Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Remarks at the International Women's Day inter-agency event on ending impunity for violence against women and girls

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 08 March 2007

I am happy to be with you to celebrate International Women's Day -- my first as Secretary-General.  I hope you will all come to know me as a firm ally in the cause of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

On this day, let me add my voice to the tributes to Ms. Angela King -- a great champion of women's rights, and an inspiration to women and men everywhere.  Let us resolve to build on her legacy.

This year, International Women's Day is an occasion for all of us -- men and women alike -- to unite in defence of women and girls who live with violence, or the threat of violence.  It is a time to focus on the concrete actions that all of us can and must take to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls -- Member States, the United Nations family, civil society and individuals.  And it is a day to celebrate the courage and achievements of women, who, as agents of change, continue to lead the struggle to expose and end gender-based violence to ensure that girls and women enjoy their full human rights.

Violence against women and girls makes its hideous imprint on every continent, country and culture.  It doesn't care about your income, class, race or ethnic background.  It takes a devastating toll on women's lives, on their families and on society as a whole.  It is a threat to all women, and should be unacceptable to all humankind.

In recent years, we have seen some progress in the struggle to end the pandemic that violence against women represents.  International standards and norms have been agreed.  Governments have adopted strategies and passed laws.  Partnerships between Governments and women's groups have been strengthened.  And, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders pledged to redouble efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

But much more remains to be done if we are to end impunity for violence against women.  Most societies proscribe such violence -- yet, the reality is that, too often, it is tolerated under the fallacious cover of cultural practices and norms, within the walls of the home.  Or it is used as a weapon in armed conflict, condoned through tacit silence and passivity by the State and the law enforcement community.

The time has come to break through those walls of silence and turn legal norms into reality in women's lives.  That means society as a whole must take responsibility and work for enduring change in values and attitudes.  It means Governments and international organizations must operate in close partnership with social services, voluntary and professional organizations, the private sector and the broader public.  And it means we must all -- women and men -- work for a transformation in relations between women and men, at all levels of society.

We must work together on several fronts:

  • Empowering women and girls through education and innovative tools such as microfinance;
  • closing the gaps between international standards and national laws, policies and practices;
  • strengthening our knowledge and understanding of all forms of violence against women;
  • building and sustaining effective strategies embracing all parts of society, coordinated nationally and locally; and
  • allocating adequate resources and funding for all these efforts.

The United Nations must be at the forefront of the endeavour.  In this, I believe we can draw support from proposals to strengthen the UN's gender architecture, as presented by the High-level Panel on United Nations System-Wide Coherence.  I encourage Member States to study the possibility of replacing several current structures with one dynamic UN entity.  Such a new body should be able to call on all of the UN system's resources in the work to empower women and realize gender equality worldwide.  It should mobilize forces of change at the global level and inspire enhanced results at the country level.

Through an integrated and holistic approach, we can determine what strategies work, and we can support and replicate them.  We can help put in place measures of accountability that emphasize individual, community and national responsibility for ending violence against women.  We can ensure that efforts for both prevention and intervention obtain the resources they need.  And we can bring the scourge of violence against women out into the open, by discussing it openly at the United Nations. 

Today, I propose that the General Assembly devote an agenda item every year to considering the question of violence against women.  I urge the Security Council to establish a mechanism dedicated to monitoring violence against women and girls, within the framework of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.

And I call on every one of us to take this issue with the deadly seriousness that it deserves -- not only on International Women's Day, but every day.

I thank you for your commitment to that mission, and look forward to working with you in the years ahead.