(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
I am very happy to be here today at the Closing Ceremony of the II edition of the Women in Diplomacy Winter School.
I will only make a few brief remarks, since I know you are waiting for your diplomas, which will be handed to you by Ambassador Salimei and I.
First of all, I would like to thank SIOI, ISPI and of course the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that I am representing today as Undersecretary, for organizing this very special initiative. A special thanks goes to Emma Bonino and Marta Dassù, who had a fundamental role in launching the Women in Diplomacy Winter School. I know you met Ms. Dassù on your first day.
We are proud to have brought together such a diverse group of young women, coming from 12 different Countries/territories (Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman) and from very diverse professional backgrounds: diplomats, NGO activists, journalists, writers.
The Winter School’s goal is to contribute to the emergence of the next generation of leaders in a geographic area – North Africa, Middle East and the Gulf – which has consistently been a priority of Italian foreign policy. Only yesterday, for example, we hosted at the Farnesina a Conference on Libya, with the participation of 40 delegations.
The MENA region is experiencing one of the most profound transitions in recent history. The positive outcome of this transition is far from granted, and the risk of degeneration in various forms of internal conflicts is not to be discounted, as the Syrian tragedy showed.
For democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms to take root, there must be a strong involvement of young generations – which constitute the overwhelming demographic group in all these countries – and especially of young women, who have been historically one of the strongest agents of change.
The empowerment of young adults and of women is indeed crucial in your countries, where these groups do not generally enjoy the same professional and political opportunities as in the West. However, as you surely know, Italy also is far from perfect. We are still struggling to reach an appropriate gender and age balance in many sectors of society, and we have started to make progress only recently. For example, while the Parliament that came out of the 2013 political elections is the youngest and “pinkest” of our history, it is still far from balanced: only 31% of MPs are women (up from 11% in 2001); the average age of Deputies is 45 (compared to 54 in the previous elections).
The new Italian Government, to which I belong, is a testament to the increasingly important role that women and young people can and should play in leading our society forward: our Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is 39 (the two contenders for Prime Minister in 2006 were over 65), our foreign Minister Federica Mogherini is 41; the average age of ministers is 47, with a handful in their thirties. Best of all, half of ministers are women, something unthinkable until very recently. There is a strong momentum of change, of freshness and of optimism that comes from this new ministerial lineup, which I believe can serve as an inspiration for many countries.
I would like to thank you all for accepting our invitation and I congratulate you for the strong commitment. I hope you enjoyed your time in Rome and Milan and I wish you a safe trip home.