In the context of International Women's Day, the European regions have confirmed their commitment to the promotion of gender equality and have adopted today the Kiruna Declaration*, which defines their political priorities in this area for 2006-2007. The Assembly of European Regions (AER), the largest regional organisation in Europe, will focus on four key themes:
- The involvement of women in politics - A fairer allocation of rights and power is an indispensable condition for democracy. The AER defends parity democracy in all levels of decision-making, and especially at regional level, and encourages the adoption of binding texts to this effect. Therefore, women who are active in regional politics are urged to present themselves as candidates for the upcoming AER elections in November 2006.
- The involvement of women in the economic life of European regions - A further indispensable condition for gender equality is economic independence. The AER calls on the Council of Europe, meeting on 23 - 24 March 2006, to commit to a new objective of reducing and removing the gender pay gap, considering that the principle of equality of male and female employees is guaranteed by Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome. At regional level, regional economic development is a key priority of the AER members and they shall therefore ensure that the development tools they implement will contribute to achieving the Lisbon objective of a 60% employment rate for women.
- The education and involvement of men in the promotion of equal opportunities - Education from an early age undeniably has a significant role both negative and positive- in shaping mentalities and promoting the role of women in professional life. In this respect, the AER Youth Summer School will be an excellent forum to develop and propose concrete initiatives the regions should undertake in combating this problem. The AER further notes that the participation of men in gender equality projects is vital, as equality is not an issue that divides the sexes, but rather one that calls for a partnership resulting in mutual enrichment.
- Violence against women - The AER solemnly condemns violence against women, which constitutes a violation of fundamental human rights. We support the European Parliament's report (2006)0038 and in particular the concept of zero tolerance towards all forms of violence, as well as the 'Human Rights are for Women too' campaign launched by Amnesty International.
'Our group's ultimate goal is that we disappear one day, signifying that we will have finally achieved the equality which is of such importance for democracy and Europe's future. In the meantime, we, the AER member regions, will continue to share our experience and to contribute to the formulation of common initiatives for the implementation of equality' stated Michèle Sabban, President of the AER Commission on Equal Opportunities between Men and Women, Vice-President of the Region Ile-de-France-F and Vice-President of Socialist International Women. 'We are very happy to have been invited by the Swedish region of Norrbotten for the adoption of this Declaration, as Sweden was voted the World's Most Gender Equal Country in 2005 by the World Economic Forum,' Ms Sabban concluded.
* Kiruna Declaration available on the AER Web site: www.a-e-r.org
The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is the political organisation of regions in Europe and their spokesperson at European and international level. Its vocation is: to defend the regions' interests in the political process and develop interregional cooperation. AER brings together 255 Regions from 30 European Countries and 13 interregional organisations.
AER Contact: Stéphane Cools, Coordinator of the Group 'Gender Equality', email@example.com - Tel: +32-2-421 85 12 - www.a-e-r.org