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France’s Actions Promoting Women’s Rights and Equality

Women’s rights are one of the top priorities of France’s external action in the area of respect for and protection of human rights. France is particularly attached to compliance with and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW - 1979) and the optional protocol thereto, and texts from the Cairo Conference on Population and Development (1994) and the Beijing Conference on Women (Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action, 1995).

Multilateral and Regional Actions

At the United Nations:

France, which is active in the advocacy and promotion of women’s rights in international arenas, contributed to the adoption of the Security Council’s “Women, Peace and Security” resolutions. These resolutions (resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960) call on States to increase the protection of women during conflicts and to increase the participation of women in peace talks and decision-making processes. In this respect, it supports the action conducted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General responsible for the fight against sexual violence in conflicts.

At the instigation of France, a working group tasked with the issue of discrimination against women in legislation and practice was created during the 15th session of the Human Rights Council in 2010 to complement the existing system. It was set up in May 2011.

Finally, France supported the creation of UN Women, of which it was a member of the Board of Directors in 2011 and with which it is developing several cooperation actions.


From a national standpoint, France adopted a national action plan for the implementation of “Women, Peace and Security” resolutions in October 2010. It sets concrete objectives for the government: training staff involved in women’s rights issues, increasing the direct participation of women and protecting women from violence.

In the European Context

Within the European Union, in the extension of the “Guidelines on violence against women and the fight against all forms of discrimination against them”, adopted in 2008 under the French Presidency, France supports the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs’ priority of promoting women’s rights in the EU’s external relations.

France played an active part in developing the Council of Europe Convention to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, of which it is one of the first signatories (May 2011) and of which the ratification procedure is under way.


France adopted a “Gender and Development” strategy in 2007 and an action plan for the empowerment of women in Africa in 2009 for a three-year period. The philosophy of action behind France’s cooperation is based on twomain lines: respecting human rights and concern for greater aid effectiveness through 1) political advocacy 2) support for specific actions promoting equality and 3) transverse integration of the gender in all sectors of activity.

Accordingly, in partnership with UN Women, France has set up a programme combating violence (€1.5M over three years) in the Arab world (Algeria, Jordan, Morocco) and Sub-Saharan Africa (Cameroon, Mali, Niger) and a programme for women to access the justice system in Afghanistan (€500,000). It is also funding two junior expert positions at the UN Women headquarters.

In the context of the Muskoka G8 (2010), France has committed to investing an additional €500M over five years (2011-2015) in the combat against maternal and infant mortality in 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti and Afghanistan. France’s position is to combine a health approach with a rights approach, without which policies on maternal health access are not effective. Partnerships have been established with several United Nations agencies (United Nations Population Fund, UN Women, UNICEF, World Health Organization). The financial commitment with the United Nations is €19M per year for five years, €1M of which per year is with UN Women for consideration of the gender and the combat against violence in maternal health programmes.

France is also conducting a programme promoting the economic empowerment of women in six West African countries (Mali, Niger, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin) with a €3M “gender and economics” Priority Solidarity Fund for 2009-2012.

Some of the other projects developed by France include:

-  Education for girls and the fight against gender-based violence at school in Francophone Africa: Programmes with UNICEF in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso (€3,30M, 2012-2013).

-  A “Gender and social cohesion” cooperation programme, on employment for youth and young women in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, in partnership with the International Labour Office (€500,000, 2012-2013), in the process of validation.

-  A working group on “girls in development policies”: two seminars are planned in 2012 on our methodological approaches and a conference is scheduled on 11 October 2012, for International Girls Day.

-  Support for French and French language expertise in gender and development through the “gender and development” platform and the “Gender in Action Network”. http://www.genreenaction.net/.



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