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ILC2021-7 Session 4 - Intervention of H.E. Naziha Labidi

Aslama, Hello from Tunisia,

First of all, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the Universal Peace Federation. I congratulate you for the organization of this very high-level conference. I am also very appreciative of the presence of eminent international personalities, who raise awareness and address a strong and clear message: the voices of women are the only way to a lasting and universal peace for all. Here I quote Spinoza. He says that peace is not the absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind and a will of benevolence, trust and justice.

Thus, when women participate in peace negotiations, the resulting agreements have a 35% chance of lasting at least 15 years, and when there are women in peace negotiations, there is more peace and serenity. Unfortunately, there are very few women negotiators in peace and security processes, despite the recommendations of Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2001.

As you know, Tunisia has the reputation of the country of women's human rights. in fact, in 850 BC, Queen Dido or Alyssa founded Carthage, the first republic, and wrote the oldest constitution, according to Socrates.

It was once again a woman, the Muslim princess Aroua the Kairouanese in 735 of our era, who abolished polygamy. Today, we are at the threshold of the celebration of the National Day of Women on August 13 every year. It was in 1956 that the late Habib Bourguiba, the founder of modern Tunisia, promulgated the Code of Personal Status which abolished polygamy, instituted judicial divorce and reorganized family relations. This code underwent numerous amendments in 1992. This was a great moment for us, as it was the abrogation of article 23 of the code of personal status, which instituted a decisive turning point towards equality between men women. The legislator replaced the obedience of the wife to her husband by mutual respect within the family, granted mothers the right of guardianship and afforded many other rights.

Since then, one amendment has followed another, such as the granting of the nationality of the Tunisian mother to her children and the abrogation of the circular number 73 that allows Tunisian women to marry non-Moslems, without them having to convert to Islam.

The Ministry of Women mentioned earlier of women, family, children and seniors, which I was in charge of from 2016 to 2020, is a key ministry because its social and educational political role, since it is concerned with the components of society during their life cycle. Feminist diplomacy in Tunisia took its first steps in 2016 by organizing a team for the members of the government, whose goal was the integration of gender in planning, budgeting and international cooperation.

In July 2017, the integral law 58 on combating violence against women was unanimously passed, which constitutes a significant advance in terms of legal protection by raising the penalty when the violence comes from a close relative or someone with moral authority. The age of sexual consent was raised from 13 to 16 years and the concept of political violence was integrated, which is something I am really proud of. This is a task that I accomplished with civil society, and we won despite the mentality of the time. The year 2017 was also marked by Tunisia's accession to the Lanzarote convention on the protection of children against sexual abuse, making Tunisia the first country outside the Council of Europe to join it. To consolidate women's human rights, we drew up our first national action plan for resolution 1325, while taking into account the subsequent 8 resolutions. In addition, implementation mechanisms such as a toll-free hotline, an observatory against violence and shelters for women victims of violence, the economic empowerment of women, in addition to the creation of the council of fathers for equal opportunities, have been put in place. However, despite these efforts, there is still a long way to go to establish new behaviors and a new culture of respect for human dignity. If I dare to speak to you today about myself, it is because I am speaking to you about us, about you, here and elsewhere. I am the daughter of a soldier, a veteran, a child soldier who was enlisted during the second world war as a scout and who never healed from the traumas he suffered. Also, one of my uncles had an ear shaved off entirely. In France, in the 70's and 80's, I met many emblematic women leaders and activists for the liberation of women, such as the late Gisele Halimi and the minister Simone Veil, an example of determination, will and resilience. Later, I visited refugee camps in Lebanon, Italy and Tunisia, but the most distressing experience today is the image of the blood of the 5,000 children massacred in Sabra and Chatila. This is the horror of war.

I am a universalist and I believe that it is more intelligent for humanity to recognize the right of each culture, each civilization, to have values, without prejudice and to refrain from influencing it, while having as a common base the universal values of human rights. This is in line with the ideas of Claude Lévi-Strauss for whom humanistic relativism consists in placing the fundamental needs of the human being beyond any belief and any culture and so on, and in the absence of any discrimination. We come from different horizons, but we share a common concern here. what should we women leaders do to bring an end to the ills that eat away at our respective societies, security, stability and well-being? It is a concept originating from Sweden issued by the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Margot Wilstrom, a friend with whom we organized the international forum on gender in Tunis from 24 to 26 April 2018. Other countries, such as Canada, France and the American Think Tank followed. The global context supports this momentum for peace and security, in order to achieve the 2030 SDGs in connection with the African Union's 2063 agenda. However, we are witnessing a rise in hostilities coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic with serious after-effects, threats of food insecurity, climate change and threats of war between sister enemies, such as South Korea and North Korea, which are divided into two antipodes due to divergent symbols, political and cultural systems and above all military and nuclear weapons interests.

In order to achieve stability and lasting reconciliation between these 2 sister enemies, Mandela said that to make peace with an enemy we must work with that enemy so that that enemy becomes our or your partner. For the 2 Koreas, there is a long history, an ethnic history that makes the Korean people a united nation, an ethnic homogeneity of the Han people that already dates back to more than 4000 years. Many attempts have been made to reunify the two sisters, such as the Sunshine Policy and another one in 2018 that started to take shape and support sports diplomacy by presenting a common team at the Olympic Games. Cultural diplomacy is also present through the engraving of the popular Korean wrestling game in UNESCO’s intangible heritage and even the diplomacy of the smile of the cheerleaders who were present to help the reunification of the 2 Koreas. I would say that the impossible is not Korean and the reconciliation of the 2 Koreas is inevitable and will take shape. I remain confident about this, thanks to our efforts, which should be part of the continuity while relying on the emerging power of women's diplomacy to support the Korean peninsula towards its reconciliation. The practice of universal peace is needed through education in the culture of respect for others, respect for diversity and religious and cultural histories and practices, and it is from early childhood that it should be promoted to fight against all forms of relativism by ensuring the respect of universal women's rights.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, my thoughts are with the two Syrian athletes, the two brothers who have been reunited after so many years of separation at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The same thought goes to all the families separated by the demarcation line between the two Koreas. I am watching at this moment with great interest the resolution of the conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia, a country led by a woman whose wisdom is ancestral; need I remind you of the Queen of Sheba. And so I continue with the same thought that goes to the children, to the women of comfort women, who militate every Wednesday and have done so for decades to recover or to regain their dignity lost for decades. My thoughts also go to the women and Yezides in Iraq, hostages of the Daesh movement, the women in Palestine and elsewhere, to the homeless children who wander without identity, without memory, without roots, and without wings to fly. With the same voice of a woman and a man, I call for the universal conscience to work together. We want a world based on love, respect and respect for others. I thank you for your attention and wish you every success in your work. You know that today, I am wearing a piece of jewelry that was given to me by a foundation in one of the two Koreas. I greet you and wish you prosperity for the world in which we live.

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