- Check against delivery -
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
This year's discussion heralds the series of milestone anniversaries on gender equality and girls' and women's human rights: the 40th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 20th anniversary of UNSCR1325 on Women, Peace and Security. These are among the fundamental pillars inspiring and informing our policies and actions at any time and in any place.
More, a five-year milestone will be reached soon towards the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which places human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of all girls and women at its core. By perfectly intersecting the fundamental pillars I just mentioned, the 2030 Agenda strengthens de facto accountability for gender equality commitments at all levels.
Today's discussion is a way to demonstrate achievements and accountability, and also identify gaps that remain.
Fulfilling our commitments and obligations regarding the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights for women and girls, the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls are sine qua non to global progress on peace and security, stability and prosperity. Investing in gender equality is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Globally, regionally, nationally and locally everyone benefits when women and girls are educated, healthy and can contribute to shaping the policies, services and infrastructure that impact not only their own lives but all our lives. Societies flourish with a re-established trust in institutions and a stronger spirit of global solidarity by tackling inequalities at their roots and promoting human rights for all without any discrimination.
The world is changing at a rapid pace and the global movement for gender equality is gaining more and more momentum. The international community relies heavily, even overwhelmingly on us, our sense of shared responsibility, and common commitment to make the world a better place for all.
Globally, significant strides in tackling gender inequalities have been made over the last year. Many countries have adopted or are about to adopt comprehensive equality and anti-discrimination laws, have increased gender budgeting and have improved reporting and transparency, just to mention a few examples. Furthermore, there is evidence that the situation of girls and women has improved, in terms of for instance a decrease in child, early and forced marriage, rise in social inclusion and full recognition of the diverse role of girls and women in society. Allow me to refer to the launch event of the Global Alliance of Women Mediators Networks, which took place last week, as a concrete example of how vital the contribution of women is to the gains of society.
The international community can continue to count on the EU to make gender inequality history. The EU remains committed to promote women's and girls' full enjoyment of all human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as a priority across all areas of action. It is part and parcel of the normative and institutional DNA of the EU since its inception in 1957.
The EU is a major global actor, the world's leading development investor and a leading humanitarian aid donor for the promotion and protection of girls' and women's human rights. This confirms once again the seriousness of the EU's commitment to accelerate progress in achieving gender equality and girls' and women's empowerment everywhere, both inside and outside the European Union.
Over the years, the EU has forged significant initiatives to the benefit of all girls and women worldwide. "Significant" because of their ambitious goals, the number of women and girls worldwide who are concretely benefitting from them, the shared ownership with partners, the inclusive engagement of civil society organizations and women human rights defenders at all levels, and not least because of the size of the EU's financial investment.
Allow me to proudly recall, amongst other, the Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls, which was launched two years ago here in this building and is now a reality. Preventing and eliminating all forms of violence and discrimination against girls and women, including domestic violence, remain a key priority of the EU. The EU has adopted and is consistently implementing a zero-tolerance approach to violence against girls and women throughout Europe and elsewhere. Against a structural and global phenomenon that knows no social, economic or national boundaries, we have a common obligation to prevent violence, protect survivors and hold perpetrators accountable through comprehensive and integrated policies, practical measures and resource allocation.
Over the last year, the EU gave renewed impetus to the EU policy framework on Women, Peace and Security. On this basis, the EU is committing to scale-up action to realise gender equality along the conflict cycle, from prevention, management to resolution. This also includes a new approach to conflict-related sexual violence as part of a continuum of gender-based vulnerabilities and violence closely intertwined with persistent inequalities and broader attacks on gender equality, women’s and girls' full enjoyment of human rights, including online, digital and cyber violence. In this context, the EU has taken the commitment to scale up its engagement in the fight against sexual violence in conflict, including by supporting the international fund for survivors of sexual violence of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Nadia Murad and Dr Denis Mukwege.
No initiatives would have been implemented or results achieved without civil society organisations and human rights defenders. Today, we pay tribute to them for their brave and tireless work in the pursuit of human rights for all. Every day, more women human rights defenders all over the world are taking action to promote equality, peace and justice. It is these women who are transforming traditional gender roles and power structures, by dedicating their lives to defending human rights. Their work needs to be recognised and protected.
The EU stands by and continues to relentlessly support human rights defenders, to speak out against the shrinking civil society space, and to use political and financial action to support them.
Despite these efforts, no single country is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. If we keep this pace, the gender gap will likely take 108 years to close.
2019 is an important preparatory year for the international community. We have a unique opportunity to join forces and reaffirm our commitments with reinforced action at all levels. Continuous dialogue, strong network and joint efforts between all relevant actors are key to change things for the better. We welcome in this regard the convening of the Generation Equality Forum by UN Women and co-chaired by Mexico and France aimed at celebrating the 25th anniversary of the historic Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and at giving new impetus to women's and girls' rights across the world, as well as other relevant initiatives aiming at this objective.
The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of the review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights, in this context. Having that in mind, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The EU further stresses the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education and health-care services.
The EU reiterates its full commitment to the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 SDGs, including the stand-alone SDG5 on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, as well as their gender-responsive targets.
This Third Committee will discuss several resolutions related to the advancement of girls' and women’s full enjoyment of all human rights, gender equality and girls' and women’s empowerment. Consistent with all key international commitments including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the EU will engage constructively in these negotiations and remains firmly committed to turn these resolutions into action.
The legacy of Simone Veil, the first woman President of the directly elected European Parliament and a true women's rights champion, continues to inspire our daily work. It is with her values and vision at heart, and with the commitment to fully live up to our human rights obligations, that we will continue to strive toward achieving a more equal world.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.