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18th Civil Society Forum

Video message by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dublin, 17 January 2020

I am pleased to greet all of you present at this important Forum.

Twenty-five years ago, the rallying cry “women’s rights are human rights!” led to a transformational milestone: the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most comprehensive expression of States’ commitments to the human rights of women.

One hundred and eighty nine countries pledged to achieve equality for women, in practice and in law, so that all women and girls could fully enjoy their inalienable rights and freedoms as equal human beings.

This was truly a remarkable achievement, product of decades of advocacy and unwavering commitment of, courageous feminist movements, women’s rights activists and defenders of all ages and backgrounds and civil society groups.

We must pay tribute to them, we must stand, together, in defence of those pledges, principles, and values envisioned in Beijing – and advance them.

We have seen tremendous improvement in the past 25 years and there is much reason to celebrate.

Maternal mortality has declined, the number of women in the work force has increased and policies to address gender-based violence now exist in virtually all countries.

But while we cherish the progress made, we are still not where were we set out to be… where we must be.

The journey towards gender equality is long and challenging. And we vow to never be complacent. 

Approximately 1 in 3 women throughout the world will experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

In over 50 countries there is no legal protection for women against domestic violence.

And in many parts of the world, women and girls still cannot make decisions on their most private matters – sexuality, marriage, and when or whether to have children.

We are seeing a pushback against many women’s rights and the resurgence of narratives against gender equality based on centuries-long discrimination.

We must push back on the pushbacks.  And continue to push forward.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes women and girls’ human rights and gender equality as indispensable for building a better future for all.

So, this is a matter for all of us.

You meet at a pivotal moment.

Civil society and the feminist movement play a huge role bringing change and pushing for progress, as we have seen recently in your own country. 

The activism of and commitments made in Beijing 25 years ago remain more relevant than ever.

I pledge today to stand up and do my utmost to defend and advance the rights committed to by States, in Beijing.

I trust this pledge is shared by all of you. 

Thank you for standing up for human rights.