PRESS RELEASE BY THE MINISTRY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE PROMOTION Malta reiterates its commitment to combat inequality and discrimination against women

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela reiterated Malta’s continued commitment to combat inequality and discrimination against women, and to address their root causes in its policies and laws. Speaking at the 14th Asia and Europe Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Madrid on Monday, the minister called for further inter-regional cooperation, on as broad a scale as possible, in this field.

The two-day event, which was addressed by King Felipe VI of Spain and by Spanish Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, brought together foreign affairs ministers from European and Asian countries under the theme ‘Asia and Europe: together for effective multilateralism’. The meeting was chaired by the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, and provided a forum for ministers to exchange views on how to strengthen cooperation on a wide range of areas. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is a forum for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia. It was established in 1996 and aims to strengthen the relationship between the two continents. The structure brings together 53 partners, including 51 European countries and Asian countries, the EU, and the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Minister Abela said that the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment � including the economic empowerment of all women and girls � remains one of the main tools for enhancing economic prosperity and implementing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. As ASEM membership accounts for 60 per cent of the global population, we can unquestionably make a real difference in furthering this cause, he remarked. Gender equality and empowerment of women and girls are fundamental human rights but, despite progress made, the level of achievement of gender equality has been uneven across regions.

Malta fully supports the ongoing work at the UN fora to mainstream the gender perspective and to ensure the equal representation of women and men on all levels � including in matters of peace and security � and their equal participation in decision-making processes as a fundamental matter of rights.

Minister Abela noted that this year, Malta ratified the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the country is currently working on its first ‘Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan’. The year 2017 saw the setting up of a Council for Women’s Rights with the aims of strengthening the dialogue between government and civil society, and of mainstreaming equality in all aspects of government processes. That same year, Malta also ratified the Istanbul Convention, which was subsequently transposed into domestic legislation.

Minister Abela pointed out that Malta’s female employment rate went up from 47% in 2014 to 60% in 2018: an increase of 13%. This was not only due to Malta’s efforts in combating gender stereotypes and raising awareness on gender equality, but also through consistently empowering women via various initiatives and introducing policies that favour the inclusion of women in the labour market. Such policies include free childcare services for parents or guardians who are in employment or are pursuing their education, with the aim to help families achieve a work/life balance.

On the margins of the ASEM Foreign Minister’s Meeting, Minister Abela held a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Ine Eriksen SA�reide. The two ministers focused on issues of bilateral interest, the future of Europe, and the situation in the Middle East. Another exchange of views was held with New Zealand’s Parliamentary Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Fletcher Tabuteau. Both Commonwealth countries expressed their determination to build a stronger bilateral relationship.

The minister also had the opportunity to meet, at the Maltese embassy in Madrid, a group of four participants in the 9th Model ASEM, which took place in Madrid as the official youth side event of the 14th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The members of the youth delegation were Andrew Sant-Fournier and Michelle Baldacchino from Malta, Nikhil Dadheech from India, and Taehwan Kim from the Republic of Korea.

At the ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Minister Abela was accompanied by Malta’s Ambassador to Spain Vanni Xuereb.

Source: Government of Malta