UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

Women and Gender Equality in the Aid Effectiveness Agenda


Date: 30 November 2011

Remarks of Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness — Special session on Gender. Busan, South Korea, 30 November 2011.

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Excellencies, Distinguished delegates, UN colleagues and friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you at this Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. I thank the Republic of Korea for hosting us and extending its gracious hospitality and I thank US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her opening remarks.

On behalf of UN Women, I am pleased to chair this Special Session on Gender. Special thanks go to our collaborators, the World Bank and OECD Gendernet, and the co-hosts, the United States and the Republic of Korea. This session is the result of a concerted effort to prioritize women and gender equality in the aid effectiveness agenda.

As we meet, countries around the world face economic and social pressures, and there is increasing focus on inequality. We find ourselves in a world where the majority of the poor no longer live in poor countries.

Some 960 million poor people, or 72 percent of the world's poor, now live in middle-income countries. Compare this with two decades ago when 93 percent of the world's poor lived in low-income countries.

The majority of the world's poor are women. This brings to the forefront the challenge of addressing inequality, both between women and men, and between and within countries.

All over the world, there are rising demands for equality and justice. In response, and here at this conference, we hear calls for greater transparency, inclusiveness, accountability and partnership. During this time of transition, we have an opportunity to institutionalize these principles to foster change that is democratic. I submit that gender equality is central to this transition. It is a transition from aid effectiveness to social and economic development that is not only effective, but also just and sustainable.

Last year UN Women was established in the belief that advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will generate greater progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other goals and targets, to the benefit of everyone.

We have today very clear evidence, from the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Economic Forum and private sector think tanks that gender discrimination and inequality do not just violate human rights but are economically inefficient. As the World Bank's World Development Report 2012 says, gender equality is smart economics. By making the right policy choices to tackle gender discrimination, countries can unleash women's potential and make greater social and economic progress.

Smart choices are needed because women continue to be left behind. Statistics show us how far we are from gender equality. Of the estimated 1.3 billion poor in the world more than sixty per cent are women. Women are responsible for two-thirds of the world's working hours and produce half of the world's food, yet earn only 10 percent of the world's income and own less than one percent of the world's property. And far too many women experience physical or sexual violence, which derails equality.

So clearly we can and must do better. For aid and development to be effective, gender equality needs to be addressed effectively. And we need to take a critical look at the allocation of resources for women's empowerment and gender equality.

On this the data are clear. Overall, policies and objectives on gender equality are not matched by adequate resources. There is a lot of talk and now there is an urgent need to walk the talk, to move from speech lines to budget lines, and match policies on gender equality with the needed resources.

Today limits on women's full participation in the economy are slowing growth. In this region alone, limits on women's participation in the workforce cost the Asia Pacific economy an estimated US$89 billion every year. For a world that is still struggling to emerge from economic instability, how much longer can we wait to unleash the full potential of women and girls? UN Women is delighted that concerned governments have developed an Action Plan on Gender Equality that pulls together commitments reached and endorses a process to review our action and progress. We have an opportunity here in Busan to make evidence-based choices, and I would like to suggest three concrete and practical ways for us to move forward.

Firstly, we need to make sure that policies and programmes are based on human rights with a focus on gender equality. We need to move from mainstreaming gender as a cross-cutting issue to prioritizing women's empowerment and gender equality.

Secondly, we need to make the development process more inclusive and focused on partnership by ensuring the full and equal participation of women.

Thirdly, we need to advance transparency and mutual accountability for development effectiveness by using agreed indicators for gender equality. This will promote gender responsive programs and budgets and it requires strengthened evidence and data for gender equality.

UN Women is proud of our exciting new Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) programme with the UN Statistical Division. This programme responds to rising demand by countries in all regions for support to improve the availability and use of gender statistics.

In closing, I look forward to our discussions today to identify what works and what needs to be done so that the commitments made here in Busan lead to bold actions for women's empowerment and gender equality.

I thank you.