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Remarks by Lakshmi Puri at the NGO CSW Forum

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Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, at the NGO CSW Forum on “What do we want from Beijing+20”, New York, 9 March 2014.

Date: 09 March 2014

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Distinguished leaders of civil society, 
Friends and colleagues, 
Brothers and sisters, 

Good afternoon!

It is such a great pleasure to join you once again for this important Forum. The voices of civil society, always so vibrant and engaging, are what give the CSW its special soul. UN Women is so pleased to be part of this event today.  

I have been a feminist advocate my whole life. I was born in a feminist family. Both my father and mother were pioneers in their own generation and put me and my two sisters on the path of self-realization and encouraged us to become accomplished women. 

Building on this, I have learnt throughout my life and my career, that gender equality and women’s empowerment is critical to see progress for all, and that it is central to world peace, to human rights, and to development – the three pillars of the organization I am honored to serve, the United Nations. This is why I have promoted this agenda in various capacities. I felt so privileged to be part of the creation of UN Women and to fully dedicate my professional life to the pursuit of gender equality and women’s rights.

So it is both on a professional and personal level that I am looking forward with anticipation to the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Platform remains our guiding framework – a gold standard for the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights. Although the world has changed since Beijing, it remains all too relevant to address challenges faced by women and girls today. 

I am deeply concerned by pervasive gender inequalities that continue to exist everywhere in the world. No country has achieved gender equality and the social norms, gender stereotypes and discrimination in various forms that continue to hold us back, are deep in our common psyche. The gender equality project is one of transformation and change at the individual, social, and political level. To be successful, this transformation has to unfold within families, communities, nations and at the global and regional levels too. 

This is also why this remains a contest project, a disputed agenda. There is no doubt that we have seen progress since the Beijing conference – the lives of women and girls have improved in many places around the world; and the global normative framework has deepened and strengthened. The progressive and forward-looking outcome of the Commission on the Status of Women last year, testifies to the commitment of Member States to eliminate violence against women and girls. However, debates around so-called sensitive issues such as culture, religion and tradition, and on sexual and reproductive rights, show that more efforts are needed.  

This is why we at UN Women have made political recommitment and social mobilization, the two key priorities of the Beijing+20 process. As we know, the Beijing agenda remains unfinished and requires accelerated implementation. While civil society played and continues to play a key role in bringing about progress, governments need to take greater responsibility to deliver on the commitments they made almost 20 years ago. Yes, Beijing+20 is also about accountability. 

I also see this process as an opportunity to expand the support base for the gender equality agenda. We must engage men and boys, because gender equality is not only about women. It is also essential to build a new generation of gender equality advocates. We need to get young women on board and ensure that their voices are heard.

Beijing+20 will be an opportunity to look closely at the critical areas of the Beijing Platform of Action and identify new trends, achievements and gaps. It will also be an occasion to bring out and highlight new and cross-cutting issues that were not as relevant 20 years ago. I am thinking, for example, about climate change, progress in ICT, etc.

I also see the Beijing+20 process as an opportunity to remind people that women stand at the cross-roads of multiple and compounding inequalities such as gender, age, race, and ethnicity. 

For UN Women, Beijing+20 will be a major priority in 2014 and 2015. It takes place at a very strategic moment, as we accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs and during the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda and SDGs. The confluence of these processes provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position gender equality and women’s empowerment front and center, on the global agenda. 

Therefore, Beijing+20 will not only reenergize implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and our agenda, it will also contribute to positioning gender equality and women’s empowerment prominently in the post-2015 development agenda. 

UN Women and I more broadly look forward to working with civil society during the Beijing +20 processes and in our broader efforts to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women.  

Thank you. 
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