Speech: Nurturing together our crucial, radical mandate

Closing remarks by Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, at the Executive Board Annual Session

[As delivered]

As we close our session, let me remind us all that this is World Refugee Day. The rights of women and girl refugees are fundamental to our collective efforts for gender equality, and our responsibility to them has never been more deserving of our fullest attention. I encourage us to remember today and going forward all those who have been forced from their homes and the imperative of their safety, security and the freedom to build lives with dignity. 

I am extremely grateful to H.E. Markova Concepción Jaramillo, president of our Executive Board, and my dear friend, for her steadfast leadership. My gratitude also to our Vice Presidents whose skilful negotiations led to our adoption of a record seven substantive decisions this session.

I also thank the Experts, Ms. Clara Brandt, Ms. Marie-Eve Castonguay, Mr. Michel Kouakou, Ms. Iwona Lula, Mr. Mohammed Smesem, and Mr. Golibjon Gulov, and Ms. Marilyn Thompson.

I hope you all share my pride in our UN Women team whether here in the room or elsewhere, not least Jean-Luc Bories, the Secretary of the Executive Board, and his entire team. I’d like, on your behalf, to thank them all.

And finally, to all of you here in the room, my thanks not only for a very successful and encouraging Annual Session, but also for your steadfast commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment, for your investment in our work, and for your trust.

We know we are fortunate that our relationship with you, our Board, remains one of trust, honesty, and support. We do not take that for granted. We know it is earned and I believe in this session I heard you tell us that we are on the right track while also communicating clearly what you expect of us going forward. 

You understand our mandate best. You know what it takes in terms of political support, financial support, partnership and collaboration. That understanding has driven our ability to set that record for agreeing seven serious, substantive and crucial decisions that will guide us as we complete the current Strategic Plan and look to the next one. 

My only ask to you as we do so is to remember, as my predecessor Michelle Bachelet said, as she sat here over a decade ago, that while the love of our mandate energizes us, UN Women cannot deliver on “love and fresh air alone”, that we cannot do more with less, and even to do more with the same is not easy these days. You have asked us to do more, and we will, including on the key issues of which you have made decisions today. So, I in turn ask you to support us to do more. I will reiterate our ask to all those in a position to do so to continue to think of us when funding decisions are made, and to remember that regular resources or core funding are crucial to our mandate. 

I appreciate the constructive spirit demonstrated by all delegations in the pursuit of consensus building that has allowed us to conclude our work successfully in this session.

I note the new language and requests from Member States around organizational culture, diversity, inclusion and equity, discussion around racial discrimination and racism in the UN system and around the implementation of our triple mandate at country level.

We will make sure that the Executive Board is kept abreast of all these important issues in the next sessions, as requested by Member States.

I also noted your strong support for our coordination mandate. Be assured that we will fully utilize our comparative advantage within the United Nations system and across our extensive network of partners and allies.

My entire team are heartened by your positive reception of my Annual Report this year. The endorsement of the EDAR and of UN Women’s results, I believe, reflects the hard work my team has been doing on strengthening the results culture of UN Women. I see it is paying off and we will continue to seek to build on this positive trajectory.

I note your feedback on our work in crises. Our contribution in this area needs to grow. You have my unwavering commitment that it will wherever it is needed – from Afghanistan to Gaza, Sudan, Haiti and elsewhere.

You heard this also first-hand yesterday with results from the largest region, Asia and the Pacific. From the women’s civil organizations we are partnering with in Afghanistan to the innovative partnership we are leading with the private sector on the economy of care, our work in this region reflects the unique value we bring to the collective efforts for the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

I also heard you loud and clear in your asks for us to be clear on the ambition of Beijing+30 and on the next steps of the Gender Acceleration Plan. I noted your valuable questions about the ways in which we aspire to UN Women 2.0 better fulfilling our core functions while remaining agile, fit for purpose and closer to those we serve. I look forward to continuing our discussions on all these points, including pivoting to the field, particularly in the context of our next strategic plan.

Over the next months, the world will watch in the hope that all stakeholders embrace their respective accountability, recommit to the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action and SDG5 and put forward tangible actions and the necessary resources to achieve this vision. 

We begin already in September with the Summit for the Future, a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reshape the thinking of what lies ahead with actions and solutions.

From the Global Digital compact proposal that will help us navigate the increasingly complex digital future, to the New Agenda for Peace that aims to strengthen our solidarity – including solidarity to strengthen humanitarian response as we have discussed in these past days, to taking bold, meaningful and transformative actions to accelerate Agenda 2023, it is crucial that all women, particularly young women and girls are at the heart of these proposed solutions. We look forward to working with all of you to that end.

We should walk away from this session with our ambitions elevated, energized and ready to capitalize on the opportunities before us. 

I am even more confident after this session that we can meet those ambitions, and that we will do so together. 

I said on Tuesday that I believe this is a moment of inflection, that at a time of rapid political change and increasing rejection of business as usual, we have a chance to reject the realities of entrenched inequality and glacial progress toward SDG 5. The mandate we nurture together is not only crucial, but also radical. It imagines something different and something better. As UN Women we know we could not have any better companion for the work ahead than you, our esteemed Board. 

You have asked more of us, and that is appropriate. We have asked more of you, and that is appropriate too. Now, let’s go to work.

Thank you.