On 11 and 12 May, the EU-LAC Foundation, via the EU-LAC Women's International Network (WIN), the German Federal Foreign Office, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation (MAEC), the Argentinean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with the Red Unidas and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), co-organised the EU-LAC Gender Equality Forum in Berlin. The Forum, in a hybrid format, provided a working space for more than 140 representatives from Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe representing civil society organisations, academia and international organisations. The event is part of a series of civil society initiatives organised by the EU-LAC Foundation ahead of the European Union (EU)-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit to be held in July 2023.
The event was inaugurated by Dr Tobias Lindner, Minister of State of the German Federal Foreign Office, Pilar Cancela, Secretary of State for International Cooperation of the MAEC and Dr Cristopher Ballinas, General Director of Human Rights and Democracy at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointed out the commitment of their countries in favour of a feminist foreign state policy cross-cutting all peace, security, culture and development policies. Furthermore, Pilar Cancela emphasised Spain's Presidency of the Council of the European Union as an enormous opportunity to place gender equality at the centre of the agenda between the EU and Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries. Javier Niño Pérez, Director for the Americas of the European External Action Service and Leire Pajín, President of the EU-LAC Foundation, shared the need to double efforts and relaunch bi-regional relations in favour of gender equality as a response to a convulsive international context that threatens feminist movements. María Cristina Perceval, Special Representative for Feminist Foreign Policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina highlighted the need to build a multilateralism of equality that places care at the centre of societies.
The opening segment was followed by three thematic keynote speeches by Ana Güezmes, Director of the Gender Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Ginny Heinsen, Founder and General Manager of Sustainability 3RS and Elvia Barrios, Former President of the Supreme Court of Justice of Peru. The panellists presented the advances, challenges, opportunities and threats to achieve structural gender transformations in both regions, especially in the field of gender-based violence, democratic parity, caregiving societies, the digital divide and sustainability and environmental policies.
Afterwards, experts from both regions were divided into face-to-face and virtual working groups around three topics: (1) overcoming socio-economic inequalities; (2) climate change and gender; and (3) political leadership and peacebuilding. The working groups were divided into three sessions to first detail progress, good practices and lessons learned. A second session served to identify current challenges and bottlenecks. In the third session, participants developed a roadmap with proposals and recommendations based on common interests as input for the EU-CELAC Summit.
The participants underlined the urgency of working on caregiving societies, by designing tax reforms and incorporating the principle of co-responsibility and reconciliation. They also agreed to develop democratic energy transitions, to pursue stronger synergies between environmental and gender policies using a territorial, intercultural, intersectional and climate justice approach. In addition, they demanded cooperation between LAC and the EU that is more horizontal, based on solidarity, democratic standards, transparency, and accountability, and detached from the colonialist model. This cooperation should also provide greater resources and representation for migrant, rural, peasant and indigenous women, who have traditionally been excluded, and for feminist civil society organisations. In addition, participants requested building a new paradigm that places gender equality at the centre of governance and addresses the increase in gender-based violence as well as digital violence and political violence in contexts of crisis.
The Forum was closed by Helga Barth, Director for Human Rights and International and Social Development, German Federal Foreign Office; María Jesús Conde Zabala, Special Ambassador for Feminist Foreign Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of the Kingdom of Spain; María Cristina Perceval, Special Representative for Feminist Foreign Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina; Dr Cristopher Ballinas, General Director for Human Rights and Democracy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico.
To conclude, Dr Adrián Bonilla, Executive Director of the EU-LAC Foundation, highlighted the major importance of the outputs generated by this Forum in order to promote a bi-regional gender agenda based on common interests and objectives and to nurture the political dialogue of the leaders of both regions in a very relevant year for the bi-regional partnership.