» Empowering women will create a better future for all
07.10.2016 - ODG

Empowering women will create a better future for all

© UNESCO/Ignacio Marin

On 6 October, UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, participated in the Seminar “A Feminist Foreign Policy in Practice- why and how?” and the Ceremony for UNESCO to join as a Partner to the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies, organized by the Permanent Delegation of Sweden to UNESCO.

The event took place with the participation of Ms Annika Markovic, Permanent Delegate and Ambassador of Sweden to UNESCO, Ms Ann Bernes, Ambassador of Sweden for Gender Equality and Coordinator of the Feminist Foreign Policy, and Mr Michael Worbs, Chairperson of the UNESCO Executive Board.

The event was opened by Mr Michael Worbs who stated the importance of the “empowerment of women and girls for the achievement of sustainable development for all”.

Ms Markovic declared that “ensuring women and girls can enjoy fundamental human rights is both an obligation and a prerequisite for reaching our broader foreign policy on peace security and sustainable development”. Ms Markovic also reported the need to understand that armed conflict “impact women and girls, boys and men in different ways” and to “fundamentally transform the way gender-based violence (GBV) is addressed in humanitarian emergencies”.

In her remarks, the Director-General commended the Government of Sweden and in particular the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, for her leadership. “Feminist foreign policy is not about idealism … this is about putting human rights and dignity first… this is about the effectiveness of peacebuilding efforts… this is about strengthening a more inclusive rules-based international order,” declared the Director-General. “I see promoting gender equality as one of the steepest challenges of the21st century […] it is also one of the greatest opportunities for sustainable development and lasting peace.”

The Director-General underscored that all this seeks to multiply the power of gender equality, to strengthen the leadership of women, to enhance their role in decision-making on matters that affect them and all of society. “This is why I am honoured for UNESCO join as a partner to this Call to Action, and I pledge today my determination to bring all of UNESCO’s expertise, its UNESCO’s networks, to take this forward,” she declared.

Ms Ann Bernes responded by saying that “by becoming a partner to the call to action, UNESCO clearly signals that we indeed need to do a lot more to prevent and respond to gender-based violence”. “So far, humanitarian response has been inadequate, and that needs to change. The task is greater than any one donor, state or agency. Transforming the way GBV is addressed in humanitarian emergencies is a challenge which requires systematic and coordinated collective action in order to achieve real progress both in policy and on the ground” she declared.

The call to Action was launched in 2013 and brings together an impressive range of stakeholders with a transparent governance structure. It offers a clear and measurable roadmap that can substantially increase accountability, collective action and concrete programmes on gender-based violence in humanitarian emergencies.  

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