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Holy See: Men and Women Must be on Equal Footing

March 8, 2018. ‘Women’s talents and active participation are particularly necessary in the prevention and resolution of conflicts.’

Men and women must be able to contribute to society on “an equal footing,” according to Monsignor Janusz S. UrbaĹ„czyk, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Gender Issues on the occasion of the International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018. His comments came at the 1178th Plenary Session of the Permanent Council (PC) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

“Any attempt at refraining or limiting the inclusion of women in the civil and political, as well as in the social, economic and cultural fields, could, therefore, ultimately result in a decline in humanity,” the Monsignor said. “Women’s talents and active participation are particularly necessary in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, in the maintenance of peace and security, in peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding – so central to the core work of this Organization.”

The Monsignor’s Full Statement:

Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation is pleased to welcome back to the Permanent Council Amb. Melanne Verveer, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office on Gender Issues, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, and expresses its gratitude for her insightful presentation.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In that groundbreaking document “the peoples of the United Nations … reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women” (UDHR, Preamble). This three-fold foundation – fundamental human rights, the dignity, and worth of the human person and the equal rights of men and women – was taken up by the Helsinki Final Act and to this day provides the lasting basis for the human dimension of comprehensive security.

Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and our consensually agreed OSCE commitments speak of the role of women in society and of the advancement of the equality between men and women as an objective that surpasses being quantified as numbers or percentages. Because of this, the Holy See considers it important to advance our work in this field based on a common understanding, one that recognizes the important underlying reasons for our work. In this regard, allow me to make a few brief comments – reflecting the well-known position of the Holy See.

Adopting “all necessary measures (…) to promote equality in rights and full and equal participation of women and men in society” 1 is not only a matter of ensuring equality between the two sexes but is founded above all on human dignity. As humanity is made of both men and women, society as a whole may fully thrive provided that both men and women contribute to the common good on an equal footing and that their specificities and harmonious complementarity be respected. Any attempt at refraining or limiting the inclusion of women in the civil and political, as well as in the social, economic and cultural fields, could, therefore, ultimately result in a decline in humanity.

Women’s talents and active participation are particularly necessary in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, in the maintenance of peace and security, in peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding – so central to the core work of this Organization.2 Recent Popes, on several occasions, have referred to the unique contribution of women, acknowledging that “the moral and spiritual strength of a woman” 3 necessarily compliments the moral and spiritual strength of men. This feminine genius shows itself clearly in “the countless God-given gifts which women have to offer, encouraging others to promote sensitivity, understanding, and dialogue in settling conflicts big and small, in healing wounds, in nurturing all life at every level of society, and in embodying the mercy and tenderness which bring reconciliation and unity to our world”. 4

As Amb. Verveer has pointed out, the last few months have brought once more to our attention that violence against women, including sexual harassment and assault, continue to plague our societies. These phenomena, which reflect a fundamental lack of respect for the inherent dignity of women, should be met by our united condemnation. At the same time, as participating States, we must also recognise that well over three years have passed since we expressed “the particular need to take more vigorous measures in preventing and combating violence against women”.5 The Holy See hopes that a renewed focus on our consensually agreed OSCE commitments will characterize the coming months – as further efforts are clearly needed.

In closing, my Delegation would once more like to assure all Delegations that it stands ready to engage constructively in discussions on advancing the promotion of equality between men and women, on preventing and combating violence against women, and on women’s political, economic, social and cultural participation, alongside, and on the same level as, men.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 1 MC.DEC/14/04.

2 “Acknowledging the need for concrete action by the OSCE to integrate women into conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation through its activities, inter alia, by: integrating into the activities of the OSCE, as appropriate, the relevant parts of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on the role of women in all levels of conflict prevention, crisis management and resolution, and post-conflict rehabilitation.” MC.DEC/14/05.

3 John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (1988), n. 30.

4 Message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of the International Conference “Women and the post-2015 development agenda: the challenges of the sustainable development goals”, May 2015.

5 MC.DEC/7/14.