Speech by Giorgi Kvirikashvili - Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on International High Level Conference

“Achieving Gender Equality – Challenges and Opportunities in the European Neighborhood Policy Region”

Your Excellences, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is truly an honor for me to welcome you here to this inaugural high-level international conference on achieving gender equality in the European Neighborhood Policy Region, and to have the opportunity of saying a few words about an issue which is close to my heart.

It has always seemed to me that the value of equality between women and men is self-evident. Firstly, because women’s rights are human rights and there is simply no way to justify the discrimination and violence which so many women around the world face on a daily basis. And secondly because we all, women and men, boys and girls, stand to benefit greatly from a more democratic and equal world – a world where each and every individual is given the freedom to fully contribute to her or his community, to the peace and sustainable development of his or her country and to our shared mutual prosperity.

It is therefore very hard to understand how it is that in 2015 we live in a world where, according to the UN, 39 million girls are denied schooling and two thirds of the 774 million adult illiterates worldwide are women – the same proportion for the past 20 years and across most regions; how it is that 70% of the world’s poor are female; how we can live in a world where 1 in 3 women and girls suffer gender-based violence and where only tiny percentages of those who have the power to decide to change this reality are women. 

When I read the 20 year review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, I was saddened by the conclusion that – I quote – “progress has been slow and uneven”, and that “major gaps remain”. 

But then I thought again: while progress has been slow – too slow – there has been progress, and if major gaps remain, they have been narrowed. And progress can and will accelerate exponentially, thanks to increased awareness, commitment and, most importantly, to the result of increased gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

In September, world leaders gathered in New York to adopt the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a stand-alone goal on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, and also mainstreams gender across the other indicators. In addition, each country put forward its concrete new commitments to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. At this year’s Commission on the Status of Women, UN member states committed to achieving a "50/50 planet by 2030". 
Given the past record, this goal is ambitious, but I believe it is achievable.
My government is committed to doing what it takes to realise this vision. 
In Georgia we have made substantial progress over recent years, including with the adoption last year of a Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan and an anti-discrimination law, as well as accession to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. We have developed institutional mechanisms for gender mainstreaming and have made strides to promote women’s political representation, which we hope to see developed further and bear fruit in the framework of next year’s Parliamentary elections.

A critical dimension to this work is our partnership with the European Union, together with the other countries of the European Neighbourhood Policy region. This partnership is based on shared values, and the bilateral and multilateral dimensions of the ENP provide us with critical tools to promote these values, through political association, conflict resolution, economic development and people-to-people contacts. Popular support for the European integration path of our country is as high as 80%, because we believe that working together within the European family of nations is the best way to realise democracy and human rights in Georgia, as well as regional security and prosperity.

It is for all of these reasons that Georgia took the initiative to host this international conference, and is very thankful for the support and partnership for this initiative of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, UN Women, UNDP and UNFPA.

The discussion today will seek to find ways to better harness the ENP process for the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment, focusing on three thematic areas: women’s political and economic empowerment; ending violence against women and girls; and women’s role in peace and security.

I very much look forward to the outcome of this exchange, and encourage each of you to be ambitious in your proposals, as we all must be ambitious in our objectives and commitments to advance the human rights of women and girls in our countries and shared region.

I wish you a fruitful discussion.
Thank you.