Deputy Secretary-General, in Rome Remarks, Says Strengthening Global Commitment to Counteract Plague of Violence Against Women ‘a Movement Whose Time Has Come’

9 September 2009

Deputy Secretary-General, in Rome Remarks, Says Strengthening Global Commitment to Counteract Plague of Violence Against Women ‘a Movement Whose Time Has Come’

9 September 2009
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Deputy Secretary-General, in Rome Remarks, Says Strengthening Global Commitment


to Counteract Plague of Violence against Women ‘a Movement Whose Time Has Come’


Following are Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the International Conference on Violence Against Women in Rome, 9 September:

It is a great honour to be with you today for this remarkable event -– the first ministerial conference under the auspices of the G8 dedicated to ending violence against women.  I applaud Minister Carfagna, the Italian Government and the G8 as a whole for displaying such strong political leadership to tackle this most horrendous violation of women’s human rights.

We are all painfully aware of the devastating impact that violence against women has on individuals, families, communities and countries.  It has enormous social and economic costs, undercuts the contribution of women to development, peace and security, and poses a serious threat to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

Each day we are reminded that nowhere in the world is a woman safe from violence.  It is prevalent in rich and poor countries, in rural and urban areas, in situations of conflict and in peace, and in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The strengthening of global commitment to counteract this plague is a movement whose time has come.  Your conference is an integral part of a global groundswell of activity dedicated to this cause.  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has shown leadership on this issue.  In March 2008, he launched the “UNiTE to end violence against women” campaign, which provides a new platform to bolster and unite activities worldwide.  The campaign will run through 2015, coinciding with the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The Secretary-General’s campaign builds upon years of activism by women’s organizations around the world.  It reflects a heightened sense of urgency on the part of United Nations Member States.  And it rests on new thinking, in particular the need to encourage men to become positive partners in changing the attitudes that denigrate women and condone violence against them. 

The campaign has five key outcomes:

First, the adoption and enforcement of national laws, in accordance with international human rights standards;

Second, the adoption and implementation of multisectoral national plans of action;

Third, the establishment of systems for data collection and analysis;

Fourth, the establishment of national and local campaigns; and

Fifth, systematic efforts to address sexual violence in conflict situations.

Since its launch, the Secretary-General has used the authority of his office to denounce violence against women and children and to call attention to the issue at the highest levels.

I urge each of you, as members of the G8, to join in this effort.  I urge you to lead by example, by reviewing the laws, policies and practices in your own countries, to ensure that they are comprehensive and effective.  And I encourage you to promote the five key outcomes of the campaign through the influential platform of the G8.

The United Nations system, for its part, is actively engaged.

In May 2009, the Secretary-General appointed a Special Representative on Violence against Children. Our peacekeeping operations are recruiting more women and involving more local women in peacemaking and peacebuilding.  Experience shows that female “blue helmets”, police, human rights monitors and other mission staff can often communicate more effectively with local women and serve as models of women's empowerment.

In 2007, an Indian all-female Formed Police Unit from India, with specialized training in crowd-management and high-risk operations, was deployed to the UN Mission in Liberia.  This led to a marked increase in women applicants to the West African country's national police force.

We are also working systematically to address sexual violence in conflict settings.

In April 2009, for example, the United Nations and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo launched a Comprehensive Strategy on Combating Sexual Violence that aims to prevent violence, bring perpetrators to justice and ensure that survivors receive support and redress. 

The Secretary-General is in discussions with United Nations System partners on appointing a new senior system-wide official to address sexual violence. This is being considered in light of General Assembly discussions and existing mechanisms, such as the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.  

Beyond our own operations, the United Nations Trust Fund on Violence against Women has distributed more than $44 million to almost 300 initiatives in 119 countries and territories.

The United Nations is also on the verge of significant changes in its internal gender architecture.  The proposals being discussed by the General Assembly call for the replacement of several current structures with a single dynamic United Nations entity that would significantly bolster our work to promote gender equality and address violence against women.  A decision is expected soon.  I urge you to weigh in.

We are also strengthening our capacities for information and analysis.  The Secretary-General’s database on violence against women was launched earlier this year and is the first global “one-stop-site” for information on measures undertaken by Member States to address violence against women.  It will also help us identify promising practices that can fight impunity and put an end to attitudes and stereotypes that permit or condone violence.

Since my days as a Legal Aid attorney in Tanzania, I have believed in the power of the law to enact social change.  The law can do much more than penalize and punish.  Around the world, we have seen a move toward comprehensive legislation that requires Governments to act preventively, help survivors, allocate funds for implementing laws and establish mechanisms to monitor the efficacy of those laws.

Excellencies, serious challenges remain.

Times of hardship expose women and girls to a greater risk of violence, and the current global financial crisis is no exception.  We have seen rising levels of despair and frustration in families and communities around the world, exacerbating violence against women.

In a recent survey of more than 630 domestic violence shelters in the United States, 75 per cent reported an increase in women seeking help for abuse since September 2008, coinciding with a major downturn in the United States economy.  We must remain especially vigilant through these tough times.

This meeting is held on the cusp of commemorations related to three international milestones in the quest for women’s human rights:

--The thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women;

--The fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action; and

--The tenth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.

Since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, we have come to understand as never before that equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex are not only goals in their own right, but are essential for the achievement of all human rights and the development of all societies.

We have come to appreciate that women face multiple forms of discrimination.  And we are gradually coming to understand how to tailor measures to support different groups of women.

The Security Council’s landmark text, resolution 1325, focused on the need to protect women and on the critical role of women in conflict prevention and resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian operations and reconstruction.

Last year, the Council adopted a second major resolution on women, peace and security in which it recognized that sexual violence, as a tactic of war, can threaten peace and security.

And just last month, the Council adopted a resolution expressing deep concern about the high incidence and appalling levels of brutality, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children in the context of armed conflict. 

While the steps we have taken are significant, we still have a long road to walk before the full meaning of these international agreements is fully transformed from words on paper to reality on the ground. 

All forms of violence against women must stop -- from the use of rape as a weapon of war to the use of violence by a husband to terrorize his wife within her own home.  I take heart from this impressive initiative of the Italian G8 Presidency.  It is an indication of the growing determination around the world to address this issue at the highest levels.

The expert documents prepared for the recent G8 meeting in L’Aquila contained two important recommendations which I encourage you to consider during this meeting.

The first called on the G8 to support programmes that promote women’s rights and that make knowledge about sexual and reproductive health widely accessible. 

The second called on G8 members to support a comprehensive approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding mandates in order to emphasize security and the protection of civilians, including action against sexual and gender based violence.

I encourage you to think creatively about how to use the G8 platform to carry these recommendations forward.  Above all, I urge each of you to join the Secretary-General in his campaign and to become ambassadors for this cause.

Ending violence against women will not be easy.  It will require sustained dedication and collaboration.  The United Nations is committed to bringing all actors together as we move from words to action.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.