Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to be here today to address this important topic. With the discussions you have held today, and the distinguished guests who have participated, there can be no doubt that this meeting has brought us all a step closer to our ideal – a new reality in which women’s human rights are respected and promoted, and where violence against women is not tolerated.
A step closer – but we all know this is a long road. It requires the concerted efforts of multiple committed actors, working through innovative partnerships and with diverse strategies to achieve a large number of individual but closely linked goals.
Preventing and eliminating violence against women requires leadership and political will backed by action and resources.
It requires the adoption and enforcement of national laws addressing and punishing all forms of violence against women and girls.
It requires integrated approaches that bring together governments, civil society organizations, law enforcement and judicial systems, to ensure that victims have access to legal services, justice systems and support and that perpetrators are punished.
All of us present here are partners in this endeavor.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – known to us as the Istanbul Convention - is based on the understanding that violence against women is a form of violence that is committed against women because they are women.
The convention emphasizes the obligation of the state to fully address it in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. Failure to do so would make it the responsibility of the state. The convention leaves no doubt: there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on a large-scale and state agencies and institutions turn a blind eye.
UNDP has country office presence in 22 countries in Eastern Europe and the CIS, the Caucasus and the Western Balkans. Of these, there are 8 which have signed the convention - Albania, BiH, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine. Three have ratified it - Albania, Montenegro and Turkey. I would like to assure you that through our country level work, we at UNDP will make efforts to promote the further ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
UNDP’s priorities in the region are closely aligned with those of the EU. Indeed, in EU accession and Neighbourhood Policy countries, an important area of work for UNDP is to support governments to carry out the reforms needed to align with the Aquis Communautaire.
This is also true in the area of Gender Based Violence.
You are all familiar with the most recent directive adopted by the European Council, which aims to ensure improved protection for victims of domestic violence. This new regulation, adopted on June 6 2013, creates an EU wide protection order which will mean that for the first time, people who have suffered violence can rely on a restraining order obtained in their home country wherever they are in the EU: the protection order will travel with the individual and will be recognized across the EU.
The Regulation is now being translated into national law and will apply from 11 January 2015.
I would like to reiterate UNDP’s commitment to support this type of regional framework, at the country level, using human rights based approaches, and working closely with our UN sister Agencies as well as government and civil society partners.
At today’s meeting, you have discussed the importance of national mechanisms for advocating, implementing and monitoring progress on women’s human rights. Across the region, UNDP supports capacity development of ombudsmen, human rights commissions, gender equality offices, and watchdogs in civil society. We also support national reporting on CEDAW and the Universal Periodic review – an issue you have debated in your second panel .
As I said, we at UNDP believe that combating gender based Violence and promoting women’s human rights requires multi-faced approaches. The diversity of our approaches and programmes illustrates this.
For example, I’d like to highlights our South Eastern and Eastern Europe Clearinghouse for the Control of the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC). The project has made major steps towards successful mainstreaming of gender in the Police Service and the Military, both by training and integrating more female officers, by promoting networks of women officers across countries in South Eastern Europe, and by supporting gender mainstreaming in the police and military institutions across the region.
I believe that this kind of initiative provides concrete and tangible support to efforts to combat violence against women and promote women’s human rights.
Let me also mention our work – carried out at the country level together with UN Women – to implement Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The aim of our work is to integrate the Resolution into in national laws, policies and strategies in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia and in Kosovo under SCR 1244. We work together with civil society to strengthen the capacities and mechanisms of civil society organizations and gender equality advocates. At the regional level, we support the development of networks of CSOs, gender experts, advocates, parliamentarians and civil servants.
Economic empowerment of women is another key area. Where women have incomes, financial independence and autonomy, violence decreases. Through our country programmes, we promote female entrepreneurship, vocational training and business skills for women. Equally, promoting women’s participation in decision making, through politics, at national levels and – especially – at local levels, is essential to ensuring that women’s voices are heard in policy making, planning and budgeting.
Together with the World Health organization and other UN Agencies, we also do extensive work on HIV. As we all know, the linkages between HIV and gender based violence have been extensively studied and discussed. The Europe and CIS region is now the only region in the world in which the HIV epidemic is on the increase. It is therefore essential to keep in mind gender sensitive perspectives. Through our work across the region – much of it in partnership with the Global Fund to fight HIV, Malaria and TB, we address the issue of HIV prevention, treatment and care, in gender sensitive ways.
And yet, I began by saying this is a long road. Despite our collective successes, much work remains.
When gender based violence does happen, survivors must be provided with comprehensive and coordinated medical, psycho-social and legal service delivery. Efforts must be accelerated to prevent gender based violence from occurring in the first place. We must escalate our efforts to bring men and boys on board as partners – something the Secretary General’s campaign UNITE to End Violence Against Women, strongly focuses on.
This fight is not just an important end in itself. Gender based violence is one of the means by which inequalities between men and women are perpetuated throughout the world. As such, it is essential to address if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and accelerate development progress more broadly. The importance of this issue was emphasized in a recent global consultation on inequalities that is part of a comprehensive and inclusive outreach process, being led by the UN system, on what the new global development agenda should look like post-2015.
I am extremely pleased to be here to witness this coalition of likeminded partners in this project, and to offer, once again, UNDP’s support.