-- 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.
Two weeks ago at the opening of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council, UN Secretary-General Guterres launched a Call to Action on human rights. At the centre of his call is the need to advance gender equality and equal rights for women and girls. Human rights will never be realized without the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by all women and girls.
Today's adoption of the Political Declaration is an important step in the global path towards gender equality. By its adoption, the international community reaffirms the full validity and force of the international acquis on gender equality, the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by all women and girls and their empowerment. It recognises the interconnection and mutual reinforcement between the Beijing commitments and other commitments, such as the outcomes of major UN conferences, in particular the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development and its reviews, and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
The Political Declaration sends a message to all women and girls around the world on our collective commitment to uphold their right to control their destiny, fulfil their potential and meet their aspirations, free from violence, coercion and harassment.
Today is a celebration, yet this is no time to be complacent. As underlined by the Secretary-General in his report: "in some areas, progress has stalled and even reversed…. Pushback against gender equality is becoming stronger." If we continue at the current pace, it will take the world 99.5 years to reach gender equality according to the World Economic Forum. We must joint forces and accelerate efforts to deliver on the promise of Beijing.
The Political Declaration identifies some areas where intensified efforts are needed, such as tackling the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls, but also unleashing women’s potential as actor of change for a sustainable future, ensuring full participation in decision making, eliminating all forms of violence, promoting women's economic empowerment and guaranteeing the right to education and health.
2020 also marks the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security. For the EU, it was important that the Political Declaration should recognise the link between gender equality and peace and security, and vice versa. Gender equality cannot be achieved without increased participation of women in all stages of peace processes. And there is an inextricable link between gender inequality and the absence of peace and security. For that reason, we would have liked to appropriately acknowledge and express commitment to the WPS agenda in the context of implementing Beijing.
We welcome the emphasis of the Political Declaration on the promotion of all human rights and the implementation of all goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda. There cannot be selectivity when upholding rights.
The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their 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.
These priorities will guide our work as we embark in a new decade of action.
We must all do better. The European Union must do better. This is why the European Commission presented last week a new Gender Equality Strategy for the period 2020-2025.
No action bears fruit, if civil society is not associated. Civil society organisations and human rights defenders are drivers of change, and their work is globally crucial to promoting and strengthening the universality of human rights. The EU stands by women’s rights organisations; feminist groups and women human rights defenders as defenders of rights holders, promoters of democracy and the rule of law, social justice and human rights. The EU will continue to oppose restrictive measures as well as violent attacks, reprisals and harassment. States can only be resilient and enjoy sustainable security when human rights are fully protected and civil society is able to operate in a safe and enabling environment.
Accelerating the implementation of these commitments is in the interest of the present and future generations. Young people, are in the driving seat of this galvanizing moment and have a great potential to mobilize the new generation for the empowerment of young women and girls all over the world. The EU welcomes the UN Women’s decision to create the “Beijing+25 Youth Task Force”, and contributes to reinforcing the network of young supporters of the Beijing+25 process.
The EU stands ready to contribute to the Beijing+25 process over the year. The EU will play its part in the Generation Equality Forum, by means of participating in the events convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France and engaging in action coalitions. We also look forward to the high level event of the General Assembly in September and to the postponed CSW meetings later this year.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has talked about the European Union as an aspiration “of living in a society where you can be who you are, live where you like, love who you want and aim as high as you want”. The Political Declaration adopted today is a small step towards this aspiration of a better world for all and across all regions. As Irish poet Seamus Heaney, we: “believe that a further shore is reachable from here”.
* The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.