Saturday, May 19, 2007

International Women’s Day Statement from United Nations Development Programme Administrator Kemal Dervis

(This picture was taken in Turkey and reads, "End Violence Against Women.")

Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls

A few months from now in July 2007, we will pass the halfway point on our timeline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As that date approaches, we should pause and take stock of the impediments we still need to overcome to reach our promised targets by 2015. One obvious barrier to the MDGs is violence against women.

A central tenet of UNDP’s human development mandate is the recognition that we will not reach the MDGs unless women are afforded the same freedoms and opportunities as men. Such equality is impossible in a world where at least one of every three women faces some form of violence in her lifetime, regardless of her culture, religion, socio-economic class or education level.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2007 on 8 March, we can say that we have made some progress against the violence that women confront on a daily basis. The clandestine trafficking industry - the buying and selling primarily of women and girls for commercial sex; the use of rape as a weapon of war and the role this plays in the spread and feminization of HIV; honour killings, forced marriages and dowry-related violence including domestic violence – each of these crises are being more clearly articulated than before. But we have a long, long way to go before we see the culture change that will stop this behaviour.

International Women’s Day is a reminder of our community’s obligations to women and girls, and this year’s theme, ‘ending impunity for violence against women and girls’ should re-energize our efforts to take on this international emergency.

In times of crisis, violence against women is a pandemic which is regarded by some as an inevitable, if regrettable, consequence of conflict and humanitarian situations. This attitude virtually guarantees impunity for perpetrators and effectively silences the survivors. There is also growing evidence that war and civil unrest endangers and intensifies violence against women in the home. More generally, the repression of women and their rights continues to be part of unequal social structures and the lack of freedom that is holding back human development. This has to change.

UNDP is committed to pushing for that change. In Sudan’s Darfur region, we work in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and a number of Sudanese human rights organizations on a programme that advocates for women’s rights and helps the survivors of violence seek legal redress. In partnership with UNIFEM and DPKO, UNDP recently concluded a study of policing in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua and Liberia, designed to make policing more gender-sensitive while recommending practical measures to build the capacity of the police forces to respond to violence against women. These measures include making rape kits available in police stations, increasing the number of female police officers and training police officers in human rights law. In Mozambique, we are supporting new legislation to end impunity for violence against women, particularly domestic violence.

UNDP is also part of UN Action against Sexual Violence in Crisis, an initiative involving ten UN bodies designed to provide more and better support to women victims of violence in crisis situations: to increase our coordination, to enhance accountability and end impunity for those who practice violence against women. This initiative is in response to Secretary-General’s 2006 study calling on the United Nations to take a stronger, better coordinated and more visible leadership role to address violence against women.

The same report reaffirmed what we know - that violence against women is a result of historically unequal power relations between men and women. This is intolerable. It reinforces subordination and discrimination and, as such, is a violation of women’s human rights and a fundamental impediment to human development for all. On this International Women’s Day, we rededicate ourselves to ensuring that half of the world’s people are not prevented from reaching their full potential.

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