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Director General Christian Danielsson
Excellencies, Distinguished guests,
It is a pleasure for me to open this panel.
"Empowering women in sustainable investments and business through the EU External Investment Plan". This is an issue which is very close to my heart: how the EU can further help in empowering women to be key actors of sustainable economies and development.
This is a fundamental question for ensuring genuinely sustainable development and modernisation in our partner countries.
We know that women’s right to be heard, the freedom and decision making in the wider social and economic space, depends to a large degree on women’s access to resources and improvement in their ability to use these resources.
This means the promotion of financial inclusion, access to economic assets, access to education and capacity building, recognition of the care economy, and digital connectivity.
Gender equality is a key cross-cutting issue for the European Union. Not only for its Member States but also in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the EU Neighbourhood regions.
As part of this commitment, the EU has adopted a Gender Action Plan endorsed by Member States in 2015. This plan aims to ensure effective delivery on EU commitments to gender equality, ensure increased accountability by defining expected results and tracking resources and also importantly improve the quality of partnerships, coordination and dialogue at all levels.
One of the three thematic pillars within this Gender Action Plan is the subject of today's discussion: promoting the social and economic rights and empowerment of girls and women.
The EU is currently financing several projects across the EU Neighbourhood regions, which have this as a central objective.
For example, one of them is a €12.5 million project to strengthen the resilience and empowerment of women and girls affected by the Syrian Crisis in Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. With this project we aim at increasing access to decent work and economic opportunities for refugee women and vulnerable women in host communities.
Another key project worth €35m is funding to the Moroccan Government to support the integration of gender equality in all public budgets and Government policies. There will be a lab session tomorrow where our delegation in Morocco will present this flagship programme on gender budgeting.
Research shows that globally women’s labour force participation has stagnated and women remain half as likely as men to have full-time wage jobs. Those who have paid work earn up to one-third less than men. A lack of opportunities for girls and women thus entails large economic costs not only for them, but also for their households and countries.
Gender equality is thus not only ensuring equal rights for men and women but a very much needed opportunity to boost economic development, social improvement and the resilience of society.
The External Investment Plan
The EU recently added a new instrument to its toolbox with the launch of the EU External Investment Plan.
Building on the success of the ‘Juncker Plan’ for Member States, the EU External Investment Plan includes a new guarantee instrument whose goal is to crowd in the private sector to help in addressing the challenges of EU partner countries in its immediate Neighbourhood and in sub-Saharan Africa.
I am very encouraged at the high level of interest and demand for this new guarantee instrument. We have received around 50 innovative proposals from more than a dozen International Financial Institutions, for a total value of over 3.5 billion euros and we expect to sign the first of these guarantee agreements in the second half of this year, after consulting EU Member States.
This new tool offers very significant new opportunities to empower women as entrepreneurs, managers and employees. By working with public- and private-sector partners to close the earnings gaps between males and females across our partner countries, we know this will go a long way in tackling poverty and driving sustainable economic growth.
This includes working to increase the access to finance and the earnings potential of female-owned micro and small enterprises (MSEs) as well tackling those inequalities based on gender norms which have historically put females at a disadvantage.
In many countries, women face legal and social barriers that prevent them from owning or inheriting assets, opening bank accounts, or accessing credit on their own.
The EU External Investment Plan is expected to attract eleven times more investment – €44 billion – than the EU's initial €4.1 billion contribution. This money will help improve not only vital infrastructure but also quality of life in cities while at the same time actively empowering women, in the recognition that women play a fundamental role in economic development.
We believe that this is a significant moment for the EU’s development assistance. Our success will result in new jobs and opportunities for both men and women in our partner countries, as well as in the EU. With the experience gained, we can also expand the use of these types of financial instruments in development assistance in the next EU budget.
Barriers to women economic empowerment remain among the biggest challenges for the implementation of the global commitment for inclusive growth. Today in this auditorium as part of this discussion, we will look at how best to seize these new opportunities, putting women at the very heart of the development process.
So thank you once again for your participation, and I look forward to working together to increase our investment in women.
5 June 2018