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Udviklingsministerens tale ved konference om kvinders rolle i global sikkerhed

Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honour to deliver the final words of this conference.

To our moderator, Rana Foroohar - thank you very much for guiding everybody through this ambitious conference programme. To all the distinguished speakers and to those who have conducted and enriched the many exiting workshops, thank you for sharing with us your invaluable knowledge, insights and experiences. And to all who have come to take active part in the discussions and to contribute to our gathering of best practices, your inputs are much appreciated!

I look forward to putting many of the ideas and recommendations from this conference to use. We do need further action on women in global security. And nowhere is action more pertinent than when dealing with fragile states: The states where state institutions and structures are very weak - or failing - are also the states where we see the greatest need: where poverty is deepest and hardest to eradicate, where living conditions in general are most difficult and where the plight of women is most dire.

Yesterday I returned from a roundtrip to Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Among other things I visited the world’s largest refugee camp; Dadaab in Northern Kenya – only 50 kilometres from Somalia. 300.000 men, women and children living in a camp built for 90.000. Hundreds of new Somali refugees are coming to the camp every day, not least women and children that are victims of the armed conflict and atrocities in Somalia.

I met a woman – and there were thousands like her - who had lost three of her eight children due to the conflict, and who had now fled the mayhem and chaos in Southern Somalia with her family. They spent weeks on foot, striving to get to the safe haven in the camp in Kenya. They saw rapes and beatings along the road. They were tired and had that distant, cowed look in their eyes that comes from fear and the loss of hope.

The day after meeting the refugees from Southern Somalia, I went to Somaliland. In Somaliland I witnessed the opposite. I met confident, smiling women, living in relatively secure surroundings. I saw female police officers, and – during a memorable tour of the local camel and goat market – strong female traders, and I learnt that Somaliland is fighting female genital mutilation.

To my eye, Somalia and Somaliland illustrates a point I try to make clear as often as I get the chance: You won’t find a fragile state which respects the rights of women. You won’t find a stable society that neglects the rights of women. I believe that the stability and development of a society are directly interlinked with the rights and activities of its women. We must take up the dual challenge of working in fragile states and of pursuing the women, peace and security agenda.

Working conditions in fragile states are notably different from conditions in other developing countries. There are more - and much higher – political, financial and operational risks at stake if you get involved. But that is a risk we must take – and I am willing to do it. I have even made it a key priority that Denmark is willing to accept greater risks in its development cooperation.

Why? The short answer is simply: Consider the alternative! Chaos. Mayhem. Assault on our values. If we don’t come up to the world, the world will just come up to us.

The longer, more elaborate answer is the following:

Firstly, we should do so because of the moral imperative to address the unacceptable situation in which many women, men and children find themselves.

Secondly, because fragile states are far more vulnerable than other developing countries: poverty is twice as great in fragile states, and at the same time these are the countries that are farthest away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Thirdly, fragile states constitute one of the most important challenges to international development and security. There is a considerable risk of armed conflict in fragile states. Such conflicts cost the global community more than 100 billion US dollars annually. And fragile states represent potential breeding grounds for terrorists that threaten not only security and development within the states themselves, but global security across continents.

In all of these challenges, reaching the Millennium Development Goals and augmenting global peace and security, women play a key role.

It is a fact, that stable and prosperous societies cannot be created without the participation of all – women and men. Around the world, women leaders, women activists, women entrepreneurs and women in the home have demonstrated the role they can play in ensuring sustainable development and in containing, mediating and resolving disputes in a non-violent way. We must do our utmost to give women a chance to play a part in lifting their societies out of the limbo. To give them their rightful place – be it at the official negotiation table, in business and production or in the leadership of the community. It is important that we in our own efforts support this development: By empowering women when we engage ourselves, be it through civilian or through military means. By making it a condition – internationally and locally – that they are included.

Stability is closely related with economic recovery and development. People tend to support peace agreements and reconstruction efforts to a greater extent if they can see a viable future for themselves ahead. Therefore, stimulation of the economic sector should be considered even before peace is won. It is paramount, that both women and men find themselves included in such programmes. For we know that where women can find employment and contribute to growth through entrepreneurship, growth is stronger and more viable.

That is why women’s participation in economic development remains a key priority in Denmark’s development cooperation as well as in our new policy for fragile states.

As this conference has confirmed women can play a key role in addressing these challenges if they are given the opportunity and freedom to do so.

In conclusion, I sincerely thank you all for coming to Copenhagen. I am confident we all will stay committed and work for the prospect that one day women all over the world will be able to freely develop their full potential. The world’s women need it; the world needs it.

Paraphrasing Plato – nothing can be more absurd than the practice where men and women cannot pursue the same freedom and opportunity, for thus the society – the state, the world – is, instead of being whole, reduced to half.

Thank you and safe journey back home.