Speech: Taking stronger action to keep the promises of Generation Equality

Opening remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Sima Bahous for the Generation Equality Accountability Moment

Generation Equality is our bold collective promise to the world’s women and girls. If we succeed, Generation Equality will accelerate the world’s progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and transform lives for generations to come. And we must succeed. Our ambitions are urgent. Women and girls continue to face the aftershocks of the pandemic, and all over the world we see rising threats to women’s rights. UN Women data show that—at the current rate of progress—it may take close to 300 years to achieve full gender equality. And I don’t think that any one of us here today, listening in, or in the world around us, would want to wait another 300 years.

Speech: Taking stronger action to keep the promises of Generation Equality

As we gather today—just over a year since the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico City and Paris—I am here to tell you that we must take stronger action to ensure that the promises of Generation Equality are kept. As Executive Director of UN Women, that commitment to stronger action for Generation Equality is my foremost priority.

So, I am delighted to announce today that I have new partners in those commitments who will energize our next phase through their participation in an advisory Multi-stakeholder Leadership Group. They are the governments of Tanzania, the United States, South Africa, Sweden and Georgia as well as, ex officio, the governments of France and Mexico. For Philanthropy, the Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. For the UN and international organizations, UNFPA, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the International Telecommunications Union. For civil society, the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, the Asamblea Nacional Politica de Mujeres, Shifting the Power Coalition, the Global Fund for Women, and the Initiative for Gender Equality and Sexual and Reproductive Health. For youth organizations, the YP Foundation, and Fridays for Future. For adolescent girls’ organizations, the ASODI-Women’s Association for Rural Development and Peace, and Amplify Girls. Other members are being confirmed and announcements will follow soon. Their collective leadership will be crucial.

Now is the time to keep pushing to sustain and increase our momentum. Generation Equality was not, and is not, a one-off event. It is a sustained journey. A journey that must be underpinned by accountability, delivery and results.

So where do we stand today on Generation Equality? I want to acknowledge that strong initial progress has been made. We have more than doubled the number of Generation Equality commitments since Paris—from 1,000 then to over 2,500 today. And, as the first Accountability Report findings today will demonstrate, there is positive progress. Commitments are being implemented and large numbers of new partnerships are being energized.

This month I have seen much evidence of all your sustained progress and support—at our Executive Board and throughout my meetings this UN General Assembly High Level Week with Heads of State and Ministers.

The seeds that were planted in Mexico City and Paris are starting to flourish all over the world. Yet we need to do far more to ensure that the promises of Generation Equality are kept.

Firstly, we need to raise our game on reporting and accountability. So far, we have data on just 31 per cent of commitments. We are grateful for those responses. But it is not enough. We need the full picture to achieve accountability and to drive momentum. The missing data are what will show where we are on track and where we are falling behind. I call on every commitment maker to fulfil their commitment on reporting.

Secondly, we must do more to grow resources for existing and new Generation Equality commitments. We know that so many actors committed to the vision of Generation Equality need more resources to meet and expand commitments or drive new ones. This is especially the case to fund the bold commitments of youth and feminist movements. We must not allow women’s rights to continue to be let down by under-investment and lack of funding. We must not.

Thirdly, we all need to expand Generation Equality. Securing the promise of Generation Equality compels us to expand our commitments, extend our geographic reach and catalyse new transformative commitments. There is so much more work still to be done. The 2023 Generation Equality Forum in New York is at the midpoint of our Generation Equality journey and the half-way mark of the SDGs.  Co-timed with the SDG Summit, this will be a critical moment to bring together these three imperatives: to ensure accountability, to mobilize resources and to energize new commitments in the urgent context of SDG acceleration.
 
My call to all of you today, as we look towards the 2023 Generation Equality Forum, is that you double-down. Double-down on your own accountability and reporting. Double-down on what you can do to energize resources, particularly towards the work of civil society and youth. And double-down to make a meaningful and lasting impact.

You have my personal leadership commitment to strengthening UN Women’s convening role to support your collective vision and work.

In one year’s time, at the Generation Equality Forum in New York, I want us all to stand here together with pride. With evidence of success, with powerful stories of impact, with the vast majority of commitment makers fully reporting—and with the confidence, dynamism and collective power that comes from knowing that SDG5, the Beijing Platform for Action, and our collective promises are in our sights and in our grasp.

Together, we have created an unprecedented opportunity. Let us reach forward together to realize that promise.

I thank you.