Speech: Rising to the challenge, driving forward solutions

Closing remarks by UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous at the second regular session of the UN Women Executive Board, UN Headquarters, 13 September 2023.

[As delivered.]

Let me first thank H.E. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, the President of the Executive Board throughout the year and presiding over this second regular session.

Mr. President, in absentia, thank you for leading this body throughout the year with such dedication and skill. I know that the commitment to gender equality we have seen under Ukraine’s Presidency reflects your country’s commitment to human rights and the values of the United Nations. I thank you for it and know that you will continue to drive this forward wherever you go. Thank you, Ukraine.

Scenes from the second regular session of the UN Women Executive Board, held at UN Headquarters, 12–13 September 2023. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.
Scenes from the second regular session of the UN Women Executive Board, held at UN Headquarters, 12–13 September 2023. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

I also thank the Vice-Presidents for their valuable leadership contributions within their regional groups and their rich contributions through the year.

In particular, I recognize Ambassador Massari from Italy who chaired the afternoon session yesterday, and Ambassador Greco, also from Italy, who has chaired us through this morning, as well as the invaluable contributions of the Ambassadors of Colombia and Thailand throughout the year, and Nelly, the distinguished representative of Cameroon.

Let us all acknowledge with gratitude those who have led the facilitation of today’s three substantive decisions: Mr. Diego Antonino Cimino, Ms. Yaroslava Sochka, and Ms. Nelly Banakan Elel. I thank you for this service. I heard that the negotiations were skilfully conducted in a very constructive spirit, and I thank all delegations for that.

The elements of these decisions will sustain and guide UN Women through the concluding years of the Strategic Plan and chart our organizational path beyond. The Board’s approval of UN Women’s institutional budget and the continued positive engagement in the Structured Dialogue on Financing reinforce essential building blocks for the future. Adequate and flexible resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment are pivotal to our ability, in partnership, to implement our mandate across the humanitarian, development, and peace nexus. The last of the three decisions, on the ethics function of UN Women, is also a welcome “first”, marking the inception of this newly established independent function.

Last but not least, allow me to recognize our experienced and committed Secretary of the Executive Board, Jean-Luc Bories, and his very able team. They always ensure the smooth sailing of the Board proceedings, and this summer also worked hard to prepare the Pacific field visit, which, as I mentioned yesterday, was also a success. And of course, my thanks go to my two Deputies ad interim, Sarah Hendriks and Moez Doraid, and to my Executive Office team, as well as to all those in UN Women here in headquarters and in the field, who have supported us all throughout the year and who continue to serve the women and girls of the world.

Yesterday’s discussions reconfirmed the importance of our triple mandate and underlined the importance placed by this Board on the strength, quality, capacity, and alignment of our operations at country level. We will capitalize on the ongoing JIU [Joint Inspection Unit] review to further enhance this direction and to focus on the development work that will most impact women and girls.

As many noted, and as the budget numbers demonstrate, we have strongly signalled this commitment through the 87.5 per cent that is focused on programmatic activities. Within this, we will pursue a strong emphasis on increasing women’s economic empowerment, in collaboration with a wide range of Member States, UN, and civil society partners.

It is not only UN Women’s capacities that are important in the work to push forward for women’s rights and secure their safety and prosperity; it is our ability as the UN system as a whole. Our intentional efforts to work more closely with the Resident Coordinator system will be critical in this regard. You have my commitment, again, that I will continue to assert both UN Women’s leadership and collaborative spirit at the heart of the UN in all these endeavours.

Just this morning we heard about our impact on the ground, in my own region, the Arab States. The example of advancing women’s economic empowerment remains one of our best practices. The potential we can unlock by ensuring that women contribute to the economy and the development of their nations is tremendous. It is one key to unlock the challenges of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and the aspirations they hold.

Allow me to thank you, also, for your continued support to UN Women’s critical core resources. These resources allow us to be flexible, nimble, and aptly respond to the many crises we face. They allow us to implement our Strategic Plan and to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world. They allow us to advance the important work you have entrusted us to do. I thank our core partners and welcome all partners to both increase and contribute to core resources.

We have two years to go within the current Strategic Plan. Backed by the evidence base of our research and data and with a lens focused by the best practice solutions we have garnered, we are already looking ahead. As you have seen in our SDG 5 progress report, there is no shortage of challenges to solve. But I am confident that together we will rise to the challenge, and we will drive forward solutions that are inclusive of the voices of women and girls across the world.

As we close today, so too do we look ahead to the first regular session of 2024, in a beneficial cycle of oversight, consolidation, and advance.

We look ahead to the highly relevant priority theme for the Commission on the Status of Women on poverty and financing and the work that we will do together to advance consensual progress on cutting-edge policies.

We close today knowing that we have your continued assurances of support and your demonstrated commitment to our triple mandate.

We go forward therefore into the next week of the UN General Assembly with confidence in the forward-facing multilateralism that we have seen demonstrated in this room, and that we as UN Women are determined to sustain through our central role in the UN system. I urge you to use your own critical platforms to speak up for the rights of women and girls, because we need all voices, in all settings, at all times.

I look forward to seeing you all again in the coming week. And I count on you for your continued advocacy for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in every setting and I wish you all a very successful General Assembly.

I thank you very much.