Violence against Women, Girls May Be World’s Longest, Deadliest Pandemic, Secretary-General Warns in Message to Group of Friends Commission Event

Following is the text of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message to the Group of Friends Commission on the Status of Women event, “Role & Responsibility of Men and Boys in Eliminating Gender-Based Violence”, in New York today:

Violence against women and girls may be the world’s longest, deadliest pandemic.  One in three women worldwide has directly experienced violence.  Every 11 minutes, a woman is killed by a partner or family member.  Often in the place where she should be safest — her own home.

We cannot accept a world in which one half of humanity is at risk in the streets, in their homes or online.  We must end violence against women and girls — now.  It starts with changing the hearts and minds of men and boys.  Men created this scourge.  Men must end it.  This means all men looking in the mirror and pledging to uproot the lopsided power dynamics, toxic masculinity, and cultural norms and stereotypes that have fuelled this violence over millennia.

That’s why, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, I called for an end to the rising surge of violence against women and girls.  We know change is possible.  Thanks to the generous support of the European Union, the UN’s Spotlight Initiative has educated 880,000 men and boys and counting about positive masculinity, respectful relationships and non-violent conflict resolution.

From taxi drivers to sports clubs, men are actively participating in programmes to prevent gender-based violence and support women survivors.  Throughout, the United Nations is working with Governments and legislators to strengthen laws and regulations to better protect women and girls — and provide protection and counselling services.  And since its creation in 2020 in response to my call to action, the Group of Friends for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls — now nearly 100 members strong — has been critical to this work.

But it’s time to do more.  All of us.  This is not an issue belonging to any one country.  Under COVID-19, we have seen dramatic increases in violence against women in every region of the world.  From Europe to Asia — from Africa to the Americas.  The proposals laid out in Our Common Agenda provide a road map to tackle this challenge with the strategic urgency it deserves.

We call on every Member State to develop an emergency plan to prevent and respond to gender-based violence.  This meeting is an opportunity to initiate the actions needed to bring your plans to life.  An opportunity to coordinate your plans with one another, drawing on the UN’s expertise and the positive models provided by the Spotlight Initiative.  And an opportunity to get other Member States to join this essential work.

Let’s work together to ensure that every woman and girl can live their lives free from violence, with the safety, dignity and freedom they deserve.

For information media. Not an official record.