Delivering as One for Women

Date: Friday, November 18, 2011

Remarks of Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women at the Plenary Session on “Sustainability of Delivering as One in the framework of a new modality for international cooperation for development. Montevideo, Uruguay, 8 November 2011.

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Mr. Chair, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, my fellow UN colleagues and friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be here with you at this High Level Intergovernmental Conference. I would like to specially thank the Government of Uruguay for hosting us and extending its gracious hospitality.

Mr. Chair,

The concept of Delivering as One is at the heart of UN Women. In many ways we are its child, and proudly see ourselves as such. At its heart, the concept of Delivering as One is both stirring and sobering. It is stirring in that we know how much more we can achieve if we work together better.

It is sobering because we sense, more strongly than ever in a generation, the corrosion of belief in the values of multilateralism, and know that a United Nations that presents itself as fractured, uncoordinated and at times even competing with itself will not retain the trust of its partners for long.

So for those, such as me and I am sure all of us here, who believe passionately in the ideals of multilateralism, and the role that the United Nations plays within that, Delivering as One is not an option. It is a necessity if we are to help achieve impact for men and women, girls and boys, for their peace, security, human rights and development.

In the specific case of UN Women, there is a simple, and I believe undeniable, proposition that arises from the principle of Delivering as One. We were established in the belief that if the entire UN system delivers as one in support of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the world will, for example, be more likely to achieve the MDGs and other international targets and goals, and everyone will benefit. Surely there could be few things more obvious or straightforward than that?

And yet, we know that it is not obvious to everyone, and certainly we were under no illusions that it would be straightforward. So we need to ask ourselves, why is something that should be so clear, that makes such obvious sense, something that all of us should embrace without hesitation, should sometimes be so slow and challenging?

I do not wish to overlook or denigrate the efforts and remarkable achievements that have been made to date. There are achievements, the establishment of my own agency numbering among them. For UN Women, the experience of working in Delivering as One and self-starter countries has been invaluable. We have seen a marked improvement in the focus on gender equality in the pilots, with greater involvement of different agencies and the UNCT as a whole.

We have seen new and innovative strategies to address country specific challenges. And we have seen stronger leadership of national partners, particularly the national women's machineries. Those most important judges of all in this process, the Governments of Delivering as One countries, have clearly articulated that the approach has allowed them better access to the resources and mandates of the entire UN system, including non-resident UN organizations.

Delivering as One has also supported a focus on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged segments of society, in particular through joint country analytic work and by strengthening national capacities. The country-led evaluations suggest that it has provided better opportunities for the UN to engage in upstream policy advice and advocacy. It has improved coordination and partnerships with development partners. It has enhanced mutual accountability for results.

So there are many good things about which we can be pleased, and it is right that we celebrate them and learn from them. But at the same time, let us be honest with ourselves that the pace of change is not what it could be. We have to work out how to improve and accelerate our efforts, if we are to improve and accelerate our results. And none of us can have any doubt that we are at a moment in our history that demands speed and not procrastination.

Before I offer some thoughts about how we might do this, let me share my perspective and that of my agency on why we must do this. It is about the relevance of the UN system. Relevance will be achieved by those who deliver results for all, particularly the most vulnerable, through strengthening the capacities of institutions and people themselves, through partnering to build stronger economies, stronger governance, stronger societies.

And we believe that there is no more effective way to deliver results than investing in women and girls, and there is not a more pertinent question to ask of our achievements than what they have delivered for women and girls. Results must be judged in terms of what they contribute to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, while gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are essential to achieving development results.

We are making progress in this regard, but it is too little and it is too slow. Statistics show us how far we are from gender equality. Of the estimated 1.3 billion poor in the world more than sixty percent are women. Up to six out of every ten women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours and produce half of the world's food, yet earn only 10 per cent of the world's income and own less than one per cent of the world's property in 2010, six percent of elected head of states or government were women. On average, women hold 16 percent of ministerial posts and 19 percent of seats in parliament. And in the sciences throughout the world, only a handful of women preside over a national science academy.

We have today very clear evidence, from the World Bank, FAO, World Economic Forum and private sector think tanks to demonstrate that gender discrimination and inequality do not just violate human rights but are economically inefficient. As the World Bank's World Development Report 2012 says, gender equality is smart economics. It is not just good for women, it is good for society as a whole.

For a world that is still struggling to emerge from economic instability, how much longer can we wait to harness the most valuable untapped natural resource we all have? So as many of you have heard me say before: including the other 50 per cent of the population on an equal footing is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do, and there is no better time to act than now.

Mr. Chair,

Delivering as One has delivered. But looking at the world around us, we see that the task we collectively share demands that we do more, better, faster. I would like to suggest some ways for us to look at that task, and above all act upon it.

First, we need to raise the sights of Delivering as One, and look at coherence across the whole of the UN system, including work in peace and security and in humanitarian and post-conflict contexts. The circumstances of real people are not determined by which part of the UN happens to lead, or what funding or planning modality we may be using at the time.

They expect us to bring to bear every relevant aspect of our capacity toward the improvement of their lives So Delivering as One needs to be more consistently about everything the UN does, from the Headquarters level to the field. We need to respond to the clearly articulated demands of our partners without hesitation, and not become distracted by our own, more supply orientated preoccupations. One good example here is potentially our work on social protection, which has relevance across the UN system and which speaks directly to the fears and hopes that people have in times of instability and crisis.

Second, and on the subject of all levels of the UN, I believe we need to be honest that while it is right, appropriate and perhaps to be expected that so much of the energy for Delivering as One has come from the field, conversely, sometimes the field level has pulled the headquarters level somewhat reluctantly behind it. We need to make sure that the energy, innovation and determination of our colleagues at country level is not only supported but also matched by those of us at the headquarters level. I believe we can do much better.

Third, and related to this, we also need to be honest to ourselves in the UN system in terms of what we are achieving. I hope you will forgive my being blunt, but there remain many among our colleagues and staff who are unenthusiastic, even fearful. This is not because they are foolish or self-serving, but rather because they do not yet see that the Delivering as One approach serves their individual mandates, and sometimes because they have spent too long in their institution and become unable to see the bigger picture.

It is also, perhaps, because we do not offer the right incentives. We need to show the benefits of delivering as one for every mandate, for all of us as partners together, and most importantly for the people we serve. One way to promote thisis to do more to encourage interagency mobility. But there are other ways too. And those such as me who lead the constituent parts of the UN can do more to bring our teams on board, to make it clear what is expected, but also to show how when we work as one, all of us succeed and benefit.

For our part in UN Women, we know we need to provide leadership in the area of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, while also contributing proactively to all aspects of the reform process. We know we need to provide policy positions and strategies on Delivering as One that advance key international agreements, including the Beijing Platform for Action and CEDAW. And we know that we have our own work to do in making sure UN Women is equipped with a staff that is capable in every way of doing so.

Mr. Chair,

Sometimes we spend too much time reminding ourselves that the world is a complex place, and too little time on what that means in terms of our actions. When we look at the events of the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street protests, we see across the world a discontent with and breakdown in trust in political structures and the institutions.

Inequality between and within countries has always been at the core of what we do, but today it seems an issue that more and more of us are remembering and bringing to the fore. Political structures are changing rapidly, at the highest levels, and at the grass-roots. The old lines and relations between groupings of countries are blurring. Issues of food, fuel and water threaten not only to impede progress, but also to reverse it, all against the backdrop of climate change.

This is the environment within which we are operating and discussing Delivering as One. For us in UN Women, we are clear what this means. We will consider Delivering as One to have been a success when women enjoy equal opportunity with men; when women's rights are protected; when violence against women and girls is no longer tolerated and justice is served; and when women enjoy equal participation in decision-making and in the economic life of the families, communities and countries.

But we also understand our role to be as part of a United Nations family that collectively works, with a unity of intent and purpose and voice, for the goals of the UN Charter, in the pursuit of peace and security, human rights and development for all, equally, regardless of their beliefs, or their sex, or where they happened to be born, or to whom. That is the vision we share. For that vision to become a reality requires us to embrace Delivering as One more comprehensively, with greater energy, and with the utmost urgency.