Remarks by NDI President Derek Mitchell at the Fifth Anniversary of #NotTheCost

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Distinguished guests and valued partners: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening to all of you wherever you are. On behalf of NDI, I am very pleased to welcome you today to this virtual event commemorating the fifth anniversary of our NotTheCost Campaign. 

As we just heard from Governor Whitmer in such stark and compelling terms, violence against women in politics is all too pervasive, and has dangerous consequences -- both for women politicians’ personal safety and for a nation’s democratic health. Unfortunately, the phenomenon of violence against women in politics knows no boundaries.  It is affecting politically active women activists, civil society leaders, voters, candidates, and officials. 

Under the leadership of our Gender, Women and Democracy team, NDI launched the NotTheCost Campaign in 2016, to challenge the claim by some that violence against women is simply the cost of their being involved in politics. That of course is completely unacceptable.  So by raising awareness of the violence that politically-active women face, collecting data on it, and actively supporting our partners, we sought to help counter this narrative, mitigate its impact and hold perpetrators to account.To bring about the change we seek, this truly has been a global campaign, built on partnership. 

I’d like to highlight our partnership with UN Women, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the OAS’s Inter-American Commission of Women, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International IDEA, and Liberal International.  We are grateful to you all for our continued joint efforts and for your participation here today.  Since launching the Campaign, we have made some important progress together. 

One of the key asks made by NDI Chairman Madeleine Albright at the launch of the campaign in 2016, was for the United Nations to begin to examine violence against women in politics in its annual thematic reports. 

In response, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women presented such a thematic report to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2018. This was the first report on the issue of violence against politically-active women to be tabled before General Assembly. NDI has also worked closely with the UN Special Rapporteur to create a report form that allows for the safe and secure reporting of incidents of violence against politically active women. Available in six languages, this tool enables consistent data collection to help us understand the scope of the problem globally.  

We have also seen governments respond to the Call to Action. In 2017, Tunisia’s new law outlawing violence against women specifically noted political violence as one of its many forms. Also taking inspiration from the Campaign, Mexico’s Federal Electoral Tribunal developed an online course, free to anyone who registers, that offers tools to address issues related to gender, violence, and politics. In addition to these institutional and legal initiatives, our Campaign led to development of the #think10 safety planning tool - to enable individual women to review their personal and professional vulnerabilities, and empower them to take informed steps to enhance their safety as they go about their political activities.

However, despite this progress, democratic backsliding, global shocks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, and rising toxicity online directed against women pose new threats. The pandemic has significantly exacerbated the burden of care responsibilities between women and men, with a devastating effect on gender equality and women's political participation. COVID-induced power grabs have shrunk political space for women and girls.  This results not only in the loss of their voice and agency, but also in an increased risk of violence as women strive to remain engaged in decision-making.  The increasing exclusion of women in the end has undermined democratic resilience around the world.  That in turn will continue to affect the quality of pandemic response and recovery going forward. 

Ultimately, ending this virus of violence against women in politics is not something women and girls can achieve alone, through mitigation or self-protection. For the good of all, men must do more to transform the dynamics of masculine power and politics that cause such harm to women - and such harm to democracy, peace and development in turn. 

So we all – women and men together - must not be complacent. We are here today to take stock of the progress we have made – and recommit ourselves to the hard work ahead of us.

For that reason, today NDI is issuing a renewed Call to Action. We invite you all to join us, to take the initiative, wherever and whoever you are, to clear a path for women everywhere, and end violence against women in politics once and for all.

Thank you.

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