Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
March 16, 2022
Thank you very much and welcome, everyone. Welcome to “Renewing Democracy: A Global Partnership to End Online Harassment and Abuse.” The United States is proud to host this event on the side of the 66th Commission on the Status of Women.
It is my great honor to serve as the head of the United States’ delegation for this year’s CSW. One of the core priorities of the Biden Administration and our new National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality is preventing and responding to all forms of gender-based violence. Later this year, the United States will release the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence and an update to the 2016 U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally. And recognizing and addressing the harassment and abuse women face online is absolutely integral to that effort.
When President Biden first helped author and champion the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, there was no Google, no Facebook, no Twitter. Back then, there was simply no concept of harassment and abuse online. The internet was in its infancy. But now, as we all know, so much of the abuse, harassment, and even violence that women and girls face is facilitated by the internet – and even perpetrated on it. Reporters are harassed. Partners are stalked. People’s intimate photos and videos are shared online as a form of blackmail. And, unfortunately, these threats are multiplied for women from minority communities, LGBTQI+ women, gender diverse people, and women and girls with disabilities. This cannot continue to go unchecked. Our response to gender-based violence needs to be updated to the 21st century.
And that’s why, last week, Congress passed historic advances in its reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. We established a mechanism for individuals whose intimate images are disclosed without consent to recover damages and legal fees. And we’re supporting State, Tribal, and local government efforts to prevent, enforce, and prosecute cybercrimes, including cyberstalking.
Of course, we aren’t the only ones – my colleagues here representing our government partners in this work are leading the way in their own countries. Last week the European Commission released a similar proposal to tackle cybercrimes, with an emphasis on cyberstalking and harassment. The UK has been actively identifying ways to better incentivize a duty of care from online platforms. Sweden is supporting organizations and networks of women’s rights activists to enable them to address gender-based violence online at national, regional, and global levels. And Australia established the world’s first eSafety Commission by a national government in 2015.
Our goal today is to continue to work together to galvanize each other, and coordinate on a multilateral scale. Just as we have been partnering for decades to prevent and respond to traditional forms of gender-based violence, so too must we work to counter these threats online.
Here at the UN, and in the CSW, the United States will advance strong language on this issue – and we hope you’ll join us in doing the same. And I am very excited about the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Violence, Online Harassment, and Abuse. This effort will align countries, international organizations, and civil society to prioritize, understand, and address this growing scourge.
And we want you to join. We need everyone to elevate this issue of online harassment and abuse – it has been neglected for far too long. We were proud to announce this partnership with Denmark at the first Summit for Democracy last December. And we hope to deliver concrete results by the end of this year. In the meantime, we hope you’ll join us in our Global Partnership, and in all our efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence that happens online, offline, and everywhere in-between.
Thank you very much.