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Thank you dear Chair [Member of the European Parliament, David McAllister] and members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Development and Women’s rights and Gender equality.
Gender equality is a word that is highly disputed in the Council, I will talk about it later. Thank you for your interest and your invitiation to organise this joint meeting. Together with my colleague Commissioner [for International Partnerships, Jutta] Urpilainen we will present today the Joint Communication of the European Union on the Gender Action Plan GAP III. It is an ambitious agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the European Union external action and it was adopted by the College on 25 November.
As a global leader and as a reliable partner for gender equality and women’s rights, the European Union wants to “lead by example”, including in its efforts to help eliminate all forms of gender-based violence within and beyond its borders.
Gender equality is a political priority of the European Union and a universally recognised human right. It is essential for our well-being, for our economic growth, also for prosperity, good governance and, indeed, for peace and security.
Not one single country in the world, including [in] Europe, is well on track – it is sad to say but no one is really on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, as it was set out in Agenda 2030. In fact, the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on Gender Equality is one of the three least financed globally.
In the current global landscape, we see that gender equality and women’s rights are increasingly questioned and attacked in many parts of the world, including in the European Union, while the operational space for human rights’ defenders and peacebuilders, especially women activists, has been shrinking dramatically.
Let me reassure you, the European Union will fight against this, will not accept this situation. And this Communication will contribute a lot to this fight.
The pandemic’s deteriorating effects are in some way irreversible, but we must use these extraordinary times to take extraordinary measures, politically, financially and operationally.
This new Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in external Relations for the next years 2021-2025 wants to be a strong political commitment from the EU Commission and the EEAS to make gender equality a key objective in our common foreign and security policy. This goes from the multilateral fora and structured dialogues with partner countries to EU policy proposals or financing of projects.
It will combine gender mainstreaming, targeted actions and political dialogue at all instances: from EU headquarters, missions and peace-keeping operations, to the daily work in Delegations, in close cooperation with the other EU institutions – what we call Team Europe –, Member States and civil society.
This Gender Action Plan (GAP III) reflects the lessons learned from the evaluation of the previous Gender Action Plans and the feedback we have received from European Parliament, from the Member States and from civil society.
As a result, this Gender Action Plan III is the most comprehensive and ambitious ever. We have been asked to improve, expand and broaden the overall scope in our actions. And we are doing this here, by bringing together the triple nexus of Development, Peace and Security. The three of them are strongly linked.
The GAP III calls for a gender-equal world, for women and girls to fully enjoy their human rights, for peace, security, justice and sustainable development for all - no matter the gender.
We have integrated the EU’s Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security into the Gender Action Plan, as a cross-cutting theme and as a specific thematic area for our engagement.
In particular, we have fully integrated gender equality into the planning, conduct and review of our Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions and operations.
We have advanced to promote the diverse roles of women in all matters related to peace and security, such as conflict prevention and resolution, mediation and peacebuilding. And we must pay better attention to their security in order to ensure that they can participate and contribute.
Because women should not be seen only as the victims or vulnerable members of society that need to be protected, the weakest one. No, on the contrary, they are indispensable and very active agents of change, instrumental to achieve peace and stability.
Still women need to be empowered to be part of the decision-making processes in all settings. All means all: from policy makers to business community and to civil society.
If we want to build back better, women and girls have to be part and be at the centre of the decision-making everywhere.
We must “walk the talk” and we must do it, once again, together.
The GAP III want to be strategic, ambitious, challenging, comprehensive, and highly political. When implemented - because I agree with what you have been saying that the important thing is the implementation on the ground, where things are implemented, not just announced-, it will help our European Union’s efforts to get one big leap closer to creating a more gender-equal world, a world where women’s rights will be the norm.
There is still a long journey for that. A long journey ahead of us to achieve these results, these objectives. But we must continue leading by example when it comes to gender equality.
We cannot reach out to others if we are not able to show our commitment and our engagement through our behaviour. We have to be consistent, efficient and credible in our efforts to show that the European Union external action starts here, at home.
Well, this is easier said than done, but believe me [when I say] that Commissioner [for International Partnerships, Jutta] Urpilainen, the whole body of the European External Action Service, and I will be very much committed to that.
And now I will give the floor to Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen to tell you more about this Action Plan.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.