“We cannot win with half of the team left outside of the game” – Executive Director

Opening Statement to the First Regular Session UN Women Executive Board by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, 20 January 2014, New York

Date: Monday, January 20, 2014

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Distinguished delegates,
Colleagues and friends,

Happy New Year!
As we begin 2014, I want to thank all the good friends to UN Women, and express deep appreciation to the outgoing President of the Board, Ambassador Normans Penke of Latvia, and the entire bureau for 2013 for their efforts and dedication.

Thank you to Ms. Janet Karim of Malawi, Mr. Junichi Sumi of Japan, Ms. Elisa Diaz Gras of Mexico, and Mr. Vincent Herlihy of Ireland.

A warm welcome to the new Board members.

To the new President of the Board, Ambassador Gonzalo Koncke Pizzorno of Uruguay, who is represented today by Vice-President of the Board, Ms. Helen Beck of the Solomon Islands; Thank you …. and to the other members of the Bureau:

Mr. Pierre Fraye of Senegal,
Ms. Daria Wolosiuk of Poland and
Ms. Amy Haddad of Australia.

Please join me in welcoming our new members on Board!

I have high hopes that under your leadership, we will take the work of UN Women to greater heights.

Since we last met, I have conducted field visits, meeting partners in civil society, governments and the UN system.

I would like to express my appreciation for the work done by the UN Women team at Headquarters and in all our field offices, in support of women’s empowerment and gender equality in nationally owned and led development.   

And I welcome our new Interim Chief of Staff, Patricia Nozipho Bardill, and thank our outgoing Chief of Staff, Roswitha Newels, and wish her all the best.

In my remarks today, I will share highlights from the past year, share my unfolding vision on strengthening partnerships, and look ahead to key events and priorities in 2014. 


Distinguished delegates,

The world has watched with horror the continuing destruction of a beautiful country, the loss of life, and the untold suffering and hardship experienced by the people of Syria.

We have also seen devastating tragedy unfold in other countries, including South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

In all of these conflicts, women and children make up the majority of refugees and displaced people. 

For a moment I would like to address Syria to highlight the good work that UN Women performs in very difficult situations, as well as the limitations we face.

UN Women has been engaged with the people of Syria since the tragedy started to unfold, attending to humanitarian needs and supporting women to be peacemakers.

Last November, in Amman, we brought together Syrian women from various networks and political affiliations to look at their role in peacemaking. This process culminated in Geneva last week with 47 Syrian women leaders from inside and outside Syria who gathered to state their demands, and define their role in the peace process and beyond.

UN Women supported these women in their discussions with the UN Arab League Envoy to Syria, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, as a result of which the women issued a call:

  • For women to make up at least 30 per cent of the negotiating team at Geneva II peace talks this week.
  • For a free, pluralistic and democratic Syria that respects human rights and the equality of men and women.
  • For full political participation in shaping the future of their country. 
  • For a ceasefire, the release of political prisoners and end of the recruitment of child soldiers.

UN Women, in partnership with the Netherlands Government, assisted the women to get this far.  We will continue to support them as mandated by Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security to ensure they are implemented and pursued in spirit and letter.

We remain hopeful for, and committed to, an inclusive peace process that brings peace to Syria.

At this point I draw your attention to the screens to see some of the highlights and achievements for women and girls in 2013.

Early last year, activists mobilized across India to end violence against women. The Verma Committee issued a ground-breaking report detailing suggested amendments to the Criminal Law, some of which were adopted a few months later.

On 26 January, Kyrgyzstan passed strict legislation on bride kidnapping.

Kenyan Elections
In March, nearly 900 UN-Women-trained female candidates participated in peaceful Kenyan elections. The number of women legislators have  doubled.

The 57th Commission on the Status of Women reached an historic consensus on action to be taken to end violence against women and girls.

Rio favela App
UN Women and partners launched an online tool and app to combat violence against women in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, as part of our Safe Cities initiative.

Pakistan Elections
In May, unprecedented numbers of women voters turned out to vote in Pakistan’s elections, thanks partly to a massive public information campaign supported by UN Women.

European Union
In June, the European Union extended rights, support and protection to survivors of domestic violence across national borders.

Stand-alone Goal for Post-2015
Also in June, UN Women released a position paper for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development framework. Our campaign for a stand-alone gender equality goal has a broad and growing constituency.

Mali Elections
In July, UN Women helped to make women’s voices heard in Mali’s election, and during the year, 4000 Malian soldiers received training on gender equality and civilian protection.

Senegal PM
In September, Senegal appointed Aminata Toure, a former colleague of our sister agency, UNFPA, as Prime Minister. This appointment is part of a continent-wide trend of women’s leadership in Africa.

Domestic Workers’ Treaty
In September, after years of struggle, an international treaty on the rights of domestic workers came into force. Since then several countries have legislated to improve rights for domestic workers.

Rwandan Elections
Also in September, Rwanda’s place as the world’s only majority female parliament was cemented, with women winning an unprecedented 63.8 per cent of parliamentary seats in elections.

UN SCR 2122
In October, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2122, putting women’s leadership at the centre of all efforts to resolve conflict and promote peace for the first time.

#WomenShould Campaign
Also in October, a campaign developed for UN Women by Memac, Ogilvy and Mather in Dubai went viral – exposing the discrimination against women and sexism worldwide through real-life examples of Google searches.

Sahel Mission
In November I travelled with the UN Secretary-General, the World Bank President, and the African Union Chairperson in an historic joint mission to support people struggling with drought, famine and conflict in the Sahel region. The insights gained are enriching our programmes.

Orange your World
On 25 November, we kicked off the 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls. This was the biggest year yet, with events worldwide to “Orange your world”. We reached more than 76 million people.

In November, after advocacy by UN Women and civil society, it was announced that the Colombian Government’s five-person peace negotiating team would include two women.

In December, Malala was awarded the UN Human Rights prize.

Syrian Women in Geneva
And just last week, Syrian women met with UN Women and the UN/Arab League Special Envoy.

As you can see, UN Women is there, where women and girls face challenges. 

Bachelet elected as President of Chile

Another highlight was the election of my predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, as the president of Chile, for the second time.

Distinguished delegates,

UN Women has six clear strategic objectives:

    1. Supporting women to lead and participate in decision-making at all levels;
    2. Women’s economic empowerment;
    3. Ending violence against women and girls;
    4. Women, peace and security;
    5. Gender-responsive budgeting and planning;
    6.  Supporting global norms, policies and standards on gender equality and women’s empowerment and their implementation.

While tackling all the focus areas and the deliverables in the Strategic Plan 2014 to 2017, my vision is to emphasize economic empowerment and ending violence against women and girls even stronger.


I regard a strengthened focus on women’s economic empowerment as key because the surest path to end poverty is to empower women and girls.

Just as a bird cannot fly with one wing, the world cannot progress with half of the population held back. We cannot win with half of the team left outside of the game.

Allow me to give you just a few examples.

Giving women farmers the same tools as men would increase crop yields and reduce hunger for up to 150 million people.

According to the International Monetary Fund, if the number of female workers rose to the same levels of men in the United Arab Emirates, GDP would rise by 12 per cent, in Japan by 9 per cent, and in the United States by 5 per cent. Women are critical for the world’s economic recovery.

The International Labour Organization finds that some 860 million women are excluded from economic activity, a number expected to rise to 1 billion in the next decade, and grow, unless there are significant changes. 

Women are rightfully regarded as the next economic force for the world; however, five factors that have been identified that contribute to keeping women poor and from playing a more economically productive role are: 

  • Lack of access to finance;
  • Inequitable legal and social status;
  • Barriers to entrepreneurship;
  • Lack of education and training; and
  • Discriminatory labour policy and practice. 

All of these challenges fall within our shared scope of work.

Together with partners, we will focus on:

  • Expanding women’s and girls’ education, skills and workforce participation. 
  • Increasing women’s access and control over productive resources such as land and finance, and
  • Strengthening women’s rights and opportunities in the workplace and in the economy.
  • Encouraging gender-responsive budgeting and planning.

To make this a women’s century we have to remove the barriers so that that women can claim their rights, realize their potential and become an emerging economic force. We are devoting time and energy to this end.

Ending Violence against Women

We will also redouble efforts to eradicate violence against women and girls. With one in three women worldwide subjected to violence in her lifetime, this is the scourge of our time, demanding more mobilization and action.  

Civil society organizations all over the world have devoted themselves to this challenge. Governments are taking action and so is the UN system. But our collective effort has yet to give us the desired impact. 

UN Women continues to support nations to prevent and end violence against women and to provide services to survivors, but we all can do much more.

UN Women will use our voice and convening power to foster an even stronger global and national commitment and coordinated action on this matter.

The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the SAFE CITIES global initiative, the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign, and UN Women all need increased and dedicated funding to ensure an effective response to support nations as they take action to end violence against women and girls.

UN Women plans to mount a global partnership to prevent and end violence against women involving private sector, boys and men and effectively using the media. Guiding us in this effort are the agreed conclusions adopted last year by the UN Commission on the Status of Women to prevent and end violence against women and girls. Critical and measurable achievements are needed in this area.

I call for your support and welcome your ideas for this proposal.

Distinguished delegates,

I now turn to our important work on women, peace and security and the evaluation on women’s leadership and participation in peace and security and in humanitarian response that you have before you.
Later this morning, Marco Segone, Director of Evaluation, will introduce the report with its five recommendations to you, and John Hendra, my Deputy, will respond with management comments.

This evaluation is most valuable in ensuring UN Women is strategic and effective in our work on peace and security in partnership with others.

Women in conflict situations face increasingly desperate situations as the alarming reports from Syria, Central African Republic, Afghanistan or South Sudan testify.

Security Council decisions need to be implemented in every situation and we need to ensure women’s full role in promoting peace and security.

Distinguished delegates,

Later today we will brief you on UN Women’s draft humanitarian strategy.

There is rising demand for UN Women to support countries experiencing humanitarian crises, and to hold the UN system accountable for gender equality in its responses.

We welcome your views and feedback on our approach. 

Distinguished Board members,

UN Women’s work for women’s leadership and political participation remains a top priority. In the past year, we’ve worked to empower women as citizens, voters, and leaders.

And countries including Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Grenada, Kenya, and Albania have seen an increase of percentages of women in parliament.

In 2014, UN Women will respond to the multiple challenges limiting women’s political participation, from national to local level, in 61 countries. Specific work on elections is planned in 16 countries across the world.

We will also be supporting parliaments and local governments in dozens of countries to adopt and enforce gender-sensitive laws and policies. And we will support civil society in advocating to make gender equality and gender-responsive budgeting central to public policy.

Beijng+20, MDG Countdown, Post-2015

Distinguished delegates,

Beijing+20, the countdown to 2015 to achieve the MDGs, and the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda are major priorities in 2014.

UN Women is working to increase public and political support, action and funding for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Beijing+20 will reinforce our post-2015 advocacy for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment and the integration of a gender perspective into the targets and indicators of all other goals.

The Beijing+20 process is underway and we are asking governments to accelerate implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, and to undertake inclusive and comprehensive national consultations with the participation of all relevant Government Ministries, as well as with civil society and other actors.

The Open Working Group will look at gender equality in its February session – an important milestone on the road to the post-2015 development agenda. This will be followed by the 58th Commission on the Status of Women whose priority theme will be challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.

These are major opportunities and I count on you to continue to strengthen the case for gender equality and women’s empowerment, both as ends in themselves and as essential to peace and security, human rights and sustainable development.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action provide the defining policy framework for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

However, this unfinished agenda requires reinvigorated political commitment and action.

As we prepare to commemorate this 20th anniversary, I seek your active engagement and political leadership to make this process highly visible, dynamic and engaging and a success for women and girls.

UN Women will focus on political and social mobilization, the generation of new evidence and knowledge, and the promotion of greater investment in gender equality at all levels.

We are also working with regional commissions to hold regional consultations later in 2014 and with the entire UN system to ensure the process is as far-reaching as possible.

Monthly from March, we will focus on one of the 12 critical areas of concern with broad civil society participation.

Mobilizing financial resources

I would now like to draw your attention to financial resources.

Numbers force us to be direct and specific. The fact is that UN Women continues to struggle for adequate funding.

It will require a significant ramp-up in resources to achieve the Strategic Plan and Budgets approved by Member States for 2014/2015 of USD 690 million dollars. We need to raise USD 340 million in core resources and USD 350 million in non-core resources during 2014/2015 and I seek your support.

We are encouraged by the upward trend in 2013 for mobilizing resources, having set two new records.

Firstly, on the number of core contributing countries, we now have 130 countries, up from 113 in 2012.

Secondly, our core resources have risen to USD 152 million, up from USD 114 million in 2012.

While this is a respectable year-on-year increase of 33 per cent, it does not meet the budget set for the biennium of USD 350 million in core resources. We are short 80 million dollars and we have to close this gap in 2014 and 2015.

Our core resource base is widening and deepening and I encourage more countries to follow the examples set by our top donors.

In 2013, seven countries contributed more than 10 million dollars to core resources—the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark and Canada. In 2012, we had only four core donors contributing more than USD 10 million.

Regarding non-core resources, we are falling behind and will redouble our efforts to raise more resources.

Our latest estimate for 2012/2013 is USD 197 million. For 2014/2015, the budget approved by Member States is USD 350 million for non-core.

We are working hard to substantially increase our non-core portfolio in the near future, bolstered by the memorandum of understanding with the European Union and partnership agreements with a number of other donors.

But my main message today is that UN Women is delivering, but we can and must do more.

We all know that investing in women and gender equality is one of the best investments in development, and yet UN Women and women’s groups, and national and international investments for women and gender equality continue to remain underfunded.

Together we must right a historical wrong – weak investment in women’s empowerment and gender equality only weakens our chances to achieve the goals that we have set out for ourselves.

With Beijing+20 approaching, we do have a good opportunity to enhance fundraising.

We welcome the rating for UN Women from the Multilateral Aid Review, undertaken by the United Kingdom. And we are using the results and insight to further improve the organization.   

Strengthening partnerships and advocacy

At UN Women, our mantra is partnership. We need to work together to achieve the goals of our 2014-17 Strategic Plan. And together we can go far. 

We have strengthened partnerships with important private sector players, such as the Clinton Global Initiative, the World Economic Forum and Gucci’s Chime for Change campaign.

The number and value of UN Women’s private sector partners is increasing - I note current major partnerships with Coca-Cola and Zonta International and others. We are developing relations with the MasterCard Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

UN Women is also partnering with Intel and the She Will Connect initiative to connect 5 million women to the Internet within the next few years. We will start in Africa, with three pilot countries, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
And our Knowledge Gateway for women’s economic empowerment is already growing fast and has attracted many partners.

I am also pleased to announce that more than 650 companies have signed on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles. This is a beginning and more is to come.

Our 17 National Committees have also raised more than USD 1 million.

So let’s keep going and let’s aim high!
UN System partnerships and strategic alliances

To strengthen women’s economic opportunities, UN Women is taking steps to strengthen partnerships with the World Bank, regional development banks, the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Commission and the private sector to bolster national efforts. 

We are reaching to more civil society organizations and seeking those who work in the area of women’s economic empowerment.

To promote UN system-wide coherence and coordination, we signed letters of cooperation in 2013 with the World Food Programme, the UN Population Fund, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

UN system coordination will remain a priority for UN Women in 2014 building on the 2013 reports for the UN System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

UN Women and Civil Society 
UN Women considers civil society as a vital strategic partner.  

To date 30 Civil Society Advisory Groups have been set up and UN Women will establish such groups across all its offices.

We will host an important global civil society meeting in February to develop a strategy to better utilize civil society partnership. This should take our relationship to another level.   

Civil society networks are making important contributions to the Post 2015 discussions and resolutions on female genital mutilation, femicide, the fight to end violence against women, peace and security and disabilities.

I urge Member States to recognize civil society’s contribution to the new development frameworks and to create the space and resources for their continued participation.

Conclusion – looking forward

Together we can accomplish great things. 

We can all take inspiration from Nelson Mandela who was a role model and a father to many people in many ways. His passing should be used to strengthen the resolve of all to join hands to advance equality, freedom and justice for all.