Vienna Discussion Forum 2019 - Ending violence against women through crime prevention, criminal justice responses and women's economic empowerment

                                                                    Group picture of the 2019 Vienna Discussion Forum                                                         

Vienna, 21 November 2019 -The first ever Vienna Discussion Forum debuted on 21 November with experts from all over the world coming together to discuss how to end violence against women through crime prevention, criminal justice responses, and women's economic empowerment.

Executive Director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, Director General of UNIDO, LI Yong, and the Finnish Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality, Thomas Blomqvist opened the Forum speaking to the severity of violence against women globally.

As Mr. Fedotov stated in his remarks, "gender-based violence stops women and girls from exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms. It hinders achievement of all of the Sustainable Development Goals - not only Goal Five on gender equality - and holds back humanity from fulfilling our potential".

Mr. LI Yong added, "It is clear that we need to develop comprehensive approaches to address violence against women. Crime prevention and criminal justice responses and women's economic empowerment can complement each other in this endeavour". Minster Blomqvist ended in pointing out the progress that has been made in respect to gender-based violence, "The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were adopted almost 25 years ago", but while "considerable progress has been made, we still have a long way to go".

The Dominican Republic Ambassador Lourdes Victoria-Kruse provided the opening remarks which focused on the life and death of the three Mirabel sisters. The International Day for Violence Against Women was created in tribute to them and to raise awareness on the violence women suffer around the world. 

Women in a conference room, attending the 2019 Vienna Discussion Forum

Effective solutions to combat violence against women must include crime prevention and criminal justice interventions, including providing proper support to victims and understanding masculinities that underlie  violence.   This angle was explored by the moderator Miwa Kato (UNODC) and the  panelists Angela Me (UNODC), Hanne Finanger (Assistant Chief of Police, Head of Preventive Unit, East Police District-Norway), Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro Massieu (Mexico), Inka Lilja (European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control), Miki Jacevic (Inclusive Security), Alán Ali (MÄN), and Dubravka Šimonović (UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women).

It was noted that we have more research and recorded practical experience than ever, backed up by institutional structures to gather evidence and to prosecute perpetrators effectively. We should thus have made more progress in eradicating the occurrence, but still violence against women continues to be the most prevalent human rights abuse globally.

To strengthen efforts in eliminating gender-based violence panellists urged Member States to ensure proper implementation of policies and standards in addition to sharing best practices, raising awareness and continuing educating public officials.

Economically empowering women is a key aspect to eradicating violence against women as discussed in the second panel moderated by Monica Carco (UNIDO), together with experts Beatrice Gakuba (AWAN-Africa network), Haya Sheikh Yasin (Quick Packaging Company), Sami Nevala (Research & Data Unit, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights), and Laura Capobianco (UN Women). Many women around the world find themselves subject to constraints that prevent them from being economically independent. This might entail not being able to open a bank account or manage their own personal income, hindering them from accessing education, housing, transportation and/or business investment. For these basic needs they become reliant on others leaving them vulnerable to recurring violence with little possibility to escape. Panelists emphasized that Member States should support economic empowerment of women as a strategy to end violence against women as it enables women to take charge of their own lives and increase their chances of escaping an abusive situation.

Gender-based violence is a serious global problem affecting millions of women and girls every day. It strips women and girls of their dignity, violates their fundamental rights, damages their health, and prevents them from achieving their full potential. The global problem of gender-based violence is a serious ongoing threat to women and girls everywhere. It is urgent that effective progress continues to be made so that women and girls may live in a world where they are no longer under threat.  

The event was organized by the Permanent Missions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden and UNODC and UNIDO.