Assistant Secretary General Speech


May 7, 2019 - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Dra. Margarita Cedeño, Vicepresidenta de la Republica

Ing. Miguel Vargas Maldonado, Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores

Sra. Janet Camilo Hernández, Ministra de la Mujer de la República Dominicana

Sra. Gloria Montenegro Figueroa, Presidenta de la Comisión Interamericana de Mujeres 2016-2019 y Ministra de la Mujer y Poblaciones Vulnerables de Perú

Embajadora Carmen Moreno Toscano, Secretaria Ejecutiva de la Comisión Interamericana de Mujeres

Ministras y Delegadas



Cuerpo diplomático acreditado de la República Dominicana

Es para mí un gran honor poder participar en este evento tan importante, en este lindo país Caribeño donde estoy seguro todos nos sentimos en casa. Quisiera empezar reconociendo y agradeciendo al Gobierno y pueblo de la Republica Dominicana por ser tan gentil anfitriones, y expresando un reconocimiento especial a las autoridades de este país por su gran trabajo y liderazgo en los temas de género que son de suma importancia no solo para la Organización de Estados Americanos, sino también para todos los pueblos de las Américas.

La igualdad de género es indispensable para la democracia, el desarrollo sostenible y la paz en todas las regiones del mundo. Sin duda alguna, la democracia es la piedra angular de los trabajos de la OEA, y el tema de esta treinta y ocho Asamblea de Delegados de la Comisión Interamericana de Mujeres “Igualdad y autonomía para el pleno ejercicio de los derechos políticos de las mujeres,” refleja directamente una importante parte de los trabajos de nuestra organización.

Desde su establecimiento en 1928, la CIM ha jugado un papel importantísimo en la protección y garantía de los derechos políticos de las mujeres, comenzando con su primer objetivo de extender a las mujeres el derecho a votar, y promoviendo también la adopción de la Convención Interamericana Sobre Concesión de los Derechos Políticos a la Mujer en 1948.

Aunque los Estados Miembros de la OEA hicieron grandes esfuerzos para garantizar el derecho al voto a todos los ciudadanos y ciudadanas en las Américas, con el paso del tiempo quedo claro que el derecho de las mujeres a ser electas a cargos públicos aun permanecía como un gran desafío. La participación de las mujeres en los congresos y parlamentos empezó a crecer a partir de la aprobación por parte de Argentina de la primera ley estableciendo cuotas, la cual fue seguida por muchos otros países dentro y fuera de nuestra región. Hoy en día, los países de las Américas cuentan con un promedio regional de treinta punto seis por ciento de mujeres en los congresos, y es la región con la más elevada participación de mujeres en estos cargos en el mundo.

It is therefore clear that gender quotas, and, more importantly, parity laws, have driven this fundamental change for democracy: the CIM has shown that with parity laws, countries are able to exceed targets of 40% and 50% of women in parliaments for the first time in history. It has been a truly transformative measure and constitutes one of the most significant electoral innovations adopted in recent decades.

Six countries in the region have adopted parity laws for electoral contests: Ecuador, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Mexico and Argentina. These countries boast some of highest numbers of women parliamentarians in the world. In politics, equality is measured today with parity as the gold standard.

However, important challenges persist in the remaining countries where the design of legal measures has been less than optimal, and in those that have not instituted measures to promote the inclusion of women in politics. In some countries there have even been some setbacks. In 2019, in the majority of countries in the region the percentage of elected women is under 30%. Moreover, while significant progress is occurring at the national level, inequality is even greater at local levels of government.

In addition, women continue to face unequal conditions in the exercise of political rights, including those who have gained power. Stereotypes and traditional gender roles continue to be firmly entrenched in political parties, in the media, in political financing networks, and among the electorate. There are people who still mistakenly think that men are better leaders than women, and in many cases, the media continues to judge women by their appearance and not by their political performance.

Es importante notar que conforme ha incrementado la participación de las mujeres en la política, la gran amenaza es que también se observa el incremento de diferentes formas de violencia en contra de las mujeres que participan en la vida política. Teniendo esto en cuenta, bajo el marco de la Convencion Belem do Para, la CIM ha liderado los esfuerzos para fortalecer las capacidades de los Estados para combatir la violencia política con instrumentos tales como la Ley Modelo Interamericana sobre Violencia Política que fue adoptado en el 2016.

Ladies and gentlemen: As the Belém do Pará Convention approaches its 25th anniversary later this year, the OAS and the Follow-Up Mechanism to the Convention will continue to be at the vanguard of identifying and addressing new and emerging forms of violence against women, in addition to strengthening the State response to that violence that has always existed. This includes the violence exercised against women in political and public spaces – women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, environmental, community and land rights activists, journalists and other communicators.

Achieving equality in politics and access to power is a right, and also a condition for the effective implementation of gender equality policies. Evidence has shown that insufficient representation of women in State institutions and in other domains of political life, such as political parties, trade unions, companies and professional associations, among others, impedes the advancement of policies for gender equality.

Research tells us this, but it is also common sense: while a majority of men dominate the institutions and centers of power it will be inevitable that their interests will continue to be favored, because they are making the decisions about which policies are adopted and how they are funded.

Women leaders from all sectors and the feminist movement have been the main force behind the advancement of gender equality. At the OAS, we know that a vibrant civil society is necessary for democracies to thrive. The feminist movement is a key ally to achieving our goals. Across our continent, the women's movement is vigorous and the work of the OAS can and should benefit from this energy at the same time as we work to support and protect it, as we defend gender equality as a human right, and as something good for humanity.

Internally we have made progress; at the OAS we are committed to the Institutional Policy on Gender, Rights and Diversity that establishes concrete goals to achieve equality within the organization. The United Nations has just achieved parity in senior management; the OAS must follow this path and extend parity throughout the inter-American system as a whole.

It is true that the risks for the advancement of this agenda are enormous. Several factors threaten the world's democracies today: authoritarianism, growing disaffection of citizenship, and inequality are some of the most critical. At the same time, the hemisphere faces an unprecedented reaction against the advancement of women's rights and gender equality, which has become highly visible and contested in the context of national electoral processes.

The popularity and eventual election of candidates who have declared themselves openly opposed to "gender ideology," is the most visible, though certainly not the only, manifestation of these "anti-gender" movements. We must remind all of these voices that the gender equality agenda is crucial for the development of nations.

In this context, international and regional organizations have a fundamental role for the protection of democracy and human rights in the world. We have a responsibility not only to preserve achievements, but to continue expanding rights, an objective that is at the core of the OAS’ motto "More rights for more people," which in the context of this Assembly of Delegates is obviously “More rights for more women.”

Our work to close the gap between the international legal framework on women’s rights and the day-to-day lives of women must be strengthened. In this regard, let us remember that CEDAW – the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – establishes the obligation to guarantee the right of women to study, to work, to vote, to be elected – to live – on equal terms with men, and also to participate in the formulation and execution of government policies, to occupy all public positions and exercise all public functions at all government levels; and to participate in the organizations and associations of political life, which includes political parties and trade unions.

The international legal framework forces us to think beyond the electoral sphere. The time has come to think of parity as a mandate that must apply to the whole of public political life, not just elected officials. The 2030 Agenda, in SDG No. 5, establishes it clearly through Target 5.5 "Ensure women's full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.”

Movement toward this goal has already begun. Several countries currently have parity in the Executive at the ministerial level: Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico. Countries such as Bolivia and Ecuador have established parity in the composition of different organs of justice, and Jamaica, Bahamas Guyana, Barbados and Suriname have all achieved 50% or more women on their highest courts. Colombia has a quota of at least 30% women in the executive branch. Panama has adopted a gender quota of 30% for boards of directors of public companies and certain private entities. Brazil establishes the obligation for political parties to allocate a quota of electoral financing to women candidates. These are all important steps that must be highlighted and encouraged.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The OAS is committed to building on this foundation to pursue the highest standard for gender equality in public and political life. We believe that leveling the playing field to ensure greater and more effective women participation at all levels of public and political life will ultimately result in stronger democracies with greater prosperity, stability, security, and a better life for the peoples of the Americas. Nuestros pueblos lo merecen.

Muchas gracias.