Ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to join you today at this exhibition on the cultural and historical representation of women in Ancient Cyprus.
I want to thank Stefanos Kouratzis, the photographer who took us back in time to reflect on the beauty, strife and triumph of what it means to be a woman, throughout history and to this day.
I am especially delighted because, lying at the heart of the Mediterranean, the cultural ties between Cyprus and my own country, Egypt, date back centuries. They have influenced each other’s art, history, and culture through the ages.
The figurines and statuettes on display today serve as a bridge across time.
Arts have the power to challenge inequalities, find common ground, and facilitate crucial conversations that lead to reflection and positive change in societies.
These photos depict the beauty of women who have struggled and strove to find their place in society throughout the 4th millennium.
Women who have fought for centuries to be part of public life, to get “a seat at the table”. We have come a long way since antiquity, but much work remains to be done.
When I think of these stories, I am reminded of women in Ancient Egypt, and of one in particular, Queen Cleopatra, an iconic symbol of femininity and one of the first women leaders of her time.
But we have to recognise that, two decades into the 21st century, gender inequalities continue to persist in many areas, including in employment, working conditions and quality of life.
Women face particular harm as victims in the areas that we work on at UNODC, such as human trafficking.
In the 2022 UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, to be launched next week, women were found to suffer three times the rate of physical or extreme violence than male victims.
Women are less represented in the criminal justice system and have reduced access to treatment for drug addiction.
Women and girls also remain under-represented in the political sphere and the public space.
Globally, women are heads of state in just 13 countries, and head of government in 15; at the current rate of progress, gender parity in national legislative bodies will not be achieved before 2063.
This exhibition is also a powerful reminder to preserve cultural property as a lens into the past.
This is especially needed now, at a time when cultural heritage is under threat in all regions, from the Mediterranean to the Middle East and beyond.
Preserving cultural heritage as a human right must therefore remain high on the agenda of the UN and its Member States.
Last October, at the Conference of Parties to the UN Organized Crime Convention held here in Vienna, I was very pleased to see States Parties adopt a resolution on countering trafficking in cultural property in armed conflicts and natural disasters.
UNODC intends to support countries in protecting cultural property from looters and traffickers, in cooperation with partners like UNESCO and INTERPOL, and in partnership with museums and civil society.
By striving to protect and promote the most precious artefacts of our past, we move closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and their promise to safeguard the world’s heritage, promote education, and protect national resources.
I am grateful to Ambassador Maria Michail and her team for arranging this exhibition and thank you Minister Nicos Nouris for travelling to Vienna to be with us today.
I also want to thank the National Library of Austria for hosting us in this immersive building filled with history and culture dating back centuries.