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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Statement

Secretary-General's remarks to High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law side event on Women's Access to Justice [as prepared for delivery]

New York, 24 September 2012

I thank Finland and South Africa for co-organizing this important event with UN Women.

Our theme of women’s access to justice reminds me of all the women I have met who suffered terrible crimes, including sexual abuse in wartime. I think of the girls who work in factories instead of studying in schools. I worry about the widows who have so much to contribute to our world but are shunned and impoverished.

But women are not only victims – they are champions for justice. Many of my own top aides are women, like my Legal Counsel, Patricia O’Brien, and my High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay – to name just two among many.

Many proud women peacekeepers serve under the United Nations flag – role models to women and men alike. Countless women have driven history’s progress by demanding justice – for themselves and so many other vulnerable people. You here today are part of that campaign, and I salute you.

You do not need a long lecture about the importance of providing women with access to justice.

We know this is critical, valuable and urgent. The question is how to give women better access to justice.

That is why today I ask you to make three concrete commitments.

First, repeal laws that discriminate against women and girls. And make it possible for women to get access to justice.

Second, bring more women leaders into the justice system.

More women investigators.  More judges.  More lawyers and police.  And legislators.

I have seen female UN Police in action around the world, from Haiti to Congo, from Darfur to Cyprus, from Liberia to Timor-Leste.

Increasing women’s participation is not a jobs programme for them – it is a source of power for you and your communities.

Women have the right to equal access to public administration – and services are better when they reflect both male and female perspectives.

Women police often more easily earn the trust of local women in the community. When we deploy more women police, victims are more likely to come forward and we can stop more crime.

That is why the United Nations makes this a priority around the world. One shining example is our support for the creation of the Somaliland Women’s Law Association, which has produced the area’s first female prosecutors.

My third and final call today is to invest more to help women overcome their obstacles to justice. I ask you to dedicate at least 15 per cent of overall rule of law funding to breaking down the barriers to justice for women.

The United Nations is working to meet the same 15 per cent target. We are reviewing all of our rule of law programmes in post-conflict settings to determine how we can better deliver for the world’s women.

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

As you know, justice for women takes more than new laws and new funding. Ultimately, we need new mindsets. Gender equality drives our work across the United Nations agenda.

Louise Arbour, a great female defender of justice will address the General Assembly today, once declared that fundamentally, the rule of law “embraces the principle of equality.”

Let us advance this principle for the sake of women and our world.

Thank you.


Statements on 24 September 2012