Symposium on “Empowering Women and Supporting Youth in Development and Global Citizenship”
Hosted by the Ministry of Planning and the MOFA
12th of February, 09:30 – 13:45
Location: Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre, Kuwait
Dear Ban Ki-moon,
Your Excellency Mariam Al-Aqeel, Minister of State and Foreign Affairs,
Your Excellency Khaled Mahdi, Secretary-General of the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development,
Your Excellency Ambassador Sadiq Marafi,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I want to say that it is a great pleasure and honour for the delegation of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens to be here in this wonderful country and to participate in the Symposium on “Empowering Women and Supporting Youth in Development and Global Citizenship”.
My first intensive contact to Kuwait was in 1981 when I accompanied Federal Chancellor Bruno Kreisky on his State visit to Kuwait.
I was able to visit Kuwait for a state visit exactly ten years ago, in February 2009, when I learned to appreciate the great hospitality from His Royal Highnesses Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
I took away great memories from this visit.
Today’s Symposium about Empowering Women and Supporting Youth in Development and Global Citizenship clearly underscores the vision of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens.
Our work at the Centre seeks to empower women and youth to strive as global citizens in a peaceful and prosperous world.
This work cannot be done without a dedicated Board that serves as the backbone of our organization and of course our partners, such as the State of Kuwait, who support us and contribute to the resources that we need to be successful.
Leadership, mediation, advocacy, education, and also compassion are cornerstones and mechanisms that we have identified to be most valuable in the implementation of our goals.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Women represent 50% of the population globally. Nevertheless, the history of civilization is coined by the discrimination of women in various cultures and eras.
Women’s rights have been infringed and the burdens of life have been lying much heavier on women’s shoulders than on men’s.
In the 18th century, during the period of Enlightenment, Europe finally started to have serious discussions about women’s rights and equality.
The idea of universal fundamental and human rights based on human dignity and to be granted regardless of origin, race, sex or religion etc. was introduced to politics and incorporated in the goals of progressive movements and in the texts of modern constitutions.
Documents of the French Revolution and the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America did pioneer work in that regard.
The 20th century was characterized by movements towards the political equality of human beings.
In 1918 and 1919 Germany, Austria and other European countries introduced women’s active and passive right to vote.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Human Rights Declaration of the United Nations was passed in 1948 and the European Human Rights Convention followed five years later in 1953.
In the last 50 years the question of equal rights for women and men is less a legal question, but a question of practice and reality.
More and more legal regulations in politics, economy and society seek to decrease the gap between theoretical equality and practical discrimination of women.
A central initiative for that purpose are the Sustainable Development Goals, especially with Goal 5 for Gender Equality.
Global initiatives against the discrimination of women and for women’s empowerment bring people together to raise awareness.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
History shows that we have come a long way. We achieved a lot but there remains a lot that is to be done.
It is estimated that an alarming 1 in 3 women globally will suffer from violence during their lifetime. Violence against women continues to persist and to pose an extreme obstacle to their ability to live in dignity and to their general well-being.
In the political sphere, female heads of states or heads of government are somewhat present but continue to be a very rare minority.
We need more women in parliaments and as political leaders because politics concerns women as much as it concerns men.
To achieve full gender equality in our societies, politics must serve as an example: women belong in leadership positions because we cannot afford to forget the skills and competencies of the female half of our populations.
The economy also demonstrates various aspects in which women are disadvantaged.
In Europe, for instance, women’s salaries are up to one third less than men’s salaries. This must be adjusted and rectified. Fairness and equality mean that women’s work is valued just as much as men’s work.
Europe has made major progress in the field of education.
In the 50s, while I was studying, the percentage of female students was 20%. Then, in the 80s, when I served as the Austrian Minister for Science and Research, more than a third of all students were female.
Today, in Austria, women make up over 50% of all students and this also goes for many other European States.
Men have a clear advantage over women when it comes to university professor positions, showing the obstacles that women face to access leadership positions.
Women’s empowerment must also be regarded as a global issue and put into the bigger picture. It is a key to peace, to eliminating all forms of violence, and to enable families, communities, and nations to thrive
Today, it is particularly interesting to us that we shed light on the advancement of women’s empowerment in the State of Kuwait.
Preparing for this visit, I learned that when it comes to women’s empowerment in the region of the Gulf states and even the whole Middle East, Kuwait has an indeed pioneering role.
Women in Kuwait are amongst the most emancipated in the whole region.
Especially the last 50 years brought significant change for women in Kuwait. Women’s political rights are increasingly respected, giving us hope that we are on the right path.
The General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development of Kuwait is the entity in charge of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and thus, also of Goal Number 5.
Under the directorship of Khaled A. Mahdi, the Secretariat has been keen on implementing the Global Goals.
Today’s Symposium on Empowering Women and Supporting Youth in Development and Global Citizenship reflects this commendable ambition and gives us the chance to discuss the steps that have been done already to make this world a more peaceful and prosperous place for all.
Thanks to you and your Secretariat, experts from around the world are gathered here today to exchange ideas and concrete action plans to implement the SDGs and promote the concept of Global Citizenship.
My deep appreciation also goes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait H.E. Sheikh Sabah Al Khaled Al Ahmad Al Sabah who are generously hosting today’s third Board Meeting of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens.
Our good friend, his Excellency Ambassador Sadiq Marafi has been a committed and generous Board member of the Ban Ki-moon Centre right from the very beginning and is a great partner for all initiatives to foster women’s empowerment. We are very grateful for your support.
We are looking forward to intensifying our work with Kuwait and in particular with the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Planning and Development and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait and to identifying further opportunities for cooperation.
Let us unite our efforts to reach the great and important goal, namely equal rights and chances for men and women globally in our present world.
Thank you very much.