New York

20 September 2017

Secretary-General's remarks on EU-UN gender initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls [as delivered]

I am pleased to join so many global leaders and champions for women and girls around the world.

From the outset, I want to recognize and thank the leadership, the vision and the generosity of the European Union.

The EU and the UN fight for the same things every day – peace, justice and sustainable development.  None are possible without gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Unfortunately, we have a long way to go.  And among many forms of discrimination and victimization, violence against women and girls continues to blight lives and curtail opportunities for millions.

Over the years, I have travelled all over the world as Prime Minister, as High Commissioner for Refugees, and now as Secretary-General.  

No visit has moved me more than when I sat down with rape victims in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Their heartbreaking stories of suffering will stay with me forever.  

It is a harsh but true reality that was shown in the film – one in three women will face violence throughout their lifetime.

Violence against women and girls devastates lives, and causes pain across generations.  

It takes many forms – family and domestic violence, femicide, trafficking, sexual and gender based violence and harmful practices such as child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

It happens in every community and country in the world.  

I remember that one of my most difficult battles in Portugal when I was Prime Minister many years ago, but still things are not probably entirely different – one of the most difficult things was to put in the political agenda the question of family violence and to really take measures in relation to the reform of the police, the judiciary and a number of other measures to make sure that this would be recognized as a problem by society, and dealt with. There was a kind of conspiracy to pretend that the problem did not exist.

There is increasing evidence that violence against women and girls is linked to other acts of violence, including violent extremism and even terrorism.

We have made progress, but too often these efforts have been piecemeal, without the necessary political commitment and dedicated resources.

This has meant that many are left behind, especially those most marginalized and excluded. And, crucially, many are left out of the fight.

We need a comprehensive effort, backed by strong political will and vastly increased resources.  

The Spotlight Initiative we launch today is truly historic.  This Fund is a pioneering investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment. And while the empowerment is absolutely crucial, largely the problem is a problem of power. A male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture and this is a power question – in families, in societies, in communities, in countries’ political systems, in the private sector.  So, it is women’s empowerment that is the crucial aspect of all our programmes when we talk about gender equality.

It is unprecedented in scale – the Spotlight Initiative - with an initial investment of 500 million Euros from the European Union.

It is unprecedented in scope – taking a comprehensive approach from prevention to protection of survivors to access to justice and so much more.

It is unprecedented in focus – targeting a number of countries in a way to make a deep and irreversible impact.

And it is unprecedented in its ambition –aiming for sustainability and long-term gains for women and girls.

This Initiative is a crucial contribution to achieving the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  

I want to again thank the European Union and all those leaders here today for their support.

When we shine a spotlight on the empowerment of the world’s women and girls, everyone’s future will be brighter.

Thank you.