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State Visit to Finland: Opening of the 1325 seminar

Speech by Her Majesty The Queen at the opening of seminar on UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security during state visit to Finland, June 2007.

Madam President,
Distinguished guests and friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you so much for your kind words of welcome. We are most happy to be here at the beautiful Hanasaari and to share this moment with you.

Finland and Norway both have long traditions as peaceful democracies. Today, we take it for granted that we live in a safe environment, that we can bring up our children and pursue our work, hobbies and social lives without fear.

People in many other parts of the world do not enjoy such security.

It is a sad reality that many countries are marked by unrest and internal conflicts. Weak governing structures and a lack of basic democratic and human rights increase the potential for violence.

Invariably in such conflicts, the civilian population – and particularly women and children – are hardest hit. Elisabeth Rehn and Ellen Johnsen-Sirleaf have documented how severely women are affected in their report: Women, War and Peace.

The report is a terrible tale of atrocities. But it also highlights hope. It tells of the strength and resources that women have, and of their ability to overcome the traumas they have suffered as a result of armed conflicts.

Moreover, including women is an effective way of establishing lasting peace. To quote former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “Women are agents for change. Their perspectives, experience and active involvement are an essential part of a peace-building process.”

Keeping women from participating in the political, social, economic and cultural life of their country is a loss for the whole population. In this respect, I would like to pay tribute to Finland’s pioneering work in the area of women’s rights. Finnish women were the first in the world to obtain full political rights, in 1906. This was a breakthrough both in Finland and in the international effort to secure greater equality between men and women.

Finland has again become an international model with its new Government, in which the majority of ministers are women.

The adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was an important milestone. The resolution both acknowledge the effect of armed conflicts on women and affirm the important role that women have in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace building. It also stresses the importance of the equal participation of women in peace processes.

Finland and Norway represent small egalitarian societies, with a tradition of voluntary work, both at home and abroad. This may explain, at least partly, why both countries have gained credibility as facilitators in conflict resolution processes.

It is indeed reassuring to see so many participants here today. I wish you the very best for this seminar and in your important endeavours for a better and safer world.


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