Speech/statement | Date: 19/03/2021
By State Secretary Hilde Barstad (Held at the opening of the online meeting on the 18th of March 2021 for the EEA and Norway Grants SYNERGY Network against Gender-based and domestic violence)
European cooperation against violence is more important than ever before!
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear SYNERGY Network
I wish you all a warm welcome to this network meeting hosted by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, in cooperation with the Council of Europe. It is a pleasure to be a part of the SYNERGY Network against Gender-based and Domestic Violence under the EEA and Norway Grants. People everywhere need to be free of fear and feel safe from violence. It is far more efficient when we work together for a Europe free from violence!
Protecting its citizens from violence is a core responsibility of every government, including providing protection against forms of violence that harm women disproportionally. Preventing domestic violence is thus a key task for the Norwegian Government. BUT – home is still not a safe place for far too many children, young people, adults and the elderly - the place where we are supposed to feel the most secure, where we are supposed to show love and give a good upbringing to our children.
Despite increased equality between women and men in many countries, we still need to fight old and outdated attitudes towards violence against women and gender equality. The Norwegian Government’s view is clear: Violence against women and domestic violence is unacceptable and shall not go unpunished. It is not a private matter for the family alone to solve – it is a public matter - it is a state responsibility to provide safety and justice for all.
To underline our intentions and ensure progress in our work, Norway ratified the ground-breaking Istanbul Convention– the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence - in 2017
Especially now, with the COVID-19 pandemic the Istanbul Convention gives good guidance. Movement restrictions and other lockdown measures to stop the spread of the pandemic have made the situation even more dangerous for persons at risk of gender-based and domestic violence.
Today, I am looking forward to hearing from the President of the Committee of Parties to the Istanbul Convention, and from Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Iceland, and Norway - on the different measures that have been put in place to mitigate the impacts of the crisis, on gender-based and domestic violence.
It is of great concern to me to hear about an ongoing mobilization against the Istanbul Convention. Some argue that the implementation of the Convention will destroy families. This is a misunderstanding. On the contrary, the standards for the work against violence against women and domestic violence set by the Istanbul Convention will SAVE families. It is the harms and sufferings imposed on the victims as a consequence of violence, that destroys families. The standards set by the Istanbul Convention strengthen governmental responses to eliminate violence against women – a precondition for healthy and strong family relations.
Hence, Norway will continue to promote the Istanbul Convention as an important tool towards a Europe free from violence.
One of the important purposes of the Istanbul Convention is to promote international co-operation with a view to eliminating violence against women and domestic violence. I can tell you that the cooperation with you under the EEA and Norway Grants has been inspirational for the development of our new national action plan against domestic violence in Norway.
Today we are pleased to have the Council of Europe who will share their expertise with us. What do the convention’s standards translate to in practice when it comes to international cooperation?
The EEA and Norway Grants enables us to work together. The Grants are funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The Grants have two goals – to contribute to a more equal Europe, both socially and economically – and to strengthen the relations between Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, and the 15 beneficiary countries in Europe. Today, the Financial Mechanism Office will tell us more about how they support efforts to tackle gender-based and domestic violence across Europe.
Together, we have also established the EEA and Norway Grants SYNERGY Network against Gender-based and Domestic Violence. Governments, civil society, research milieus and practitioners join forces and support each other across sectors and borders. Especially now, in these challenging times, cooperation is essential. Networking provides us with a forum for the motivation and inspiration we need.
Today we also celebrate the new webpage of the Network – eeagender.org, developed by Kilden. Thank you so much for the good work you all have done. I will encourage you all to share strategies and measures, successes and pitfalls, so that we can learn from each other’s experiences. You will be given a guided tour of the webpages later today. In addition, I would like to thank the Council of Europe for providing the SYNERGY network with the online course on Access to Justice for Women. I do hope many of you will take the opportunity to participate!
It is not a luxury to cooperate; it is a necessity - to end the violence and to create safe places everywhere for everyone. European cooperation against violence is crucial, and perhaps more important than ever before. I will continue to follow the work of the SYNERGY Network and I wish you all the best of luck!