Canada hosts first meeting of women foreign ministers

"I will always promote equal representation and respect for the rights of women and girls" Freeland said, because "when we are all involved in the decision-making process, our societies become stronger, our economies and our middle class become more prosperous and our countries safer."

Freeland is co-chairing the meeting with EU foreign affairs representative Federica Mogherini. At the opening session, both expressed hope that this meeting will mark the beginning of a tradition of cooperation between women ministers.

In addition to Freeland and Mogherini, the conference brings together ministers from 18 other countries: Andorra, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Namibia, Norway, Panama, South Africa, Rwanda, South Africa, Saint Lucia and Sweden.

Human Rights Watch reports the summit comes at a critical time for women globally. 

"Despite great strides in human rights protections, women and girls remain targets of egregious rights violations for which those responsible are rarely held to account."

A critical issue the summit could address is the thousands of Rohingya women and girls who were raped and sexually assaulted by security forces in Myanmar last year.

The widely publicized incident drew international attention, but in order for the International Criminal Court to prosecute sexual and gender-based crimes, the UN Security Council must take action to refer the Myanmar case to the ICC. 

The foreign ministers could use the summit as a platform to call on the Security Council to take action against the gender-based violence in Myanmar and across the globe. 

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