(Please check against actual speech delivered)
I am extremely glad to take part in the 2013 edition of the Trust Women Conference, an initiative that I have supported since its beginning, also as a member of its Advisory Board. When I participated last year I never would have expected to come to talk to you this year as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy!
To be Minister is of course a tremendous opportunity for me to promote those principles and campaigns that are at the heart of the Trust Women Conference.
Such campaigns and principles have also traditionally been a priority for Italian governments. This is for instance the case of the fight against female genital mutilation.
The past three years have been very important to scale up the movement for the elimination of this specific human right violation. We saw the political momentum growing and culminating last December with the consensual adoption by the General Assembly of Resolution 67/146 banning FGM worldwide. On that occasion all UN Member States sent a strong political message about their commitment. The Resolution calls upon Member States to ensure effective implementation of international and regional instruments protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls and to take all necessary measures to prohibit female genital mutilation.
The adoption of Resolution 67/146 was an important step forward: it is now our responsibility to ensure its effective implementation. The recent UNICEF report reminds us that despite best efforts towards its abandonment, female genital mutilation still persists. For this reason, during the General Assembly this year we organized a side event, together with Burkina Faso, UNFPA and UNICEF, to share specific contributions that governments and international institutions have made to the commitments undertaken with the adoption of the Resolution.
Together with UNFPA and UNICEF we also organized an International Conference in Rome on 22 October, to further promote the implementation of the Resolution.
Genital mutilation is only one of the manifold forms of violence women are still suffering all over the world. Many of you had the chance to see last night a very touching event meant to raise awareness of violence against women, Ferite a morte (wounded to death), based on a book of the Italian author and my dear friend Serena Dandini. Just to make an example about my own country, over 100 women have been killed in Italy this year, mostly in a domestic context.
To reverse such a terrible trend, we have increased government action against crimes that victimize women. I am also very proud that Italy became the fifth member state of the Council of Europe to ratify the Istanbul Convention for preventing and combating sexual and domestic violence.
The same happened with the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty, which introduces principles and criteria to oversee the movement of arms and to combat illegal trafficking. Such Treaty contains an explicit provision on gender based violence. Women are the first victims of such trade. This also goes in the direction of a general change of culture leading to a gender balanced approach in peace building processes. We should move from victimhood to empowerment, starting to see women not only as victims but also as partners.
Gender based violence was also the common denominator underlying the discussion at the high-level meeting during the General Assembly last September of the Equal Futures Partnership, the initiative launched by former SOS Hillary Clinton which Italy just joined. This is a partnership uniting nations firmly committed to closing the gender gap and to sharing experiences so that local practices can be replicated all over the world.
A less blatant but nonetheless harmful form of violence against women is the practice of early and forced marriages. We must take every opportunity to recall the importance to eradicate such practice even in one generation time span, accelerating change in culture and traditions through a vibrant and constant campaign. For this reason we also call for the inclusion of this target in the post 2015 development agenda.
A very encouraging step was the approval last month by the UN General Assembly Committee’s Third Committee of a Resolution aiming at achieving a ban, within the next 12 months, on early and forced marriages. This Resolution – promoted by Italy and 9 other countries – was co-sponsored by 109 countries and was approved by consensus.
Violence against women also encompasses trafficking and slavery, as you widely discussed yesterday. This is a particularly painful subject for me: it is very sad and frustrating to feel helpless when hundreds of migrants, women and men and children, tragically die off the coasts of Lampedusa. For this reason we are insisting on a common European effort within the framework of the Mediterranean task force led by the European Commission to combat human trafficking.
This leads me to talk about the situation and the role of women in our neighboring countries in Southern Mediterranean. In some of these countries women’s rights promotion has a long tradition. In other cases gender issues have been promoted by those autocratic regimes which the Arab Spring swept away, as they became instrumental for them to show their modern face to Western allies while continuing to violate other human rights. Whatever the reasons for their past promotion, we must continue monitoring to avoid any setback, like attempts to delegitimize the Personal Status Code (adopted in 1956) in Tunisia or to misapply the law imposing sanctions for female mutilation in Egypt.
For this reason we should increase our efforts in initiatives like the one undertaken by the EU and UN Women, “Spring Forward for Women”, which includes measures to ensure effective access of women to economic and political opportunities in South Mediterranean region. On the Italian side, I would also like to mention an initiative we successfully launched last February and that we will repeat next year: “Women in Diplomacy School. The school aims at giving women specific tools for their empowerment as leaders. It is open to the participation of young women from our neighbouring Mediterranean countries
The Women in Diplomacy school is part of a wider project that Italy has launched in view of the Expo Milan 2015, the Women and Expo initiative.
Our ambitious goal is to make Expo 2015 in Milan the first “gender Expo” ever, hoping that this will serve as an example for the future ones. EXPO’s theme is particularly helpful in achieving this goal.
The food security issue is closely related to the role of women: they are the first source of nourishment and face major challenges regarding nutrition and food access. The theme of Expo embraces other matters of great concern such as food quality and its consequences on health, access to water, environment and climate change, innovation and technology. Again, to effectively address these issues, the legal, economic and political empowerment of women is of paramount importance.
To promote awareness about the essential role women play in tackling such challenges, from now until 2015 we are convening a number of conferences and events in Italy and abroad to draw the public’s and decision makers’ attention. On the occasion of the High Preparatory Meeting for the Second International Conference on Nutrition at FAO last month we held our first Conference: “Women and Nutrition: Ideas for a Sustainable Future”. Others will follow with the aim of raising awareness on these issues in the different Continents. We will organize an International Conference in Africa (Mozambique) and other events on women and food security on Latin America, on Asia and on Europe.
This set of events will collect proposals and best practices for a sustainable future, engaging the largest possible number of women in this path. The key ideas will be gathered in a Women’s charter, which is intended to be our contribution to the definition of the 2015 post-Millennium goals. We aim at presenting the results of our initiative at the United Nations.
To have the first gender Expo ever we would also like to count on the presence and on the assistance of all networks of women around the world. For this reason, I am glad to invite all of you to visit the Expo in 2015. I believe it would be wonderful if the 2015 edition of the Trust Women Conference could take place in Milan.