The session Peace and Security began with a play written by Svetlana Aleksijevitj, Kriget har inget kvinnligt ansikte (War has no Female Face).
Margot Wallström, recently returned from The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, talked about the inhuman situation that women in war zones experience on account of sexual violence. She urged the Nordiskt Forum to send a message to the world’s governments.
“Let us send a strong message from Nordiskt Forum that we no longer tolerate sexual violence in wars and conflicts, and that this must be brought to an end by involving women in conflict negotiations and by appointing them to important positions of power, such as ambassdors,” said Margot Wallström.
Margot Wallström also said that support to the civil sector in countries at war must increase, and that the military leadership in all countries must raise their voices for women’s rights and say that they do not accept sexual violence against women.
The next speaker was Josefine Carlsson, Secretary-General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She talked about peace and women’s safety and pointed out that societies become militarised even during peace time.
For example, Sweden is one of the biggest exporters of weapons in the world, and is now investing in military equipment while midwives in Swedish hospitals raise concerns about the health of women and children because of lack of resources. In 2013, USD 1750 billion was spent on arms globally, which is the equivalent the UN budget for no less than 800 years. Carlsson said that we could have a completely different world if we used these resources for investments in women instead.
The third speaker was Elisabeth Rehn, the first female minister for defence in Iceland. She also felt that women and not warlords should sit in peace negotiations. In her time as defence minister, she often heard that justice comes after peace. For example, witness protection is important during conflicts, as it can be very difficult for victims if they are forced to witness openly.
The final speaker was Lina Haboub Benin from Libanon. Haboub Benin stated that the state is taking over a police-like role in the Arab world, and that religious institutions are growing stronger. Women in the Arab world are today fighting for basic rights, such as the right to vote and work, and religious fundamentalism has become mainstream. Haboub Benin says that, in spite of this, radical feminism is vital in the region, and that everything else is just distraction. Fundamentalists have no national boundaries, and they will influence women’s rights at global level. It is important to re-emphasise the importance of human rights.