Check against delivery!
Thank you all for being here. Thank you for organising this. It is true, indeed, that the idea of having this event on the occasion of my visit here in Japan - the second time in a month - and on the occasion of the G20 Foreign Ministers' meeting came out of a conversation we had less than one month ago. We thought that the excellent bilateral relationship we have between the European Union and Japan could have also been deepened and showcased on this very important topic, namely the role of women and young people in the peace and security work globally. We are partners on trade; we are partners on political issues between the European Union and Japan; but we are also partners in society; and we are also partners in the global work we do to advance a peace and security agenda that can be inclusive and properly sustainable, involving fully young people and women.
I would like to thank you all for being here and for making this possible, because we are not just here to discuss a specific policy or programme today - although, of course, we also need the right policies and programmes. This is why I am so honoured and happy to have with us today some of the key decision-makers here in Japan: Members of Parliament and Minister Tarō Kōno [Defence Minister of Japan], who is joining us in a few minutes. But we are here to discuss a global change of mind-set embodied by two UN Security Council resolutions that are at the heart of the Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union and I believe also of Japan.
A pretty radical change of mind-set: the international community finally accepted collectively that women and youth are not just the object of our policies, the recipients of decisions that are taken by others and these others are often men and often over 60 years old. Women and young people are agents of change in their lives, in their friendships, in their relationships, in their families, in their communities, in their countries, and also globally. If we do not recognise this, and if we do not acknowledge this fact, we condemn our policies and our actions to being ineffective. It is as simple as that.
We are here, first and foremost, because we recognise a fact - a reality - in our societies and in our countries in the 21st century. You have all seen some images that have inspired us all. You have seen the images of a Sudanese young woman standing on the top of a car asking for democracy in her country. They called her the Sudanese Statute of Liberty. I met the new Prime Minister of Sudan [Hassam Ali Khayre] a few weeks ago in Brussels - he honoured us with a visit. And that change came about and started from there: from participation - from active participation - of a young woman.
We all know about the leading role of our sons and daughters in the global movement for climate action. Without them that key policy issue would probably not be at the forefront of the political landscape globally. Across the world, young people are the majority in many of their societies and, of course, women are half of the global population. In these years, I have had the honour of meeting many of those people that are the leading force behind women, peace and security and youth peace and security. I will mention only a few: the former Colombian children soldiers, who finally had access to education when the war in their country ended, and the Syrian and Yemeni women who are working with the United Nations and with the support of the European Union to try to build peace and reconciliation in their countries, because there is no real peace and security without them.
Peace deals are usually signed by two men, the two leaders of the two sides at war. Peace might begin with that signature that is a key starting point, but that signature is never enough to build peace on the ground for real. Peace can only grow and stand the test of time if it has deep roots in the societies that have been in conflict. For this you need youth and women. Without them, there is no peace. You need the silent majority and you need the silent majority to become less silent and to engage, because this majority was not just a victim of war - or a hostage, rather, of war. This majority can be the agent of change and moving from war, conflict and tensions to peace requires deep changes. The most powerful agent of peace and reconciliation in societies are always women and young people.
The same is true to prevent conflicts before they arise. A country will be much less stable if its young people cannot find a decent job or cannot express their ideas freely and if they do not find their place in society. I have always been impressed by my dialogues, for instance, with the young generation in some of the Arab countries. When I ask them, why do you think that people your age and in your generation sometimes are attracted by becoming a foreign fighter in another country or attracted by the Da’esh ideology? They often told me that it is not just a matter of economy or having a job. It is a matter of having a place in the organigram of society, of being part of something, of belonging somewhere. I think this element of inclusion, and of giving a role to play to each and every one of us, is a key component also of preventing violence and conflict.
In the same way, violence against women includes many different forms: from economic injustice to social disparities, from lack of fair healthcare as well as physical, mental, and emotional violence against mainly women and girls. When a society is not just, then there can be no sustainable peace either. There are policies that we can put in place to address these unbalances - policies to give our young people and women the opportunities they deserve - and also that our societies need - or to involve women and youth in a peace processes. But beyond changing policies, which is essential, we need a change of attitudes, which implies also an individual effort. We need to teach our boys and girls that violence is always wrong. That violence is not a demonstration of strength, but rather the opposite: it is always a demonstration of weakness. Those that take violent attitudes, especially against women and girls, are actually showing their weakness. It is simply “not cool”. I think this should be the message that our young boys in particular should reflect in their behaviours and in their relations with their peers.
We need to stop thinking that by opening our decision-making to youth and women we are doing them a favour. I am convinced that we are doing a favour to all of us and in particular, we are doing a favour to our democracies, because if a democracy is not able to reflect the composition of the population and if the voters are not able to identify themselves in those that are being elected, that is a weakness for our democratic systems. This is the only way to make decision making really inclusive and also sustainable. It is also the only way to really give peace a chance. So we will continue to work with Japan, with all of you, to change our collective attitudes that start with our individual behaviours and to do it together and to recognise youth and women as true fundamental agents of change, and to support them, not just because they need it, but because the entire society needs that. I thank you very much.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-180486