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La Pietra Dialogues On the World On-Line
Remarks by Ambassador Melanne Verveer
The First International Town Hall on the Status of Women
La Pietra Dialogues
November 2, 2009

I was absolutely delighted to be hosted by the Mayor of Florence at the International Town Hall on the Status of Women at Palazzo Vecchio. We are all part of a long tradition, as the Mayor underlined, and it was a particular pleasure for me to see Senator Emma Bonino again, who continues to raise her voice and to work tirelessly to raise the voices of other women all around the world. I remember being with her more than a decade and a half ago with then first lady Hillary Clinton when she worked to help women from the former Soviet Union take their place in a new world and to advance market economies and democracy in their countries. President Obama created the position that I hold in recognition of the fact that we cannot begin to solve the problems that our world confronts and that our country confronts in foreign policy today -- whether those challenges are the environment and climate change, whether they have to do with the quality of governance around the world or security issues - the most dangerous places in the world for women are the most dangerous places for all of us - or whether they have to do with economics - women are the greatest drivers of economic growth and yet we have hardly tapped the potential that they represent - without focusing on empowering women. So, it was clearly in the interest of our own foreign policy to have created a position specifically devoted to this. But beyond that, we all know a simple fact: if you just think about it, the data clearly shows that no country can afford to move forward and to prosper if it leaves half its people behind. And that’s what we came to Florence to think about: what has happened over the past 15 years after 189 countries adopted a platform for action in Beijing, including the United States and Italy. That platform for action was an ambitious blueprint for how women’s talents and potential could be unleashed to create the kind of world all of us want to see. These issues are uniquely about women to be sure, but they are also issues that are not strictly women’s issues. They are about the kind of world we all want to see. We don’t think these issues should be marginalized or pushed to the side because there are more pressing issues. Because there really aren’t more pressing issues. These are among the toughest issues. They are about hard power not about soft power. And so it is in the interest of all of us to ensure that what was charted back 15 years ago - women’s access to education and health care, to be able to participate fully in the economies and in the politics and decision-making of their countries, to bring their experiences to bear, and to be free from violence and have their rights protected – comes to pass.

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