Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, Under-Secretary-General and UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, Distinguished Permanent Representatives, dear colleagues,
I am very happy to welcome you to the launch event of the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls. I would like to thank Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed for her presence and for being a key supporter and driving force of this initiative.
Let me also express my appreciation to the members of the Steering Committee, Argentina, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand and Turkey for taking a leading role in setting up this Group. I would also like to thank the 77 UN Member States and observers who have joined the group of Friends to date, as well as the international and regional organisations and the civil society who have expressed their interest to partake in this initiative.
UN Women, UNFPA, UNDP and UNICEF are playing a key role in the elimination of gender-based violence and we are looking forward to working closely with them as well as with all other relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes.
We also thank all those of you who are participating today and we hope that you will consider joining us.
Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive human rights violations. The numbers are appalling everywhere. 1 in 3 women will experience sexual or physical violence in her lifetime. Data emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how violence against women and girls, in particular domestic violence, has intensified. This is a global issue. It concerns all our countries and all spheres of society. It therefore requires a global response.
The international community has been united in its response to this shadow pandemic. Last April, 146 UN Member States and Observers joined a statement in support of the UN Secretary-General’s appeal to stop violence at home around the world. At the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on 1st October, Member States reaffirmed at the highest level their commitment to end violence.
The objective of our Group of Friends will be to turn these commitments into action. There are many successful initiatives on-going at national and international level. The Group of Friends will serve as a platform to highlight these good practices, identify shortcomings and mobilize further efforts. It will provide a forum to bring together expertise and to improve coordination, advocacy and action at the UN.
All Member States and relevant actors who share the ambition to eradicate violence and to promote gender equality in all its forms are encouraged to join the group. We value all voices and experiences as we believe it will make us stronger in addressing this global challenge.
The success of this Group will not be measured by the number of its meetings or statements. We want instead to focus on concrete action, including all stakeholders, to promote change. This is why we suggested in the roadmap circulated last Friday to have only three meetings at PR level a year. These meetings will take place before the Commission on the Status of Women, at the HLPF and during the 16 days of activism. They will focus on concrete issues, including upcoming negotiations, as well as programmes on the ground. We also suggest two events at ministerial level during CSW and UNGA to showcase our commitments. A network of experts will be created to take work forward. We count on the support of the Spotlight Initiative, which will act as our secretariat.
The Group of Friends will be chaired by the members of the Steering Committee, who will rotate every two years to hold the Chair. The EU is honoured to start it off for the first two years.
Ending violence against women and girls is an integral part of the broader objective to achieve gender equality, on which we renewed our commitments on the occasion of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I would like to conclude by thanking my dear friend from the Maldives, H.E. Mrs. Thilmeeza Hussain, who kindly gave me this mask marked with the word ‘dhivehi’ or gender equality. This mask reminds me of the universal importance of achieving this objective across all languages and all cultures.