Aftermath of September 11:
Investing in Democracy for a More Cohesive
Dialogue with NGO leaders 21 January 2002,
Council of Europe, Palais de l'Europe:
President of ECICW-CECIF
Thank you for inviting me to be with you today.
I am pleased to be here and to represent the European Centre
of the International Council of Women which has member organisations
in 21 countries, the newest ones being in Central and Eastern
September 11th 2001 will be a date everyone of
us will remember as long as we live. It is imprinted in our memories
as one of the turning points in world history. We have not yet
recovered, the wounds still smart. We don't know how to handle
the aftermath of that day. We have to rebuild again our optimism
and faith in the future. It is extremely difficult to find the
right way to do this, to build bridges of trust throughout the
world to strengthen the work for peace.
I wish to commend the Council of Europe for organising
this discussion with the Non-governmental Organisations, it shows
its faith and trust in the civil society and the work of NGOs
also as "partners for peace”.
We know the world will never be the same again but peace will never be achieved
if we ourselves remain the same as before. We have to change our ingrained
attitudes, feel more responsible for each other, we have to get rid of xenophobia,
racism, prejudice and ignorance.
This is not done overnight. This requires work
for generations and that is why it is extremely important to
give children a good start in life so that they will be able
to feel empathy and responsibility. Albert Schweitzer was once
asked why he gave up his splendid career and went to Africa to
work as a doctor. He answered: "This I owed the mankind
because of my happy childhood”. I want to stress that peace
education starts in the homes as well as education in equality
between women and men.
We have to listen to young people who are worried
about the world situation. In many schools in Finland discussion
groups were formed because pupils wanted to discuss and understand
what has happened, why it did happen and whether there could
be another solution than war.
After the events in September the discussion on
the political level has been quite one-eyed and black and white.
There has even been an intention to form clear frontiers against
terrorism. As the target is impossible to define this has again
led to more suffering of innocent people. The war always leads
to sufferings of civilians and especially of women and young
girls who often are victims of rape, sexual slavery and forced
pregnancies as well as intentional contamination with HIV.
Elisabeth Rehn, the rapporteur of Unifem, recently
visited Congo. She says that almost every woman she met had had
some experience of rape. She also reports that e.g. in Balkan
the peace-keeping operations themselves tend to create prostitution
and in some cases even the peace-keepers themselves seem to have
been engaged in trafficking. In organised trafficking the girls
and women usually are told that they are going to get a job but
instead they are sold like cattle. In Skopje at a market like
this women were forced to undress so that they could be examined
if they were good or poor "cattle". In Pristina ten
women were arrested at one of these occasions, not the sellers
nor the buyers. The violence against women in armed conflicts
creates deep hatered and persistent desire for revenge between
ethnic groups and nations. This passes on for generations. The
circle is very hard to break.
Trafficking in human beings is one the worst insults
against human rights and dignity. It is estimated to affect 2.5
million women and children every year. Many other types of crime
are linked with trafficking. All possible actions ought to be
taken against it. This requires co-operation between the national
governments, international bodies, such as the Council of Europe
and the United Nations, as well as between the NGOs. One of the
keys to combat trafficking is the education of girls and raising
the awareness to this issue in the countries affected.
Although a great number of states signed the Bejing
Platform For Action and pledged to involve women in conflict
resolution at decision-making level, the absence of women in
peace talks has still been a practice until now. Maybe that is
why in many cases the peace process has failed. During the war
in Afghanistan women networks all around the world required that
women should be engaged in the peace negotiations and also in
the future government. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the
USA has never before received so many e-mails on any issue. This
action really had an impact on the negotiations in which also
women finally were invited to take part.
The post war situation in many countries requires special attention as to the
position of women and children. It is positive that the UN recently has appointed
also councellors on children's issues in the peace troops. The number of women
among the peacekeepers has to be raised as they are more readily able to serve
as a resource to women who have been sexually assaulted and get more easily
into contact with them. The Council of Europe ought to ask the member countries
which send peacekeeping troops, to raise the amount of women in their troops.
The peacekeepers ought to be informed on the vulnerability of women and girls
and educated to take this into consideration on their missions. The operations
ought to be bound by all United Nations norms and international human rights
Francis Fukuyama states in the book "Trust" that
it is the number of NGOs which shows how healthy the civil society
is: "As citizens join together into organisations they unconsciously
build up a capital of social trust which is not only the basis
of democracy and guarantees the equality of justice, it also
furthers economical growth". Fukuyama describes societies
which foster crime as societies where the civil society is very
weak, there are only a few organisations, democracy is undeveloped
whereas the loyalty to the family and church are very strong.
These societies also suffer from low economic growth.
Also Robert Putnam tells in his book "Making
democracy work. Civil tradition in Modern Italy" that the
more people are engaged in the local NGOs the better democracy
seems to work.
When we look at the world today: there are so many
cultures, languages, histories and religions. How can we ever
get the grassroots in one country to understand the way of thinking
of the grassroots in another country as there is so much illiteracy
and lack of mutual contacts? On a level like this where the participants
have the same "language" it will perhaps be possible
to understand each other. This is why also occasions like this
conference are of utmost importance.
In many countries due to one cause or another the
whole system has broken down. One of the biggest challenges now
is how to build up a functioning democracy and to strengthen
it. The civil society including NGOs has a major role and input
in these endeavours. Very often, however, the national governments
lack experience in communicating with the civil society. The
co-operation between governments and international bodies is
most important as is the co-operation with and between NGOs;
they can all learn from each other. The non-governmental organisations
ought to be recognized by the national governments as noteworthy
partners. NGOs themselves ought to be aware of their roles and
tasks in the society and that especially on the grassroot level
in creating possibilities for better understanding and peace.
Presentation of the Ukrainian translation of Topelius’ Stories
Kyiv, 21st of May, 2008 at the Embassy of Finland to Ukraine
The View from Finland
European Centre of the International Council of Women. Seminar "Women of Europe - Towards Equality".
Berkshire Conference Suite, Holiday Inn, Maidenhead, Friday 25 April 2008
Women and the EU
Seminar in Budapest, 23 April 2004
The enlarged possibilities of Women NGOs and their cooperation with other NGOs
in the European Union
The Aftermath of September 11:
Inversting in Democracy for a More Cohesive Society
Dialogue with NGO leaders 21 January 2002, Council of Europe,
Palais de l'Europe
"Les Suites du
Investir dans la démocratie pour une société plus solidaire"
Dialogue avec des dirigeants d'ONG, 21
janvier 2002, Salle 1, Palais de l'Europe, Strasbourg