Remarks by John Hendra at breakfast dialogue on the follow-up to Rio+20 and the Post-2015 development agenda


Remarks by John Hendra at breakfast dialogue on the follow-up to Rio+20 and the Post-2015 development agenda. 10 October 2012.

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Ambassadors, colleagues and friends. I am very pleased to be with you this morning to speak about inequalities and the post-2015 development framework. Thank you to the International Movement ATD Forth World and the Baha'i International Community for hosting this meeting.

Before we look to the future, let me start by highlighting the importance of the Millennium Development Goals and the huge impact they have made on the lives of billions of people. The MDGs have shown that global consensus is possible, and they have been a great framework to achieve results. They have galvanized action on many fronts, including gender equality and women's empowerment. They have provided a focus for joint action and given us a frame for accountability within and between countries.

Significant strides have been made in reducing poverty, achieving gender parity in primary school enrolment, and halving the proportion of people without access to clean water. The MDGs have secured national ownership in many countries and been localized in others. They have attracted broad political and financial support. They are clear and measurable, and easy to communicate. All of these are positives we need to build on.

With only three years left we must accelerate actions to achieve the MDG targets by 2015 and improve results in those MDGs that are hardest to reach. All too often it is deeply rooted structural inequalities and exclusion which impede progress. As we know, the MDG least likely to be achieved is maternal mortality - and in many countries high maternal mortality rates persist among the poorest women, and remote and ethnic minority populations.

But a new framework must also take us further and address the gaps and limitations of the MDGs. In my view, the post-2015 agenda must fully embody the spirit of the Millennium Declaration: integrating a rights-based approach, effective governance, equality including gender equality, and environmental sustainability. It must address serious violations such as violence against women and girls that were excluded from the MDGs. It must acknowledge that peace and security are a pre-requisite for human development, and ensure that women participate fully in building productive and peaceful societies. And it must aim to eradicate poverty, eliminate inequalities, deprivation, and discrimination in all forms.

In some countries which have made overall progress towards the MDGs, disparities have actually increased and aggregate achievements can mask very severe deprivations. Viet Nam, for example, where I had the privilege to serve as UN Resident Coordinator for 5 years, is on track to achieve most of the MDGs and in 2010 ranked sixth for both absolute and relative progress. Yet inequality there is rising rapidly. Poor and vulnerable groups, including migrants and the urban poor, many of whom are women, increasingly experience social exclusion and unequal access to services and opportunities.

Nor does progress towards achieving the MDGs always guarantee inclusive, broad-based social and economic development. In terms of MDG achievement, Tunisia and Egypt were among the 8 best performing countries in 2010. Yet these countries saw regimes toppled by citizens asking for more democracy, better jobs, and a future for their young women and men. Political and economic exclusion and marginalization were among the key drivers of change - as was gender inequality. It is no accident that women, historically the most excluded, were at the forefront of social movements in these countries.

In order to succeed therefore, the post-2015 development framework must explicitly address discrimination and structural inequality - including gender inequality. Guidance is available in core international commitments, including CEDAW and the Beijing Platform for Action. The UN Task Team report “Realizing the Future We Want for All sets out a vision in which three fundamental principles - human rights, equality, and environmental sustainability - serve as the foundation for the post-2015 framework.

Just as importantly, the process itself must embody a rights-based approach that is inclusive and participatory. In this context, the UNDG has developed a broad consultation process. This includes national consultations on the post-2015 agenda in more than 50 countries with the aim of reaching 100 globally, eleven thematic consultations, and a web platform which is open to everyone. Please promote the consultation among your networks and encourage them to participate and have their say online.

As you can see on the there has already been a very strong response to the inequalities consultation, which UN Women co-leads with UNICEF. We have received more than 300 responses to a call for papers, many of which specifically address gender inequalities. The online discussion for the Inequalities Consultation is underway, and will focus on gender equality, followed by gender based violence, over the coming weeks.

Findings from the papers and online consultation will be synthesized in a report to be made available at a global consultation in Denmark in early 2013, and then to the High-Level Panel itself.

So what then would a post 2015 development framework with gender equality and women's rights at its center look like?

  • First, such a framework would be based on and consistent with existing commitments adopted by the international community to address inequality and discrimination including the CEDAW Convention.
  • Second, it would be universal and applicable to all countries, including developed countries and middle-income countries where inequality is rising rapidly.
  • Third, it would recognize gender equality as key to progress on development, human rights, sustainability and peace, and would include a separate gender equality goal as well as reflecting gender equality through all other targets and indicators.
  • Fourth, it would be transformative, seeking to change the structural factors - unequal power relations, exclusion and multiple forms of discrimination - which perpetuate inequalities and disparities.
  • Fifth, it would recognize that realizing people's rights, equality and human development - rather than a narrow focus on economic growth - is the hallmark of successful societies.
  • Sixth it would assess progress for the very poorest and most disadvantaged by disaggregating targets and indicators by income, age, ethnicity, sex, disability and so on, and would establish specific targets for vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
  • Seven, it would ensure voice and participation in the process of developing the framework and include the aspirations of the poorest and most vulnerable.
  • Finally, it would deliver accountability and transparency by putting in place mechanisms to engage people and civil society at all levels to set priorities and monitor progress; and enabling them to hold decision-makers accountable.

In closing, there are a number of questions to be answered as we move forward in what is undoubtedly a very complex process:

  • Firstly, how do we balance the need for a universal approach that aims to achieve equality and rights in all countries, with the need to set national priorities and target specific vulnerable and disadvantaged groups?
  • Secondly, how can we ensure the new development agenda is transformative, and avoid the limited approach that characterized the MDGs?
  • Thirdly, how can we integrate an understanding of gender dynamics of power, poverty and vulnerability into new development thinking on sustainability of societies, economies and the environment?
  • And finally, how will we most effectively bring together the different strands - peace and security, environmental sustainability, poverty reduction, and a right-based approach that addresses inequality and discrimination - into one framework?

These are just some of the questions to be answered if we are to achieve a new development paradigm that calls for the elimination of discrimination and inequalities and realizes the rights of the poorest and the most vulnerable.

We have come a long way with the MDGs and we can go even further post 2015 if we work and act together - and address what really impedes greater development progress

Thank you.