“The time is now for Governments to translate international promises into concrete national action. We all must do better to protect women and prevent this pervasive human rights violation, but Governments and leaders must lead by example”, said Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, at the closing session of the Stakeholders’ Forum for preventing and eliminating violence against women, held at UN headquarters from 13–14 December, 2012.
Member States, civil society, UN entities and the private sector met for two days in New York to review the existing normative work and foster dialogue, build alliances and raise awareness of existing commitments and standards for ending violence against women, in preparation for the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57).
“Everything that we have heard during these two days tells us that we might have a consensus and it should help us to reach agreed conclusion and have a successful session of CSW,” said Marjon V. Kamara, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. “But we have also heard here that a greater success is how these conclusions, how the legislation that exists, will ultimately impact the life of women.”
The various panels of the meeting addressed how to prevent and eliminate violence from different perspectives, ranging from reviewing existing global commitments to ensuring leadership, coordination and resources. They also focused on successful preventive strategies and identifying the best policies and services in place around the world.
Participants stressed the need to strengthen norms and standards for preventing and addressing all forms of violence against women and girls, at global, regional and national levels – as well as their implementation. They equally underlined the importance of expanding and strengthening the institutions, mechanisms and tools –as well as capacities–needed to make this happen.
Ms. Bachelet announced that 12 countries had already joined UN Women’s recently launched COMMIT initiative, which urges Heads of State and Government to make new concrete commitments to end violence against girls and women. The initiative was launched on 25 November and will encourage pledges leading up to CSW57, to be held in March 2013.
The meeting also featured a Forum with survivors of violence who have become successful activists around domestic violence, child sexual assault, conflict-related violence, so called “honour crimes,” as well as rape and human trafficking. Their powerful testimonies included a strong message to policymakers about the need to include survivor’s voices in policy development and implementation.
“I think to have these survivors voices on this panel is ground-breaking and I want to thank UN Women for having this insight,” said Autumn Burris, a survivor of sexual assault, rape, sex work and domestic violence from the United States of America. She also called for more survivor-informed programmes and services as well as greater coordination between Governments and NGOs.
“There is nothing more real and profound than hearing women survivors, whose stories inspire all of us to stand up for justice and human rights and to do more to prevent, address and end violence against women,” said Ms. Bachelet during her concluding remarks. “We have broken the silence and countries have put many laws, policies and programmes in place. … But it is not enough, as we cannot go a day without hearing some horrifying case of continuing violence, which is the most cruel manifestation of discrimination against women.”
This Stakeholders’ Forum was part of the preparatory process toward CSW57, which this year will highlight the “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls” as its priority theme.
Ms. Bachelet stressed the need for inclusive participation in CSW57 and said its agreed conclusions should also address the issue of sexual violence in conflict. Moreover, she said they should provide a building block for the discussions on the issue at the G8 next year.
“Expectations are high, and they should be. In some countries, up to 7 in 10 women will be beaten, raped, abused, or mutilated in their lifetimes. A crisis of such proportions deserves nothing less than the highest attention of world leaders. There can be no peace, no progress, when women live under the fear of violence,” concluded Ms. Bachelet.