Opening remarks by John Hendra at the LAC Regional Consultations ahead of CSW58

Speech by UN Women Deputy Executive Director John Hendra at the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Consultations ahead of CSW58, in Mexico City, 6 February 2014.


His Excellency, Mr. Jose Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, (Señor Ministro, gracias por su hospitalidad)
Her Excellency, Madam Lorena Cruz Sanchez, President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico,
Her Excellency, Madam Alejandrina Germán, Minister of Women’s Affairs of the Dominican Republic and Chair of the Board of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean,
Ministers and Government delegates from so many countries in the region,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Representatives from civil society,
Representatives from the media,
The UN Resident Coordinator and members of the UN Country Team and UN family,

Amigas y amigos, buenos días!

I am very pleased to be here this morning on behalf of UN Women. I would like to express UN Women’s great appreciation to the Government of Mexico for its leadership in convening these regional consultations. I also want to acknowledge the important initiatives Mexico has taken to promote peaceful, sustainable and equitable development, and the very constructive leadership the country has shown in multilateral and regional fora ensuring that the new development agenda leads to greater inclusion within countries. The recent election of Mexico to the United Nations Human Rights Council and to the Executive Board of UN Women are acknowledgements of this positive and constructive role and I would like to congratulate your for this.             

And, as Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, in particular, I would like to express our recognition and applaud the Government of Mexico for having elevated gender parity to Constitutional status in the electoral and political reforms just enacted, which is a true breakthrough, and a catalyst for achieving gender equality here, regionally and globally.

Further, I would like to also express UN Women’s great appreciation for the active role that governments and civil society in the Latin American and Caribbean region have played in CSW in the past, most recently at CSW57, where delegations from this region really helped move the agenda forward, and advocated for the adoption of unequivocal Agreed Conclusions. We hope to see the same high level of engagement this year!

Over the next two days we will discuss the challenges and achievements of the MDGs for women and girls, and the way forward to ensure that CSW58 also achieves strong Agreed Conclusions, and, importantly, lays the foundation for gender equality to be comprehensively and robustly addressed in the new post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. 

But before we can look forward, we need to look back. And that is what CSW58 is all about: reflecting on the contributions of the MDGs, and how we can accelerate all our efforts to achieve them in the just over 23 months that remain.

As we all know, the MDGs have made a significant contribution to development and poverty reduction since they were formulated in 2000. I won’t go through the global statistics you all know, but it is suffice to say they have helped make a difference in literally hundreds of millions of people’s lives around the world and have helped reshape the development landscape.

At the same time, progress has been uneven both within and between countries. In the Latin America and Caribbean region, a number of goals are off-track, with very significant implications for women and girls.

What’s more, the focus of the MDGs on national averages often obscures very significant inequalities within countries. Indeed, despite sustained growth, and with many middle-income countries, this region remains one of the most unequal in the world, with very large proportions of the population in a number of countries occupying the lowest socio-economic strata of society.

There can be no doubt that inequality, and in particular gender inequality and gender-based discrimination, impedes progress towards achieving all development goals. And critically, the MDG framework, important though it has been in focusing policy attention and resources, including on MDG3 –and we have seen some important results– the current MDG3 on Gender Equality does not go far enough to address the structural inequalities and discrimination that underpin these inequalities, and undermine progress for all humanity.

That’s why it is so critical that in our efforts in accelerating MDG achievement, we build on the lessons learned so far from the MDGs:

Specifically, MDG3 has been very important for signaling gender equality as a global priority. However, the targets of the current framework do not address several fundamental issues such as the disproportionate share of unpaid care work carried out by women and girls, women’s lack of access to assets and productive resources, women’s low participation in decision-making at all levels, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and violence against women and girls.

With just over 700 days left, we must do everything possible to accelerate achieving the MDGs, in particular goals such as reducing maternal mortality, where progress is seriously lagging.

And beyond that, any new generation goals adopted in the post-2015 agenda must really seek to be; first, transformative, and really tackle the structural factors that constrain progress; second, universal, applying to all countries regardless of economic status; and third, rights-based, addressing equality, including gender equality and women’s rights and empowerment of women.

The new Post-2015 Agenda and SDGs must build on these lessons learned, by directly tackling both unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent social norms and gender stereotypes that serve to impede progress and discriminate against women and girls. They must robustly integrate gender across all goals and targets that are developed and address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination; and must also address the broader context for the realization of gender equality, such as the impact of economic crises, persistent conflict, climate change and environmental degradation. The new development agenda must also build stronger institutions, more effective governance and greater accountability to deliver real change for women and girls.

Hence, a transformative, comprehensive, stand-alone goal that builds on the current MDG3, together with comprehensive integration of gender concerns in all other goals, targets and indicators, is clearly very much needed. And, in our view, a stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights, and women’s empowerment needs to address three critical dimensions:

First to ensure freedom from all forms of violence for women and girls.  The scourge of violence affects one-in-three women globally -yes, one in three women globally face physical or sexual violence in their lifetime- and here in the LAC region, despite advanced legal frameworks, rates of violence remain extremely high, including in its most extreme manifestation, femicide.

Second, gender equality in the distribution of capabilities and resources: knowledge, good health, sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls; and gender equality in access to resources and opportunities, including land, decent work and equal pay for work of equal value to build women’s economic and social security.

Third, gender equality in decision-making in all sectors – public, private, and household. Increased efforts are needed to ensure women’s equal participation in all spheres, including in the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power, and in local government. But also in corporate boards, in the media and within political parties.

So as we enter the CSW discussions, and as Member States start to negotiate the Sustainable Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda, it is vital that we tackle the unfinished business of the MDGs, including poverty eradication, health and education, and decent living standards and ensure maximum impact for women and girls. But just as critically, we must also address the missing issues in the MDG framework, and really move beyond the MDGs to bring together poverty eradication and sustainable development in one agenda, to establish a universal framework that addresses poverty and inequality wherever it occurs, and to ensure that the rights of all – and in particular women and girls – are fully realized. 

We count on your strong, passionate and principled support to help make this happen and I look forward to a strong declaration from this regional consultation that can be taken forward into the CSW deliberations globally.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you.