Press Release

Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers from Ten Countries Sign onto UNIFEM’s Say NO to Violence against Women Campaign

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik Organizes Vienna Commitment Signing

For immediate release
Date: 23 June 2008

Media Inquiries:
Joan Libby Hawk, Public Affairs Specialist, UN Women Headquarters, +1 212-906-6390,

United Nations, New York/Vienna — The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) welcomed prime ministers and foreign ministers representing 10 countries, the European Commission, and others as leading participants to its Say NO to Violence against Women campaign (www.saynotoviolence.org) at an event in Vienna organized by Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik.

Foreign Minister Plassnik said: “Women have a right to live a life free of violence. It is not only one of the worst human rights violations, but also a risk for sustainable and equitable development.”

Women ministers adding their support included Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, Liechtenstein Foreign Minister Rita Kieber-Beck, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. (See picture below.)

UNIFEM’s Say NO Internet advocacy campaign urges people to add their names as an expression of public support and calls on decision-makers worldwide to make ending violence against women a top priority. The signing in Vienna coincided with a 23 June international donor conference on assisting Lebanese refugees.

Adding their names as a public commitment on this occasion were Prime Minister of Lebanon Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority Salam Fayyad, Foreign Minister of Jordan Salah Eddin Al Bashir, United Arab Emirates Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Anwar Gargash, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees Karen AbuZayd, German Minister of State for Europe Günter Gloser, French Ambassador to the United Kingdom Gérard Errera, and Spanish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Angel Lossada.

UNIFEM’s Executive Director Inés Alberdi, in a statement from New York, said: “I am so grateful to the prime ministers, foreign ministers and other government officials for signing onto UNIFEM’s Say NO to Violence against Women campaign. Their example encourages others and lends weight to concrete actions to protect women from violence — whether in European communities or villages in countries experiencing armed conflict. On 19 June, the United Nations Security Council recognized unanimously that wartime sexual violence has been one of history’s greatest silences, and that there can be no peace nor security as long as communities are terrorized by armed groups that target women and girls as a deliberate tactic. Today’s event in Vienna strengthens political will to combat violence against women everywhere, and the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for multi-year action on this issue.”

Foreign Minister Plassnik added: “The UN constitutes the most important framework for all efforts to end violence against women. The Security Council resolution underlines that rape and all forms of sexual violence can be prosecuted as war crimes, as crimes against humanity, or as part of genocide.”

Violence against women is probably the most pervasive human rights violation, affecting as many as one in three women and girls. Since resources are urgently needed, the Say NO campaign calls for support to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. This UNIFEM-managed Trust Fund awards grants to innovative local initiatives in the developing world. Since its inception in 1997, it has awarded more than US$19 million in grants to 263 projects in 115 countries. UN Trust Fund grantees have worked to stop human trafficking, put an end to honour killings and provide services for survivors. A particular focus lies on supporting the implementation of laws and policies on violence against women.

In addition to those joining the UNIFEM campaign today, the Governments of Senegal, Tanzania and Spain have already lent their support. UNIFEM seeks to gather one million names through the Say NO to Violence against Women campaign website. To date more than 225,000 individuals have signed on. The campaign will run until 25 November 2008, when the signatures will be handed over to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Prime ministers and foreign ministers of 10 countries sign onto UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence against Women campaign at an event in Vienna on 23 June 2008. Pictured here (left to right): Micheline Calmy-Rey, Foreign Minister of Switzerland; Dora Bakoyannis, Foreign Minister of Greece; Ursula Plassnik, Foreign Minister of Austria; Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations; Rita Kieber-Beck, Foreign Minister of Liechtenstein; Karen Koning AbuZayd, UNRWA Commissioner-General. (Photo: Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs/HOPI-MEDIA/Bernard J. Holzner.)
Prime ministers and foreign ministers of 10 countries sign onto UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence against Women campaign at an event in Vienna on 23 June 2008. Pictured here (left to right): Micheline Calmy-Rey, Foreign Minister of Switzerland; Dora Bakoyannis, Foreign Minister of Greece; Ursula Plassnik, Foreign Minister of Austria; Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations; Rita Kieber-Beck, Foreign Minister of Liechtenstein; Karen Koning AbuZayd, UNRWA Commissioner-General. (Photo: Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs/HOPI-MEDIA/Bernard J. Holzner.)