Vienna, 14 October 2005 - In a speech delivered at a conference on measures to counter traditional violence against women, Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik quoted Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi "the only real freedom is freedom from fear" as she stressed the importance of initiatives by Austrian federal ministers and international organisations to improve the situation of women.
"Women in all countries and in all social classes are affected by various forms of violence and need assistance. For me, providing such assistance is both a political and a personal concern," said Plassnik.
"Measures to combat violence against women are an important aspect of Austrian foreign policy," explained the Foreign Minister. "It is foreign policy in action, as reflected not only in Austrian Development Cooperation but also in our work with the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and European Union. We seek to work together with the women affected so that they can play an active role in their societies, be it in the family, in politics or in business, and take part in the decision-making process."
The Foreign Minister referred to the "important role of women in highly critical situations, in the aftermath of an armed conflict, for example". Together with 13 colleagues and the EU Commissioner for External Relations, continued Plassnik, she had therefore addressed a letter in September to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Peace-building Commission to be set up as part of the UN reform process should be designed to permit equal representation by women. They should be involved throughout the process, and gender-specific aspects should be taken into account in all recommendations and activities.
Referring to Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), Plassnik drew particular attention to projects such as the ADC-financed measures to combat trafficking in women and in support of women’s shelters in Belgrade and Kosovo. The ADC was working closely in Ethiopia and Kenya with traditional dignitaries to put an end to female genital mutilation. Austria was also providing medical aid.