Today is the sixth time that we jointly celebrate the national days of Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden in Uganda. This tradition bears witness to a long-lasting and deep-rooted history of shared values and regional integration amongst the Nordic countries. The cooperation is not only aiming at making living and working within a Nordic country attractive, it is also about strengthening the Nordic countries internationally.
Steadfast support for the United Nations (UN) is a cornerstone in the Nordic countries’ foreign policy and peaceful conflict resolution is something our foreign policies try to promote in the global context. As a concrete example, the Nordic countries always put forward a joint candidacy, on a rotational basis, for a seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Sweden is the Nordic candidate for 2017-2018.
2015 is a landmark year for the global community trying to shape a new framework for sustainable development beyond 2015. We believe that women and gender equality has to be at the core of this agenda. Why? Because gender equality is a prerequisite to achieving basic human rights and assuring that women and men enjoy the same power and opportunities to shape their own lives. The achievement of gender equality has enormous socio-economic effects – empowering women fuels thriving economies and spurs productivity and growth. When women are empowered, the health and economic productivity for families and communities are improved.
However, gender-based violence, harmful practices and discriminatory laws and structures continue to keep many women, girls and young people from enjoying their human rights. Everyone, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or migrant status should enjoy the same rights and possibilities.
And, the history of women and girls in conflict and war is one of silent suffering. This is true also after peace agreements have been signed – too often only by men. It is now 15 years since the UN General Assembly adopted the landmark Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. In October 2000, the UN Security Council recognised that to maintain international peace and security, it must acknowledge and address the impact of conflict on women, as well as the important role of women’s participation in conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and peace building. The 15th anniversary of Resolution 1325 offers an opportunity to seriously target the injustice and once again remind ourselves about the importance of women’s participation in conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace building.
In this context, let us commend Uganda’s long-standing engagement in the region’s peace and security efforts. The progress we have seen in Somalia is to a large extent the result of the tireless support to Somalia from Uganda as a troop contributing country to Amisom. With Uganda being an active partner in the efforts for peace and security, we look forward to a dialogue on the important role of women in armed conflicts when resolution 1325 is under review later this year.
Men and boys need to engage in challenging the structures that perpetuate inequality and discrimination. Therefore, we as Nordic ambassadors to Uganda want to underline this responsibility. We, therefore, strongly support President Museveni’s launch of the “HeForShe”- campaign in Uganda at the International Women’s Day celebrations 8 March this year.
The Government of Uganda has made significant progress in developing legal frameworks that are in line with international commitments of protecting women’s rights. Promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment has also been emphasised in Uganda’s National Development Plan, and in recent years, women’s political representation in Uganda has increased considerably.
While considerable progress has been made, some of the positive progress is yet to translate into real gains for the ordinary Ugandan, and more so the woman. Women’s economic empowerment remains low and sexual and reproductive health and rights are not yet fully met. While policies and legal frameworks to protect women and girls have been put in place, implementation too often remains slow. Addressing the root causes of gender inequalities like unequal power relations and violence against women is crucial for the advancement of all women and girls.
In an international perspective, the Nordic countries have achieved a relatively high degree of equality between women and men, but still many challenges remain. Promotion of gender equality has been a priority in the Nordic countries which also have led to tangible results. The education gap between men and women has been reversed. Today, more women than men are enrolled at universities and women make up the majority of the high-skilled workforce.
We applaud the Government of Uganda for bringing gender equality to the forefront of the Vision 2040 statement, and we hope to see this reflected in the implementation of all relevant development programmes. The Nordic countries in Uganda all support increased gender equality in our development strategies for the country. Together with our Ugandan partners, we look forward to advancing this agenda in all spheres of our relations.
This article is written by: Urban Andersson, Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda; Dan E. Frederiksen, Ambassador of Denmark to Uganda; Thorbjørn Gaustadsæther, Ambassador of Norway to Uganda; and Stefan Jon Hafstein, Head of Mission, Embassy of Iceland in Uganda