Speech: Shaping a more inclusive digital transformation with SDG 5 at the core
Opening remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Sima Bahous for “A year of action: Building more equal and inclusive digital societies through multi-stakeholder partnerships”
I thank the Ford Foundation for leading within Generation Equality and for continuing to inspire us on how best we can work together towards gender equality, women’s empowerment and the fulfillment of Generation Equality’s objectives.
A very warm welcome to today’s event. It is an honour to be here, with an inspiring line up of leaders to launch a ground-breaking year of action on the intersection of gender and technological change.
Today’s shifting power dynamics and the interconnected crises of conflict, COVID and climate are pushing progress towards gender equality off track—very much off track. New forms of assaults on women’s rights and democracy now threaten to roll back decades of progress that we have all worked on together. The most vulnerable populations are too often left behind.
We can see this profile all too clearly in the form of the digital divide. This has become the new face of gender inequality.
New technologies are proliferating that amplify and perpetuate existing inequalities and stereotypes. The digital divide is also preventing millions of women from accessing education, jobs and other indispensable services.
The UN Secretary-General alerted us in his Common Agenda Report: “we are at an inflection point in history”. Now is the time therefore to break the cycle of inequality and join forces to build an open, safe and equal digital future for the generations to come.
The coming months are going to be instrumental in shaping a more inclusive digital transformation. It is time to ensure that the future of innovation contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, with SDG 5 at the core.
There is no more timely agenda today than that of gender equality and digital technology. That is why in March 2023, the priority theme of the Commission on the Status of Women is: “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”.
This provides a unique opportunity to holistically examine the theme of innovation and technology from a gender perspective. CSW67 will be followed by the negotiation of a Global Digital Compact to develop shared principles. This will help connect all people to the internet, apply human rights principles to online spaces, and regulate emerging technologies. We will continue to work with governments across the world to shape the global normative framework, and then use the Agreed Conclusions of CSW67 to inform programmes and partnerships alike.
These preparations will require dialogue and strategic alliances among governments, UN agencies, private sector and civil society to deliver an ambitious vision and set of recommendations. Multi-stakeholder partnerships will have a key role in leading these processes to success.
Since its creation two years ago, the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Technology and Innovation for Gender Equality has been instrumental in shaping global standards on gender and digital technologies, a field that has been too often overlooked. The Action Coalition brings together ideas and institutions and has experimented with new systems of cooperation.
Your presence today, each and every one of you, contributes to expanding this global community of partners, who care deeply about generating bold commitments on gender equality and technology, centred on the most deeply impacted communities. More than ever, we need to stand together to affirm and reaffirm that “Digital rights are women’s rights”. We need to reaffirm that technology should always be designed to be safe, inclusive and accessible, right from the start. We need to reaffirm that online spaces should be free of abuse, and that we must improve accountability to fight harassment, discrimination and misleading content.
Our best and latest data estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the impact of other crises, has, unfortunately, further increased the time when the global gender gap will be closed—it has further increased it by a full generation. As a result, the distance remaining to achieve SDG 5 is even greater and time is short—very short.
Today, we are launching this Year of Action on Gender & Technological Change, to mobilize all innovation ecosystems to accelerate progress. And make digitalization a tool to achieve gender equality, social justice and poverty eradication.
Let us work together to ensure that everyone—irrespective of their gender, country of origin or economic background—has an equal opportunity to safely and meaningfully access, use, lead, and design technology. This is the vision of Generation Equality. This will be the bedrock of our joint accountability to deliver for women and girls in all their diversity, all over the world.
We count on each and every one of you to place gender equality at the heart of your work. The power to design a more equal and technology-driven future is in your hands.
I thank you.