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Summary: 9 March 2015, New York – Statement delivered by H. E. Ms. MārÄ«te Seile, Minister of Education of the Republic of Latvia, at the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

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Madame Chair,

I have the honour of addressing, on behalf of the European Union and its Member States, this Commission on the Status of Women, as we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

We reassert our active commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action as well as to the implementation of the outcomes of the 23rd Special Session of the General Assembly as indispensable tools for achieving gender equality, human rights and empowerment of women and girls.

Madame Chair,

This is indeed a time for review and assessment. This is the time to intensify actions and measures to ensure the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This is a time to renew and strengthen commitments, in particular in the areas where progress has been slower. It is 20 years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; it is 15 years since the adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, peace and security. These anniversaries will coincide with the discussion on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This is why now is the once-in-a-generation opportunity to place human rights and empowerment of women and girls on the global level and to deliver tangible results for all women and girls.

Business as usual is no longer an option, whether in terms of human dignity, equality or sustainability. The new Post-2015 Development Agenda should aim to eradicate poverty in all its forms and to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions in a balanced and integrated manner. It must steel our determination to end extreme poverty in one generation, building on and completing the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals. The new agenda must be people-centred, based on human rights, and combat discrimination, including gender inequality and gender based violence. Goals, targets and indicators across the framework should address legal, social and economic barriers to gender equality. When we secure the rights of women and girls, we are not only investing in equal, equitable and progressive societies, we are also un-tapping the potential of half of the world’s population. We also recognise the importance of involving men and boys in advancing gender equality.

This is why the European Union has supported actively the inclusion of a stand-alone goal on gender in the Sustainable Development Goals. We welcome the outcome document of the Open Working Group, which includes such a goal, and also mainstreams gender through several goals. We must be able to assess effectively progress we make in achieving these goals, by measuring them through indicators and data disaggregated by sex; in this way we will make sure that no-one is left behind.

Madame Chair,

The European Union and its Member States remain 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 of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of their review conferences, and in this context sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action committed States to women’s full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power. With a view to the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, the European Union is monitoring progress in all 12 critical areas covered by the Beijing Platform for Action. The European Institute for Gender Equality prepared an independent monitoring report “Beijing+20”, which covers the progress made since Beijing+15 and identified the remaining obstacles and challenges. On the basis of this report, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions with policy recommendations and orientation for future action on gender equality.

In the framework of the events in preparation of Beijing+20, the Italian Presidency of the European Union and the European Commission organised in Rome in October 2014 a Conference on the future of gender equality, where the participating Ministers and political authorities responsible for gender equality reiterated their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and its follow up.

We have made a lot of progress since we commemorated Beijing+15 in terms of equality in education, employment, research, and development cooperation. We are working tirelessly to eradicate trafficking of women and girls. Many of these changes came as a result of political and regulatory pressure. Equal treatment legislation has grown into a coherent legal framework. We have put money into gender equality through financial programmes, such as the new Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme, and also through the Structural and Investment Funds. We have worked closely social partners and NGOs.

But this is not enough. Gender gaps and discrimination remain in all spheres of society. Let me give a revealing example: the gender pay gap is on average 16% in the EU. This is the result of persisting discrimination against women in the labour market, and of the different educational and professional paths taken by women and men. These different paths are often the result of stereotypical views of women’s role in society. The gender pay gap is also the result of women and men’s unequal sharing of work and family life. Often, a lack of care services puts pressure on women to interrupt their career. If we look at the gender gap in pensions, the situation is even more alarming: men’s pensions are on average 39% higher than women’s in the EU.

No country has fully achieved gender equality, but each one has useful experiences to share. Let me give you an example from the EU Monitoring Report with one of the critical areas of concern – violence against women. Since Beijing + 15 increased efforts have been made to tackle issues in this area together with a greater commitment of EU Member States to preventing and combating gender‑based violence against women, most notably through the process of ratification of the Istanbul Convention. The area of violence against women has gained more visibility, with more research and data collection and a better understanding of the nature and scale of the problem in the EU. We addressed more systematically and comprehensively trafficking of women and girls by adopting an ambitious legal and policy framework, also by improving our knowledge basis with data collection and studies on the gender dimension thereof.

A number of studies have been conducted, including collecting methods, tools and good practices in preventing domestic violence and on state measures to combat violence against women. These efforts have been complemented by notable EU and Member State initiatives to strengthen the legislative and institutional framework to combat violence against women. Recent EU‑wide research (FRA, 2014) on the prevalence of different forms of violence against women estimated that across the EU Member States one in every three women have experienced sexual or physical violence since the age of 15.

In line with its Guidelines on Violence Against Women and Girls and Combating All Forms of Discrimination Against Them, the European Union supports the fight against all harmful practices affecting girls and women, men and boys, including Female Genital Mutilation and Child, Early and Forced Marriage, both in the European Union and globally. At the Girl Summit in London in July 2014 the European pledged more than 100 million euro for the next seven years to gender equality and children wellbeing under our Global Public Goods and Challenges programme.

Besides these old challenges, which are as pressing as ever, we have gained some insights into new challenges. For example, new challenges arising from the digitalisation of society. Violence, bullying, and trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation are no less harmful online than they are offline. At the same time, the digital economy is an opportunity, not least for a better reconciliation of work and family life.

Countering radicalisation and terrorism are yet another example of emerging issues. The EU is committed to address the underlying factors of radicalization by supporting initiatives with regard to youth, education, vocational training, job opportunities, civil society, security sector reform, role of women. The EU will work with faith-based organizations, as appropriate.

Madame Chair,

We also must not forget the key role women should be able to play as active agents in conflict prevention and resolution, peace negotiations, peace building, humanitarian responses, and post-conflict reconstruction. We are committed to promoting the role of women in peace and security, including through the implementation of UNSCR 1325 and its follow-up resolutions. 17 European Union Member States have adopted national action plans with the aim of strengthening their action on UNSCR 1325. We continue to implement a systematic plan: the EU Comprehensive Approach to the Implementation of these resolutions.

We are looking forward to the Global Review of the implementation of UNSCR 1325 this year. We hope that it provides an additional push to make all our commitments on women, peace and security a reality. Preparations to the 1325 Review will be conducted in parallel with the peacebuilding review and the review of peace operations. This provides us with an opportunity we must not miss to embed a strong gender dimension in the UN peace and security architecture.

Madame Chair,

The European Union places great importance on institutional mechanisms for equality, as is shown by the establishment of the European Institute for Gender Equality, whose main aim is to assist the EU and its Member States in the promotion of gender equality.

In some areas an increase of women’s participation in decision-making processes can be noticed. A woman continues to hold the post of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The new European Commission includes for the first time a Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

In the European Union, we are currently preparing a new, stronger Strategy for equality between women and men after 2015 that can respond to current needs and challenges, build a just and equal society, and will be essential to continue the fight against persisting gender inequalities. We will be paying particular attention to establishing and implementing internal mechanisms that can enhance women’s participation in decision-making, so that the European Union can lead by example. We are also develop this year ‘an ambitious and robust’ new Plan of action on Gender Equality and Women Empowerment in Development 2016-2020.

Madame Chair,

The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is a central aim of the United Nations. We welcome the key role that UN Women has been playing in empowering women and eliminating violence against women and girls through its programmes, technical assistance, advocacy and normative work, and also through its leadership and coordination of efforts across the UN. The European Union and UN Women have intensified cooperation through implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding.

I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the commitment of the EU on Gender Equality. The EU remains dedicated to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and continues to work for this goal together with all partners around the world, as affirmed by the Political Declaration adopted earlier today.

Thank you.

* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.

  • Ref: EUUN15-028EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council), (including functional Commissions)
  • Date: 9/3/2015

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