Action Plan for Women's Rights and Gender Equality in Development Cooperation

8/26/2008 // Foreword to the Action Plan by Erik Solheim, Minister of International Development.  

The Government wants Norway to be a fearless promoter of women’s rights and gender equality. Accordingly, the rights, participation and influence of women are to be at the core of Norway’s development cooperation efforts. Our aim is to ensure the realisation of the rights of women that are set out in international human rights conventions. This is vital in order to achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty.

This action plan is intended to boost efforts to promote women’s rights and gender equality in the international community and among Norway’s cooperation partners.

Norway wants to help to secure greater recognition and realisation of women’s rights, their economic opportunities and their opportunities to influence social development. Not least, it wants to help to ensure that women have greater control over their own lives. The key issues are the right and opportunities of women to participate in national and local government on an equal footing, and their legal, economic and social independence.

Norway will concentrate its efforts on four key areas:
• women’s political participation,
• women’s economic participation,
• sexual and reproductive health and rights,
• violence against women.

Gender equality involves the redistribution of power, resources and care responsibilities between men and women. The most important agents for change are women who organise and mobilise resources to challenge and overcome discriminatory attitudes and structures in their societies. Norway wants to support such agents of change. At the same time, it will support the efforts of its development partners at government level to meet national development targets on women’s rights and gender equality. International human rights instruments and action plans on women’s rights and gender equality form a common basis for action.

Men can play an important role in promoting women’s rights and gender equality. Men who take their share of the responsibility for housework and family care are paving the way for women to participate on equal terms with men in economic, political and social processes outside the houshold.

Norway will be a fearless advocate of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The rights of women to control their own bodies and to freedom from violence and sexual abuse within and outside the family are not universally acknowledged or accepted. Neither is the right to sex education or the right of teenagers and adults of both sexes to contraception. Establishing the right to safe abortion on demand was a milestone in the fight of Norwegian women for economic and political participation on the same terms as men. It is estimated that half a million women die each year due to not having access to safe, legal abortions. We will also fight all forms of discrimination and stigmatisation on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Norway will use relevant political channels and arenas to promote tolerance, equality and diversity in accordance with the thematic priority areas in the action plan. Accordingly, its efforts will have an influence on both its foreign policy and its development cooperation efforts.

We will require our cooperation partners, whether they are governments, international institutions or NGOs, to demonstrate that they take women and gender equality seriously. If they do not, this will have consequences for cooperation in the long term.

Norway’s policy on integrating women’s rights and equality in development cooperation has been guided by good intentions, but efforts have not been sufficiently systematic. If we are to succeed in changing deep-seated imbalances of power, we will need to make use of a broad range of tools. We must utilise all of the key development cooperation channels and processes. Awareness of women’s rights and gender equality is to be incorporated comprehensively into Norway’s development cooperation efforts. Targeted activities and resource allocation are to be supported by knowledge- and capacity-building, both in Norway and among cooperation partners. We will promote gender equality both as an integrated dimension in other development sectors and as an independent target.

The Government has already launched action plans for priority areas that are of vital importance to gender equality and the rights of women and girls: the Action Plan for the Implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which was launched in 2006, and the Plan of Action to Combat Human Trafficking (2006-2009). The Government will also follow up on the 2003 International Plan of Action for Combating Female Genital Mutilation.

The Government intends with this action plan to highlight areas that so far have not been given proper attention, and to put in place an integrated framework for addressing the entire spectrum of gender equality challenges. These action plans require coordinated follow-up.

Erik Solheim
Minister of International Development

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