Joint editorial on the European Union Action Plan on Gender Equality III
Written by Joseph Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Union, European Commissioner for International Partnership, Jutta Urpilainen and 24 European Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Development.
Prioritize gender equality
Rarely in the world have the rights of women and girls been challenged as they have been in Afghanistan. The latest developments are causing great concern. The EU has made it clear that future EU development assistance to Afghanistan will depend on compliance with the international legal framework and human rights standards, including the rights of women and girls. The EU is determined and committed to continue supporting women and girls in Afghanistan and around the world, respecting our values and beliefs.
Along with human rights, freedom and democracy, equality is one of the fundamental values that make the European Union what it is. It enriches our societies and strengthens their resilience. Gender equality is at the heart of peace, security, economic prosperity and sustainable development. In addition, the defense and promotion of gender equality is required by the EU treaties.
This is why work politically; Operationally and financially, promoting and safeguarding progress in gender equality is a political priority and a key objective for the EU. The EU Gender Action Plan III and the new EU External Action Budget provide a roadmap for global action towards an equal world. We work closely with multilateral, regional and bilateral partners, including civil society organizations, to achieve these goals. We still have a long way to go; there is no room for complacency. However, we are stronger together as many challenges remain.
In many countries, the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing gender inequalities in different areas: education, vocational training, health, safety and security, sexual and reproductive health and rights, decision-making and economic opportunities.
COVID-19 closures have often seen an increase in gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, while women’s and girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health services has been reduced. At the same time, a large part of the burden of care falls on women and girls. Workers in the informal economy and low-skilled jobs (most of whom are women), migrants and those belonging to minorities are more exposed and face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
In addition, school closures have placed girls at increased risk of sexual exploitation, early pregnancy, child labor and forced marriage. The Malala Fund estimates that an additional 20 million girls are at risk of dropping out of school, a total of 150 million girls – the equivalent of a third of the EU’s population – without education prospects.
Military spending in 2020 still exceeded global health spending, even in a year dominated by the corona pandemic, according to a recent UN report. For a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must redouble our efforts to promote gender equality.
Now is the time to do more
This challenge requires a comprehensive response and must be met now, as we build the future, we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a post-pandemic world that is more equal, more diverse and where equal opportunity is a priority. reality. We must address the root causes of gender inequality and gender discrimination in order to achieve lasting change.
The European Union and its Member States, as well as European financial institutions have been alongside women and girls around the world throughout the pandemic. As Team Europe, we have already mobilized 46 billion euros to support more than 130 partner countries, with a particular focus on women and young people.
Three illustrative examples: In Nepal, we have helped a million girls and boys to continue their education through radio learning. In Togo, we supported the creation of a universal income system and the appointment of women at the head of new municipalities. Worldwide, the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative has helped 650,000 women and girls prevent or address violence against them, and educated 880,000 men and boys about positive masculinity, non-violent conflict resolution and to parenthood.
Yet to meet the growing challenges, we need to do more and better. This is the purpose of the Gender III Action Plan. It promotes the leadership and meaningful participation of women, girls and youth in political, economic, social and cultural life, as well as in all matters related to peace and security, in the world.
We are working to get human development back on track
We are now making this plan a reality with the help of the new NDICI-Global Europe instrument of € 79.5 billion which will support the EU’s external action for the next seven years.
Support for education and in particular for girls’ education will play a central role. Just as we support education in emergencies, the EU has worked with partner countries throughout the pandemic to minimize its impact on children’s learning and well-being, and to facilitate a return to school safely.
We already provide more than half of all global aid to education as Team Europe. But we will further increase funding to promote gender equality through quality education at all levels. Our joint pledge of 1.7 billion euros to the Global Partnership for Education in July – to transform girls ‘and boys’ education in up to 90 countries and territories – is part of this new start.
We are scaling up our efforts at all levels, from supporting education and economic opportunities for women and girls to improving their access to sexual and reproductive health services. By 2025, 85% of all new EU external actions – across sectors – will contribute to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
This is currently being finalized with our partner countries based on close consultation with civil society organizations, women’s rights activists and youth.
We must get human development back on track and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, leaving no women and girls behind.
Getting it right is crucial.