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Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
News article9 May 2019Service for Foreign Policy Instruments

New OSCE-led survey provides much-needed data to combat violence against women and girls


On 6 and 7 May, participants in the Vienna-based conference, hosted by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and entitled Commitment – Data – Action!, underlined the importance of comparable data for improving policies and measures to prevent violence against women and girls.

Based on the results of the EU-funded and OSCE-led Survey on Violence against Women, Well-being and Safety of Women, the conference served to deliberate on the necessary action to be taken at country-level as well as by the OSCE to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Hilde Hardeman, the Director and Head of the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, underlined that eliminating violence against women and girls is at the core of the values of the European Union: “Violence against women and girls is a grave violation of human rights. What is more, such violence can also be a driver for conflict within societies. By gathering information on the scope of gender-based violence, we have provided the basis for addressing this fundamental problem. We now need to act together to end violence against women and girls once and for all.”

The EU-funded survey itself was conducted in the spring and summer of 2018 in seven OSCE participating States. 15,179 women between the ages of 18 and 74 were interviewed about their experiences of violence in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Moldova and Ukraine. The survey also covered Kosovo. Its methodology was based on that of the EU-wide survey on violence against women, which was conducted by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency in 2014. The collected data provides much-needed information on the current situation in OSCE participating States in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and will support the development of new approaches to protect and support women and girls. Moreover, together, the two surveys cover 35 OSCE participating states, including 28 EU Member States, on which they provide comparable data.

The OSCE Secretary General, Thomas Greminger, said: “The survey results are a call for action. The OSCE commitments on preventing and combating violence against women are clear and numerous entry points for action exist. The survey findings can help us to take up the challenge in a more targeted and systematic way. That’s why this survey is very important to us.”

Participants discuss the survey results and ways to prevent violence against women and girls. Photo: European Commission/ Sarah Männche.

As its main conclusion, the survey called for enhanced efforts to implement legislation and to improve action plans addressing violence against women and girls. It found that women from all parts of society, regardless of economic or social status, experience violence. However, certain groups of women, such as younger women, those who are economically dependent or those who have children, are at higher risk. Gender-based violence can result in severe physical and psychological pain for the survivors, who in the vast majority of cases do not report incidents. Many women are not aware of the help that is available to them after they have experienced violence or are silenced by deeply-rooted attitudes that act as barriers to seeking help.

Four parallel working groups – on economic empowerment of women, on the provision of services and a multi-sectoral approach to violence against women and girls, on engaging men and boys in combating it, and on data collection and SMART national action plans – allowed for in-depth discussions on these topics.

Participants explored how OSCE participating States can use the data provided by the survey to develop policies and strategies for monitoring and reporting as well as for awareness raising and further research. They stressed the need to improve the implementation of national legal frameworks and data collection and provide necessary resources for services. They agreed that a co-ordinated and multi-sectoral response mechanism must be put in place. This would ensure that women and girls are informed about their options and that the police and judiciary are trained in protection and support of survivors. The participants also discussed the need for overarching efforts to change gender stereotypes, biases and prejudices such as awareness-raising campaigns and the mainstreaming of information about gender equality in the education system.

The Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Gender, Melanne Verveer, stressed that States have a responsibility to make every effort to prevent violence against women, protect the survivors and prosecute the perpetrators: “Violence against women requires laws against it that are implemented, enforced and resourced. It needs policies and practices that work and are shared; monitoring that ensures accountability.”


The survey and conference were funded by the European Union’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) as well as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the OSCE participating States Austria, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, the United States and Sweden. The conference was organised in collaboration with UNFPA, the United Nations Development Program, UNICEF and UN Women.

Managed by the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) provides short- and mid-term assistance on conflict prevention, crisis-response and peace-building actions around the world. There are currently around 200 projects in over 75 countries. These IcSP projects are implemented by Non-Governmental Organisations, the UN and other International Organisations, EU Member State agencies and regional and sub-regional organisations.

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Publication date
9 May 2019
Service for Foreign Policy Instruments