The 2017 Seoul Debates – a global platform to discuss effective ways to tackle gender-based violence in Korea and around the world

Apr 20, 2017

Seoul, 20 April 2017

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Seoul Policy Centre opened the 2017 Seoul Debates today, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Gender and Family of the Republic of Korea, with the aim to identify effective ways to address Gender-based Violence (GBV) by sharing lessons learnt from Korea and around the world.

Approximately one third of all women worldwide have experienced violence in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization. GBV is specifically addressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. The Sustainable Development Goals include a target to end GBV by 2030. Reducing GBV is a catalytic driver for the achievement of peace, economic productivity, rights, justice and social cohesion.

“Close partnerships are the key to achieving the elimination of GBV by 2030 and creating societies where women and girls are fully respected,” said Eun-hee Kang, Minister of Gender and Family of the Republic of Korea. “I hope that the targeted discussions over the next two days will lead to seeking solutions together, and increase the international community’s keen interest in GBV-related issues.”

Over 100 participants gathered at this year’s Seoul Debates, a third of whom include overseas senior government representatives, UNDP practitioners and civil society leaders from a dozen different countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Arab region. In addition, experts from UN organizations such as UNICEF, UN Women and UNFPA took part in the discussions.

The two-day event will facilitate peer-to-peer policy dialogue and thematic discussions among representatives from Vietnam, Colombia, Senegal, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Albania, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Rwanda, Myanmar, Kazakhstan and Turkey.

The Deputy Minister of the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jong-moon Choi, noting that Korea has been making strenuous and increasing efforts to fight GBV both at home and abroad, remarked that “the Korean Government – working together with the strong Korean civil society – has sought to introduce robust legal and institutional measures, combined with social education efforts in fighting and preventing GBV in our country. To be sure, there are rich lessons that have been learned out of Korea’s own experience in dealing with this challenge. Nevertheless, there is much to be improved in ‘getting to zero’ on GBV in Korean society.

Korea’s main GBV challenges, and innovative means of overcoming them, were presented by experts from 17 institutions including government institutes, as well as an array of prominent Korean civil society organizations, academics and development practitioners.

The meeting covered multiple aspects of Korea’s experience of addressing GBV, including: legislation and policy work; enhancement of the GBV case handling by the judiciary and the police; mechanisms to support victims of GBV, including the Sunflower Center; civil society movement and advocacy; along with prevention efforts through capacity-building and public awareness-raising. Through dedicated sessions, the Seoul Debates also highlighted the special importance of fighting GBV against children and persons with disabilities as well as GBV in the context of forced migration and sex trafficking.

“The ambitious agenda reflects the richness of this meeting in terms of participants as well as the complexity of addressing GBV,” said Balazs Horvath, Director of the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre.” “While there is no such thing as a ‘magic bullet’ in solving such complex and deep-rooted problems as GBV, we believe in the power and value of knowledge sharing and partnerships in addressing this issue.”

The meeting is organized as part of the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre’s approach to connect Korea with the wider UNDP network as a knowledge broker and facilitator, and contribute to the enhancement of the Korea-UNDP partnership on strategic development issues.The presentations and discussions will act as an incubator for the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre’s new Development Solutions Partnerships (DSPs) on GBV that will seek to identify and package Korea’s experience and knowledge, facilitate dynamic exchange of lessons learnt, and support the national adaptation of the tools at the country level.

After almost five decades, UNDP closed its Country Office in 2009 as Korea joined the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and became an official donor. With this changed status of Korea, the ‘UNDP Seoul Policy Centre for Global Development Partnerships’ was established in 2011, with the objective of brokering new partnerships between Korea and the developing world through UNDP’s global network in some 170 countries and territories.

The Seoul Debates is a flagship biennial event organized by the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre, as a means to fulfill its mandate to share Korea’s experiences with partner countries on strategic development issues. The third Seoul Debates since 2013, the event took place at the President Hotel in Seoul, Republic of Korea, and will conclude on 21 April 2017.