It’s a time for vigilance and renewed action on women’s rights - President
Seventy-fifth United Nations General Assembly – Beijing+25 high-level event – Speech by M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic
By video conference, 1 October 2020
(Check against delivery)
Heads of State and government,
Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Executive Director of UN Women,
Ladies and gentlemen,
In 1995, an unprecedented, almost unhoped-for event took place in Beijing. Fifty years after writing the equal rights of men and women into the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, the international community put its words into action, adopting for the first time, and unanimously, an ambitious Declaration and Platform for Action for women’s rights.
One generation on, this is no time for commemoration or self-congratulation. It is a time for vigilance and renewed action. This is a secret for nobody. In 2020, the Beijing Declaration would have no chance of being adopted. That is where we are collectively. Everywhere, women’s rights are under attack, as are human rights, from which they are inseparable. Progress achieved by great efforts is being undermined even in our democracies, starting with the freedom for women to control their own bodies, and in particular the right to abortion. Schooling and pay inequalities, inequalities when it comes to domestic tasks, and inequalities of political representation have not declined sufficiently.
I cannot, we cannot, resign ourselves to this regression. This was why I decided to make gender equality the great cause of my term, and a priority for our foreign policy. We owe that to all the women who have been on the front line in the current public health crisis, in hospitals, services, and many of the most exposed professions. We owe it to all the women who suffered worse than men the direct or indirect effects of the epidemic, to the 11 million girls who might never return to school after the interruption of their studies, who are also direct victims of this crisis, and to the women deprived of contraception – 7 million more women this year may have fallen pregnant involuntarily – and the victims of femicides and domestic violence, all the more numerous during the crisis.
We also owe it to the men and women who stand firm in this fight for equality and humanity, sometimes risking their lives. I have in mind Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer sentenced to 148 lashes for defending the freedom not to wear the veil. And Dr Denis Mukwege, who has received death threats for restoring the lives of Congolese women wounded by war, and the thousands of activists around the world that France now supports through a fund of €120 million dedicated to feminist organizations active in developing countries.
We will continue this fight, alongside Mexico and under the auspices of UN Women, during the Generation Equality Forum that I will have the honour of hosting in Paris in June. A quarter of a century after the Beijing Conference, this Forum will bring together all those – governments, international organizations, civil society and businesses – who wish to act to change things and make the next generation, that of our children, the real equality generation.
We have a lot to do. That should not discourage us. On the contrary, it obliges us. We have to catch up on the commitments we have failed to meet. We have new battles to fight, and above all we have a duty to continue condemning wrongs, even when it is uncomfortable, and acting to help all those men and women who unceasingly condemn and fight wrongs in their countries.
You can count on our continuing, unwavering commitment.