Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at the 2ndGerman-Arab Women’s Network Forum on 24 October 2013 in Berlin

24.10.2013 - Speech

-- Translation of advance text --

Minister Badi,
My colleague Minister Schröder,
Ms Sailer-Schuster,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Many people are talking about the Arab Spring. To my mind, the term “Arab seasons” better describes the situation in the Arab world because it underscores the complex nature of developments and the differences between individual countries across the region.

When the people demanded more political and economic participation two and a half years ago, we knew this would not be a straight or indeed a straightforward journey.

We need to be patient. No-one can exclude the possibility of setbacks. But the direction is clear. We will keep encouraging the countries in the Arab world to continue the process for more democracy, rule of law and freedom.

The best guarantees for social cohesion are the respect of human rights, the rule of law and broad economic and social participation.

A country’s stability does not depend first and foremost on the stability of its government, but on the stability of its society.

In many countries of the Arab world, for example in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Yemen, constitutions are currently being drawn up or rewritten.

The historic opportunity of firmly anchoring human and particularly women’s rights is there for the taking. No compromises can be made on equal rights for men and women.

Formally anchoring this equality between men and women on paper is only the first step. Even with us it took almost ten years before the equal rights enshrined in the 1949 Basic Law were finally in the statute books.

Living these vested women’s rights and pushing for them to be implemented is something that cannot happen without a committed civil society with strong and critical women like you. You have in Germany a reliable partner for your courageous undertaking.

We have offered concrete support for the process of democratic transition. This has resulted in many projects and, particularly in Tunisia, a very active Transformation Partnership. This we want to continue.

Women being economically disadvantaged is not just undemocratic it also overlooks the contribution they can make to the economy. Women make a difference in society and for us they are particularly important contacts given the challenges posed by the changes sweeping this part of the world.

We will continue to support women in the Arab world. I hope you have engaging discussions and productive exchange today.

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