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Opening address at the European Development Days 2018: Women and girls at the forefront of sustainable development


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It is a great pleasure to be with you once again at this important event focusing on development and international cooperation.

Last year, together with my colleagues  Federica Mogherini and Jean-Claude Juncker (who are here today), I had the honour of signing on behalf of the European Parliament the New European Consensus on Development.

That key policy document devoted considerable attention to this year’s topic, ‘Women and girls at the forefront of sustainable development’, one to which the European Parliament attaches the utmost importance.

Investing in measures to safeguard the fundamental rights of women and girls, making it easier for them to gain access to resources, to economic opportunities and to economic and social leadership roles, is a lever:

  • for economic growth;
  • in the fight against climate change; and
  • in the process of establishing fairer societies.

Real progress has been made in the last 20 years.

I applaud the commitment of the United Nations as an institution, as reflected in particular in its Sustainable Development Goals.

But the degree of progress achieved varies from one part of the world to another, and from one country to another.

That is why we need to redouble our efforts and maintain our focus on this issue.

Poverty is a predominantly female phenomenon: close to 70% of the poor people in the world are women.

When disasters occur, they are the first people to be affected.

Through their involvement in the informal economy and farming, women bear the brunt of the problems caused by climate change: drought, desertification and heavy rainfall.

I should like to emphasise once again here today just how strongly the European Parliament is committed to this issue, as reflected, for example, in the work of its Committee on Women’s Rights.

Equality between women and men, whether outside the Union, within its borders or in the European Parliament itself, is one of the guiding principles of our work.

In that connection, we regret the recent ruling handed down by the General Court of the European Union annulling the penalty Parliament imposed on Janusz Korwin-Mikke for the sexist remarks he made.

It is a reminder that we must never take anything for granted and that we must keep fighting to defend fundamental rights, even here in the European Union.

For my part, no court ruling will ever stop me standing up for the values enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

If we are to meet challenges such as gender equality, poverty, lack of security, climate change, migration and employment, we must give ourselves resources to match our ambitions.

There are representatives of the European Commission here today, so let me take this opportunity to say that in the discussions on the next Multiannual Financial Framework the European Parliament will be pressing for more resources to be earmarked for Africa.

Because what is on the table at present is not enough!

We must rethink our approach, and we must be bolder and more ambitious.

We cannot be satisfied with ‘business as usual’.

We must do this if we want to develop infrastructure, electrify the continent, create jobs, reduce poverty, develop health systems and strengthen the education system.

That is what the European Parliament will be calling for.

That is how we can offer practical responses - very different to those advocated by the populists - to the concerns our fellow citizens feel about migration.

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