Press Conference by Secretary-General at United Nations Headquarters

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

Press Conference by Secretary-General at United Nations Headquarters

Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at a press conference on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, held today, 24 November:

Thank you for being here today.

Today we mark the tenth anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  My commitment to this issue stems not just from my position as UN Secretary-General, but also as a son, husband, father and grandfather. 

In 2008, I launched my “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign.  I amencouraged bythe momentum that the campaign has created.  Many nations have taken action.  But we need to do more -- much more.

Up to 70 per cent of women, at some point in their lifetime, experience physical or sexual violence by men -- the majority from their husbands, intimate partners or someone they know.  This means men have a crucial role to play in ending such violence -- as fathers, friends, decision-makers and community and opinion leaders.

Just as women’s rights are human rights, women’s issues are people’s issues.  That is why today I launched a Network of Men Leaders who will support the UNiTE campaign and act as role models for men and boys everywhere.  Members of the Network will work to raise public awareness, advocate for adequate laws, and meet with young men and boys.  I look forward to many more men joining the Network in the coming year.

Our Unite campaign is also bolstered by the UN Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women.  The Fund is administered by UNIFEM on behalf of the UN system.  I am happy to announce that the Trust Fund will award $10.5 million to 13 initiatives in 18 countries and territories.  These funds will support Governments, NGOs, and UN country teams address sexual abuse, sexual violence in conflict, the intersection of violence against women and HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and trafficking.

My UNiTE campaign seeks to raise $100 million annually for the UN Trust Fund by 2015.  I call on the international community to support this effort.  The people who are here today have taken a real leadership role in ending violence against women.  I thank them for their commitment and engagement.  And I look forward to working with everyone on this crucial global issue.

Thank you.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General.  I wonder why, and this is no criticism of the campaign, because I think it is a good idea, but why has it taken so many decades to focus on men, who are at the core of the violence that has been committed against women for centuries?

Secretary-General:  The United Nations has been leading this campaign for a long time, maybe since the 1970s -- for many years, because this is a problem of pandemic proportions.  Still, we have seen a lot of progress.  But I believe that there needs to be much, much more to be done.  That is why, as Secretary-General, I launched on my own initiative, this campaign, last year, and I’m also appealing to the leaders of male society to do their own role.  Men have a crucial role.  They can provide solutions [even] while they become part of these problems.  Therefore, I really urge Government leaders, community leaders, religious communities and faith-based organizations -- everyone can play a role at this time.  I sincerely hope that the network of men leaders will be expanded.  I’m sure that many more people will join with a strong commitment.

We have seen 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.  That is why, most recently in September, the Security Council has taken a very important resolution, 1888 if I remember correctly, to stop violence against women in conflicts.  This is part of the very important initiatives that the United Nations, as a system, places the highest priority to end violence against women, wherever it may happen -- in conflict areas, in family life, in community life.  I’m sure that the United Nations, with the strong support of the international community, can lead a campaign successfully where women and girls can live without any fear of threats or violence against them.

Question: There were a number of reported cases of rape in Iranian prisons during this election coup -- both men and women, for that matter, reported being raped and held illegally as political prisoners.  In what way would this resolution L.37 gaining momentum in the General Assembly -- does this Network look to try to support resolutions like this that are condemning human rights abuses of political prisoners, especially women, all over the world, but in Iran specifically?

Secretary-General: This is not only in Iran.  Anywhere, any place that rape takes place -- that must be stopped and prevented.  We will have to always have very strong monitoring.  For that, it will be extremely important for the community of Iran, or wherever it may happen, the leaders of the community and Government officials, and officials who are working in judiciary systems -- they should take very firm positions, principled positions.  NGOs and human rights groups can always play a very important role.  Therefore, my message was:  Never tolerate.  Never condone.  Never sit back.  They have to speak out.  This is not a matter of any country; it’s all throughout the world.

Question:  Mr. Secretary-General, what is your view of the efforts of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to elevate the issue of women’s rights within the context of US foreign policy, particularly the view that there are security implications in this, in terms of blunting radicalism in the Middle East, for example, the women’s role there, and also women’s role, perhaps in Afghanistan, in combating the return of the Taliban and their discrimination and violence against women?

Secretary-General:  It will require us comprehensively addressing these issues.  Violence against women takes place in many different areas, by many different groups of people.  Having a high priority in policy matters, that will also be very much important.  What is more important is that men particularly should change their mentality, their behaviour.  That will be very important.  Women [are] half of the population.  Now, in this era of globalization, women have been taking more and more important roles, in every aspect of our lives.  Therefore, providing equal opportunities for education, for jobs and the right to enjoy a decent life will really help the level of standards of our community.  That will really help changing the mentality and behaviour [towards] women.

Now, of course, law and order enforcement will be important.  Education will be very much important.  Therefore, we need to have a very comprehensive view.  That requires political leaders’ priority in setting out their national goals and priorities.  That is why the United Nations is leading a campaign.  We have taken many important resolutions.  But these resolutions must be implemented in their domestic politics, in their domestic society.  That will require leaders always keeping sexual violence against women as a top priority in their national policy.

Question:  Sir, you announced today new grants of $10.5 million for initiatives to end violence against women.  In light of the massive magnitude of this problem, that seems like a very small sum.  Why is it so difficult to get funding for this?

Secretary-General:  We will continue to ask for generous contributions.  This is not a matter of the United Nations.  This is not an issue of any individual group or country.  This is a global issue.  This must be stopped and prevented.  For that, we need resources, in addition to political priority, political awareness.  That’s what I said.  We are going to raise $100 million annually in the coming five years -- until 2015.  I really urge Governments, business communities, philanthropists, NGOs and all individuals to generously cooperate in providing necessary funding, so that we can lead this campaign in a more system-wide, coherent way; in a more comprehensive manner.

Thank you very much.

* *** *

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