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Thank you very much João [Vale de Almeida, EU Ambassador to the United Nations in New York].
As I said this morning at the opening of the [UN] high level event ["Women in power"], I think it is always good to have a man introducing a panel of women. We invert the roles and it is really an honor and a pleasure for me to be here together with my sister [Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director] and with all my sisters here on stage with us today. I think it is a special honor and also a special emotion, for me at least, to be here with six extremely courageous women from Syria and Yemen.
When we talk about role models, I think they are our role models for real and they are women on the front lines. They are women that the European Union has met several times, has supported in their daily fights, and when I say fights, I literally mean fights. I have met some of them personally in Brussels and that has been a pleasure.
It is often said that to end a war, you depend on military actors and players to make some moves, be it on the terrain, on the ground or some decisions. But finding the path towards peace, winning the peace, definitely requires wise women and men to put together the pieces that would then allow reconciliation and sustainable peace. Winning the peace requires peace builders, and these women who are on stage here with us are peace builders of an extraordinary courage and determination.
Women are not just victims. They are also the major victims of conflicts, but maybe exactly because of that, they can be the most powerful peacemaking elements of a conflict. I will try to be extremely brief now because the purpose of this conversation today is to listen to them and to their voices. I remember that when I met some of you in Brussels, I asked you what we can do to support your work, your fights and your countries in their way out of the conflicts.
The main message you gave me is, give us space for our voice to be heard to have an impact and an influence on the political processes that are underway. I believe that we need to guarantee that your voice is powerfully heard, not to give you a concession, not to give you a favor - probably we are not giving you a favor - but because otherwise, there is not going to be any kind of sustainable peace and sustainable solution, neither for Syria nor for Yemen.
I do not only believe but I know that your views on the future of Syria and Yemen are ones that would allow every single person, every citizen of your countries to call their countries home, and to guarantee that you manage to build societies and institutions that are representative for all, regardless of ideas and backgrounds. You can always count on us to fight with you for guaranteeing that you have the space for your voice to be heard.
I also want to thank the United Nations, in particular UN Women, but also the UN Envoys that are working with us in Syria [Geir Pedersen] and in Yemen [Martin Griffiths] but also elsewhere - I can mention Libya [Ghassan Salamé] for instance - that always tried to make sure that women are part of the process. I think this is an excellent cooperation we have established. It is not easy, but I am glad that we have this so strong partnership on this particular issue.
Tomorrow we will be in Brussels for the third Brussels Conference on "Supporting the future of Syria and the region" and one of the most important events will be putting the voices of Syrian women at the centre to make sure that Syrian women are empowered. As I said, not because this is a way of giving you a favor or a concession, but because we know that, without half of the population, there is no way in which a peace agreement can be sustainable.
I am very much looking forward to hearing your voices but, first and foremost, I want to thank our sister [Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director] and sister organisation [UN Women] this week – I would say – for being with us today and with us every at single step of this journey.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I169204