Finland paid much attention to gender equality during the UN week in New York. With its prominent announcement of additional funding, Finland wanted to inspire other countries to support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal on the position women before the deadline in 2015.
At the event hosted with Liberia and UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Finland encouraged other countries also to increase their support for the gender equality work done by the UN. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the new South African leader of UN Women, said that Finland is the organisation’s number one supporter and challenged donors to compete for the top ranking.
In her speech, Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that grievances should no longer be tolerated, but that equality must finally be made a reality.
The event was attended by ministers from several countries, as well as executive managers from UN agencies. Finland’s new funding contributions, and some speakers’ interest to take part in a ‘funding competition’, received applause.
The speakers highlighted the need to intervene in the root causes of violence against women, which are often related to the economic and other inequalities of gender. The important role of men in the realisation of gender equality was strongly emphasised.
UN Women’s Executive Director hoped that participants would support the inclusion of gender equality also in the goals of the Post-2015 Development Agenda now being prepared.
Minister of Gender and Development Julia Duncan-Cassell of Liberia called at last for concrete measures for implementing Resolutions.
“As we discuss development post 2015, it is absolutely vital to focus our full attention on the issue of violence against women and girls,” Development Minister HeidiHautala said at the UN Millennium Development Goals follow-up event, Freedom from Violence for Every Woman and Girl.
Hautala pointed out that gender equality, one of the Millennium Development Goals, is a human right. “In addition, the realisation of equality between women and men effectively promotes the achievement of other development goals,” the Minister stated.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most serious violations of human rights, and is an obstacle to peace and sustainable development. Finland strives to ensure that the perspective missing from the Millennium Development Goals is included in the world’s new development goals.
Minister Hautala stressed that women should not be seen only as victims, but above all as agents of change. “Letting women and girls realise their full potential without fear of violence will take us a long way in promoting sustainable development.”
In opening the event, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said he believes that Finland’s status as “the least failed state in the world” is due to gender equality and the empowerment of women: "But being least failed does not rule out the need to do better. For instance, violence against women is a severe problem also in Finland, and there is a need for action to eradicate it.”
Finland supports the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on “Women, Peace and Security”. One aim of Finland’s national 1325 action plan is to reduce violence against women by seeking to influence attitudes and behaviour.
During the UN week, Minister Hautala also spoke at an event dealing with equality issues that was hosted by United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama.
Finland is the first partner of the United States in the Equal Futures Partnership Initiative, launched at the challenge of President Obama, to focus on the economic empowerment of women and increasing their political participation. The Equal Futures Partnership now encompassed 20 countries and the European Union.
“Gender equality is the cornerstone of Finland’s domestic policy as well as foreign and development policy,” Development Minister Hautala told the UN Member States attending the event.
In her view, one example of this is Finland’s funding for UN Women, which will be doubled next year. To illustrate the domestic experiences, the Minister said that gender issues are taken into account in budgeting, the share of women on the executive boards of state-owned companies is rising and that there is a need to further strengthen the position of women in corporate management.
At the Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends of Mediation on Thursday, Foreign Minister Tuomioja recalled the role of women in mediation: "Research indicates that the participation of women leads to better decisions.”
Finland and Norway have, as UN partners, developed “Gender and Mediation Training”, a new programme training high-level mediators and their teams to include women in mediation processes.