Commonwealth Gender Priorities: Post-2015 Global Development Framework


Remarks by Lakshmi Puri Deputy Executive Director, UN Women 3 March 2013.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon! I would like to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat for their invitation to this event, which is so critical to the type of exchanges that UN Women seeks before the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women – CSW 57.

I am pleased to participate in this panel on the post-2015 development framework. This discussion could not have been timelier, as the CSW prepares to discuss three themes that are relevant to our discussion today: first, this year’s priority theme on the elimination of violence against women and girls; second, the preview on the priority theme of 2014: “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”; and third, the emerging issue on “key gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework”.

This discussion is also timely as the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda has just concluded its second meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, and prepares for its third and last meeting in Indonesia.

Today, I have only one message and I want to say it loud and clear: gender equality and women’s empowerment must be front and center in the post-2015 development agenda.

By now we have sufficient evidence that gender equality is a must to alleviate poverty, reduce inequalities, and drive progress on all Millennium Development Goals.

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

Yet to this day, the most blatant discrimination and abuse continues to be 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.

This is why UN Women is advocating for a comprehensive goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment – a goal that captures all the dimensions that are critical to unlocking women’s potential.

At the same time, gender equality considerations must be mainstreamed in all other goals or priority areas that will be defined.

Fortunately, we have much to build on. We have evidence that investing in gender equality and women’s empowerment benefits economies, societies, families and nations.

We also have international agreements, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, the ICPD Programme of Action, the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit Outcome, which all have highlighted the centrality of gender equality to sustainable development.

We have the Rio+20 outcome that reaffirmed women’s vital role, participation and leadership in all three dimensions of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental.

The Rio outcome also sets in motion the process for the elaboration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Although no themes for SDGs have been specifically identified, paragraph 247 of the outcome document indicates that the goals should be guided by thematic areas defined at Rio+20.

In addition, paragraph 104 underlines the importance of including gender-sensitive indicators across all relevant priority areas.

This puts gender equality and women’s empowerment in a good position to feature prominently as a standalone sustainable development goal, as well as be mainstreamed in all SDGs through gender-sensitive targets and indicators.

Gender dimensions will need to be captured in areas such as water, energy, food security and sustainable agriculture, sustainable cities and human settlements, desertification, land degradation and drought, oceans and seas, disaster risk reduction, and so on.

For example, on water, we are actively working with UN Water partners to make sure that a potential SDG captures gender dimensions through targets and indicators on women’s participation in water governance, the alleviation of their work burden, and the availability of infrastructures and services that are responsive to women’s needs and conditions.

We also need to define in more details the various gender dimensions that we want to see reflected. One dimension of the comprehensive gender equality goal should be the one you have been discussing here today – equitable governance and women’s leadership.

And this is not only about voice and influence in parliaments, but also a meaningful presence in other public institutions such as the media, firms, civil and political society as well as in private institutions – in the home and community.

Another dimension should be the elimination of violence against women. This is not only the most pervasive human rights violation. Violence against women is also an impediment to peace and security and to sustainable development.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to reach a progressive and forward-looking agreement at the CSW.

We want an outcome that will accelerate implementation and provide actionable points that Member-States can take forward to eliminate violence against women in their countries, regions, and globally.

I call on all of you to be bold and determined. We cannot afford a situation where there is no outcome and we cannot afford a situation where there is a weak outcome.

It will be an enormous challenge to bring different priority areas into one coherent framework, linking development, environmental sustainability, human rights and gender equality, peace and security.

At the same time, this process is also an opportunity to point more strongly to the interconnectedness of issues – progress in one area often depends on progress in another area.

For example, quotas for women politicians are not sufficient if women’s access to financial resources is limited. Access to school for girls is strengthened by measures on hygiene.

In addition, the post-2015 development framework must be universal and transformative, given the interconnectedness of global crises and challenges. It must address the structural causes of gender inequality and other forms of inequalities as well as the inter-linkages between the economic, environmental and social dimensions.

UN Women stands ready to work with countries of the Commonwealth for a participatory, inclusive and transparent process to define the post-2015 development agenda and to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment is prioritized in the framework as an essential aspect of inclusive and sustainable development.

Thank you.