MILAN INTERNATIONAL FOOD SUMMIT
October 20, 2008
Speaking points by Emma Bonino
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, dear friends,
I am very honored to be at this event for many reasons.
The first is that the last time I was invited by the Mayor of Milan to an event regarding Expo 2015, we were in Paris, in March, waiting for BIEâ€™s decision. Finally the wonderful news arrived: we had won! I can still remember and feel the joy, the excitement for a victory that was a victory for the whole country, and an opportunity for creating something really useful for the whole world: "Feeding the planet, energy for life" is indeed a challenging and compelling title.
The second is that we are now faced with the huge onus and responsibility of developing Expo 2015 and to develop it well, following those principles of involvement and sharing with different countries, cultures and traditions, which, I think, have been a key success factor in favor of our candidacy.
The third is that the issue of Food and Nutrition, foreseen by the Milan proposal, has since become headline news, confirming the major importance and urgency of the theme.
The last reason is that, given the fact that in my career I spent a lot of time and energy supporting the fight against famine in the world and for womenâ€™s rights, connecting two key words, at this early stage, came natural to me: Nutrition and Women. And I am convinced that we have an outstanding opportunity with this Expo for creating the first one in history where women will have a very central role.
The Mayor of Milan has already described the main objectives of the project Women and Expo and what we want to achieve, so I shall add only a few things.
20 years after the Beijing Conference on Women (1995), the year 2015 will also be a prodigious finishing line for the Millenium Development Goals, and so 2015 will not only be the year when the EXPO will occur, but it will also be the crucial moment when all preparatory projects will bear their fruits, hopefully contributing to the overall success.
Traditionally, female population has been a vastly overlooked economic asset, especially in poor countries. Yet, in recent years, women have proved to be particularly successful in micro enterprises, many of them operating in the food and agricultural sector. Women are increasingly acquiring major roles in fields ranging from large enterprises to public institutions, from research to technology, but that of feeding the planet is one in which they will have a specially important role. Empowering women in this specific field is among the world's greatest challenges in the coming years.
The Women and EXPO Project will constitute one of the main arteries of EXPO 2015 and will include several component projects. Each of these will be conceived, promoted and implemented in the run-up to 2015, and presented at the Expo, with the involvement of participating countries.
The Women and EXPO Project aims at achieving three fundamental objectives at the 2015 Expo :
Ensure that awareness of women's issues is a part of all Expo 2015 projects;
Highlight the excellent work of women in fields connected to Food and Nutrition and make public the results of the collaborative projects launched in the six years running up to 2015;
Create a forum in which various organizations, institutions, and enterprises operating with, and for women, can exchange ideas and experiences.
So we are speaking of something more than a project, we are speaking of a global campaign with a six year duration. In any effort of this kind, and I have a very recent example in the Stop FGM Campaign, some key ingredients are needed:
- the involvement and support of women leaders at national and international level in a position to influence decisions, behaviors, and public opinion worldwide.
- the involvement of organizations and enterprises where women are the key focus of their missions.
- highlighting successful projects and best practices, to pinpoint role models, create success stories and increase awareness and start actions on the issue on behalf of governments and decision makers
- ensuring long term, unflinching commitment, enthusiasm and determination.
As a first step an international Advisory Board will be established (and I accepted the honor of chairing it). Its composition will reflect a variety of geographical areas, races and religions. This should ensure that the diverse aspects of the Expo 2015 main theme are taken into account, as well as different cultural and economic realities.
Outstanding women leaders from various parts of the world will be invited to participate in the Advisory Board. They will have national and/or international leadership roles in public institutions, private companies, scientific and cultural organizations with strategic advantages in influencing opinions and behaviors of women and in supporting initiatives that will be held in their respective countries. I am honored to say that just a couple of days ago Mrs Mubarak accepted to be part of it. Other, prominent, names will soon be announced.
In brief, the Advisory Board will contribute to the success of the Women and Expo Project with their suggestions, influence and sponsorship. Their initial role will be to discuss and adopt a Plan of action.
For the next six years, an annual event will be planned in a specific region or continent. These annual events will highlight women's voices on a subject related to the theme of Expo 2015, and examine issues specific to their geographical area.
These events will also be connected to various cultural events featuring female talent in a variety of fields such as cinema, art or photography. The events will help to galvanize the attention and energy of women in each geographic zone to the Expo 2015 and its theme.
These events will be an occasion for creating partnerships and launching collaborations and creating the projects that will be presented at the Expo 2015 - projects that will cover a variety of issues from training to micro enterprises, from health to gastronomy, from medicine to education. Subsequent annual events will also be a forum for sharing results and best practices of current projects.
A Steering Committee will be established annually in Italy composed of prominent Italian personalities willing to sponsor the international program for that particular year through their patronage and network of relations.
In addition, the presence in Milan and in Italy of various ethnic groups with a dominant female presence, constitute a patrimony of ideas, competences and experiences that could contribute to the success of co-developed projects.
A non exhaustive list of projects highlighting women's issues and which could be undertaken immediately include :
- Culture : photo exhibits, annual awards for literature and films, and gastronomical events;
- Science : specific focus to be defined by the general scientific committee;
- Economy : best practices in agro-food micro-enterprises;
- Justice : female rights recognition addressing civil rights such as "right to ownership", especially of land, and the pursuit of full equality before the law;
- Medicine : reproductive health and/or overpopulation, health and nutrition of children;
- Social issues : empowerment of women in public life and institutions, integration of women in the distribution chain of food aid, access to education, migrant women and integration...
- Education : access to both primary and secondary levels.
- In other words : â€śwomen are like snowflakes. Alone, they risk to melt, but all together they can create an avalancheâ€ť. And this is exactly what we want to create: a positive avalanche to set in motion the stagnant waters in which many women are confined today.
- We have the opportunity, we have the experience and we have the network to achieve this objective. So letâ€™s get on with it.
- If, in 2015, the Women and Expo Project succeeds and if, in turn, Milan will be perceived as the "city friend of women" and finally, if Expo 2015 will be the first Expo in history where women will have a leading role, then all these elements together will undoubtedly contribute to the overall success of Expo 2015 "Feeding the planet, Energy for life".
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