Dear Mr Prime Minister, distinguished Kurdish and other international friends!
It is a privilege and a great pleasure to have the opportunity to be standing here in front of you all today. This is a truly remarkable event. In itself it is a manifestation of democracy to be able to participate in this conference, to exchange ideas, to meet and openly express our views. Therefore, it is indeed a remarkable experience for me to be able to witness your progress on your way towards achieving deeper and stronger democracy.
Many of us in Sweden have been following the long and courageous struggle of the Kurdish people over the years. Your right to government, to be allowed to speak and write your own language, to be allowed to exert your culture and be able to teach your children your own history are fundamental and self-evident demands and rights.
It is deplorable that these have been denied the Kurdish people in the past. I know that you have waited a long time - the Kurdish people was promised an independent state as far back as in 1920. The international community is full of admiration with the patience the Kurds have shown in waiting for recognition, and with your ability to cooperate internally between the two big groupings under the oppression by the Saddam Hussein regime and with your effort to seek self-governance.
The road to peace and democracy will always be long and difficult. You will still come across many obstacles on your way forward. But I am convinced you will be able to face the challenge with courage and steadfast determination.
I represent the Green Party of Sweden. Albeit being a fairly young political party, we greens have a tradition of supporting democratic movements on all continents of the world. We have been working with our Kurdish friends for many years and we have many close and personal ties with the Kurdish people.
My party has in the past supported the idea of a UN sanctioned referendum among all Kurdish people to explore in what form they shall, will and can execute their own full democracy, to be autonomous or have other forms of self-determination. Such a referendum could not only be an important mean in itself, but in the best-case scenario, also serve as a catalyst for increased democracy in the entire region.
However, one of the basic principles of the Green foreign policy is the right to self-determination, as a self-evident component of human rights, and we believe that the outlines of the new Iraqi constitution can be a functioning foundation for that.
Democracy is an important, multifold and powerful concept. Literally translated from Greek as being "rule by the people", it is the idea that the people have the right to rule themselves.
Most peoples and countries embrace the notion - in 2003, 121 out of 192 countries did, at least in the formal sense, have a democratic government, and that number is steadily growing.
However, democracy is one of those concepts that are very difficult to properly define. It means different things to different people - to some it means that politicians should decide, and not the people. To some, market economy equals democracy. And some think that, for some reason, certain groups should be excluded from democracy - whether it is, for example, refugees, certain ethnic groups, criminals or perhaps women. But one thing persists through the ages and in all kinds of human societies; the absolute human need for legitimate ways to make decisions and to be in control of ones own life!
I believe that democracy is a set of rules for decision-making, embracing all adults of all sexes and all ethnic origins who in a given situation are to be regarded as stakeholders - by living in a certain area, dealing with a certain issue or being affected by certain conditions. Their representatives should be chosen in an open way, and they must be replaced, in a peaceful manner, if the electorate so chooses.
However, a "set of rules" is not enough for democracy to work. What is also needed is living, passionate and just people of flesh and blood, acting within these frames and rules, who profoundly believe in these egalitarian values and who are willing to work to improve the conditions for everyone, not just for themselves. No democracy is ever perfect, and will regrettably never be. However, there are some basic positions that all those who are in favor of democracy could embrace, like the ones mentioned earlier.
Having said that, I would like to share some of the Swedish experience of democracy, merely since that is the kind of democracy I know most about.
In the 17th century, Sweden was a great political power in northern Europe, feared by its neighbors. We fought several wars in Europe and held significant territories in the Northern part of the continent. Gradually, we lost parts of it and after the Napoleon wars in the beginning of the 19th century, there was little left of our previous conquests. Since 1814, Sweden has not been engaged in warfare. In 1905, Norway, as the outcome of a peaceful referendum, left the union with Sweden to gain complete autonomy. That process was a quite exceptional event; separation without any bloodshed...
I believe that the favourable economic development we in the Scandinavian countries have enjoyed during this period to a very large extent is due to peaceful external and internal relations! Improved democracy and increasing female participation, but almost without any violence.
In Scandinavia where I grew up, women have to an increasing extent been allowed to share powers with men on an equal footing, but the overall global rule for the last 2.000 years has been male power.
But that means that an entire dimension in thinking is lost. All the things that dwell in the right hemisphere of the brain, for example the dimension of caring, of cultivating and negotiation, are more or less neglected in our public world. What is left is conflict-handling and problem-solving by means of aggression, exclusion and competition.
We, the human race, have by now seen enough of wars, weapons and rivalry. More than enough. Female participation and thinking is therefore highly needed everywhere.
Today, approximately 13 % is the average women-ratio in parliaments all over the world, and 13 % is also the rate for ministerial positions. Only 4 % of the world's countries have female heads of states.
But in nursery schools and in family life, men are barely seen. Iraq’s interimistic government has so far made brave attempts to deal with better female representation – 19 % women ministers is a fine score and the hope now stands to all Iraqi women to really dare to participate locally and nationally in politics!
In today’s world, boys attend school to a larger extent than their female peers. Within the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, it is however stated that education for girls is key to development. It is regarded even as a “fast track” measure, because the benefits for the whole society are so visible in a fairly short time.
Let me continue by saying a few words about the use of violence on a small or a large scale. Any regime needs to keep its citizens from using uncontrolled violence, and all regimes must refrain themselves from attacking other countries. This is all contained in the UN Charter, signed by the member states. Terrorism is what we all fear and as politicians have an obligation to prevent and prohibit. But large scale violence, wars that is, is also an enormous draw back for any kind of democratic development.
There were many of us around the world that did not support the military US invasion of Iraq in 2003. The US and British invasion was a violation of the UN Charter and subsequently not endorsed by the international community. They did not present a case strong enough that all other peaceful ways to solve the conflict had been explored, and the UN Security Council was overruled.
The invasion did not aim to altruistically help Iraq to install democracy or remove weapons of mass destruction, but to secure the world's second richest oil fields for own future needs. Oil is key to understand how peace and democracy in Middle East can come about, along with other things.
Although far from perfect, the UN with its charter is the only globally legitimate decision-making body on this planet! The democratic arena for every human being.
We must therefore support the UN, reform it and make sure that its peacekeeping and peacebuilding capacities are respected an obeyed! Only in that way can real democracy be built globally, since it is almost a hopeless task to “install” democracy for others from the outside.
The new UN Peacebuilding Commission, which will hopefully soon be in place and effective and perhaps help in Iraq in the future, must make sure it consists also of wise women representatives, and hence will be able to reinstall confidence among Iraqis towards UN.
Finally, I would like to share with you some other short reflexions on the further development of democracy in the Middle East:
Egypt, and I think Mrs. el-Sadawi agrees, must allow authors to write freely and female presidential candidates to really come through.
Israel must immediately tear down its illegitimate wall and lay down government arms pointed at civilians in Palestine. And admit that state terrorism is also terrorism!
Iran must be open about its use of uranium and nuclear power, honour its commitments to the NPT Treaty and prepare for justice without Sharia laws against women.
Kurdistan must leave patriarchy in politics and in family life behind, but continue to rely on themselves.
In Turkey, Syria and Iran, the oppression and harassment of Kurds has to stop.
And everywhere, individuals with dangerous belts around their waists must be stopped and disarmed. Their rule is most certainly not a democratic rule.
(*) Membre du Parlement, Parti Vert, Suède