Minister Toivakka's Address to the OSCE Security Days

Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Mrs Lenita Toivakka: Address to the OSCE Security Days on 13 November 2015

Mr. Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to have been invited here to the OSCE Security Days, focusing on Women, Peace and Security. This event highlights the OSCE’s commitment to equal participation and full involvement of women in all efforts for maintaining and promoting peace and stability.

A few weeks ago I visited the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan. It was an acute reminder of the importance of today's theme, Women, Peace and Security. There I was able to see, experience and learn about the impacts of the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts. I met with women who had left everything and were struggling as refugees, girls who were born in the refugee camp and now went to school there – and the women hosting them in Jordanian local communities, struggling as well. Many lives have been touched by these and other conflicts. We have to bear in mind, that for example in this case it is both the Syrian and Jordanian women who need our support – and who the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 is for.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is a year of particular promise for women's rights and gender equality. We celebrate 40 years since the first World Conference on the Status of Women, the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 15th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The 70th UN General Assembly adopted Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development where two goals are linked, namely to “Achieve gender equality and empower women and girls" and “Just, peaceful and inclusive societies”.

Furthermore, one common theme that emerged from the three UN Reviews conducted this year - on Peace Operations, the Peacebuilding Architecture and Resolution 1325 - is that any reforms must include gender equality and women's leadership as central elements, and must be strongly grounded in human rights.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The historic adoption of resolution 1325 recognized the significance of women and women's perspectives in conflict prevention, resolution, protection and peacebuilding. Since the 1325 resolution in 2000, the Security Council has adopted seven other notable resolutions that have built a strong normative framework. The role of regional organizations in the field of women, peace and security is highlighted in several successive resolutions. This October the UN Security Council adopted the latest resolution (2242) which welcomes the efforts of regional organizations to implement resolution 1325 and encourages them to pursue further implementation.

I would like to thank the OSCE Gender Section for having participated actively in the preparations for the High-level Review of the Security Council, including co-organizing the Regional Conference in Vilnius in April. I also thank the Senior Adviser on Gender Issues, Ambassador Miroslava Beham, for presenting an outline of the OSCE activities on resolution 1325 to the Security Council at the open debate.

The OSCE as the biggest regional security Organization in the world, should continue to pay due attention to these commitments. The comprehensive security approach of the OSCE requires us to do so. We believe that the OSCE should continue to be at to the forefront of international efforts for this approach.

Steps have already been taken towards achieving this: The OSCE 2004 Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality has underlined the valuable role that the OSCE can play in enhancing the implementation of our common commitments, taking into account resolution 1325. Now the Action Plan needs to be updated. I trust the Serbian OSCE Chairmanship will bring these ongoing negotiations to a successful conclusion.

I am very proud of the cooperation with Austria, Kazakhstan and Turkey to promote an OSCE-wide action plan on Women, Peace and Security. It is high time we made every effort towards adopting this plan as well. It is remarkable that up to now, five organizations – the European Union, NATO, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) – have adopted dedicated regional action plans on women, peace and security, yet the OSCE has not. I hope you can all support our efforts in this regard and I hope the discussions today pave the way for the OSCE-wide action plan.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Resolution 1325 recognized that women are in many ways affected by wars and conflicts differently from men, and that the international legal framework on gender had to be extended to the areas of conflict resolution and peace-building. Since the beginning, civil society has played a central role in the implementation of resolution 1325. In Finland the civil society has been one of the cornerstones of our 1325 work.

One of the biggest gaps in the implementation of resolution 1325 concerns the participation of women in mediation and peace processes. For example in 2000 when the resolution was agreed upon, despite women’s huge contributions to peacebuilding and conflict prevention at many levels, only 2,5 per cent of signatories, 3,2 per cent of mediators, 5,5 per cent of witnesses and 7,6 per cent of negotiators were women.

At the same time new research shows that meaningfully including women in a negotiating group increases the likelihood of achieving an agreement, as well as the sustainability of the agreement, thus paving the way towards more lasting and durable peace.

Therefore, women's active participation and leadership is crucial in all parts of decision-making and implementation of peace and security matters throughout the conflict cycle. We are looking forward to an exchange of views on how the OSCE could improve its activities and show leadership in this regard.

Finland has been active in supporting many OSCE projects contributing to the implementation of OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality especially in Central Asia. The latest example is the regional project of Women, Water Management and Conflict Prevention. This project is an excellent example of enhancing women's participation in the traditionally male-dominated water sector with comprehensive effects on security. We warmly welcome further initiatives on concrete implementation of gender mainstreaming and especially resolution 1325 in the OSCE region.

How can we improve our efforts with respect to OSCE missions? I would like to emphasize that all mission mandates should be based on detailed gender-sensitive analysis and have concrete objectives. Women, Peace and Security should consistently be part of strategic and operational planning, as well as early warning and reporting. Requirements for reporting should be ensured at all levels including throughout mission cycles. It is also important to monitor and evaluate the impact.

Better results are achieved by competent senior leadership and improved accountability. Roles and responsibilities for implementing gender objectives should be described for all staff levels, especially senior leadership – not only gender advisors and gender focal points. Appointing gender focal points throughout the Organization has been a major successful undertaking.

I cannot highlight enough the importance of training. It is central to successful gender architecture. Training on gender should be part of the core training curriculum for all staff, including all field operations. Training on response to sexual violence and sexual exploitation is of utmost importance.

We encourage all participating States to continue training and deploying more women, both civilian and military experts. More national efforts are needed for improved recruitment, retention and promotion of women in the security sector.

We must also step up efforts to develop and update national action plans on women, peace and security. This topic is emphasized in the most recent resolution, and also enjoys wide support among OSCE participating States. There are 54 National Action Plans globally, and 27 of these are within the OSCE region. The action plan is a practical tool to identify strategic actions and priorities. In addition it is useful as it helps in connecting, often for the first time, all relevant national actors. We urge all OSCE States to commit to adopting a National Action Plan.

The implementation of 1325 is faced by new challenges, such as violent extremism where the subordination of women is at the centre of the ideology and war tactics. A coordinated and integrated approach, as well as leadership and empowerment of women are needed. We believe that, at the grassroots level, women can truly play a significant role in preventing violent extremism and are instrumental in building resilience.

To further promote gender equality within the OSCE context the OSCE could consider establishing or upgrading a senior position on gender equality that reports directly to the Secretary General, and mandating this person to be a member of all senior OSCE Secretariat decision-making bodies. This would further indicate that the Organization takes gender mainstreaming seriously.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women is a priority in Finnish foreign and development policy. Implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and related resolutions is of highest importance for us. The promotion of human rights, gender equality and the rule of law is critical from the outset of new peace operations. Although Finland, among many other countries, has gained some achievements with respect to 1325, also a lot remains to be done.

Integrating gender into international affairs is not always easy, but it is a necessity and an obligation. Responsibility for this lies with all of us, and I challenge each of you to do your part in advancing Women, Peace and Security.

I would like to thank the OSCE Secretary General, Mr. Lamberto Zannier, once again for the invitation and for organizing such an important event. This provides a valuable opportunity for the OSCE to review its efforts to truly integrate a gender perspective into its activities and policies.

When we discuss United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we talk about the women I met at the refugee camp and in the host communities in Jordan. We must daily remind ourselves that this is not just “a woman’s issue” but rather a security issue that concerns the society as a whole, involving both men and women. Our work is not yet done.

Thank you for your attention.

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