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Thank you very much and thank you for organising this high level event [hosted by the President of the United Nations General Assembly].
I will start with a personal anecdote: When I started my mandate almost five years ago, I remember that many were wondering if I was old enough to do this job, and yet I was the Foreign Minister of a G7 country, Italy, and I was wondering if age was really the problem because there are Prime Ministers and Presidents who were younger than me. I was 41 at the time.
Then I realised that the real issue was that a relatively young woman can be accepted to deal with education or social affairs, but with defence, security and diplomacy are for more serious people, elderly people, the kind of person that can put its weight on the table.
I realised that being relatively young and a woman matches two elements of prejudice that are extremely difficult to face if combined together. I think women in power have this first responsibility and we all have this first responsibility of being a role model for our girls and young women around the world, telling them that if a man can do it, you can do it too, be it a football player, a film director, the CEO of an enterprise, a Defence Minister, a President.
The sky is the limit. If a man can do it, for sure you can do it; I do not say better than him, but you can do it at least as a man can do it.
I have the impression that we have to strengthen this powerful image of women that are already in positions of responsibility, that are holding power positions, to encourage, especially the younger women around the world, and to tell them, yes, you can do it.
Because we are seeing all around the world a pushback, as the Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres] was saying, that has to be pushed back by the institutions, but by all of us together in our daily lives, telling our girls -our daughters but also our sons and our boys - that a girl can be anything she wants in life, provided she works hard, she has the capacity to do so, and there should be no limit to what she can do.
The second responsibility we have concerns policies because once we are here, once we are in positions of responsibility, we can shape policies and decisions as well as men do. Men obviously also have this responsibility because as you were very wisely saying there is something in it for everybody.
When women are empowered, the full potential of society is used and this is not just good for women, it is also good for men and the entire societies in economic terms, in security and peace terms, and in terms of equality and quality of our democracies.
We have a responsibility to adopt the right policies for empowering women and protecting women from violence, from discrimination and empowering women in access to job, to power, responsibility and institutions but also to peacekeeping and mediation.
I would like to close on this. In my specific job which has to do with diplomacy, foreign policy and also security and defense, what I see is that when we manage to have women around the table - which does not happen very often, I am often the only woman around the table – and to empower women to get to the mediation processes, to get to the reconciliation after a conflict, first of all you manage to find the common ground much more often than otherwise. Why? I can give an example.
We are promoting, as European Union, the role of Syrian and Yemeni women in the conflict resolution of their own countries. Every time I meet with them - and I will do that again today because they are here with us today, with the European Union delegation - I see that, even if they come from very different backgrounds, histories, political and cultural identities, they do not focus on whose fault is it if we are in this situation. They focus on what is the common solution we can put in place to get out of this situation, the focus on the future rather than on the responsibilities of the past - obviously history also judges the responsibilities of the past.
But I find that when we have women around the table, we manage to find the common ground of win-win solutions much more easily, maybe because we are more inclined to understand that if you win, it is not necessarily that I lose, you can win and I can win as well. Actually, if we are neighbors and if you are in a bad situation, I am also in a bad situation.
This search for a common ground, this search for getting out of the zero sum game that is so powerful in the world politics today, I think is an element that women bring to the table much more than men do and we need to empower women.
This is what we are trying to do in all conflict situations. First of all, to prevent conflicts but also to find solutions that are sustainable. Peace agreements that are negotiated by women are more durable and more sustainable than the ones where they do not participate, and the same in the implementation of the reconciliation processes.
This is a matter of self-interest for the international community from a security point of view. It is not about good feelings, it is also about principles, but also about our self-interest in building a more secure environment for our own global community.
A last point very shortly: it is about the quality of our democracies. We are seeing a democratic crisis all around the world. More and more citizens, everywhere on all our continents, are questioning our institutions at all levels from the local, to the national, to the supranational ones.
I find that sometimes this is because our citizens do not recognise themselves in the faces of those who represent the institutions. Diversity in institutions is a value that qualifies democracy in an impressive manner. This is why empowering women, empowering different generations, empowering different cultural backgrounds, empowering diversity in institutions is also a way to strengthen our democratic life.
Link of the video: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?sitelang=en&ref=I168784