New South-Eastern Europe Women Leaders Forum Set to Promote Regional Cooperation and Create New Priorities to Promote Women and Youth Empowerment in the Fight Against Corruption

23 March 2023, Skopje, North Macedonia: UNODC joined forces with UN Women and the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative (RAI), to support a new initiative by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia in charge of good governance policies, to launch a regional forum of women leaders to promote good governance and anti-corruption.

In her opening statement, the Deputy Prime Minister, Ms. Slavica Grkovska, stressed the importance of enhancing efforts to combat corruption across South-Eastern Europe, including by establishing a network of role models and providing mentoring opportunities for women and youth.

The launch event was organized by the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, in Skopje, and hosted over a hundred participants representing governments, public and private sector, civil society and media from across the region.

The OSCE Secretary General, the Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of North Macedonia, the Head of UN Women in North Macedonia and the RAI Head of Secretariat addressed the forum, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of addressing the gender dimensions of corruption and enhancing women’s participation and leadership as agents of change in the fight against corruption.

In referencing the UNODC flagship publication ‘The Time is Now – Addressing the Gender Dimensions of Corruption’, Ms. Jennifer Sarvary Bradford, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer from UNODC’s Corruption and Economic Crime Branch who leads UNODC’s work on gender and corruption globally, referred to the Forum as a call to action in South-Eastern Europe, and underscored how learning from real life experiences across the world can catalyse the whole of society approach needed to tackle corruption.

The event hosted a panel devoted to civil society, investigative journalism and youth, inviting them to take an increasingly active role in anti-corruption efforts and to utilize this forum to engage their views and ideas. The youth representatives from across South-Eastern Europe voiced concerns about brain-drain and lack of opportunities triggered by perceptions of pervasive corruption. However, they also highlighted how youth-led initiatives in schools and universities, as well as their involvement in governance and monitoring public sector spending, can raise awareness and trigger change. 

The event culminated in an official signing of the Declaration of the South-Eastern Europe Good Governance and Anticorruption Women Leaders Forum, thus creating an interdisciplinary environment for the promotion of women’s leadership in good governance and anti-corruption, strengthening the voice of women and youth in public affairs and the private sector, and advocating for full adherence to good governance principles, the rule of law, and equal access to justice, leaving no one behind.

UNODC supports the Women Leaders Forum within the framework of the Regional Anti-Corruption and Illicit Finance Roadmap, financially supported by the UK Government. This activity contributes to SDG 5 as well as SDG 16.