May 10th 2000

"UN-Conference on the Roles of Men and Male Values"

a letter to the Nordic ministers of Gender Equality


This proposal, which is a Swedish/Norwegian project since 1994, is sent to national and international NGOs to promote and gain support for this tangible and present proposal.

The nordic countries are considered as pioneers in matters of various efforts to secure equality and equal values in a democratic society. Besides we have strong groups of academics that explore gender related issues and the roles of men, which leads to obligations towards other countries and the rest of the world.

In Sweden, a group of well-known individuals, active in politics and culture have, since 1994, been engaged in initiatives to promote the project "UN-Conference on the Roles of Men and Male Values". Such a conference arranged by the UN can be considered as an analogy with the UN`s Women`s decade 1975-85, and the four women`s conferences in 1975, 1980, 1985 and 1995.

The group works as a driving force vis-a-vis the Swedish Government and politicians as well as UNESCO, UNICEF, the European Council and the Nordic Council, to promote the proposal and implement a conference on male community and male values arranged by the UN.

In Norway, a group of men and women worked for the same purpose between 1994 and 1996. The group was dissolved after the opening of the first men`s conference in the Nordic countries and Europe.

With the political and economic support of the Nordic Council of Ministers, UNESCO, UNICEF and the European Council, a total of six Nordic and international conferences were held in 1997 on male issues and equal rights. A number of male roles researchers initiated these conferences.

We believe still and nevertheless that a worldwide UN-conference is both desirable and necessary to raise all countries` concern for this subject.

The women`s decade 1975-85 was of great importance to women`s liberation and self-awarness, altough outcome varied from country to country. The female role and culture have no doubt changed in character, despite the fact that many countries` policies have either prevented change in practice or erased established changes. The male role and values have nor been subject to same critical interest or research. This is regrettable, as it prevents men from beeing aware of their own roles, feelings and implicit values.

Permanent changes for women and men can only be achieved when men too are willing to participate in processes leading to change. This implies that men are aware of how gender roles are defined and why they are sustained. This is a fact for all men in the whole world.

As long as no one investigates and presents the traditional definitions of status and essence of manliness and womenhood, neither men nor women will be able to lead dignified lives. Most male dignity is still based on an understanding of them being superior to women. Per definitions, legislations and through power or suppression, this still is the normative in most countries.

The world is entering the UN`s campaign year, 2000 - "The United Nations` International year for the Culture of Peace" and the decade 2001-2010, "International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World". Within this framework, an UN-conference on male roles and values would have a natural purpose, place and function. A global effort for peace and condemnation of violence, for equal values and democratic development, is unthinkable without the active participation of the men in the world.

To participate constructively, men have to be aware of how traditional male roles and values prevent peace and nuture violence.

If the UN`s aim - and the concept "A culture of Peace" - is to be fulfilled, many people must support these intentions. It is therefore our hope that worldwide politicians, NGO`s and people in general might add the topic "male roles and values" to their agenda and actively support this initiative.

On behalf of the Swedish/Norwegian group
Nordic Women Peace Network


25. September 2000:

Den danske minister for Ligestilling svarer:

Nordiske Kvinners Fredsnettverk - Att.: Trine Eklund

Jeg er meget enig i Jeres betragtninger. Da jeg sammen med mine nordiske kollegaer holdt møde d. 28. -29. august, blev stort set samme problemstilling berørt. Der er således en bred enighed blandt de nordiske ligestillingsministre om, at det er nødvendigt med øget fokusering på mænds rolle i ligestillingsdebatten.

Mænd og ligestilling har de seneste 5 år været et tema som der er blevet arbejdet med i det nordiske samarbejde. Det er derfor også naturligt, at mænd og ligestilling har en fremtredende rolle i det nye handlingsprogram for 2001 - 2005.

Også i EU regi er mænd og ligestilling et tema som stadig oftere er til debat. I forbindelse med det svenske formandskab i EU i første halvdel af 2001, vil der blandt andet blive arrangeret en stor konference om mænd og maskulinitet.

På den måde er vi som er længst fremme når det gælder ligestilling, med til at skubbe de øvrige lande i samme retning. Jeg kan naturlivis ikke sige noget om hvorrnår der bliver avholdt en FN konference om emnet, men jeg arbejder sammen med mine kollegaer i Norden og EU i den rigtige retning.

Med venlig hilsen

Jytte Andersen

MINISTER FOR Ligestilling, Slotsholmsgade 1, DK1216 København K

Tlf + 45 33 92 51 00 Fax +45 33 92 61 04


Se også Eva Mobergs artikkel: "Nå er det mennenes tur"