NEW YORK, United States - Today, 78 Member States and Observers, together with United Nations (UN) agencies, attended the first meeting of the Group of Friends For the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. The aim of the group is to coordinate action and share information on the elimination of gender-based violence (GBV), and to follow up on the UN Secretary-General’s call earlier this year for action on the issue.

The group will provide a forum for sharing lessons learned, promoting advocacy efforts, mobilizing resources, improving cooperation and supporting the work of ongoing initiatives.

“Gender-based violence is one of the most pervasive human rights violations,” said European Union (EU) Ambassador Olof Skoog in his welcome address. “This is clearly a global issue. It concerns all of us, all of our countries, and all spheres. We need to work together and learn from each other in order to fight this effectively.”

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed thanked the European Union for its leadership on the issue and said she looked forward to scaling up successful responses to gender-based violence.

"We need to work together and learn from each other in order to fight [gender-based violence] effectively.” -  EU Ambassador Olof Skoog

“The leadership of the European Union [on this issue] has been demonstrated through the Spotlight Initiative, it was in fact the largest single investment to this issue globally. This is an extremely important vision that now has an opportunity to broaden, to take it beyond that base so that it is a global response.”

Krishanti Dharmaraj, Executive Director of the Center for Women's Global Leadership and a member of the Spotlight Initiative Civil Society Global Reference Group, highlighted the need for an inclusive approach.

“We have two pandemics, and only one of them will have a vaccine,” she said. “I’m asking this Group of Friends to apply flexible funding principles, to trust women on the ground, recognize their leadership and invite them into decision-making rooms. The time is urgent and the time is now to build back differently.”

Representatives from Steering Committee members Argentina, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand and Turkey affirmed their commitment to turning intention into action.

“We are proud to be part of this cross-national Group of Friends,” said Permanent Representative of Argentina to the UN, María del Carmen Squeff. “The situation that we face today compels us to redouble our commitment to this critical issue.”

“Emerging data shows that all forms of violence against women and girls has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Permanent Representative of Mongolia to the UN Enkhbold Vorshilov. “Like many nations, Mongolia has not been spared the escalation of gender-based violence.” 

"This is an extremely important vision that now has an opportunity to broaden." - UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed

Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the UN, said that he viewed the Group of Friends as a demonstration of international solidarity to protect and uphold the human rights of women and girls in all regions of the world. “We aspire to see our group of friends forging a path forward in this challenging time,” he said.

New Zealand's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Craig Hawke echoed the need to consolidate efforts in the current climate. 

“There are more than 200 participants on this call today, but we need to move that interest and advocacy into action,” he said. “In New Zealand, we really want to share experiences, we want to learn, and we want to support the UN system in its work on eliminating violence against women and girls.”

Deputy Permanent Representative of Turkey to the UN Bilge Kocyigit said, “while there are still challenges ahead we are resolved to strengthen our efforts.”

Permanent representative of Namibia to the UN Neville Gertze highlighted the need to address both impunity for perpetrators and stigma for survivors in order to contain the spread of gender-based violence.

Following the launch event, several follow up meetings have been scheduled for 2021. These include a meeting ahead of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65) in February, a side event on the margins of CSW65 in March, a meeting on the margins of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) in mid-July, a High-Level Meeting on the margins of the High-Level Week of the General Assembly in mid-September and a Taking Stock Meeting to mark the end of the 16 days of Activism against Gender-based Violence in early December.