Ms. Lakshmi Puri statement at the first session of the meeting of the open working group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Date: Friday, March 15, 2013

Statement by Ms. Lakshmi Puri Deputy Executive Director of UN Women at the first session of the meeting of the open working group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). New York, 15 March 2013.

I would like to thank the Co-Chairs for giving UN Women the opportunity to speak today. I would like to focus my remarks on the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in advancing sustainable development and the need to prominently reflect this in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Distinguished members of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals,

In Rio last June, Member States recognized gender equality and the empowerment of women as drivers of sustainable development in all three dimensions – economic, environmental and social. They underscored women’s vital role in achieving sustainable development.

As you know the Rio+20 outcome document, which serves as the basis for the elaboration of SDGs, commits Member States to ensuring women’s equal rights, access, participation and leadership in the economy, society, political decision-making and resource allocation.

The document includes a dedicated section with commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment. It also includes explicit references to women’s empowerment and gender equality in twelve thematic areas : poverty eradication; food security and nutrition and sustainable agriculture; energy; water and sanitation; sustainable cities and human settlements; health and population; promoting full and productive employment; decent work for all and social protection; oceans and seas; small island developing States; disaster-risk reduction; desertification, land degradation and drought; and education.

This recognition across thematic areas underscores the importance and centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post 2015 development agenda.

It is essential to build on the foundations established at Rio+20 in the work of the Open Working Group and to ensure a firm basis for the inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the elaboration of Sustainable Development Goals and a future development framework.

I would like to reiterate two points that we heard from yesterday’s deliberations and which UN Women strongly supports: first, the need for inclusive and people-centered sustainable development; and second, the need to urgently address the persistence of inequalities.

Having women’s rights and gender equality at the core of sustainable development goals will respond and contribute to the realization of an inclusive, people-centered and equitable sustainable development. Sustainable development is not possible if it, at best, glosses over the needs, capacities and contributions of half of humanity – that is, women and girls.

Today, we have ample evidence that gender equality is a must to alleviate poverty, reduce inequalities, and drive progress on all Millennium Development Goals. After a century of progress and change, it is clear that in societies where women are empowered and their rights are protected and fulfilled, governance and participation are stronger, economies are more developed, and peace is sustainable.

The various processes related to the post-2015 development framework have emphasized that priority must be given to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the new development agenda. This message featured prominently in the results of the survey of Member States that was circulated to you by the UN Secretariat. It also came out loud and clear from consultations on inequalities.

The UN Secretary General has included “working with and for women” as well as sustainable development among its five generational priorities. And we are confident that the High-Level Panel on Post-2015 will make this one of their main recommendations.

To this day, some of the most blatant forms of discrimination and abuse continue to be against women – be it at home, in the workplace, in the society and in the wider international arena. Women’s contribution to society, the economy and the environment has remained largely untapped and disregarded.

Women are far from enjoying equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation and leadership with men. And this exclusion, this discrimination and this violence based on gender is one of the biggest obstacles that we face in advancing development that is sustainable in all its dimensions.

For these reasons, gender equality and women’s empowerment must feature prominently as a stand-alone goal, with comprehensive and transformative targets and indicators that capture the three dimensions of sustainable development.

At the same time, gender considerations should be mainstreamed in all other goals in all sectoral areas through the inclusion of specific targets and sex-disaggregated indicators for all relevant SDGs. This will not only help advance gender equality, it will in fact provide a better basis for the design and targeting of interventions to ensure the achievement of all goals.

For example, a potential SDG on water should include targets and indicators on women’s participation in water governance, the alleviation of their work burden, and the availability of infrastructures and services that are responsive to women’s needs and conditions. These are necessary conditions to ensure that a goal on water is achieved.

Gender mainstreaming will reflect the fact that women’s empowerment is an important end in itself, but that it is also instrumental and indeed essential for the achievement of sustainable development.

The Open Working Group has an opportunity but also a challenge before it. But it can draw from the rich and varied experiences and contributions from many stakeholders. UN Women as a member of the UN Technical Support Team to the Open Working Group will work together with the rest of the UN system to support to you in this important process.

I wish you much success in the work ahead of you.

Thank you.