On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Farnesina and its foreign network fully join the awareness-raising campaign “UNITE! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls. Orange the World: End Violence against Women Now!”, promoted by UN Women, which in 2022 focuses on the fundamental contribution given by movements, organisations and players of civil society – including activist women and girls – to raise public awareness of these issues. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirms it will strive to achieve gender equality and urges everyone to take important steps towards such goal, which no country in the world can currently claim to have achieved.
In many regions of the world, especially the ones that experience armed conflicts and emergency situations, women, girls and girl children are still suffering discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation. The plight of women, but also, speculatively, the talent, the courage and the contribution women can give to the creation of more inclusive and resilient societies is the key topic of some of the worst crises on the international stage, from Afghanistan to Ethiopia, from Ukraine to Iran. The consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the wars and the lengthy crises have compounded the pre-existing vulnerabilities and considerably contributed to an increase in domestic violence and abuse. UN data tell us that, still today, one woman in three has suffered abuse and violence, either physical or psychological, in their life. In 2021, one woman in ten has been victim of domestic violence.
In view of these alarming figures, Italy once again firmly condemns all forms of discrimination and violence against women, deeming it a serious, unacceptable phenomenon that gravely hinders the achievement of gender equality, the proper enjoyment of rights and personal fulfilment.
The fight against all forms of discrimination, violence and abuse against women and girls is a priority of Italy’s foreign policy action, which the Farnesina is pursuing at a diplomatic-negotiations level and through emergency and development cooperation initiatives, as proven by the many international campaigns, such as the one to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as child and forced marriage. Italy has always been at the forefront of this battle.
Eliminating all forms of violence against women and ensuring the empowerment of women are the major pillars of Italy’s foreign policy and cooperation actions, which were included in the priorities of the most recent Italian mandate at the United Nations Human Rights Council (2019-2021), of the Italian Presidency of the G20 in 2021 (featuring the first high-profile Conference dedicated to women’s empowerment and an event specifically dedicated to Afghan women, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly) and of the semester of the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (November 2021-May 2022), under which Italy supports and promotes the “Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence” (also known as the “Istanbul Convention“).
The ongoing conflicts in several regions of the world prove once again that, in situations of war and emergency, women and girls are particularly exposed to the risk of violence and abuse. Hence the need to continue to step up our efforts, along with all the stakeholders of the International Community, including civil society, in order to uproot this unacceptable phenomenon, once and for all.
Regarding the internal organisation of working methods, the Farnesina continues to promote equal opportunities and gender equality, as proven by the adoption, last year, of Circular letter no.3/2021, through which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation complies with the highest standards in terms of promoting gender equality. Likewise, by adopting, on 18 January, Circular letter n.1/2022 on the update of working methods and organisational wellbeing, it reasserted the need to constantly, on a daily basis, ensure the tangible enforcement of the constitutional principle of equality, which forbids discrimination and actively promotes effective equality.
The preservation and the promotion of women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as combating all forms of discrimination and violence against women, girls and girl children, are the priorities of Italy’s international action, in multilateral and regional contexts, in bilateral relations with other States, in International Organisations and within the scope of Development Cooperation programmes, for the full achievement of Sustainable Development Goal n.5 of Agenda 2030, of the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024 and of the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025.
In this regard, the Guidelines for gender equality and the empowerment of women, girls and girl children (2020-2024) – drafted by AICS (Italian Agency for Development Cooperation) alongside the Farnesina – were adopted in December 2020. These new guidelines aim to bolster the agency’s commitment in favour of eliminating gender-related discrimination through development projects and establish the priority areas.
Italy’s commitment in favour of women’s empowerment is expressed through the strong support of protection, autonomy and full human, social, economic and cultural development of every single woman. This commitment features a number of specific initiatives ranging from women’s maternal, child, sexual and reproductive health, to the fight against female genital mutilation and child marriage, from the support to programmes for the education of girls and women to female entrepreneurship development programmes.
Italy has also adopted the OECD-DAC Recommendation of 12 July 2019 to put an end to the exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment in development aid and humanitarian assistance. In such a context, Italy has constantly been in favour of ‘zero tolerance’ policies and has supported the initiatives taken to strengthen prevention, alerting, reporting and victim protection mechanisms. These topics were among the priorities of our most recent mandate at the UN Human Rights Council (2019-2021) and of our semester of Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (November 2021-May 2022).
Italy fully supports the international campaigns for eliminating harmful practices against women and girls, such as female genital mutilation and child and forced marriage, promoting and actively participating in talks over the relevant resolutions to be adopted by the General Assembly (GA) and by the Human Rights Council, and allocating funds, on a voluntary and yearly basis, to several UN agencies engaged in the fight for gender equality and empowerment of women, girls and girl children (such as UNWOMEN, UNFPA, UNICEF). Furthermore, these very agencies receive funds from the Italian Development Cooperation to set up humanitarian initiatives in the major crisis theatres, such as Afghanistan, where – following the events of August 2021 – specific measures relating to the needs of women and girls were funded.
Italy actively takes part – through the contributions of Italian Development Cooperation – in multilateral programmes for the elimination of female genital mutilation and of child and forced marriage.
Italy actively supports international initiatives aimed at preventing sexual violence in situations of conflict and emergency, such as the “Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies”.
At a national level, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation takes part, through its own Representative, in the Monitoring Centre on Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, which falls within the “National Strategic Plan on Men’s violence against Women 2021-2023”, adopted by the Ministry for Equal Opportunities.