Conference on Participation of Women in Public and Political Life
in the EAP Countries
Chisinau, Moldova, 10 December 2013
Intervention of Ambassador Tatiana Parvu at the opening session
The Council of Europe was established to protect and promote human rights, rule of law, democratic values and social justice. Gender equality is considered to be an integral part of human rights and a fundamental criterion of democracy. The Council of Europe has been working for decades to make gender equality a reality, including through positive action and measures enabling both women and men to reconcile their working and public lives with family and private life. Guidelines have been developed to help member states promote and increase the participation of women in decision-making in political and public life.
Gender equality entails a number of fundamental criteria such as equal status, equal opportunities and responsibilities, and also equal participation in all areas of public and private life. The majority of European countries have to contend with persistent gender inequality. For example, in most countries women represent over half of the population and the electorate, but continue to be marginalised in public and political life, to face difficulties in reconciling private, family and professional life. Unfortunately this is happening even in countries with the strongest commitment to equality between men and women.
The legal framework provided by Council of Europe’s guidelines and recommendations stems from and has the political support of member states. The Ministers responsible for Equality between Women and Men have been the driving force behind many major achievements in the area of gender equality. The 7th Council of Europe Ministerial Conference (Baku, 2010) focused on promoting de jure and de facto equality in all spheres of society. The Action Plan (“Taking up the challenge of the achievement of de jure and de facto gender equality”) adopted at this Conference stressed the need to follow up Recommendation (2003)3 to promote women's participation by developing activities aimed at encouraging women and men to take an equal share in the responsibilities and benefits of paid and unpaid work, in particular home and family responsibilities.
The Baku Conference also triggered important changes in the way the Council of Europe was approaching gender equality. It became clear that the focus should shift from standard setting to initiatives to support the implementation of standards at national level. It was also evident that effective gender mainstreaming could only be achieved through transversal work and new, more inclusive, working methods.
This led to the launch, in 2012, of the Council of Europe Transversal Programme on Gender Equality. The Programme aims to increase the impact and visibility of gender equality standards, supporting their implementation in member states through a variety of measures, including gender mainstreaming and action in a number of priority areas.
To achieve its aim, the Programme needs the continuous commitment and political and financial support of the member states. The Programme includes the Network of National Focal Points, the Gender Equality Rapporteurs appointed in the steering committees and monitoring bodies of the Council of Europe, the Gender Mainstreaming Team in the Secretariat of the Council of Europe, the Gender Equality Commission and a Thematic Co-ordinator on Equality and Trafficking, a role with which I have been entrusted and am enjoying a lot.
As mentioned, the Programme was set up to in order to mobilise the whole Organisation around a single agenda, now reflected in the adoption a couple of weeks ago of the Gender Equality Strategy (2014-2017). I am sure the President of the Gender Equality Commission of the Council of Europe, Ms Carlien Scheele, will speak in more detail this afternoon about the Gender Equality Strategy and its strategic objective for Achieving balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision-making.
A few words about the goal of this Conference. I think Mr Friederich will refer to this in a couple of minutes. In my capacity as TC-ET, I want to stress the main targets of the discussions at this forum:
how to foster authentic co-operation between public authorities, NGOs and civil society in the EP countries, so that real gender equality could be achieved; and
to identify new actions, new mechanisms aimed at strengthening the skills and resources of women competing for elected office, with initiatives by parties, associations, media, NGOs, including knowledge networks, monitoring programmes, skill training and funding for women candidates.
Last, but not least, we trust that you will bring up and share the best practices, as well as your ideas on how to make the existing standards at the level of our Organisation a reality.
Finally, I should like to wish all the participants every success in the Conference.