Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day of Women in Multilateralism
25 January 2023
By proclaiming this International Day at the 41st session of the General Conference, in 2021, our Member States wanted to celebrate the women who – not only at UNESCO, but at all multilateral institutions – dedicate themselves daily to building peace and ensuring sustainable development.
Celebrating their achievements, their views and their devotion also means drawing attention to the incomprehensible inequality gap which in too many contexts continues to exist between women and men. At the current rate, it would take us more than 130 years to reach parity in our societies, according to the World Economic Forum.
Equal rights cannot wait. This is why UNESCO has made gender equality one of its two global priorities: to fight gender inequalities at their very root, and to break down stereotypes deeply ingrained in the social fabric.
Building equality through multilateralism implies acknowledging, as we are doing today, the role of women in multilateralism and seeing to it that all who want to work for change draw inspiration from these women.
Especially in multilateral forums, this also implies making strong commitments and implementing them.
This is why on International Day of Women in Multilateralism 2023, we are focusing on a commitment at the heart of UNESCO's raison d'être: the fight against hate speech, with a particular emphasis on the issue of harassment of and violence against women in the digital environment.
The matter is urgent, as evidenced by a recent UNESCO survey of women journalists, who constitute one of the professional groups most affected by these phenomena: 73% of them reported having been subjected to online violence in the course of their work. And when women are targeted because they are women, a certain view of public debate and a fundamental requirement for democracy are also undermined.
On 25 January, a global dialogue entitled "Online Gendered Disinformation: What Are the Solutions?" is being held. The debates on the subject will feed into our ongoing work to establish principles for the regulation of digital platforms, in order to provide information as a public good in the digital age while preserving freedom of expression. Next month, UNESCO is organizing a major conference at Headquarters; in attendance will be representatives of government decision-makers, civil society and digital platforms, who will be discussing the principles of social-network regulation.
This is precisely the point of this International Day: mobilizing the international community to support equal rights and dignity for all – particularly women and girls.