Opening address by Philippe Boillat
Conference of National Focal Points
Council of Europe campaign to combat violence against women, including domestic violence
Strasbourg, 4 June 2007
Ladies and gentlemen,
· I have pleasure in greeting you and in wishing you a warm welcome to the Conference of National Focal Points, which I now have the honour to declare open.
· As you know, we are at the half-way mark of the Council of Europe Campaign to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. All of you gathered here today hold an appointment in the specific context of this campaign, either from your national authorities as a focal point or a high-level official, or from the Secretary General of the Council of Europe as a member of the Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence. Allow me to thank you most sincerely for devoting your abilities and your time to fighting violence against women.
· As national focal points or high-level officials, you have a decisive part to play in making a success of the campaign and bringing about genuine changes in the lives of women victims of domestic violence. You are the governmental representatives responsible for the national effort to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. It therefore rests with you – and this task is crucial - to initiate actions and set up structures for combating violence against women, preventing it, and punishing the culprits.
Context of the campaign
· As you know, the initiative for this campaign stems from the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states who, at the 3rd Council of Europe Summit (Warsaw, 16-17 May 2005), reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating violence against women, including domestic violence.
· The launch of the campaign in Madrid last November was a great success and its subsequent implementation has been in the hands of various agents with various resources, in each of its three dimensions, the governmental, the parliamentary and the local and regional. The protagonists of these three dimensions of the campaign are working without pause, supported by the Council of Europe, to convey a clear message in their countries, namely that violence against women is a violation of human rights. I know we generally agree in saying how important it is for all these agents to involve themselves in constructive activities to combat violence against women. However, in this connection I would stress the very special responsibility that rests with governments for upholding and protecting the human rights of everyone within their jurisdiction and honouring the international undertakings which they have accepted in this field. That is why States must take whatever measures are necessary to prevent all forms of violence against women, have them investigated, and apply penalties.
Campaign activities involving the focal points and the high-level officials
· The naming of focal points and high-level officials is one of the salient features of the campaign blueprint drawn up by the Task Force. To date, 40 member states have made the requested appointments, already a very fine achievement in itself. But we are ambitious – rightfully so – and therefore hope that the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Ukraine, as well as our new member state Montenegro, will appoint their representatives shortly.
· It is you, in your capacity as a national focal point or a high-level official, who are asked to ensure that the question of combating violence against women is addressed and handled by the governments with all the requisite energy and firmness.
· I recall that a questionnaire has been sent to each of you so that the Council of Europe may gain an overview of the activities conducted at national level to combat violence against women effectively.
· So far we have received 32 replies, and I wish to thank those who took the time and trouble to answer the questionnaire. The replies are of great interest. They reveal that some States are using the Council of Europe Campaign to launch their own national campaign, while others are reviewing what they have so far in response to violence against women, and reforming their governmental institutions so as to have more suitable bodies and structures for combating violence against women. Still others unremittingly pursue their manifold activities and continue to develop and apply innovative ways and means to combat this violence; they are ready and willing to share their experience with others.
· We also asked you to submit an interim report and a final report on the activities undertaken to support the Council of Europe Campaign to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. We shall peruse the interim reports with keen interest in the coming weeks (may I remind you in this connection that 2 July was set as the deadline for delivering these reports). I very sincerely thank those of you who have already sent them to us. These reports are valuable since, combined with the various other sources of information, they will serve as a basis for the work of the Task Force, some of whose members, as I have just pointed out, are with us today. When the campaign reaches its conclusion in the middle of next year, the Task Force will have prepared a report containing an assessment of the measures and actions applied in our member states. I am eager to see this document as it will embody recommendations on the future actions that the Council of Europe should undertake in the field of preventing violence against women. It therefore behoves the Task Force, as a Council of Europe advisory body, to show us the way ahead on the basis of its assessment.
Context and perspectives of the Conference
· In most of our member states, activities to combat violence against women, including domestic violence, are conducted by numerous agents, sometimes very diverse, and this is done at very different levels. None of these agents can single-handedly realise the desired changes, whether they are governments at federal, regional or local level, federal or provincial parliaments, civil society in its different guises, or the various professional groups whose members are in contact with women victims of violence. Combating domestic violence calls for joint public action. That is one of the messages of our campaign, and the reason why I wish to appeal to you not only to spread this message but also to make it a reality. Rest assured that the Council of Europe supports you in this venture by offering you expertise and skills, recommendations and guidelines, and a discussion forum during and after its campaign.
· This is the spirit of joint effort, co-operation and mutual enrichment in which today’s conference was conceived.
· The conference today is devoted to pooling experiences and networking. It is also intended to publicise the various measures for combating violence against women which have been tried and tested and demonstrated their effectiveness. Three women experts have been invited to give you an overview of the situation regarding legal measures, measures for protecting and supporting victims, and data collection measures. I extend my very special greetings to them and thank them for their contribution to this conference.
· The second day of our conference will be devoted to a joint meeting with the contact parliamentarians who are your counterparts. This second day will be opened by the Secretary General and concluded by the Deputy Secretary General, as a token of the political importance which our Organisation attaches to the campaign and of the role which you are assigned in it. The aim of tomorrow’s meeting is to enable you, if you have not already done so, to meet the corresponding parliamentarian from your country and initiate constructive dialogue and joint action with him or her, and no doubt others besides.
· The Parliamentary Assembly, you are aware and I am pleased to recall, played a major part by placing the question of domestic violence on the Committee of Ministers’ agenda. Up until now, parliamentarians have continued to be supporters who make themselves heard, and those who have been designated as contact parliamentarians for the purposes of the campaign are currently meeting like you in Strasbourg to discuss their future actions.
· I am delighted on my own account by the staging of this conference. Together, we can far more readily and reliably ensure that violence against women is recognised as a blatant violation of human rights. We can also draw attention to this evil while satisfying ourselves that solutions for its eradication are adopted. The Task Force’s final activity report will surely indicate the ways and means for further progress. Without wishing to encroach on the prerogatives of the Task Force, it seems that one key component in the jigsaw of proposed solutions could be the drafting by the Council of Europe of the first binding European legal instrument prescribing a set of measures to prevent violence against women, protect victims and punish abusers. Subject of course to the recommendations of the Task Force and the decisions of the Committee of Ministers, such an instrument might soon come into being.
· Ladies and gentlemen, I trust that our two days of proceedings may bring forth lively discussions, profitable exchanges, plentiful ideas and constructive interactions, meeting our common expectations and thereby setting a style of success for our campaign. Thank you for your attention.