The Farnesina supports the initiative promoted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) to give the proper emphasis to the role of women “in a crucial region [Middle East and North Africa – MENA] for our history and for our economic, social and cultural relations”. These were the words of Giampaolo Cantini, Director General for Development Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in his address to the Conference on “Promoting Women and Economic Empowerment in the MENA Region” at EXPO Milan.
Cantini underscored the importance of political strategies to develop the role of women, including in the Agenda 2030 framework for sustainable development, which he defined as “a universal Agenda”. He emphasised the need for accountability: “all states are required to account for the steps they have taken to achieve the 17 goals of the Agenda”. The fifth of those goals concerns, precisely, the development of the role of women.
In Italian development strategy, gender issues are a major priority, noted Cantini. Women’s role in the development and economy of their countries is “an issue that has emerged often here at the EXPO, especially as regards women’s role in agriculture”.
Supporting women’s enterprise
Cantini also mentioned a number of Italian development cooperation initiatives in the sector. These include the centre set up near Bethlehem, which “supports women and their inclusion in the economy and in society”. Turning to access to education, Cantini noted the Italian development programmes in Senegal, “which can serve as an example for the MENA region too”.
Other projects mentioned by Director General Cantini include the micro-credit and micro-finance initiative in Morocco; enterprise support initiatives in Tunisia; and the development of artisan and craft enterprises in rural areas of Upper Egypt.
New law on Italian Development Cooperation
Cantini concluded with a reference to the new law on Italian development cooperation. Article 27 of the law envisages low-interest loans for Italian aid organisations seeking to establish joint ventures with local counterparts to set up initiatives in a broad range of sectors. Here, noted Cantini, we need “an integrated approach to development that must also be guided by Agenda 2030”.