Towards an inclusive and gendered post-2015 agenda


UN Women Deputy Executive Director John Hendra participated in a panel on the “Key gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework” on 7 March during the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57). The objective of the panel was to solicit the views of CSW Member States and civil society on key issues in the post-2015 agenda.

Mr. Hendra outlined UN Women’s perspective on what a post-2015 agenda that has gender equality and women’s empowerment at its heart might look like. He described the need for the inclusion of a substantive stand-alone gender equality goal that is firmly grounded in women’s rights, based on existing human rights norms and standards, including CEDAW. This goal must be comprehensive, avoid repeating the narrow focus of Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG3), and include the specific gender issues that other goals and targets do not address, such as aim to eliminate violence against women and girls, expand women’s choices and opportunities, ensure their full participation in decision-making at all levels, and include sex-disaggregated targets and indicators.

One of the recurring critiques of the MDGs during the discussion was that the existing framework fails to address the structural and root causes of poverty and gender inequality, violence against women, and the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination experienced by women and girls around the world. Member States acknowledged that the denial of women’s rights is the most widespread driver of inequality in the world, and that gender inequality and the absence of equal opportunities diminishes the potential for development and exacerbates poverty. Calls were made for the post-2015 framework to focus on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.

Anita Nayar, Executive Committee member of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), highlighted some of the recommendations of the Women’s Major Group at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio in 2012 and the Regional Dialogue on Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda in Bangkok. She underlined calls from women’s groups for: coherent economic policies that generate living wage employment and that tackle gender-based discrimination in the labour markets, social protection systems that include support for women’s unpaid work, and progressive tax reforms and a financial transaction tax to finance basic social security and health care including comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.

There was strong consensus among Member State delegates and representatives of civil society that gender equality and the empowerment of women must be central in the post-2015 development framework. They agreed that the future framework should be based on the principles of human rights, equality and non-discrimination, and that there should be coherence between the new framework and sustainable development goals. Many participants expressed support for a stand-alone gender equality goal and the mainstreaming of a gender perspective across all other goals. There was also a call for a transformative development framework that would be action-oriented, inclusive, people-centered and applicable to all countries.

Dr. Caren Grown, Senior Gender Advisor in USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning, and Economist-In-Residence at American University, was the panel’s discussant. As the lead author of the 2005 UN Millennium Project Taskforce report “Taking action: achieving gender equality and empowering women,” she recalled the seven strategic priorities that the Task Force identified as minimum requirements to empower women: 1) strengthen opportunities for post-primary education for girls; 2) guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights; 3) invest in infrastructure to reduce women’s and girls’ time burdens; 4) guarantee women’s and girls’ property and inheritance rights; 5) eliminate gender inequality in employment by decreasing women’s reliance on informal employment, closing gender gaps in earnings, and reducing occupational segregation; 6) increase women’s share of seats in national parliaments and local governmental bodies; and 7) combat violence against girls and women. These priorities were adopted by the General Assembly in 2005 World Summit Outcome. She said these seven priorities resonate with the statements made by delegates during the event, and thus should be reflected in the post-2015 agenda.

In addition to recommendations focused on preventing and eliminating gender-based violence in the post-2015 agenda, participants called for improvements in maternal health and the integration of sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and proposed that the post-2015 framework include a financing and investment agenda for governments to play a central role in funding gender equality and accountability.

The summary of the discussion will serve as input to a report by ECOSOC based on the perspectives of all the functional commissions. That report will then be submitted to the General Assembly.