European Commission and UN Women launch new partnership on women’s empowerment

Brussels, 19-10-2012 — / — The European Commission and UN Women today launched Spring Forward for Women, a new joint regional programme for the South Mediterranean Region. The programme aims to support national and regional stakeholders to empower women economically and politically in the context of the progress that has followed the Arab Spring. The new programme was signed by European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, and UN Women Assistant-Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director Policy and Programmes, John Hendra.

“Women in Tunisia and Libya were at the forefront of their revolutions. Arab women, like all women around the World, have a crucial role in shaping the evolution of their societies and hence the future of their countries. We need to ensure that women’s voices remain at the heart of the transformation process, so that Southern Mediterranean countries continue to strengthen the inclusive nature of the transition and respond to the calls of Arab women for Dignity. I hope that Spring Forward will be a significant boost in this endeavour.” said Commissioner Füle at the event.

“This programme comes at an important juncture with transformations taking place in many countries and women’s voices calling for lasting change. UN Women is intensifying its support for women’s economic empowerment and political participation in response to women’s demands. This programme is a critical step towards advancing women’s rights against the backdrop of the political, social and economic developments taking place in the region”, said Deputy Executive Director Hendra.

The Spring Forward programme will support initiatives by national and regional institutions and civil society organisations to ensure women’s active engagement in decision-making, empower women economically and enhance regional knowledge and experience-sharing on women’s political and economic rights.

The programme will respond to the support needed at regional and country levels. It will build on local initiatives, recognising that sustainable change must be locally-owned and led. The work at regional level will focus on several priorities: capacity building; increasing the participation of women in electoral processes; and strengthening local and national governments to have effective services toward poverty alleviation and advocacy. Targeting all Southern Mediterranean countries, the programme will complement actions focused on improving access to economic opportunities for marginalised women in a number of priority countries that are undergoing transition and reforms, such as Tunisia and Egypt.

Spring Forward is financed through a contribution of € 7 million from the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and of € 1.2 million from the UN Women core budget.


The Arab Spring has dramatically challenged the socio-political and economic landscape of the Southern Mediterranean region. The central role that women took within the Arab Spring has created new momentum for meaningful citizenship and political empowerment in a region with the lowest levels of political participation and economic engagement among women globally.

The objectives of Spring Forward are also based on the two Joint Communications of the European Commission and of the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy “A partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean” and “A new response to a changing Neighbourhood”, issued in March and May 2011, respectively. The programme will co-ordinate closely with other relevant non-EU and EU-funded projects.

The launch of Spring Forward follows the signature of a strategic partnership agreement between UN Women and the European Commission in April 2012. The Commission and UN Women are already working together regularly in areas of gender responsive budgeting, peace and security and political participation in Africa, Asia & Pacific and in Southern Caucasus.


For more information

Website of the DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid:

Website of EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle:

On the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI):

On UN Women:

Contacts :Anca Paduraru (+32 2 296 64 30)

Peter Stano (+32 2 295 74 84)

UN Women : Daniel Almeida (+32 2 213 14 45 ; + 32 487 89 07 64)


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