Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala gave a speech at the event on Freedom from Violence for Every Woman and Girl: A Priority for the Post-2015 Agend, Organized by the Permanent Missions of Finland and Liberia, and UN Women, in New York on 25 Septembre 2013.
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Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with Minister Duncan Cassell of Liberia, with the new Executive Director of UN Women Mme Mlambo-Ngcuka, with Professor Aziza Ahmed, and with all of you. As we celebrate the landmark Special Event on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and discuss de-velopment post 2015, it is absolutely vital to focus our full attention on the issue of violence against women and girls.
The international community has committed itself to gender equality and the advancement of the status of women. Gender equality is a Millennium Development Goal. It is also one of the main objectives of the Beijing Declara-tion and Platform for Action, and the Programme of Action of the Cairo Inter-national Conference on Population and Development.
Gender equality is a human right. Women must have equal opportunities to participate in, and to give their full contribution to all spheres of life. All forms of discrimination and violence must be firmly rejected. The sexual and repro-ductive health and rights of women must be ensured - to save women’s lives, and to enable them to realize their full potential.
As we work towards a new universal sustainable development agenda, there is hardly a more universal issue than gender-based violence. Sadly, wherever we come from, we can all somehow relate to it. Violence against women takes place in the public sphere, and in the private. It stifles the potential of girls all over the world, and kills the plans and dreams of the young. It affects the lives of women of all ages, and their families.
Violence against women and girls is a waste of human potential at individual level. It also seriously undermines the development of societies. The realiza-tion of equality between women and men, on the other hand, effectively promotes the achievement of all the other development goals. The links between gender equality and development have been clear for a long time. It is time that we draw conclusions, and make sure that we do not allow discrimination and violence undermine development results. Trying to achieve sustainable development without gender equality will be a loosing battle.
At the same time, while we need to recognize and act upon the situations where women are victims, we must first and foremost see them as the po-werful agents of change that they are. Letting women and girls realize their full potential without fear of violence, letting them empower themselves, will take us a long way in promoting sustainable development.
A very significant development in recent years has been the birth of UN Women. Having a gender champion like the UN Women that can lead efforts globally, is a great opportunity for us all. Finland has had excellent coopera-tion with UN Women. Its first Executive Director Michelle Bachelet already took the organization far. I am delighted, and very much looking forward to, cooperating with its second Executive Director. - With the commitment and enthusiasm that you have, Mme Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and with your impressive background and previous career in promoting human rights, equality and social justice, you certainly have what it takes to handle this challenging job, and the expectations that come with it.
I also want to take the opportunity to remind ourselves that to succeed, UN Women will need our support. As Development Minister, I have been in the privileged position to be able to contribute to this common effort. After hav-ing almost doubled our support to UN Women this year, I plan to double it again next year. That will bring Finland’s total core support to UN Women to over 18 million US dollars.
Finally, I want to make a brief reference to the UNDG Post 2015 thematic consultation on ‘Conflict, Violence and Disaster’. Together with Liberia, Indonesia and Panama, and the UN, Finland supported this important inclusive process. The consultation made it very clear that freedom from violence for all is an absolute must. It also made clear that violence against women and girls needs particularly close attention and requires our full commitment also regarding the Post 2015 agenda.
Gender equality and freedom from violence must be made a reality for all women. It is an important precondition of sustainable development. But most importantly, it is a human right that needs to be guaranteed.