The century of inclusion and womens full participation

Date: Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kapuscinski Lecture: Michelle Bachelet United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women : “The century of inclusion and women’s full participation”. Dublin, Ireland. 21 February, 2013.

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I am very happy to be here with you tonight in Dublin and on the grounds of your prestigious college.

I thank Minister Costello for taking time out of his busy schedule to be here, his wonderful introductory remarks and to chair this important event.

I thank the University College Dublin, the European Commission, and UNDP, the UN Development Programme, for inviting me here to deliver the distinguished Kapuscinski Lecture.

President Brady, Registrar and Deputy President Rogers, Professor Farrell, Professor Walsh, Ms. Nolan, Mr. Szczycinski, many thanks for your hospitality.

Prior to my arriving here, I was in Copenhagen at the initiative of the Governments of Denmark and Ghana for a global consultation on inequalities as part of on-going discussions for a post-2015 development agenda. And here we have a key issue of our times: Inequality.


We entered this century with great hopes. We entered it on the premise of the Millennium Development Goals, the MDGs, to chart a more peaceful and prosperous way forward. But very early on in this 21st century, global events ranging from natural disasters to the profound economic and financial crises and conflicts set in and we find ourselves in a time of profound change and uncertainty.


So, today, I wish to share with you some thoughts on key opportunities I see for us together building a 21st century that advances equality, peace, and development.

My basic premise is that for doing so, we need to increase trust and the engagement between people and their leaders and institutions. We need to be inclusive.

I would certainly hope that this theme would resonate with the man in whose name we meet today, the Polish writer, Ryszard Kapuscinski.

Through his magical journalism, he explored power and he explored the always changing yet the so fundamental relationship that we call the social contract, that fragile yet that imperative relationship for stability and prosperity – the contract between the governed and the governing.

Today, skepticism about politics, lack of trust in leaders and institutions, and reactive rather than proactive policy making seems to be a hallmark of our times.

New technologies, social media, questioning of the various paths of growth that societies have taken, the ever increasing speed of events, and more complex relations at the global level give the impression that – events drive us rather than us driving events.

There was a time when top-down leadership was the mantra. There was a time of belief in the power and authority of the leader.

If I am convinced of one thing, it is that to manage today’s complex challenges, leaders must first and foremost listen and actively engage all segments of a society, engage people in problem solving.

As the founding Executive Director of UN Women and not just because of that, for me that means the MUST to include half of the world’s population that has historically been marginalized: Women.

My saying is: The 21st century must be the century of inclusion and that has to include women’s equal leadership and participation.

We will not realize our goals for building true citizen democracies, ensuring peace and a development that is sustainable and for all, if we fail at inclusion.

It will need all of us coming together if we want to come true on the premise of the Charter of the United Nations.

It is only by including all, by coming together that we can face the serious problems of human rights, war and peace, deep poverty and inequality, and humanitarian need, be it from Gaza to northern Mali to Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan , the Congo and Syria.

More than a quarter century ago Ryszard Kapuscinski said: “Society is asking to be more and more involved in the problems of the world, being active, being personally present.”

The desire to be involved, to be active and personally present, is not just a personal wish or a societal trend. That is a desire and the subject of the writings since humankind and it is a basic human right articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and elaborated in international treaties.

The rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government, comprise articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And, these rights have been at the center of democratic movements of the 20th and 21st centuries.

These are rights that triggered historic changes. These are rights that moved the Arab world as millions of men and women took to the streets to demand change.

In other parts of the world, the so-called 99 percent made their voices heard through the global Occupy movement protesting economic, political and social inequalities.

Today as never before, people can come together in much greater numbers and at much greater speed and without borders through mobile phones and social media, interacting with each other, and with leaders and institutions, in new ways that few would have imagined a few decades ago.

But have we learnt to fully harness the positive, the beneficial potential of our technological progress to advance in that most basic of premise of inclusion.

Well, I have bad news for you – in every country, in every region, people remain excluded from the opportunity to play an active role in public life. They are excluded on the mere basis of their race, income level, ethnicity, age, religion, location, and gender.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My life in public service has taught me that we need to build on experiences. So I posit before you two concrete situations, two opportunities also on how we can work toward inclusion.

I shall illustrate my points through the opportunities – the MDGs and post-2015 agenda discussions present for all of us and what we have learnt through our work on the nexus of women, peace and security.

We express our deep concerns about violence in Syria and Mali, renewed fighting and population displacement in Eastern DRC, Sudan and South Sudan, continued insecurity in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, the complexity of transitions in the Arab world, and the precarious recovery of many post-conflict countries where UN missions are preparing to draw down and exit.

But many of us are particularly concerned about these conflicts’ impact on women’s lives and women’s rights and the squandering of the peacebuilding potential of half of the population.

The percentage of women at peace tables or in the police and military component of peace missions remains in the single digits.

So does the percentage of post-conflict spending budgeted specifically to empower women or promote gender equality.

And yet millions of women and girls are displaced from their land, attacked on their way to and from refugee camps, deprived of education, married off early, targeted and killed for defending human rights, sexually assaulted in detention centers or in their own communities, condemned to a life of indigence, and dispossessed of their livelihood with their hopes vanished.

We write protections for their rights into laws, resolutions, and conventions, but a minuscule percentage receive justice or reparations for the crimes committed against them.

We applaud women’s grassroots organizations for their role in promoting peace and reconciling communities, but we do not seem to have properly supported them and empowered them.

Women’s contributions to peace and democratization do not typically translate into leadership roles in decision-making institutions.

In the five parliamentary elections held in countries with UN missions in 2011, there were either small declines or just a modest increase in the number of women elected. The result was an average of a low 10 percent of seats in parliament for women. Out of 11 peace agreements signed in 2011, only two included specific provisions for women.

At the same time, we have now a number of opportunities to improve our record. I will list five of them.

First, the Secretary-General’s Seven Point Action Plan on women and peacebuilding sets out the most tangible sets of commitments to date across the UN system to create opportunities for women’s participation and leadership in mediation, post-conflict planning, financing, governance, security, rule of law, and economic recovery.

This includes a commitment to ensure that at least 40 per cent of beneficiaries of post-conflict economic recovery programmes are women, and to allocate at least 15 per cent of UN-managed programme funds in support of peacebuilding to address women’s rights and advance gender equality.

Gender markers are currently being applied by a number of UN entities and are likely to drive up the percentage of spending on gender equality in post-conflict recovery and humanitarian relief.

Secondly, the UN has embarked upon its most ambitious effort to date to strengthen the availability, deployability, and adequacy of civilian capacities for peacebuilding. As part of this process, we are undertaking the first holistic review of the way gender expertise is structured and deployed in post-conflict situations.

Third, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Secretary-General are determined to drive up, at a faster rate, the percentages of women in peacekeeping missions and in positions of senior leadership.

Fourth, there is growing evidence of the strong peace and recovery dividends that could be obtained from investing in women’s empowerment.

In many post-conflict countries, 40 per cent of households are female-headed, and researchers have found that women spend up to 90 percent of their income on their household’s education, health and nutrition, both during and after conflict.

In post-conflict countries with electoral gender quotas, women average 34 percent of parliamentarians.

Most promisingly, women’s political representation leaps upwards once gender quotas are used, meaning that once quotas are established in one election round, women do even better the next time.

We also know that having more women leaders has a role model effect that enhances the perception of possibilities and aspirations for girls.

Increasing the proportion of female teachers above 20 per cent is correlated with the increased enrollment of girls in school, and, in some cases, better student performance.

Increasing the proportion of female police officers above 30 percent shows an increased rate of reporting on sexual and gender-based violence.

These are facts. Facts that show progress but this progress is not enough. Yet, this also shows us the possibilities and how critical the inclusion of women is to building peace and security and above all maintaining it.

These experiences are no different from the countless examples of the 20th century in Europe with the stories of countless, unnamed women and their contributions to rebuilding.

These facts also convey critical lessons on the type of leadership this takes.

Allow me to turn to a further example and that is that of the Millennium Development Goals and successor arrangements.

The process for the post-2015 agenda we are now engaged in provides a unique opportunity to place priority on inclusion, and to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Just at the start of this week, the governments of Denmark and Ghana got the international community together on the topic of inequalities. Inequalities are and will continue to be the main challenge of our century.

Extensive consultations were held worldwide on this issue and we shared the final report of the addressing inequalities consultations, co-led by UN Women and UNICEF.

This was just one consultation of eleven being conducted under the co-leadership of UN agencies as part of the post 2015 consultations.

The report reflects an extensive global public consultation, held from September 2012 to January 2013, and is both the outcome of our engagement with multiple stakeholders through e-discussions, as well as the synthesis of 176 papers submitted to the consultation.

What did we already learn?

These ongoing consultations with civil society, with women’s rights organizations and with individuals from all over the world are a must and should not be a one-time effort.

We are talking about inequalities, therefore dialogue and inclusion must be at the center of addressing them. Engaging people in development is not a procedural formality, it is our collective duty.

If we do not listen and work with people, we cannot shape, let alone, implement a new development agenda. People are not beneficiaries, they are partners in development.

I clearly stated that now is the time to listen to the voices of women, to fully engage women, and to make women’s empowerment and gender equality a priority in the post-2015 global development agenda.

This is vital not because I am the Executive Director of UN WOMEN, but because women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in governments, local and national.

Violence against women continues to undermine efforts to reach all goals. So, clearly progress to 2015 and beyond will largely depend on success in tackling structural inequalities, ending violence and discrimination against women and girls, and promoting justice and equality.

Moving forward, we need a framework that is universal, founded in the principles of human rights, inclusion, equality and sustainability.

By now we have sufficient evidence that shows that promoting gender equality is a must to alleviate poverty, reduce disadvantage and drive progress on all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

After a century of progress and change, it is clear that in societies with more gender equality, democracy is stronger, economies are more developed and peace is a priority.

Yet to this day, the most blatant discrimination and abuse is still against women.

While women constitute over half of humanity, they are far from enjoying equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation and leadership with men.

And this exclusion, this discrimination and this violence based on gender, is one of the biggest obstacles that we face in advancing sustainable development.

One very important lesson we have learned from the MDGs is that our focus on numbers and averages- which are also important- distracted us from addressing the deeper, structural causes triggering poverty and inequality.

Now we have a real opportunity that we must seize, to tackle the deeply entrenched cultural and social norms and discriminatory laws, practices, and policies that hold back women and girls from reaching their full potential and contributing to a better world for all.

If we look at just two MDGs, MDG3 to promote gender equality and MDG5 to improve maternal health, we get a clearer picture of how we need to move forward.

Our target is to eliminate gender disparity in education by 2015. In too many countries, girls continue to be left behind. While there have been successes in primary education, adolescent girls are especially at risk of not finishing secondary school.

Many factors contribute to these high drop-out rates for girls.

These include cultural practices in families and society that impose constraints on girls’ secondary education; domestic responsibilities to do the chores and care-taking; a preference to educate sons; and pressure on girls for early marriage.

As a result, only 62 of 168 countries are expected to reach gender parity in secondary education by 2015.

We have learned that the crucial right to education can only be achieved by promoting and protecting girls’ human rights across the board.

In other words, it is not enough to focus on just getting more girls in school; we must also tackle the underlying social and economic challenges that are ultimately keeping girls out of school. We must get to the roots of discrimination and expand equal rights and opportunities.

The disparities in maternal mortality rates present another striking example of gender inequality.

While maternal deaths have declined in the last decade by 47 percent, it was mentioned last night that 800 women continue to die every day from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and 85 percent of these deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Of all the MDGs, the least progress has been on MDG5, to improve maternal health.

In fact, there is a graph that speaks volumes to this lack of progress. It shows global health funding over the past decade going up and up, while funding for sexual and reproductive health remains flat and virtually stagnant.

Analyses also show the large disparities that exist in access to reproductive health services.

Access to contraceptives and skilled attendance at childbirth differs dramatically between wealthy women in urban areas and poor women living in rural areas. The same is true for wealthy women in rural areas, and poor women in urban areas.

And we know that as a group, it is young women who have the least access to these services, which is one of the main reasons why the number one killer of 15-19 year-old girls worldwide, is complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

We have learned that reducing maternal mortality is possible in every region, and greater progress can be made if every woman can exercise her right to health, including the right to sexual and reproductive health, regardless of her age, income, ethnicity, or location.

It is time to make woman’s right to health throughout the life-cycle a global development priority.

As a pediatrician, I would add that we must put a strong effort on stopping child marriage.

These again are facts known to us. But what are the three critical lessons we should learn and that ought to guide our future action?

First, the state has a key role and responsibility to advance gender equality and end discrimination and violence against women and girls through laws, policies and programmes. States should make this an absolute priority.

If I may add, every country can deal with inequalities in their own way. But what is essential is the political will; how effectively states can tackle inequalities depends on political will.

No country can advance inclusive growth and equality without protecting the human rights of girls and women to live free of violence and discrimination.

It will take the full support of governments and the authority of the law to protect the hard-fought gains of men and women around the world- men and women who have worked and continue to work tirelessly, to bring about changes in cultural norms and social attitudes in their societies.

Second, to achieve true inclusion and equality, we must focus on the factors that place limits on women’s participation in public life and actively promote equal opportunities for women in the public and private sectors.

These include proactive measures to account for unpaid care work; to ensure women’s equal access to resources, assets and decent jobs; and to institute temporary special measures, such as quotas to place women in positions of decision-making, such as parliament and on corporate boards.

Third, states should institute a social protection floor, below which no person can fall.

Every person has the right to basic income security and universal access to essential social services such as health, water and sanitation, education, and food security.

This is not only for people; economies benefit from healthier, better prepared, and more equal societies.

Leaving behind the poorest, the most marginalized is not an option for societies in which every person has the right to live up to his or her potential.

The post-2015 agenda will have to rely on a new social contract between states and citizens, which prioritizes inclusion, equality, and democratic participation.

Let me also add, dealing with inequalities is not only about what we do in our separate countries.

We live in a world that is unequal. When we have unfair trade, we cannot improve the lives of small farmers even though we provide them with the best seeds.

We need to deal with inequality at the global governance system level to ensure that inequalities are tackled.

To achieve success in a new global development agenda, we need a unifying development goal on gender equality as a cross-cutting priority.

We need to work together to deliver on the promise of more equitable, inclusive, peaceful and sustainable societies for all. Nothing more and nothing less.

Time truly has run out to bury our heads in the sand.

It will be at our peril if we ignore the disruptive impact that growing inequalities present to people, communities, our societies, our planet, and a peaceful and sustainable future.

This is not a North-South divide. This concerns us all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I presented you with two specific observations yet there is something that unites these two distinct situations. The type of leadership we need.

For me, part of the solution that we seek is the kind of leadership that we will stand for.

People everywhere long for, and clamor for, legitimate leaders and legitimate policies. Leaders that find and, above all, carry out policies that give everyone a fair chance. Leaders that look past short-term gains and pave the way for a more equitable, more just and sustainable future. That is the challenge to action.

In the 21st century, leadership can no longer be by control and command. It is about listening and leveraging a response. Listening is key and leaders today have so many more tools to do so.

Leadership has to strive for inclusion. The castles are burning down. The fortresses and moats are no longer tenable.

Now is the time for openness and participation.

Leadership is not a singular or insular endeavor. Leadership is about consultation and collaboration. Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. True leadership is about participation and engagement.

Leadership pursues equality. We can no longer pursue public policies that, in effect, save the best for the best and the rest for the rest.

We need to advance universal values with universal coverage. Education and healthcare, safe water and sanitation, housing and energy, and decent work are not charitable contributions or government handouts; they are rights to which every human being is entitled.

This is especially important for girls and women. Today no society has achieved gender equality.

While many countries around the world have made significant progress towards gender equality in education, the glass is still half-full: women continue to earn less than men, are less likely to make it to the top of the career ladder, and are more likely to end their lives in poverty.

Leadership embraces diversity and integrative societies. True leaders strive to value and understand people. And for that, you need this: humility, respect for yourself and others, and a strong belief in the possible.

During my life, I have had the privilege to live in service of shared goals for democracy, equality and justice, first for my country of Chile, and now for the women of our world through UN Women.

And what I have learned is that leadership is not an attribute. Leadership is a journey.

It is important never to give up and always look to the future. This does not mean forgetting about the past.

On the contrary, the need for a better society is derived from lessons learnt.

In building a democratic nation, one builds on the past, moving forward with a sense of mission for a future that includes everyone and ensures equal rights and opportunities.

When I was Minister of Defense in Chile, before I became President, my mission was to further reform of the defense sector and to continue working to ensure the rule of law.

During the military regime, human rights were violated and the military was a symbol of fear for the people.

By approaching this duty with hope instead of anger, it was possible to support the people and the armed forces to move forward in a spirit of national identity and determination. We were driven by a shared sense of mission to overcome authoritarianism by creating institutions to uphold democratic values.

Democracy is rooted in solidarity, peace and justice, and democratic reform requires leadership with conviction. It also requires equality and inclusion.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ryszard Kapuscinski once said: “The biggest contradiction in a growing world is that, while experiencing a period of development and progress, the latter yields inequality. The greater the progress, the wider the inequality.”

That is a matter of fact observation, but I would say we can and we must do better.

In moving forward in this already challenging 21st century, I hold the position that we need to redefine what progress is – progress is that progress where we measure how well we promote inclusion and reduce inequalities.

I took up the position as the founding Executive Director of UN Women out of a deep conviction that the progress we need to see in inclusion will also have to push vigorously and with conviction for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

We are pushing for governments to agree on—and then take—measures so that women can access opportunities as leaders and fully participate in decision-making, whether related to policies, social or economic issues, or the environment.

We are pushing for women’s equal opportunities in economies. This demands a series of measures, such as providing childcare and work life policies, ending violence and discrimination, and removing barriers women face to owning land and accessing credit.

This is our contribution to inclusion.

Sustainable development will only come when every person has access to essential public services, including for education, health care, water, sanitation, energy and social protection.

I now ask for Your contribution and let me conclude by quoting an Irish proverb “An áit a bhuil do chroí is ann a thabharfas do chosa thú.”

Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.

I ask you to show that heart and the courage to make this century the century of inclusion.

Thank you.

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