Chairwoman Hautala sent an address to the Finnish UN Association Conference concerning the situation of women in the Arab world. [:]
I would have gladly participated in the debate with you today, but the European Parliament is holding its plenary session in Strasbourg this week. I would have very much liked to be present at the debate today because your subject is extremely important; women in the Arab world.
Our Southern neighboring area is living a huge period of change. This turmoil has brought up a lot of deep thinking and feelings in Europe. Our operations have been unveiled as supportive of dictators and contributing to oppression. The EU policy on the Southern Mediterranean region has been examined thoroughly. We have been forced to re-examine own actions and values.
Now it’s time to discuss how the EU can best support the democratic aspirations and to promote equality in the region. Here, supporting women’s rights is a key issue.
In March, I wrote of the High Representative, arguing that gender should be taken fully into account when the EU’s policy will be examined the Southern Mediterranean region.
In the North Africa region, women have played a central role in the revolutions and democracy promotion. Their participation is also crucial in the stabilization of these revolutions and strengthening the reforms. For this reason it is imperative that gender considerations are taken fully into account.
There are several ways how the EU could promote women’s role very effectively.
First, when reviewing the allocation and uses of EU funds, their impact on women and men should be assessed and it should be ensured that they benefit equally both genders.
Second, the European Commission and the External Action Service should ensure that the participants of EU-funded measures, such as training programmes or workshops, are equally men and women.
Third, when EU delegations travel to the region, they should ensure that their choice of interlocutors includes a sufficient number of women – not only when it comes to discussing gender issues, but across the board.
Friends, the role of women has not only changed the face of change in these societies wrestle with – the women move to these societies.
In this new situation, time to create a new EU neighborhood policy has arrived. Promoting women’s rights must be an essential element in this work but it can produce results only if the focus is clear enough; while it is still the women who suffer the most at the time of unrest and in need of particular protection, women must be considered as holders of key power in these new societies and therefore essential partners to cooperate with.