Strasbourg, 5 June 2007

Conference of National Focal Points and Contact Parliamentarians of the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence

This conference was intended to provide a forum for networking to all those responsible for ensuring the Campaign’s implementation. I believe you will agree with me that this was a good opportunity for discussion, interaction, networking and exchanging ideas.

Combating violence against women has been, is and will remain high on the political agenda of the Council of Europe.

For decades, the Council of Europe has worked to prevent and combat violence against women by undertaking a series of initiatives to promote the protection of women against violence. One of the most important initiatives is the recommendation on the protection of women against violence which was adopted by the Council of Europe in 2002. This text was the first international instrument to propose a global and comprehensive strategy to prevent violence and protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. It covers all forms of gender-based violence and recommends specific measures from detailed legal and policy measures to services and assistance to women victims as well as specific action in the fields of education, training and media. But in spite of the existence of such an all encompassing text, the harsh reality is such that we decided to step up our action on the Campaign.

Our Campaign blueprint has four objectives: improvement in the area of legal and policy measures, support and protection for victims, data collection and awareness raising. During the remaining year of the Campaign, the Council of Europe will continue to carry out Campaign activities in all three dimensions of the Campaign to achieve these objectives. It will also support you in your activities and provide expertise and a forum for discussion on this matter. It is important to keep up the momentum. For this reason, the Council of Europe relies on your support, ingenuity and dedication in the coming months and beyond as advocates for change in mentality, acceptance and reality.

The launch of the current Campaign in Madrid last year has not only raised expectations about what the Council of Europe will do during the Campaign, but also what kind of actions and measures member states will take to effectively combat violence against women.

The governments which you represent have the possibility and the responsibility to ensure that women no longer suffer in silence, but that legal and policy action is taken to support and protect them effectively. Similarly, the parliaments that you represent can adapt the legal framework necessary to support and protect women effectively. You are also ideally placed to raise awareness.

The very fact that you as parliamentarians and as government representatives have been appointed to implement the Campaign shows that combating violence against women cannot be done by a single actor alone. It requires political will and stamina in all democratic institutions. It also calls for the creation of an enabling environment for all professionals working to support women victims of domestic violence. This is what you can achieve together.

I cordially invite you to make the most of your role as national focal point, high-level official or contact parliamentarian by engaging in dialogue, co-operation and concrete activities to become a driving force in achieving real change.

The Campaign must make a difference for women suffering from violence, abuse, indifference and neglect.

It is therefore of great concern to me that this Campaign leaves its mark. The Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence, will, in its Final Activity Report, assess measures and actions taken at national level to combat violence against women. It will also issue recommendations for the future action of the Council of Europe.

One of these recommendations could be the preparation of the first European legally binding instrument to better prevent violence against women, protect women from it and prosecute perpetrators. The exact scope of this convention will need to be discussed and considered very carefully, as there are several options. What is clear, however, is the fact that any such convention must reflect a comprehensive approach, which must include the three fundamental areas of prevention of violence against women, protection of victims and prosecution of perpetrators of such violence.

As the Secretary General mentioned this morning, this Campaign will have been a success if, among others, every act of violence against women is criminalised and adequately punished, if victims receive the support they need through help lines and shelters and it is finally recognised that domestic violence is not a private matter but a human rights violation to be addressed by all, publicly and privately.