President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė
Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders

Remarks by H.E. President Dalia Grybauskaitė at the Panel Discussion “Women as a Critical Force in Democratic Governance” hosted by the Community of Democracies and the Council of Women World Leaders

24 September 2010, New York

When Lithuania took over the presidency of the Community of Democracies, the issue of women's rights and empowerment was chosen as one of the key areas of focus. On April 12th this year, I had the pleasure to open a convening meeting of the Community of Democracies working group on gender equality and women's rights in Vilnius. It was then that the idea of dedicating this UN Democracy Caucus meeting to women's role in promoting democratic governance first came up, and I am happy to see it realized in collaboration with the Council of Women World Leaders.

As we deal with the consequences of the global economic crisis, we need to explore new ideas and approaches, find solutions to long-standing problems. For example, in the European Union, it is estimated that if gender gaps were eliminated in employment and pay, the GDP would grow by nearly 30 percent.

There are also correlations between a large presence of women in national legislatures and the amount of trust and sense of legitimacy that people have about their government. Therefore, in times of difficulty, the number of women in leadership positions is growing. Women political leaders in Finland, Germany, the United States and India, as well as in some Latin American and African states are among the most influential politicians today.

One of the effective tools to meet public expectations and further promote the participation of women in democratic governance is personal example. Women leaders are expected to have a stronger sense of social responsibility and bring more honesty and openness to public initiatives.

Today in Lithuania women hold top positions - President, Speaker of the Parliament, Minister of Finance, and Minister of National Defense. Women are already making a difference in Lithuania.

I am convinced that the examples of their professional success will encourage young women of Lithuania to seek and compete for high managerial and political positions. In this way, we will be able to multiply the creativity.

The visibility of women and their achievements is even more important at international level. On the one hand, success stories inspire our women colleagues all around the world to take up new initiatives, to act bravely and creatively. On the other hand, widely spread information about the initiatives in the field of gender issues will surely improve project coordination and implementation.

We need to make good practices visible. I therefore invite you to explore avenues and decide on concrete actions at the high-level meeting on gender issues to be held in Vilnius in the summer of next year. The meeting will conclude Lithuania's presidency of the Community of Democracies - and give real momentum to further cooperation in women's empowerment.


Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania