Closing remarks by Lakshmi Puri at the 2013 Annual Session of the Executive Board

Date: Friday, June 28, 2013

Closing remarks of Lakshmi Puri, Acting Head of UN Women, Executive Board Annual Session 2013, 27 June 2013, New York.

Good afternoon,

Mr. President,
Members of the Bureau,
Members of the Board,
Distinguished delegates,
Colleagues and friends,

I would like to thank you for guiding this annual session of the UN Women Executive Board to a successful conclusion. I especially thank the President and the Bureau members and UN Women colleagues in the Board Secretariat. And I thank the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates for hosting last night’s wonderful reception. I was so pleased to learn that four of your country’s fighter jet pilots are women. Women in the United Arab Emirates are also reaching new heights!

Distinguished Delegates,

I truly believe that this session marked a turning point for UN Women. Over the past three days, you have celebrated our success and achievements, and not only our potential. You are supporting our strategic plan that we have refreshed through 2017. You acknowledge that UN Women has up until now been under-resourced and you have committed to support us both politically and financially. We all know that we cannot shrink an organization to greatness.

On behalf of my colleagues, I thank you very much for your numerous expressions of appreciation and support to UN Women. We are indeed pleased with what we have accomplished together over the last two years – the institution we have built – the partnerships we have strengthened, and, as you have so eloquently underscored, the results we have achieved. The stars are shining bright on all of us.

Just three years ago, on 2 July 2010, your Governments and global forces came together to create UN Women. We were created with a vision, which is articulated in our draft updated Strategic Plan: The pursuit of gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment is the defining challenge of the twenty-first century. Its achievement would unleash the full potential of half the world’s population. It is a prerequisite and driver for sustainable development, poverty eradication, peace and security, and human rights.

This Board session came at a pivotal time for UN Women. We were looking back on what we have achieved and how we are going to move forward. This was our first Board session since the departure of our founding director, Michelle Bachelet. We pay her tribute and express our gratitude for her strong leadership of UN Women. We are carrying forward and building on her legacy.

We are powering on. We are focused on consolidating gains and building on momentum.

During this annual session, you have spoken about our emergence as a global leader for gender equality and the empowerment of women, a leader in advocacy, strengthening norms and standards, UN coordination, and delivering for women and girls in countries by focusing on strategic priorities that make a world of difference.

I want to assure you that in doing so we are fully cognizant of our universal mandate and of country ownership and leadership.

You have acknowledged that by advancing women’s political leadership and economic empowerment, by taking action to prevent and end violence against women and girls, by increasing women’s role in peace and security and by supporting gender-responsive planning and budgeting, we are a force multiplier for change.

You have recognized that in each of our priority areas, in our participation in CSW57, in our coordination of the System Wide Action Plan and its implementation, in our advocacy at Rio+20 and for a gender goal in the post-2015 development framework, UN Women has delivered results and made an impact.

You have applauded, commended and celebrated UN Women as a success story, a model of UN reform, and praised the progress we have made in such little time. And we appreciate your support and encouragement.

The opening day, we reviewed the progress we have made, and discussed the update of our strategic plan for 2014 through 2017. The second day we focused on finances, evaluation and the budget, and held our pledging event. And today on the third and final day, we had a chance to focus on the operational response of UN Women at country-level. We heard from the Deputy Minister and viewed a film where we heard from women in South Sudan. We saw real challenges and real opportunities. We saw how support and resources are desperately needed in a nation-building exercise, such as the one South Sudan is undertaking, to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women.

I believe that this session was a turning point for all of us. There is appreciation of our accomplishments and recognition that UN Women deserves a new and higher level of support.

I am pleased to report that 50 countries took the floor at yesterday’s pledging event, and UN Women now has a total of 94 pledges, up from 86 before. We have 14 multi-year pledges, 10 countries with increased funding, and 5 countries that pledged for the first time. The pledging event was an unqualified success. The stars were aligned. We also received the news from the UN Board of Auditors that we have a clean bill of health, a clean audit.

We are very pleased with the results and look forward to a stronger financial base as we move forward. That is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Board,

During this annual session, you have advised us on many important matters and on behalf of UN Women, I thank you. We do not just want to hear praise, but also your advice and guidance. We have taken note of your comments and suggestions and will take them fully into account as we move ahead. We will take forward the decisions that you have adopted on the Report of the Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director on progress made on the UN-Women Strategic Plan, 2011-2013 and the Report of the UN-Women Evaluation Function, 2012.

Many of you reported that you found the Strategic Plan narrative and results framework clear and compelling. We have also benefitted from your guidance on the draft integrated budget 2014-2015. This has paved the way for the September Board.

Moving forward, I would like to assure that we pay special attention to lessons learned. As a young organization, we are learning and paying close attention to what we did right, what we could do better and what we can learn from others — from other UN agencies, regional organizations and civil society.

We will also focus on resource mobilization. We will continue to widen and deepen our donor base in part through country specific outreach to traditional and non-traditional donors. We will continue to encourage double-digit contributions. When we have 10 to 15 such donors, we will approach the critical mass of funding needed.

We have a strong strategy and we are gearing up for a bold and strategic funding drive. We will reach out to all Governments, potential private sector and foundation partners, and multilateral and regional financial institutions and banks to achieve, and hopefully surpass, our financial targets. You must support us.

We appreciate your political support AND your financial support through prioritization, frontloading, increased pledges and early payments. I am confident that together we will reach the critical mass of funding needed to deliver on our mandate and the results in our Strategic Plan.

And we know that reaching the critical mass of funding for UN Women is a means to an end – so that all societies can reach the critical mass needed to reach the tipping point when change takes hold for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

We need to get to that point where change is irreversible and exponential. With every step that UN Women takes with you, we move closer to that point.

I thank you for your participation, pledges and praise and also for your push for us to keep improving and to keep reaching for the stars.

Your support is a testament to your commitment to the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women on a universal scale.

While we are fully aware that much work remains to be done, we are encouraged by your continued constructive feedback as we strive to enhance our efforts. We are moving forward with renewed energy after this Board session. For UN Women, and for all women and girls, the stars are looking brighter.