Closing statement of Michelle Bachelet at Rio+20 UN Women Leaders’ Forum


Closing remarks of Michelle Bachelet Executive Director of UN Women at Rio+20 Women Leaders Forum. Rio, Brazil, 19 June 2012.

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I would like to congratulate all the participants on what has been a very exciting and productive day. Your contributions provided many substantive elements for the way forward for the Rio + 20 Conference.

Together we have expressed our concerns about the way the current economic model has not delivered sustainable development. Instead we see increasing inequalities, hunger and environmental decline.

We see slow progress for the goals of gender equality and women's empowerment as outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action, the Rio Declaration and other important agreements and treaties. We see setbacks in women's political participation in some countries, and have noted that more needs to be done to safeguard women's sexual and reproductive health and rights as agreed in Beijing and Cairo.

Another key concern is the way unsustainable production patterns such as oil exploitation threaten our eco-systems and community livelihoods, degrading the environment, destroying farms, water sources and fishing grounds, polluting the air, causing fires, fueling conflicts and insecurity, and creating political tensions and humanitarian crisis.

This has adverse consequences for the well-being of women, men and children, affecting their living standards, and exacerbating poverty, ill health and mortality.

We have also heard about the resilience and leadership of women as they organize to demand social, economic and environmental justice and offer concrete policy recommendations.

We have seen women entrepreneurs, showcasing their practical and innovative solutions. We have appreciated the importance of technological innovations for positive social change, the kind of change that happens when women's ingenuity and creativity turns waste or recycled cooking oil into energy, and shea butter into sustainable cosmetic and nutritional products.

Change also happens when women and girls become masters of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, when women are well positioned to get green jobs through solar energy. We have been inspired by the perspectives of women in indigenous communities through their empowerment and leadership in natural resource management.

We have also appreciated the efforts of private sector companies to promote equal opportunities for women and men.

Government representatives have shared their achievements in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment in sustainable development. We have heard from development partners about their commitment to a sustainable development agenda supportive of women's and girls' rights and empowerment through their development assistance and foreign policy.

We all agree that there is urgent need for a shift towards people-centred sustainable development anchored in human rights, gender equality and women's empowerment. This shift will require a redirection of priorities towards inclusiveness, sustainable production and consumption, management of natural resources and respect of our planetary boundaries.

This shift should lay the foundations of the post-2015 development agenda.

Moving forward, we recognize the need to reinforce accountability on all fronts—governments, the United Nations and other international organizations, international financial institutions and regional banks, civil society and the private sector—and genuine participation by civil society, with women's rights organizations and gender equality advocates central in this endeavour.

Consequently, we call for action to enable women to contribute to and benefit from sustainable development. We call for universal access to essential services, such as safe drinking water and basic sanitation, energy, education and health, especially sexual and reproductive health, and social protection.

Opening remarks of Michelle Bachelet at Rio+20 UN Women Leaders' Forum

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Good morning and welcome to the UN Women Leaders Forum. It is so great to see all of you here!

I would like to thank the Government of Brazil for hosting the Rio+20 Conference and providing strong support to this Leaders Forum. I especially want to express my gratitude to Izabella Teixeira, Minister of Environment, and Eleonora Menicucci de Oliveira, Minister of Policies for Women. UN Women is pleased to join Brazil and all of you in leading the way forward!

My friends,

We are here to make our voices heard. Sustainable development requires women's rights, equal opportunities and women's full participation. The current model—of environmental decline, rising inequality and an up-and-down economy is not sustainable. A world in balance requires gender equality.

The women's movement—and efforts by governments, the United Nations, women's rights organizations and the broader civil society—have brought us to where we are today.

Twenty years ago, the Rio Declaration emphasized that women's full participation is essential to achieving sustainable development. Twenty years later, women continue to face inequality in rights, opportunities and participation.

Today one woman dies every 2 minutes from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Gender-based violence is a global epidemic. Women earn less than men for the same work, and remain under-represented in decision-making.

This is not sustainable. This social exclusion of women is not only hurting women, it is hurting all of us.

For the sake of current and future generations, we must nurture and develop all of humankind's collective intelligence, wisdom and capacity. The full and equal participation and leadership of women is no longer an option. It is an urgent necessity if we are to achieve the transformational change needed at all levels and spheres of society for sustainable development.

UN Women is hosting this Leaders' Forum and the Women Leaders' Summit on the 21st to tell Rio and the world about The Future that Women Want.

We are not coming to Rio+20 to reaffirm what we have already agreed upon. We need a new development paradigm that is inclusive, people-centered, protects the environment, and is built on the premise of human rights, dignity and equality for all of us—all 7 billion people on our planet.

The struggle for gender equality is a determining feature of recent generations. Now, we need to make sure that it forms the basis for the structural, cultural and institutional change that is required for sustainable development.

Looking beyond 2015, we need a development framework that prioritizes gender equality and the empowerment of women. We would like to see a comprehensive sustainable development goal on gender equality and the inclusion of gender-sensitive targets and indicators in all other goals.

And most of all we need to turn words into action! Action so that the right to sexual and reproductive health is turned into reliable information and quality, affordable and accessible health services where they are needed.

Action so that decent work and equal pay are turned into jobs that protect workers' rights, including the rights of women.

Action so that violence against women and girls is turned into new attitudes that promote zero tolerance for these crimes and zero impunity.

Action so that leadership that is today monopolized by men is turned into equal opportunities and equal participation by women and men. Diversity makes for more sound and responsive decision-making.

We have no time to waste. Now is the time for action.

Action so that climate change and environmental decline are turned into the urgent priorities that they are and dealt with in an intelligent, cooperative and urgent manner.

Action so that women and men enjoy equal rights, opportunity and participation.

So let us stand strong and make our voices heard.

I invite all of you to contribute to this Forum and share your realities, struggles and progress. I invite you to propose concrete actions for building a new model of development.

As leaders coming from diverse constituencies from around the world, your recommendations will make a substantial difference in charting the way forward. Your views will inform the Women Leaders' Summit that UN Women is hosting two days from now. We will issue a Call to Action about the Future Women Want.

We have no time to waste. Let us make our voices heard. The full and equal participation of women strengthens democracy, peace and sustainable development.

I thank you!

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