[Brussels, 15 April 2015] Ahead of the EC Forum on the Future of Gender Equality, the European Women’s Lobby calls on the European Commission and the EU Member States to deliver a concrete and ambitious EU new Strategy for Equality between women and men. You can download the Briefing here.
2015 is a turning time for women’s and girls’ human rights, in Europe and globally.
The international community celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, a founding human rights instrument for women and girls adopted by all United Nations (UN) Member States in 1995. At international level, a new global post-2015 framework for development will be adopted, which should put women’s rights and equality between women and men at its centre.
More importantly, in 2015, the European Union (EU) will adopt a new Strategy for action on equality between women and men for the coming 5 years. Women’s organisations call on the European Commission and the EU Member States to adopt such strategy as a stand-alone goal for the EU, with dedicated resources and goals, and concrete indicators for monitoring progress. Women and girls in Europe expect the EU to be a strong model of action and change and “walk the talk” on women’s rights and equality between women and men.
Why an EU Strategy for Equality between women and men?
Because equality between women and men is a fundamental value of the EU.
The EU and its Member States have the responsibility to promote equality between women and men, according to the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. With the new European Commission, we now have a Commissioner dedicated to gender equality, Ms Jourova; she now needs the means to deliver on her portfolio. The adoption of an EU Strategy on equality between women and men is a matter of credibility and accountability for the European Union.
Because there should be consistency between EU internal and external policies on equality between women and men.
In March, the UN Member States adopted the political declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women (59th session), which reaffirms their commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action. In New York, the EU and its Member States have been instrumental in ensuring that women’s human rights are at the core of the commitments of the international community.
The Beijing Platform for Action stresses the need for separate and strong institutional mechanisms for women’s rights. Such mechanism exists for EU external policies, through the EU Gender Action Plan for External Action 2016-2020. The EU should therefore follow this requirement and have a dedicated instrument for equality between women and men, in the form of the EU Strategy for Equality between women and men, accompanied by goals and indicators.
Because the Council has already committed to the realisation of the human rights of women and girls.
Last December, the Council delivered conclusions on a transformative post-2015 agenda: “We reiterate that the empowerment and human rights of women and girls, and ending both discrimination in all its forms and violence against women and girls, must be at the core of the post-2015 agenda. Goals, targets and indicators across the framework should address legal, social and economic barriers to gender equality. We recognise the importance of involving men and boys in advancing gender equality. We remain committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the outcomes of their review conferences and in this context sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
It is time to transform words to action!
What should the EU Strategy for Equality between women and men look like?
The EU Strategy should be the instrument of the EU commitment to Equality between women and men as a stand-alone goal for the European Union.
The Strategy should give the vision of a Europe realising equality between women and men and promoting women’s and girls’ human rights. Such vision should build on the values of the EU and on universal and un-negotiable principles that the Member States share through their endorsement of international women’s human rights instruments. It should be consistent with the EU external action on equality between women and men. The vision should ensure that the EU and its Member States COMMIT to the realisation of women and girls’ human rights, ACCELERATE the implementation of existing legislation and the adoption of new instruments, and INVEST in women’s rights and women’s organisations.
Based on its vision, the Strategy should propose clear objectives, and indicators and targets to bring positive change to women and girls in Europe. These objectives and goals should be based on the 12 critical areas identified by the Beijing Platform for Action, in order to encompass all challenges and opportunities for the realisation of girls’ and women’s human rights and equality between women and men in Europe.
Such objectives and goals must be defined in accordance with:
- The work and analysis of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE);
- The calls of the European Parliament (especially through its annual report on equality between women and men in the European Union);
- The demands of the women’s organisations working at local, national and European levels.
The Manifesto of the European Women’s Lobby for the 2014 European Elections outlines the key areas of action identified by our 2000 member organisations throughout Europe.
To realise its vision, the Strategy should provide a strong architecture for women’s human rights and mechanisms for the systematic implementation of gender mainstreaming.
Such architecture should include and promote the establishment of mechanisms to ensure accountability, monitoring, evaluation, and coordination between the different actors involved at national and European level.
Here are proposals of such mechanisms:
- A clear leadership role to the EU Commissioner in charge of gender equality;
- Regular meetings of all EU Commissioners on equality between women and men;
- Inter-service coordination and meetings within the European Commission and the different DGs (with focal points in each DG, including EEAS);
- Each DG should have a transparent and measurable plan to realise its commitment to gender mainstreaming;
- Inter-institutional meetings between the EC, the EP and the Council on equality between women and men, to ensure consistency, strengthen actions and resources;
- A strengthened EC unit dedicated to equality between women and men, with human and financial resources to support the work of the Commissioner, implement the Strategy and work with the member states;
- Focal points in each member states and regular meetings of national focal points;
- Strong well-funded programmes to support women’s organisations at European and national level;
- Annual reports from the European Commission and the Member States on the progress on equality between women and men, feeding into annual reviews of action.
The EU Strategy for Equality between women and men should also be elaborated based on the EU core principles of democracy and transparency. That includes foreseeing the inclusion of women and women’s organisations in the elaboration, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the strategy at European and national level, and support to women’s organisations through programmes and sustainable and adequate funding.