|Tribute to Jan Egeland|
Invest in Women. Invest in the World.
I am truly honored to introduce another passionate spokesperson for the world's women—my dear friend, Jan Egeland, a man that TIME Magazine recently dubbed "the world's conscience." You have no doubt seen his face and heard his voice on your television screen speaking from some of the worst places on the planet. Jan's is not a voice you can easily ignore—or forget. We are not accustomed to hear such force or such fearlessness from the United Nations. As UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan struck fear in the hearts of both the thugs of Darfur and those UN members opposed to taking action to stop the genocide. They want Jan to go back to Norway, but he never does for long. He is about to join Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon's team as a special advisor on conflict resolution. There is no one better qualified.
Tonight, we honor Jan Egeland because he has been fearless in the fight to make the world's most dangerous places safer for women and girls. He travels from those places straight to the halls of power where he shares the stories the women cannot share themselves. Like the Coalition, Jan Egeland bridges two worlds.
We also honor Jan because he shares our conviction that women must have access to health care well before wars or epidemics swamp their societies. That young men must be taught unambiguously that beating their wives or forcing women to have sex is not manly-quite the opposite. If they are taught that lesson early, they will be less likely to use rape as a weapon of war.
I hope that you now understand why Jan is one of my personal heroes. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jan Egeland...
Thank you so much Kati. Thanks for what you are doing for our common cause. Thank you for organizing this truly wonderful evening with the International Women's Health Coalition; it is really showing what it stands for. And I am honored to be here with Dr. Allan Rosenfield.
I have become obsessed over these years while traveling in the field with two things. Number one—it has to stop, this outrage against the most vulnerable, against the civilians in the crossfire, and in particular against the women and the children who are dying disproportionately in our wars and our time. And the second obsession is—this generation can stop it. This generation has the riches, the tools, the opportunities to work together. From Manhattan to Beijing, from Brussels to South Africa—we can do it. It is within our reach. But the challenges are daunting.
There was an image here of a health clinic in El Geneina West Darfur, where I just visited on my fourth and final visit to Darfur. You saw a mother holding a child. That daughter of two years was shot through the neck. She was shot through the neck just a few weeks ago by a militia man from the so-called Janjaweed militia. The mother begged for the life of her daughter. The man asked for money she didn't have, and they shot the child. They barely saved her life in this clinic, which we in the UN support. And there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of these stories.
And still, when I look back on these three years, the world is moving slowly in the right direction. It has gotten worse in some countries—Iraq, Darfur, Chad, Palestinian territories. It has gotten better in Liberia, Sierra Leon, Angola, in Northern Uganda, and in the Congo. The Congo has been the killing fields more than any other place of our generation. Four million people died. That is eight Rwandan genocides happening on our watch over eight years-from the end of the 90s until just two years ago.
How could it happen? Because 20 armies fought and they predominantly killed women and children. Why did it improve? Because United Nations worked together as united nations, and they invested money and peacekeepers there—and it is vastly better in terms of loss of life, and it is vastly better in terms of humanitarian access.
There are really two revolutions of our time that should take place. The first has happened. We have tools like never before. My Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs could field people to the tsunami-stricken beaches of Asia within hours after the tsunami struck. We were in the earthquake-stricken Pakistani areas the same day. We put up logistical chains in Darfur against all odds that were able to bring in 550,000 tons of grain and food this year. Most of that from the United States.
There is not the corresponding ethical and moral revolution which makes that kind of assistance, and that kind of protection possible, predictably for all. That has to happen, and it can happen on our watch. But then we have to become more generous, and we have to become more courageous, and we have to be able to stand stronger for the weakest. When the average rich country gives 0.2 percent of its riches to foreign assistance and keeps 99.8 percent to themselves, it is not enough. When the UN can field some operations in some countries, yes, but we don't have the resources to field operations elsewhere, it is not good enough. That is my obsession.
And the one which is linked to that is, of course, 'speak the truth.'
My mother called the other day; she is 86 years old and she read a report about rape of women in Congo, which is still rampant. And I also told her a story about women I met at a clinic-some of them mutilated for life by the men in the armies who rape women as a method of war.
She said, "You have to be tougher in scolding these people. You have to be tougher in fighting for these women." And I said, "Mother, I am tougher than most. They are after my scalp—internally in the UN and five heads of states have been asking for my resignation." She said, "You are not tough enough. You have to do more."
Considering that my circle for these three and a half years has been mass murders, warlords, dictators, and so on, it is truly nice tonight to be among friends who support our cause, who are generous, who are nice, and who do not want to expel me. I thank you all for that. I thank you for coming here tonight and I thank you for what you will do because we are the generation who can stop this on our watch. Thank you very much.
Jan, it is my great privilege tonight to present you with a recognition of our appreciation. This year, IWHC will make a grant in your name to a Camerounian organization that we support, ALVF, known in English as the Association for the Struggle Against Violence Against Women. In the conservative north of Cameroun, ALVF provides very young women, who were married as girls and are now divorced, with legal assistance, teaches them French and basic literacy, and helps them obtain national identity cards and jobs. Like you, Jan, ALVF is also committed to fighting violence against women.
Jan, we thank you, and we salute you.