For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

An initiative from Kvinna till Kvinna

Political tension as Macedonia goes to the polls

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Yesterday was election day in Macedonia. The picture shows Macedonian activists in the global manifestation One Billion Rising 2013. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna |Johanna Arkåsen

Yesterday was election day in Macedonia. The picture shows Macedonian activists in the global manifestation One Billion Rising 2013. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna |Johanna Arkåsen

In the run-up to yesterday’s local elections in Macedonia, violence and political tension have increased. And women who involves politically meet tough resistance. It’s a male dominated political culture” says Emilija Dimoska, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation’s program officer.   

Macedonia is characterized by political tensions between the two largest groups in the country, ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The two groups are largely segregated – they live in different neighborhoods, go to different schools and have different curricula. Since 2011 tensions have increased, with several outbreaks of violence, to an extent that the country has not seen since 2001 when armed ethnic conflict rose between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) and security forces in Macedonia.

Since 1999, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation has an office in Macedonia, in the capital Skopje. Program officer Emilija Dimoska gives an explanation to the current turmoil.
“The situation erupted over the controversial appointment of former ethnic Albanian rebel commander Talat Xhaferi as Macedonia’s new defense minister. The demonstrations, which begun on March 1, were started by ethnic Macedonians furious at the appointment of the new defense minister,” Emilija Dimoska says.

Several women’s organisations in Macedonia are informing women about the importance of voting and getting involved politically. They have also built a partnership with politically active women, to support them. Furthermore, they assist policy makers with information about how the situation for women in the country.

Before the election, the organisation Women’s Center Kumanovo – run by twelve women’s organisations of various ethnic affiliations – has worked with lobbying to get more women interested in politics. Representatives of Women’s Center Kumanovo say that parts of the Macedonian population will abstain from taking part in the elections due to the bad economic situation, the high unemployment rate, low pensions and increased living expenses. They describes the social situation in Macedonia as disastrous.
“There is a democratic political crisis in the country, which is of course negative, and the issue is that voters can decide only between two political parties. Moreover, political issues need to be addressed within the Parliament, and not out of it.”

What are the main obstacles for women who want to engage politically?
“Women are slowly winning the requested percentage on the candidates’ lists; however it is necessary to work on improvement of their representation in the executive bodies of the party where there are fewer women, both at local and national level.”

To get more women to vote and engage in politics, Women’s Center Kumanovo try to strengthen women and increase their presence in public. They also try to increase their debating and argumentation skills.

What do you think about the election? What are your hopes and fears?
“In our view, the 2013 Elections are essential for the public and the international community’s perspective about Macedonia’s EU accession. We hope the campaign will be fair and democratic and that the will of the people will win. Our fear is related to the different irregularities that might occur in certain areas of Macedonia,” representatives of Women’s Center Kumanovo say.

Emilija Dimoska explains that there are several obstacles for women’s participation in the elections, such as the existing gender stereotypes both in the society and among political parties’ structures.
“It’s a male dominated political culture including the lack of support of the political parties for women candidates, which is also evident during the pre-election campaign in which a very little space is given to the female candidates; and the lack of support to women by the public in general,” she says.

How engaged are women in general in the election?
“From the most recent list presented, the number of candidates running for mayors throughout Macedonia is 286 candidates total, out of which 28, or 10 percent, are women. At the moment, there are no female mayors in Macedonia. In addition, with very few exceptions, women in general have not been much visible during the pre-election campaign in Macedonia,” Emilija Dimoska says.

How are the women’s organisations working to make women more active in politics and vote?
“Women’s NGOs around the country implement activities promoting gender equality, including the importance of participation of women in politics that is crucial for building a democratic society.”

Ida Svedlund

The Nobel Peace Prize to a man’s world

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We recieved a blog post from Lena Ag, the Secretary General of the Swedish women’s rights and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, regarding the decision of giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU.

“Three distinguished, senior, white men will go to Oslo December 10 to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. European Parliament President Martin Schulz, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU President Herman Van Rompuy.

They reflect perfectly the power structure within the EU.

All Heads of the EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions are men, as are 73 percent of Heads of EU Delegations. Only two women have ever been appointed as an EU special representative. Just two of the Unions 25 member states have a female prime minister, and of 19 presidents only one is a woman.

The Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg captured my feeling in her tweet yesterday: “Three white middle aged Western European men will go to Oslo to accept Peace Prize for Europe. That’s my modern, inclusive continent…” @nordbergjenny

Although you can call the EU the world’s largest peace-building project, the Union has a lot left to do to be a worthy winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.I wonder how the Norwegian Nobel Committee reasoned regarding the basic idea of ​​the Peace Prize, that it is supposed to promote disarmament and non-military solutions. Within the EU there are major military actors, including nations with nuclear weapons.

At policy level, there are high aspirations for peace and human rights, but what counts is what is carried out on the ground. Especially considering that last year’s winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman was awarded for their peaceful struggle for women’s security and participation in peace processes. The Nobel Committee noted then that a sustainable peace and democracy can not be achieved as long as women are discriminated against.

Our partner organizations in the Balkans testify to how the EU work is a total failure at this point, despite the enormous resources spent. The EU has a shamefully low number of women in high positions, for example none of the EU’s common peace and security mission, like EULEX in Kosovo, is lead by a woman. And the list goes on. EU and the international community’s failure is evident when studying our latest report, Equal Power – Lasting Peace, that was presented in the European Parliament on October 11th. The report’s conclusions, and the discussions during the conference in the Parliament, show that there is a lot left to be done before the EU implements new strategies, worthy of the Peace Prize.”

“EU should lead by example”

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The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

The unique mapping was presented at the conference. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Ida Udovic.

On October, 11th the Equal Power – Lasting Peace report made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation on women’s participation in peacebuilding was presented at a conference in the European parliament. Based on the interviews with women-activists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia, the report is a unique mapping of obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating in peace processes on equal terms with men.

The Equal power – Lasting Peace conference gathered more than 100 participants, EU and NATO officials and politicians, as well as civil society representatives – in the audience and among the panelists.

The opinions and discussions at the conference were many, all of them though sharing a common stand: something has to be done to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations. The question is how and by whom.

– Women’s political participation and decision-making are the key issues, underlined Ms. Helga Schmid, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs at European External Action Service (EEAS).

At her opening speech she mentioned Egypt, where the draft of the Constitution does not make any provisions for gender equality and where there are only six female MPs.

– We focus our assistance in the EU neighborhood to civil society and women’s issues, in particularly legal rights and equal access to decision making and to the power structures. Gender cannot be an excluding factor in the political processes from an early stage of mediation in the process and onwards, said Ms. Helga Schmid.

Gender-blind agreement

Ensuring that gender equality is guaranteed from the very beginning when designing a peace agreement has proven to be a crucial factor for the sustainability of the peace. How bad a gender-blind peace agreement can turn out Alexandra Petric, Programme Director of United Women Banja Luka, BiH, testified on.

– Bosnia and Herzegovina has gone eight years without any women ministers, 17 years without any women members of the BiH Joint Presidency, and 17 years without any women in negotiations about crucial political issues that affect lives of women and men citizens of BiH, such as security sector and constitutional reforms, says Alexandra Petric

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  “EU should lead by example”, The Kvinna till kvinna Foundation’s Secretary-General Lena Ag highlighted in her introduction. While the EU has adopted a comprehensive approach on UNSC resolutions 1325 and 1820 on women, peace and security, the reality reflected by statistics leaves much to be desired. EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy) are all led exclusively by men, and only two of EU:s ten special representatives are women, just to name a few examples.

This statistics, says Mr. Olof Skoog, Chair of the Political and Security Committee at EEAS, was a lesson from the day:

– Not a single woman leads our missions. We are choosing the best of the best, but the problem is that member-states are not nominating any women. What we can do is to explicitly ask them to nominate more female candidates, says Mr. Skoog.

NGOs not GONGOs

The topic of giving room to the voices of women from conflict-affected regions was discussed by many of the panelists and raised in questions from the audience. Finding the authentic grass-root organizations can be a challenge when a lot of GONGOs (governmentally organized NGOs) are entering the scene. Still it is crucial in getting a comprehensive understanding of the situation in a region:

– When EU officials are visiting a region, they really need to  seek contact with, and talk to, real civil society organizations, including women organizations, not those who will tell the convenient things that the officials want to hear, says one of the panelists Gulnara Shahinian from the Armenian organization Democracy today.

Slander, violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes, the report shows. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation/Sara Lüdtke.

Women has important role

The role of women’s organizations and women activists in peace processes was stressed by many panelists throughout the conference. Monica McWilliams, one of the signatories of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland dwelled on it at her presentation at the conference, as well as Teresita Quintos-Deles, advisor to the President of the Phillipines on the peace process, who sent her greetings on video, as she herself was occupied with the upcoming peace agreement. Both women provided striking evidence of the importance of women’s empowerment.

Long-term support neeeded

A long-term strategic approach and continuity are what women activists Alexandra Petric and Gulnara Shahinian would like to see from the EU:

– The EU needs to develop strong and coherent strategies to address women’s human rights and gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina to address both direct and indirect support of perpetuating ignorance toward these issues by BiH authorities. This requires the EU’s commitment to a long-term support of women and gender equality – specific programs that focuses on the prevention of and fighting against gender-based violence and that underlines women NGOs positions as watch-dogs and partners to BiH government institutions. This would both strengthen women’s human rights in practice and the NGO’s work on empowering women, says Alexandra Petric.

– We would really appreciate sustainable and strategic involvement from the EU. What we see now is that the EU finances short projects, where partnership with civil society has a formal character, says Gulnara Shahinian.

New report: Violence, corruption and unequal laws keep women from peace processes

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The findings from the Iraqi field study show that the US occupation increased secterian thinking within the country and severly crippled women's rights. Photo: Anna Lithander/The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Violence, corruption and unequal laws are some of the obstacles that keep women in conflict-torn regions from participating on equal terms with men in peace processes. Another big part of the problem is that the international community gives priority to men for senior positions in peace operations. This according to the new report Equal Power  Lasting Peace made by the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Equal Power – Lasting Peace is based on field studies made in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, DR Congo and Liberia. Although the countries and conflicts differ, the patterns are strikingly similar.

In all the regions women and women’s organizations play important roles in resolving conflicts in local communities and in handling everyday life.

But when it comes to formal decision forums the doors are closed for women. This contrary to the statements of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which emphasizes that women must participate on the same terms as men in all parts of peace processes, for the peace to be sustainable.

The exclusion of women is present both within the international missions and negotiating team at national level. Equal Power – Lasting Peace shows that very little has happened, despite the fact that twelve years have passed since Resolution 1325 was adopted.

– Peace Processes that excludes half the population are imperfect. Women’s needs and experiences are made invisible, says Lena Ag, Secretary General at The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Common obstacles

Equal Power – Lasting Peace’s survey shows that the most common obstacles for participation that women face are:

  • Legislation and standards
  • Rumours and threats
  • Domestic violence, including sexual violence
  • Poverty and corruption
  • Ignorance of the international community

- As in other policy areas, the male dominance within the peace and security area needs to be broken. It is a question of democracy and a basic condition for sustainable peace processes. It is also important to push for the appointments of more women to key positions within the EU and the UN. How else can the international community credibly argue that equality is important? says Lena Ag.

No female UN Chief Mediator

Examples of the representation of women and men in key positions related to peace and security:

  • At the 24 largest peace negotiations held between 1992 and 2010, only 7,6 percent of the negotiators and 2,5 percent of the mediators were women.
  • The UN has never appointed a female Chief Mediator.
  • 89 percent of the UN’s special representatives and envoys are men.
  • 84 percent of the UN peacekeeping operations are led by men.84 percent of the UN member countries’ UN ambassadors are men.
  • There are only men leading the EU’s CSDP operations (operations under the EU’s common security and defense policy).
  • 2 of the EU’s 10 special representatives are women.

Download:

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, the report

Equal Power – Lasting Peace, summary

Statistics of women and men in key positions within the EU and the UN

Georgia: European jumbo of women’s political participation

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On October 1st parliamentary elections will be held in Georgia. Currently there are only 6.6 percent women representatives in the Georgian parliament, the lowest number in all of Europe.
− To achieve long-term stability in Georgia, it is crucial to include more women in the decision-making processes, says Alla Gamakharia from the women and peace organization Cultural-Humanitarian Fund Sukhumi, based in Kutaisi.

Between 2006 and 2011 Georgia fell from place 59 to place 120 in The Global Gender Gap Index concerning women’s political participation. To reverse this negative trend, the Georgian government in December 2011 adopted a law amendment stating that the stately support to political parties will be increased if they have at least 20 percent women candidates on their party lists.

But this seems to have had little impact on the biggest rivals in the upcoming election. President Saakashvili’s party, United National Movement has 10.9 percent women among its candidates and billionaire Bidzina Ivanisjvilis party, The Georgian Dream (Kartuli Otsneba), has 16.5 percent.

Patriarchal norms and nepotism

The Georgian society is characterized by both patriarchal norms and nepotism. This drastically reduces the possibility of getting into politics without having an influential family behind you, especially if you’re a women. Discrimination against women is widespread and embedded in social structures, which limits the opportunities for women to pursue careers and participate in politics. Issues of gender equality and women’s rights are not high on the political agenda.

For Alla Gamakharia there is a clear relationship between the low percentage of women in parliament and other problem’s in Georgian society.
− A low representation of women leads to marginalization of issues concerning women’s situation in the country, which leads to inequality, human rights violations and social imbalances, says Alla Gamakharia.

International discussions important

Within the framework of the EU’s Eastern Partnership – which includes the EU and its six Eastern neighbors Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus – Georgia has committed itself to respecting the EU’s common values, including democracy and human rights. A commitment that, according to Lika Naidaraia from the Georgian women and peace organization Women’s Political Resource Centre, WPRC, could be crucial for future development in Georgia. She underlines the importance of the EU and the international community highlighting gender equality in political decision-making, when meeting with representatives of the Georgian government.

Leila Rayes

“Europe must stop Congolese warlords with a law on conflict minerals”

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DR of Congo. Photo: The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation.

Europe needs to follow in the footsteps of the United States and adopt a law on the conflict minerals fueling the ongoing conflict in DR Congo, says former UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, in this opinion piece, written together with the Secretary General of the Swedish women and peace organization The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, Lena Ag. New rebel groups, like M23, are once again forcing civilians in eastern Congo to flee for their lives. Groups that are financed by the mineral trading. 

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Behind the vague abbreviation M23 hides a highly sought-after war criminal, a group of feared rebels and a number of armed deserters. And wherever they move, looting, rape and death awaits. Civilians in eastern DRC are hardly hit when Bosco Ntaganda – one of the names already on the UN Security Council’s blacklist – and his supporters kill army soldiers, attack UN peacekeepers, as well as unarmed men, women and children who gets in their way.

When people flee for their lives, children are often separated from their parents. Everything is left behind as the villages are abandoned. We have seen pictures of people brutally and indiscriminately slaughtered, and those who survive bare witness of rape and other horrific abuses.

Rebels were integrated in the national army

M stands for March and 23 is the date when the Congolese government in 2009 signed an agreement with the rebel group CNDP, consisting mainly of Tutsi rebels from Rwanda, many of whom fought with the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) which ended the genocide in 1994. Promising an end to the fighting, the CNDP would be integrated into the national army and get the appropriate military designations, positions in the government and administration, as well as the right to stay in North and South Kivu in eastern Congo. That was how the Congolese government came to accept that offenders like Bosco Ntaganda, and the likes of him, were given high positions in the national army. This allowed them to gain financial control over mining, as well as of various criminal activities. Impunity and the liberation of prisoners from the rebels’ own ranks, who had been caught by the justice system, became the rule rather than the exception. Their working method is to spread terror and fear among local politicians and campaigners for human rights. In fact, during Bosco’s reign of terror, Eastern Congo has become impossible to control.

New groups attacking civilians

But the government’s promises to the CNDP have not been met and the disorder following the last – strongly contested – Presidential elections made the discontent grow stronger. A number of CNDP officers left the army and quickly took control of several villages along the border with Rwanda.

And as if the offensives by the M23 were not enough, new constellations are now being formed with the Mai-Mai rebels and other groups – all of which attack and feed off civilians; raping, murdering, and doing whatever it takes to gain control of the mines that can finance the purchase of more arms.

Conflict minerals used in electronics

The so-called conflict minerals, including the three “t’s”: tungsten, tin and tantalum, in addition to gold – are currently indispensable in electronics manufacturing, such as computers and cell phones – and have become Congo’s greatest asset, but also its curse. These natural resources fund and perpetuate the conflict in eastern Congo, allowing what best can be described as slave labor, including sexual slavery, and giving very little back to the local communities.

The UN Security Council has of course repeatedly discussed the situation in eastern Congo. The Government of Rwanda has also been criticized – even by the United States – for its role as a supporter of the M23. The new Congolese government has, so far, failed to mobilize either internal efforts, or international support to effectively prevent those acts of violence. We are worried about a reaction that would pave a way for a “banalisation of evil”; for a sort of despair or hopelessness; for laconic reports about untold sufferings of entirely innocent and unprotected people; for a world that can no longer handle the responsibility of caring about the number of victims in eastern Congo. But practical policies exists that would help bring an end to violence.

European law to tackle the war economy

We demand a European law on conflict minerals, one like the US law, that would help tackle the war economy, which today fuels the conflict. We want to ensure that the trade paths of these commodities are identified, impose on importers and manufacturers the responsibility of tracking and reporting were the minerals are coming from, and start building a global certification system.

We are aware of the difficulties of implementing the US’s legislation and of predicting the impact of this legislation on the local communities. We have heard concerns that stricter regulations in practice could lead to a boycott of minerals from Eastern Congo, which would affect already struggling miners. But the purpose of the legislation is to decrease revenues to the warlords, who feed off the conflict and who are responsible for the appalling human rights abuses taking place.

The law would help make visible, both to purchasers and consumers, what conflict minerals are, as well as create incentives for the industry to develop a healthier and more sustainable trading system. And what is the alternative? The political signal has already had an effect, and it would only grow stronger if Europe, especially within the EU, partners with the United States on the issue of conflict minerals. There are already some voluntary initiatives by the electronics industry, and as consumers we can only keep pushing forward, for example, by requiring companies that use these ingredients in their products to account for where they come from.

So, what are we waiting for?

Margot Wallström
Former UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Lena Ag
Secretary General, The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

Women more present in words than actions when EU assesses its Neighbourhood Policy

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Last year’s new European Neighbourhood Policy meant an increased commitment from the European Union to support human rights when aiding its neighbouring countries. But women’s rights are still very much missing in the formal documents, and thereby also in the actions taken and planned. This although the official words spoken are underlining equality.

In May 2011 the European Union revised its Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in, as the European Commission (EC) describes it, ”a rapid respons to the changes taking place in particular in the Southern Mediterranean but also in Eastern Europe”.  This new strategy was adopted to show Europe’s support to the peoples of the Arab Spring and to their struggle for freedom, democracy and safety. A year on the EC has made an assessment of the implementation of this new policy so far, and the result is presented in the report Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy.

When presenting the report, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Commission Vice-President (HR/VP), Catherine Ashton, was optimistic:

- We have seen great progress in some countries. In others, we need to encourage the political leadership to take bold steps down the path to reform. I have always said that we will be judged on our work with our immediate neighbours, and I am convinced that we are moving in the right direction. We will continue to help our partners in their efforts to embed fundamental values and reinforce the economic reforms which are necessary to create what I call ‘deep democracy’, she said.

Women’s rights not in writing

The ENP defines deep and sustainable democracy as ”including free and fair elections, freedom of association, expression and assembly, the rule of law administered by an independent judiciary” etc, but there is no mentioning of women’s rights to equal participation in decision-making.

Since history has shown us that when women’s rights are not spelled out in basic documents (and sometimes even when they are) they won’t appear in reality, this could be seen as very unfortunate. Especially since Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy states that it ”is based on new features, including…a recognition of the special role of women in reshaping both politics and society”. A statement further endorsed by Catherine Ashton:

- I’ve been very privileged to meet women in countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia. We need to ensure that women play their full part in society, in the political and economic life of their countries, not just because of course it’s the right thing to do, but because it makes economic and political sense. I would argue women should be at the heart of all the transformations that follow.

Actions for women through the ENP

So the question is: How have these EU statements on women’s rights been transformed into actions concerning the neighbouring countries during the past year, and what are the plans within this area for the years to come?

Delivering on a new European Neighbourhood Policy has only one paragraph mentioning women’s rights. It states that building sustainable democracy also means ensuring gender equality and increasing the participation of women in political and economic life. But after that the paragraph just goes on observing that some of the countries last year tried to set up legislation to ensure a more balanced composition of parliaments, but that they have encountered resistance and therefore this action has not had the desired effect.

But in the accompanying document Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity: Report on activities in 2011 and Roadmap for future action, there is a list of actions taken within the ENP to establish full participation of women in society when it comes to the Southern Neighbourhood. This includes:

  • A high level meeting in New York in September that ”drew international attention to the need to ensure that women play an active part in political processes worldwide”.
  • The HR/VP during the Women’s Rights Forum in Libya in November announcing the launch of a programme for women’s empowerment, including capacity building and education in the region.
  • A regional campaign on women’s political participation in the Middle East and North Africa launched in December, together with ”concrete projects in this field”.
  • In Tunisia: promoting gender senstitive institutional and judicial reforms and women’s participation in elections.
  • In Egypt: addressing women’s participation in political life through a cultural initiative called the Spirit of Tahrir.
  • In Jordan: having two ”Village Business Incubators” promoting rural women’s right to participate in the labour market.

Actions to come

For the upcoming period of 2012-2013 the actions specifically mentioning women are:

  • The programme Political and economic empowerment of women in Southern Mediterranean region, aiming to help marginalised women gaining access to economic and public life.
  • Increased funding to the Anna Lindh Foundation and its programme Civil Society for Dialogue, targeting youth and women.

The equivalent document for the Eastern Neighbourhood – Eastern Partnership: A Roadmap to the autumn 2013 Summit – has no mention of women’s rights or participation whatsoever.

The new ENP entailed the principle of ”more for more”, meaning that the more a partner country makes progress and implements reforms, the more support it will recieve from the EU. In separete country progress reports these reforms are stated as actions that EU ”invites” the country to take. Four of the ones for 2012 mention women or gender:

Armenia invitations contain ”adopting a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, including further steps leading to the harmonisation of legislation with the EU acquis in the areas of gender equality and non-discrimination.”

Jordan invitations contain ”increase efforts to eradicate violence against women and to promote their integration in politics, socio-economic life through promoting women entrepreneurs, women’s participation in the labour market and in education, in line with the recommendations listed in the preliminary report issued in October by the UN Special Rapporteur on discrimination against women”.

Lebanon invitations contain ”pay special attention to enhancing the role of women in both public and economy sectors respectively”.

Ukraine invitations contain ”address in good time issues raised in the area of justice and home affairs, notably on combating trafficking in human beings taking into account a gender and human rights perspective”.

These are all of course good examples, but in comparison to the points on various measures regarding trade that are taking up several pages of the different documents, it is not much. Especially when accompanied by a floating language that uses non-specific words like ”leading to”, ”harmonisation”, ”pay special attention to” etc.

In other words: it remains to be seen how the EU’s bold statements on the importance of gender equality  will actually be followed through in its practical dealings with the neighbouring countries the upcoming years.

EU and UN Women increase cooperation on gender equality

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Improve women’s role in political and economical decision-making and enhance the fight against perpetrators of sexual violence walking free. These are the main points of a new partnership on gender equality between EU and UN Women.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs for EU and Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet for UN Women, during EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit in Brussels, Belgium on April 16th.

EU and UN Women has a long history of working together, for example in the Increasing Accountability in Financing for Gender Equality Progamme created to help governments, donors and civil society in 15 countries to improve their work on gender equality.  But the Memorandum “ensures closer collaboration”, writes the European Commission in a press release.

Fight discrimination

- Discrimination against women and girls remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality. Together with UN Women we will work to improve the role of women in political and economic decision-making. We will also fight impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence, ensure better protection of women and improve their access to justice. These are issues that need our full attention and this new partnership enhances our ability to work even harder to reach these goals, commented Catherine Ashton.

According to the press release the partnership will involve the two organisations working together on policies and programmes on gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as them regularly sharing relevant information, analysis and strategic assessments in order to improve collaboration. How these efforts will manifest themselves in practice has not yet been presented.