OECD joins the Call to Action to prevent and respond to Gender-based violence in Emergencies

Speech delivered today on the occassion of the GENDERNET reception at OECD Headquarters

Distinguished guests,

It is a pleasure to join you at the end of what I hear has been a productive day of discussions.

It is a special honour to be here alongside two fellow gender equality champions:

  • Ambassador Bernes who represents the first feminist government in the world; and
  • Charlotte Petri Gornitzka who joins us here on her first official day in the office as the new Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee.


I would like to express my gratitude to Ambassador Bernes for bringing to our attention the Call to Action to Combat Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies, and for your efforts in mobilising partners around this critical initiative.

Gender-based violence is the most brutal form of discrimination against women. It destroys lives and devastates societies and economies. It is one of the most widespread human rights abuses and a grave threat to lasting peace and development.

We know that conflict and crisis can intensify the violence that women face, and that impunity for such violence increases with the breakdown of law and order. We know too that the consequences of gender-based violence persist long after conflicts have ended – from unwanted pregnancies, to physical and mental trauma, to stigmatisation that devastates women’s health and lives.

It is intolerable that one in three women worldwide still suffers from this preventable pandemic. We must urgently move beyond words to action.

This is why I am delighted to announce that the OECD is joining the Call to Action to Combat Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies.

We commit to mobilising all our tools, research and resources to combat gender-based violence for individuals and societies everywhere.

We know that for gender-based violence to end, we must target its root causes. Gender-based violence persists because we live in societies that diminish and devalue women and girls. It persists because women are still denied basic rights in all spheres of their lives – social, economic and political. This increases their exposure to abuse and exploitation, and reduces their ability to escape situations of violence and harm.

At the OECD, we are therefore addressing gender-based violence as part of a holistic and ambitious gender equality agenda to empower women and girls in all spheres of their lives.

First, we will focus on data. Data on the prevalence and incidence of gender-based violence remain scarce. Statistics on how much money is going to combatting violence against women are also inadequate. The OECD is working to fill these data gaps. With your support, we introduced a new code in the OECD’s statistical system that will track – for the first time ever – aid in support of ending violence against women. In 2017, we will publish the first data on this.

Second, we will focus on policies to tackle the root causes of gender-based violence. The OECD Social Institutions and Gender Index, or SIGI, looks at the laws, attitudes, social norms and practices that drive violence against women. Across the 160 countries included in the SIGI, one in three women agree that domestic violence is justified; in some countries, this climbs close to 90%. Our research reveals that such discriminatory social institutions cost the global economy approximately 12 trillion U.S. dollars.

Over the next two years, SIGI country profiles will deepen the focus on gender-based violence in conflict and fragile states, with new analysis on gender-based violence, social norms and laws in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Third, we will drive collective action to improve the response to gender-based violence on the ground. The OECD supports DAC members and UN agencies to address the risks and threats that fuel crises around the world using tools and agreements such as the OECD resilience systems analysis framework[1] and the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. We will work with members to put gender front and centre of these efforts to build resilience. We will also produce new OECD guidance to galvanise more effective action by the donor community to address gender inequality in the most challenging fragile settings.

But we will not stop there. Gender-based violence will only end when gender inequality ends – when women and girls have the agency, resources and assets to enjoy equal status in society.

To this end, we will continue to focus on three key ingredients of women’s empowerment: education, employment and entrepreneurship.

In 2013, the OECD Council of Ministers adopted a recommendation which sets out measures that all OECD countries should take to address gender inequalities in these three foundational areas.

Building women’s social and economic power not only raises women’s status in society. It can also reduce their risk of abuse, increase their ability to leave situations of violence, and build their self-confidence and respect.

Yet more than a third of young women in developing countries are jobless—out of school and out of the labour market. In G20 countries, gender gaps in labour market outcomes persist despite the fact that young women are more educated than young men.  

Turning this around is a priority for the OECD. We pushed hard for a commitment to be agreed at the G20 summit in Brisbane in 2014 to reduce the gender gap in labour force participation by 25 percent by 2025 – known as the “25×25” gender target. The OECD has been tasked with monitoring progress in meeting this target in G20 countries.  

We are also stepping up our attention to women’s economic empowerment in developing economies. In 2017, the OECD will launch a Global Policy Dialogue on Women’s Economic Empowerment based on a new horizontal collaboration between our two development directorates (DCD, DEV) and our statistical directorate (STD). This Dialogue will bring together governments from the North and South to identify policies and practices that can help accelerate women’s economic empowerment.

Ladies and gentlemen, ending gender-based violence requires an all-encompassing agenda that works at every level – educating women to know and claim their rights; shifting values and norms so that violence becomes unacceptable; and building women’s power and resources to exercise agency and autonomy over their bodies and lives.

With this package of actions announced today, I am convinced that the OECD will make a crucial contribution towards delivering the Call to Action. Never before has the need been so self-evident and the commitment so impressive. Let us join forces here today and in the years ahead to turn this commitment into action.

Thank you.

[1] The OECD resilience systems analysis framework is a multi-dimensional planning and programming tool designed to strengthen programming outcomes for vulnerable people by ensuring that analysis is risk-informed. The framework also facilitates greater coherence between humanitarian, development and peace and statebuilding actors, by highlighting respective actors’ comparative advantage in meeting people’s immediate needs, while also working toward addressing the longer term drivers of crises and vulnerability at all levels.



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