Press Conference on Secretary-General’s ‘Network of Men Leaders’, Part of ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ Campaign

24 November 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Secretary-General’s ‘Network of Men Leaders’,


Part of ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ Campaign


Up to 70 per cent of women at some point in their lifetime experienced physical or sexual violence by men, most from someone they knew, which meant that men had a crucial role in ending such abuse -- as fathers, friends and decision-makers, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today at a Headquarters press briefing, following the launch of a major initiative to engage politicians, activists, religious and community figures in that charge.

The “Network of Men Leaders”, part of the “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign launched last year, would raise public awareness, advocate for adequate laws and encourage men to act as role models for other young men and boys everywhere, Mr. Ban said.

Recalling that today marked the tenth anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, he said the campaign, bolstered by a trust fund administered by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), would award $10.5 million to 13 initiatives in 18 countries that addressed sexual abuse, sexual violence in conflict and the intersection of violence against women and HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and trafficking.  It sought to raise $100 million annually for the Fund by 2015.

“Just as women’s rights are human rights, women’s issues are people’s issues […] we need to do much, much more,” he said.

Joining the Secretary-General in that appeal were Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand; Knut Storberget, Minister of Justice and Police of Norway; and Ghida Anani, Programme Coordinator at KAFA (“Enough”) Violence & Exploitation, a leading non-governmental organization working to end gender-based violence in Lebanon.

Mr. Storberget underscored that children, standing beside their mothers and sisters, were the “silent witnesses” to such violence.  While all men should engage in the issue, “men with power should do it immediately,” he said, notably through better law enforcement and developing a new approach to address the needs of women in abusive situations.  Women needed more help than was currently available, and it was time for non-governmental organizations and political parties alike to mobilize men.

For her part, Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol said violence against women was a global phenomenon that had to be urgently addressed through collective efforts.  There was no one-size-fits-all solution, and prevention could be as effective as a cure, particularly through fostering a culture of tolerance and respect for women.  The Network would send a strong message that violence against women would not be tolerated.

Sharing her experience, as a UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador, in implementing the “Say No to Violence against Women” campaign in Thailand last year, she focused on the campaign’s use of the whistle -– as a symbol, a sound and a voice -– of the need to stop such violence.  Another project asked children to think about their values, and gave boys and girls free reign to create an environment of openness and empathy in school.  “Let this be the new environment,” she said.

In the Middle East, Ms. Anani explained, ending violence against women was a very challenging task, as it was often tolerated -- even justified -- and some of its forms were often legalized.  Women suffered silently from family and marital violence, trafficking and early marriage.  Violence against women and girls was the least-recognized gender issue among Arabs.

Men dominated the public and private spheres, she said, and working with them was strategically critical to reverse the scourge.  Her organization was working with men and boys to end such violence.  In Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Yemen and Jordan, Kaffa was delivering a culturally sensitive “training of trainers” programme to promote working with men and boys.

Taking questions, first as to why it had taken so long to focus on men, Mr. Ban responded that the United Nations had been working for years, possibly since the 1970s, to combat a problem of “pandemic” proportions.  Indeed, more had to be done, which was why, as Secretary-General, he was appealing to men to take on their role.  Men had a crucial role.  He urged Government leaders, community leaders, religious communities and faith-based organizations –-everyone –- to play a role, and in that context, expressed hope that the Network would be expanded.

Also, he said there were unacceptable situations in many parts of the world, particularly in conflict areas.  Often, women have been used as part of military tactics –- “that cannot be acceptable.”  Security Council resolution 1888 (2009) was part of other initiatives that the United Nations, as a system, had undertaken with the highest priority to end violence against women, wherever it happened.

To another query on how the Network would support resolutions condemning human rights abuses of political prisoners, notably those illegally held in Iran following allegations of rape during recent elections, Mr. Ban underscored that rape could occur anywhere, not just in Iran.  It must be stopped and prevented. There would always be a need for very strong monitoring.  It would be extremely important for community and Government officials, and those working in judiciary systems, to take firm, principled positions.  Non-governmental organizations and human rights groups also played a very important role.  Never tolerate.  Never condone.  Never sit back.  People had to speak out.

Asked for his views on the United States Secretary of State’s efforts to elevate women’s rights within the context of United States foreign policy, notably in Afghanistan and combating the return of the Taliban, Mr. Ban said violence against women happened in many different places, and was inflicted by many different groups of people.  He urged placing a high priority on such matters in policies.

More important, however, was that men change their mentality and behaviour, he said.  In the era of globalization, women had taken on ever more important roles –- in every aspect of life.  Providing equal opportunities for education, jobs and the right to enjoy a decent life would help raise standards.  A comprehensive view was needed, which required political leaders’ priority in setting out national goals.  The United Nations had developed many important resolutions, which must be implemented in domestic politics.

To a comment that $10.5 million seemed a small sum compared to the massive problem of violence against women, and a question about why it was so difficult to find funding, Mr. Ban said he would continue to seek generous contributions. Violence against women was a global problem that must be stopped and prevented. “We need resources,” he said, in addition to political priority and political awareness.  Some $100 million would be raised annually in the five years to 2015. He urged Governments, business communities, philanthropists, non-governmental organizations and individuals to generously cooperate.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.