The Euro-Med conference of civil society organizations and networks “Women’s Rights and Democracy Building: Promoting a common agenda for equality between women and men” took place on 7 – 8 June in Amman, Jordan. The Heinrich-Böll-Foundation was among the supporters of the conference, which was organized by the European Feminist Initiative IFE-EFI and other organizations from the MENA region among them Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s partners Arab Women’s Organization (AWO) from Jordan and Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) from Palestine . The conference was a result of the two years regional process to promote a common agenda for equality between women and men through the Istanbul-Marrakech Framework of action and to sustain the Framework of Actionas a major regional tool for improving of womens’ rights and to contextualize it in the present developments in the MENA region.
The Conference held on 7-8 June in Amman gathered over 120 representatives from women’s rights organizations and networks, State actors, political leaders, members of parliaments, academics and media from the Euro-Med region to discuss and finalize the recommendations to the 3rd Ministerial Meeting to be held in September in Paris. It expressed the support of the women’s rights organizations to the Conclusions of the Ministerial Meeting Marrakesh 2009 and called upon the governments to ensure that the Paris Ministerial Meeting 2013 further enhance gender equality towards adopting concrete policies, aiming at ensuring that both women and men enjoy the same opportunities, rights and duties in all areas of life.
The Conference issued a set of comprehensive and concrete recommendations to the Ministerial Meeting in September in Paris and to the preparatory meeting on 11 June 2013 in Malaga, Spain. It called for the adoption of transitor mechanisms, ensuring women’s more equal participation in political and economic decision and policy-making and implementation. Such mechanisms as adopting of a proportional electoral system, combined with legally and constitutionally binding gender zipper quota of minimum 40% representation of women, in order to ensure their application, address the deficiency of democracy and follow-up non-compliance through significant sanctions, including disqualifying the non-compliance lists.
The Conference called for adopting gender equality laws in all the countries of the Euro-Med region, ensuring institutionalizing of gender equality in the government policies and action plans, and safeguarding women’s rights from regressive measures. Furthermore, the Conference called for forming of women’s rights or gender equality committees in the national assemblies and satisfying the long term demand of the civil society to of lifting of all reservations to the CEDAW and ratifying the optional protocol.
The participants called for harmonizing national legislations with international norms and standards for women’s rights grounded in their universality, exerting efforts to reform the educational system, the curricula and the educational programs to promote the values of citizenship, human rights and gender equality, to stop violence and discrimination, to promote women’s rights as a human rights issue and not a family issue.
Also, they called for introducing urgently binding legal measures criminalizing and penalizing all forms of violence against women in order to contribute to filling up the gap between formal rights and substantial rights and for strengthening the public awareness on the violation of women’s sexual and reproductive rights.The participants underlined that the civil society is a critical partner in the reform processes, bringing the voice of women on the reform agenda.
The participansts emphasized that the occupation of Palestine is a main impediment for women to play their role in building of their society and stressed on the urgent need to end occupation and recognize an independent and sovereign Palestine State on occupied territories of 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital, the respect of the right of the Palestinians to return to their home land according to the UN resolutions and support the State of Palestine to be a member in the international agencies.
A call was issued for a political solution for Syria, based on a civil, pluralistic and democratic Syrian State free from oppression and dictatorship, through and urged for inclusion women’s rights and gender equality on the agendas of democratic transformation and for inclusion of the women’s rights movement in the building process of the new Syria, the new constitution and transitional justice program. They asked for protection of the women from any kind of violence with allowance of financial dedicated means and for inclusion of the needs of Syrian women refugees and displaced women in all humanitarian aid programs.
Finally it was emphasized that women should take part in a comprehensive and participatory peace process as according to the UNSCR1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as one of the conditions to allow transition towards democracy, enhancing respect of human rights of both women and men in the whole region.