Progress is a question of priority.
When I was born, internet and digitalization were not yet determining our daily lives. Driverless cars were still a part of science fiction. So much has changed since then. Technological breakthroughs are made at astonishing speed. And if forecasts are right, we will even live to see manned-flights to planet Mars.
How come that it takes so much longer to overcome societal barriers? How come that gender parity will most likely not be achieved during our lifetimes? Nor in our children’s?
In its yearly Gender Gap Report the World Economic Forum looks at the average progress worldwide. And its last edition concluded: it will take around 100 more years to finally reach gender parity. A whole century! That is if progress continues to crawl at a snail’s pace as it currently does.
What does it tell us about the priorities of those who currently hold power in politics, economy and society? I think it shows: It’s still a man’s world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
2020 should have been a year full of celebrations: the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking UNSR resolution 1325 as well as the 10th anniversary of UN Women. This year should have been a year about greater gender justice.
Instead, 2020 has shown: In times of crises like this one, women and girls still carry the largest burden. Due to the pandemic, the gender gap in low wages and unemployment, health care and education has again widened. Domestic violence has surged.
In addition, the implementation of the WPS agenda continues to be weak. Too often women are still excluded from peace processes. Too often their rights and interests continue to be ignored when building post-conflict societies. Too often, conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence remains unpunished.
As a global community, we have not lived up to our commitment.
Even worse: We have been witnessing a global pushback on women’s rights over the last few years.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When it comes to the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights, there is no question: To give up is not an option. Women’s rights are human rights. They are not negotiable.
Therefore, current obstacles and set-backs are a call for action. A call to redouble our efforts and to do better.
Germany is focusing on three main areas:
German Foreign Minister Maas has made the WPS agenda one of our top priorities as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Together with our partners we are pushing for gender equality to be mainstreamed in all UN activities.
The adoption of resolution 2467 under the German Security Council presidency on ending sexual violence in conflicts in April 2019 was an important step. Now, we must all make sure, the resolution is implemented on the ground.
Also on the EU level, we’re committed to gender equality. Together with like-minded countries we were able to ensure that gender equality is a key component of the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy; even if there were very diverging views initially.
Support to civil society
Civil society is crucial, if we want to advance gender equality. We have to involve civil society actors, provide sufficient funding and protect human right defenders.
Therefore, we are proud to have been co-initiator of the African Women Leaders Network which supports women in the transformation of Africa, especially in the areas of governance, peace and stability.
The German-Latin American network Unidas, founded in 2019, also promotes networking and supports feminist projects by Latin American organizations. And Germany also plays a key role as the second largest donor and board member of the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund.
Moreover, we are realizing many projects with civil society on the ground. 50 alone in 2020: from providing shelter for women peace activists in Afghanistan to increasing the participation of women peace activists in Libya.
Raising awareness and leading by example
In German, there is the saying: Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. It’s important that we ourselves live up to our aspiration.
The Federal Foreign Office has undertaken substantial efforts to raise the percentage of women in the German Diplomatic Service, including leadership positions.
Our vision is to make gender equality part of our DNA. Therefore, we are creating WPS focal points in our embassies. And we are mainstreaming the gender perspective into our entire foreign policy.
Ladies and gentlemen,
tomorrow we celebrate St. Nicholas’ Day in Germany. It is a tradition on that day that children write their Christmas wishes which are collected and hopefully come true on 24th of December. My wish list would read:
- full implementation of Resolution 1325
- push-back the push-back and
- the inclusion of gender aspects in all efforts to build back better after the Covid-crisis, including distribution of financial resources.
But it is a wish list that does not come true by simply sitting and waiting for the present to arrive by reindeers. It needs active engagement from all of us. I am convinced: We will not have to wait for 100 years. If we finally make gender parity our priority.
The video to this speech can be watched here: