in addition to supporting the political process. The Council's authorization of the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan was a vital step in this process.

Another example of the often precarious situation for women and girls is the recent shocking reports of sexual violence and the exploitation of refugee children in West Africa. I trust the appropriate UN institutions, in particular the UNHCR, is pursuing this matter with the required urgency. Avoiding such abhorrent breaches of the rights of women and girls requires that the needs of civilians be mainstreamed into our day-to-day activities. The Security Council is currently engaged in developing an aidememoire on issues pertaining to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. A separate section on the effects of armed conflict on women is being included in this document. It is also significant that this afternoon, for the first time, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, will address an Arria meeting of the Security Council.

The Security Council will continue to address the needs and participation of women in its efforts to support peace and security in Afghanistan and in other conflicts on the Council's agenda.

Mr. Moderator,
Let me add a few words in my national capacity. Norway is currently chairing the Afghanistan Support Group. The ASG is an informal group of donor countries, which was established in 1979 to contribute to reconciliation, social and economic development, and sustainable peace and progress in Afghanistan.

One of the ASG's priorities is to ensure peace and respect for human rights. This includes making substantial advances in women's rights and is based on the Bonn agreement. It is very important, however, that the ownership of the process must rest with the Afghan people. A safe environment for all Afghans, free from violence, discrimination and abuse, is a precondition for a viable and sustainable recovery and reconstruction process. The ASG strives to promote the best possible coordination of donor approaches and policies so as to maximize the impact of aid. In this connection the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan needs particular attention.

Finally, I would like to inform you that an Expert Seminar on "Improving the Security of Refugee and Displaced Women" was held in Oslo in January this year. You will find a summary of the findings and recommendations from the seminar at the back of the room.