Women and Girls at the core of the 12th edition of the European Development Days

The twelfth edition of the European Development Days was held in Brussels on 5 and 6 June 2018 and aimed to bring together the European Union’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The main thread of this edition, ‘Women and Girls at the Forefront of Sustainable Development: protect, empower, invest’, is in line with the EU Consensus for Development, signed during the last edition of the European Development Days. The EU Consensus for Development sets out the main principles guiding the EU’s and its member states’ approach to cooperating with developing countries over the next 15 years, and provides a strategy for reaching the sustainable development goals (SDGs).


As Stefano Manservisi, Director General for International Cooperation and Development, stated in his press briefing, the EU need to ”address the need of people, the situation of our planet, to the situation of jobs, the need of people but the key drivers of our success and the one in which we have to invest are the women and the young people”. He continued ”women represent 50% of the population of the world and still they are subjected to violence, discrimination and poor empowerment” and this situation hampers the effectiveness of the development policies and strategies. On the other hand, in developing countries most of the population is composed of young people. For this reason, Manservisi stressed that ”the future is linked to women and youth”.

The agenda of this year’s EDD was divided along the following topics: ‘Ensuring the physical and psychological integrity of Girls and Women’, ‘Promoting economic and social rights and empowerment of Girls and Women’, ‘Strengthening Girls’ and ‘Women’s voice and participation’. The variety of the topics show that gender discrimination involves all the aspects of life and society.

Gender and corruption, for example, have an undeniable link. Corruption prevents women access to basic services, education and jobs. In this regard, Ali Sadik, Project Manager of Transparency Maroc, opened the audience’s eyes on the phenomenon of ”sextorsion’’, in the session on Gender, Corruption and SDG 16. Sextorsion involves the illicit trading of services for sexual favours by people in power, which, according to Sadik, remains one of the most common forms of corruption victimising women. In this context, it has been underlined the crucial role that civil society plays in addressing those issues. Colette Ndabarushimana, from Transparency International Rwanda, underlined the importance of collecting evidence of gender-based corruption cases and advocating to encourage people to raise their voices.

It has been widely recognised that women and women’s organisations are crucial actors for peace and security. The EU Global Strategy together with the EU Strategy on Resilience, the EU Consensus for Development and the Gender actions plan demonstrated that the EU is committed to promote human rights and empowerment of women and girls in the security sector In the session ‘No peace without women’, Catherine O’Rourke, Senior Lecturer in Human Rights and International Law of Ulster University, underlined the importance of building peace in a way that can be inclusive to women.

The Colombian peace agreement has been recognised as a virtuous example of an agreement that has included a gender perspective. It has been represented a historic landmark for the recognition of the rights of women and girls as well as the specific impacts of the armed conflict on their lives. Thanks to the demands of the women’s movement, the Colombian Government and the FARC agreed on the creation of a Gender Subcommission.