Neil Bush, the ambassador, delineates the UK’s obligations towards achieving gender equality and introduces the International Women and Girls Strategy’s unveiling.
Delivered on: 9 March 2023
Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered:
»UK Statement to the OSCE on International Women’s Day 2023«
Thank you, Mr Chair.
International Women’s Day in 2023 comes at a time when threats to gender equality continue to increase. Climate change and humanitarian crises disproportionately affect women and girls. We continue to see attempts to row back on women’s rights in countries such as Iran and Afghanistan. Violence against women is growing online. And horrific levels of conflict-related sexual violence are being perpetrated through Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
The theme of International Women’s Day in 2023 is “Embrace Equity”, focused on opening up a conversation on why equal opportunities are not sufficient on their own to effect change. Equitable action is required to bring about true inclusion.
The UK is committed to improving the outlook for women and girls globally. Yesterday our Foreign Secretary launched the UK’s International Women and Girls Strategy, during a visit to his mother’s hometown in Sierra Leone. The Strategy sets out how the UK is putting women and girls at the heart of everything we do. We will stand up and speak out for women and girls’ rights and freedoms at every opportunity, work with our partners to do the same, and build international consensus to stop those intent on rolling back on rights and putting hard-won progress into reverse.
Advancing gender equality is not just the right thing to do – it is a policy from which everyone benefits. Greater gender equality is the fundamental building block of all healthy democracies. It brings freedom, boosts prosperity and trade, strengthens global and regional security, and builds resilience.
The UK has a strong track record on gender equality. Since 2015 we have supported the education of more than 8 million of the world’s most vulnerable girls. Since 2013, we have helped secure pledges from over 10,000 communities – representing over 27 million people – to abandon Female Genital Mutilation. In November 2022, we hosted the ‘Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative’ International Conference, and launched a new Political Declaration endorsed by 53 countries.
Empowering women and girls, and preventing violence against them, will remain a UK priority. We are committed to ensuring every girl receives at least 12 years of quality education, and to ending the preventable deaths of mothers, new-born babies and children by 2030.
Mr Chair, we can only build a fairer, freer, safer, wealthier and greener world if we put women and girls at the heart of the OSCE’s work. Women’s leadership, perspectives and knowledge are essential for local, national and regional progress. At the PC/FSC yesterday we discussed the issue of Women, Peace and Security, which demonstrated that participating States remain overwhelmingly in favour of the OSCE doing more on this across our region.
It is vital that participating States fulfil their commitments to gender equality – set out in the 1999 Charter for European Security, and related decisions – and ensure adequate funding for OSCE executive structures working to implement the organisation’s gender equality commitments.
As we have stated previously, International Women’s Day is not just a day. It is about the actions we take every day to ensure the equal rights of all women and girls.
Thank you, Mr Chair.