Award ceremony for the most outstanding work in the eradication of domestic and gender violence
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am glad to be here with you today to accept this prestigious award on behalf of the Council of Europe. I am particularly proud to share the prize with Mrs Anna Bella Estévez and would like to congratulate her.
Six years ago, in this very city, the Council of Europe launched its Campaign to stop violence, including domestic violence, against women.
The Campaign didn't start from scratch.
Already since the 1990s, the Council of Europe has been pulling its weight in support for this cause.
We have mobilised European governments. We have worked with parliamentarians. We have co-operated with civil society.
With the adoption in 2002 of the Recommendation on the protection of women against violence, member states were provided with concrete guidance on the measures that needed to be taken. During the three years of the campaign, these measures, as well as new ones, were put to the test and then promoted.
It was then that Europe received a wake-up call.
A sharp sense of urgency led many European countries to review their policies and legislations. It led countries to adopt comprehensive national action plans to combat violence against women.
The Campaign also helped sculpt a new consensus.
It helped cement the conviction that this human rights violation needed to be addressed through an international legally binding instrument.
An instrument that would monitor a government's commitment to preventing – and combating – all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence.
Change didn't happen overnight.
Last year, after four years of negotiations, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was finalised, ready to be signed.
Preventing violence, protecting its victims and prosecuting the perpetrators are the cornerstones of the Convention. It is targeted at the hearts and minds of individuals by calling on all members of society, in particular men and boys, to change attitudes.
In essence, it is a renewed call for greater gender equality, because violence against women is deeply rooted in the inequality between women and men, and is kept alive by a culture of silent acceptance and denial of violence against women.
The Istanbul Convention is the most far-reaching and comprehensive treaty to tackle this violation of human rights and it is already inspiring legislations and policies of countries around the globe.
Open to accession by non-European states, I strongly believe that the Istanbul Convention has the potential to become a global standard.
Dear friends, violence.
The Istanbul Convention is the result of diverse experiences, yet one aspiration. One shared vision.
Let me start with the diverse experiences.
The Istanbul Convention is the product of the multiple experiences emerging from the implementation of successful policies and laws in our member states.
Some of the provisions were inspired by your country, by Spain. For example, the need for multi-agency co-operation and greater specialisation of staff in all sectors.
We need countries like Spain at the forefront of this battle. We need them to be willing to share their experiences and best practices.
We need them to stimulate and inspire others.
We also need a forum like the Council of Europe where 47 countries, as well as states in our neighbouring region, come together. Where experiences can be shared so that they benefit the largest possible audience.
For instance, we were very pleased to have Ms Montalban Huertas, President of the Observatory on domestic and gender violence, share the Observatory's experience in the Regional Conference that we organised on this very topic last month in Rabat.
But the Istanbul Convention is, above all, the result of a shared vision, a shared aspiration.
An aspiration for a world in which women are safe from violence and safe from fear.
We cannot, however, be judged merely on the basis of aspiration. Instead we should be measured by the concrete, tangible steps we take to reach our objectives. We should be judged by our resolve to overcome any obstacle, political or other, along the way.
23 countries in Europe have signed the Istanbul Convention, and only Turkey has ratified it so far. I am nevertheless reassured that many countries, including Spain, are taking steps towards ratification.
Today, I feel honoured to accept on behalf of the Council of Europe this great award.
At the same time, I feel proud of the results achieved, but I also feel deeply worried because we have not achieved our ultimate aim. Millions of women in Europe continue to be victims of gender-based violence.
I feel also optimistic and highly motivated because the campaign against gender and domestic violence is now firmly on the political agenda across Europe - despite the extremely difficult economic context.
Therefore, now is the time to act.
Again, thank you. Muchas gracias.
22 December 2017
Letter to the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis