Permanent Representation to the International Organisations in Vienna /Newsroom /

Warm welcome to the new UK Chair of the OSCE MenEngage Network

Statement by Ambassador Andrej Benedejčič, Permanent Representative of Slovenia and Chairperson of the OSCE MenEngage Network, on the occasion of the handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the OSCE MenEngage Network, at the 1236th Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council, Vienna, 18 July 2019

Mr. Chairperson,

I would like to thank the Slovak OSCE Chairmanship and you personally, Ambassador Boháč, for finding the time during such a busy meeting of the Permanent Council for the handover ceremony of the OSCE MenEngage Chairmanship.  This goes a long way in showing the importance that you attach to the issue of women's rights.  It also demonstrates your keen awareness of the key role that men and boys have to play in their promotion.  Let me therefore thank you once again for the opportunity you gave me earlier this year, on the occasion of the International Women's Day, to present in detail the work of the Network to the Permanent Council.  Let me also extend to you a heartfelt welcome as the new member of the Network. 

Mr. Chairperson,

It has been three years since I took over the MenEngage Chairmanship in this very room from the former Ambassador of Iceland, Auðunn Atlason.  During that handover ceremony I promised that I will continue paying attention not only to preventing gender-based violence, but also to challenging gender stereotypes, with a view to enhancing the role of women in conflict prevention and peace processes.

As I look back, I believe that I have been able to live up to this pledge. I am especially proud of the attention that I was able to bring to this issue last year, during the Slovenian Chairmanship of the OSCE Forum for Security Co-operation, both in terms of substance and in terms of participants. Seeing is believing and the fact that almost half of all the speakers at our Security Dialogues were women clearly showed how the changing nature of contemporary conflict makes gender mainstreaming in the politico-military dimension not only the right thing, but also the smart thing to do.

Of course, women's empowerment cannot be limited to challenges in the first dimension only.  In fact, it is inextricably linked with the concept of comprehensive security as such. Women's rights therefore represent the very essence of a cross-dimensional issue.  Not only are they human rights, but also a key driver of economic development and prosperity.  As I look back, I am therefore also pleased by the attention I managed to bring to the issue of work-life balance, equal fatherhood and the de-feminization of traditional gender roles in family life.

I also cannot but acknowledge the fact that the Chairmanship of the OSCE MenEngage Network has brought me closer to other Vienna-based organizations.  In fact, it was precisely because of my role at the OSCE that I was asked to actively assist in the launching of the International Gender Champions initiative at the Vienna International Center in 2017. The establishment of a champions' network was all the more significant given that the international organizations in Vienna deal with traditionally male domains, which are either science or security oriented.  In light of these similarities I sincerely believe that we should continue to seek synergies in promoting women's rights and equal opportunities here in Vienna in the future as well.

At the end of the day, however, it is important to be aware of one's own purpose and history. Let me therefore recall that the OSCE MenEngage Network was launched seven years ago in close cooperation with the OSCE Gender Section, which has been offering its invaluable assistance ever since.  The aim was to enlist the support of men in promoting gender equality, especially in the politico-military dimension.  That is why its first Chairperson was a Military Adviser.  In fact, he was a British Lieutenant-Colonel.  I am mentioning this so that you would understand why it gives me such pleasure to announce that its new Chairperson will be a British Ambassador.  Indeed, I cannot think of anyone more qualified for this position than our colleague, Neil Bush.

I would therefore like to invite Neil to join me in our very own changing of the guard ceremony – not at the Buckingham Palace, but here, at the Hofburg Palace.  In addition to a handshake it will include the handover of the MenEngage insignia.  The first is a white ribbon, which is a global symbol for men and boys working to end violence against women and girls. I received it three years ago from my Icelandic predecessor.  The second is an orange tie, which represents the unifying colour of the "Orange the World" campaign. This is my addition to the collection of symbols and I believe a very practical one, as Neil will discover this November.

Thank you.