Welcoming Remarks by Mr. Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs
At the international conference on “Women, Peace and Security – the Afghan view”
11 November 2010, Tallinn
Ladies and gentlemen,
First I would like to thank the organisers for bringing together such a distinguished audience in order to discuss the future steps in addressing women, peace and security. The question of the role of women in conflicts has always existed, but only ten years ago was a special resolution on this issue adopted at the international level.
It was the United Nations Security Council’s unique resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security that for the first time recognised women’s role in ensuring peace and security and turned attention to the disproportionate effect conflicts have on women. Today, ten years later, the further implementation of the principles enshrined in this historic resolution remains a challenge in many parts of the world.
However, the tenth anniversary has generated, in addition to high-level political attention, a number of commitments by the United Nations, regional organisations and individual states. During the recent “1325 Call to Action Meeting”, and the UN Security Council’s debate at the end of October, governments from every corner of the world demonstrated their support and conviction that women have a central role to play in achieving a durable peace in conflict regions. It gives hope that our renewed commitment will help to further enhance women's participation and influence in conflict prevention, management and resolution.
I am pleased to observe that our commitments are increasingly being translated into concrete actions on all levels. The United Nations Security Council has lately given its support to taking forward a comprehensive set of indicators aimed at tracking the implementation of the resolution and developing a single coherent framework for action. The European Union and NATO have adopted concrete policies and operational guides to incorporate the gender perspective into their activities.
Although only about 20 countries have adopted a national action plan for the implementation of resolution 1325 thus far, the number is constantly growing. It is important to ensure that all actors, including individual states are accountable for their commitments on women, peace and security.
Estonia as an active contributor to international peace and security has recently (21.10) adopted its national action plan for 2010-2014, which includes the commitments regarding the implementation of 1325 and its follow-up resolutions. The action plan is based on the recognition that women affected by conflicts and post-conflicts should be an inseparable part of our conflict management and peace-building efforts.
The plan includes further measures to increase awareness and knowledge of the gender perspective and women’s needs in conflict resolution. It also expands the possibilities for women’s participation in international missions and aims to increase the number of women in posts related to the promotion of peace and security.
Moreover, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls remains one of the priorities of Estonia’s development cooperation, as well as our humanitarian and human rights activities. This is reflected in our contributions to international programs and funds, including UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA, as well as in our bilateral development co-operation projects, particularly in Afghanistan, which is one of our priority countries in the field of development co-operation.
We have, for example, provided first aid training for local women in the southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province. We have supported the local hospital by supplying essential medical equipment and provided training for midwives. An Estonian health care expert continues to work in the region in order to coordinate our assistance.
These activities form a part of our efforts to prepare Afghan society for taking full responsibility for shaping the future of their nation. Estonia supports the transition process, including the gradual transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghan authorities. It is important to ensure that the rights of women and girls are upheld during the transition process as well.
The international actors are increasingly including the gender perspective in their activities in support of peace, security and development. ISAF gender advisers, female engagement teams, and projects in support of women’s access to education and health are just a few examples that illustrate this focus.
In terms of the overall situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, there have been some significant gains during the past years. This includes the incorporation of a provision on gender equality into the Constitution, women’s right to vote and their representation in parliament, and the increase in the number of girls enrolled in schools. Afghan women leaders and women’s organisations are increasingly engaged in peace and security related discussions. Outside the meeting rooms, women liaise across ethnic lines, working hard to make everyday life possible.
History is full of examples of what women’s actions can achieve in all domains, including peace and security. There were thousands of women in the medical service during Estonia’s fight for independence from 1918-1920 and women were at the forefront in founding the Estonian Red Cross in 1919.
After the newly won independence, a women’s voluntary movement – the Defence League’s women’s corps (Naiskodukaitse) -- was established to defend the independence of our country and ensure the safety of its citizens. The Finnish voluntary paramilitary organisation for women -- Lotta Svärd – was the model for the creation of this organisation, and during the following years a close bridge was established between these sisters over the Gulf of Finland. The ideas of the Women’s Defence League were strong enough to survive years in exile, and today the regional corps are functioning in all Estonian counties.
The activities of these organisations remind us how important it is to promote networking between women and girls not only within the countries, but more broadly. This is also the reasoning behind paying special attention to the participation of women’s NGOs in policy-making and peace processes in Estonia’s development cooperation and humanitarian activities.
I am glad to see a broad range of stakeholders representing different parts of the world, including Afghanistan, here in Tallinn in order to address women’s participation in conflict resolution and peace building. We all share a responsibility to keep gender issues at the forefront.
As the Grand Old Man of conflict resolution Martti Ahtisaari has emphasised: “In a conflict, one party can always claim victory, but building peace must involve everybody: the weak and the powerful, the victors and the vanquished, men and women, young and old. Particularly, there is a need to ensure the engagement of women in all stages of a peace process.”
I believe this statement is today as relevant as ever. Thus I hope that Tallinn, being elected one of the most intelligent communities in the world for several times (by the Intelligent Community Forum), provides a good setting for exploring new ideas on how to improve our work in the days and years to come.