Opening remarks by Lakshmi Puri on CSW lessons learned, at Africa Ministerial Preparatory Meeting for CSW58

Speech by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, delivered at the Africa Ministerial Preparatory Meeting for CSW58, in Addis Ababa, 8 February 2014.


It is a great honour and pleasure to participate in this meeting of representatives from countries in the African region, in preparation for the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

I would like to express my warmest thanks to all of you for accepting UN Women’s  invitation to come together in advance of the session, to strategize on the priority theme of “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls."

The preparatory meeting provides the African leaders with a critical strategic opportunity to strengthen the region’s collective voice and impact at the upcoming session of the Commission. It is also provides us with an important political platform to determine the actions required to accelerate progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Through the constructive and comprehensive reflection on the achievements and gaps in the implementation and the articulation of Africa’s own position on how to make further progress, we can achieve an outcome that has the potential to transform the lives of women and girls as well as men and boys around the region.

About CSW

The Commission on the Status of Women is without doubt the highest authority on issues of gender equality and the empowerment of women at the global level. It is an intergovernmental deliberative, consensus-building and policymaking organ, with one of the uppermost profiles of any of the intergovernmental bodies that meet at the United Nations.

The Commission on the Status of Women  attracts Ministers and senior government officials to its annual sessions with large national delegations, and broad representation of non-governmental organizations. The level and extent of participation in the CSW each year is a testimony to the value that governments and other stakeholders place upon the agenda of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The fifty-eighth session, which will open on 10 March 2014, will take place at a strategic moment. The global community is intensifying its efforts towards the achievement of the MDGs and formulating the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals. Member States  are also embarking on the Beijing+20 review process, which must give impetus to full and effective implementation of commitments made nearly 20 years ago. With all of these critical processes, we have now a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment at the center of the current and future global agenda.

About the progress made and gaps remaining in relation to the MDGs

The MDGs have played a critical role in mobilizing integrated international action on global issues – especially on tackling poverty. The prominence of gender equality and women’s empowerment as an explicit goal – MDG 3 – sent a clear signal that gender equality is a global priority. This goal expanded the space for dialogue and action among Member States, civil society and international organizations. However, when analyzing the progress on the MDGs for women and girls, it has to be acknowledged that despite the gains in relation to some targets, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

The MDG framework has not delivered progress for women and girls in the way we had hoped for. The reasons for this lack of progress are that the MDG targets do not address several fundamental dimensions of gender equality, such as violence against women, women’s unpaid care work and women’s lack of access to resources.

They do not touch upon the structural foundations of gender inequality, in particular unequal power relations between women and men, as well as social norms, stereotypes and practices that discriminate against women and girls. Efforts to achieve the MDGs paid insufficient attention to  gender mainstreaming across the framework and on the challenges related to weak institutions, governance and accountability systems.

We also have to recognize that the MDG framework did not account sufficiently for the broader context of the realization of gender equality, such as the impact of economic crises, persistent conflict and environmental changes. In many cases, national averages hide significant gaps in achievements for women and girls who are experiencing multiple forms of discrimination, as well as hiding the particular constraints for MDG progress in situations of conflict.There has also been systematic underinvestment in gender equality and women’s empowerment. Adequate and sustained resourcing is critical to accelerate progress towards all the MDGs for women and girls.

Post-2015 Development Framework

These are important lessons for the future. The post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals must build on the lessons from the MDGs to create a universal agenda based on human rights. Such an agenda must include a transformative stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights along with a comprehensive integration of gender equality concerns across all goals, with targets and indicators.  The future framework must also have robust monitoring and accountability mechanisms to hold duty bearers to account for results.

Achieving the MDGs for women and girls requires an effective enabling environment for gender equality. Strong political will, gender-responsive institutions, governance and accountability systems, macro-economic policies that are aligned with human rights, and full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women  as well as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, are necessary elements.

Participation of women and girls is critical at all levels to shape and influence policies. We also need the full engagement of men and boys to realize gender equality. High-quality and regularly updated data on gender equality are a necessary basis for solid policymaking.

Intensive discussions around the post-2015 development agenda are now under way. At its eighth session, at the beginning of February 2014, in New York, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals discussed gender equality and women’s empowerment. During the discussion, gender inequality was overwhelmingly recognized as the most pervasive form of inequality in the world. Member States voiced resounding support for gender equality as a universal priority in the future agenda. We must ensure that the post-2015 development agenda delivers substantive equality for women and girls by addressing the structural barriers that hold women and girls back, and bring to a successful conclusion the unfinished business of the MDG framework, through a stand-alone goal on gender equality and mainstreaming a gender perspective in other goals, targets and indicators.

About the 58th session of CSW

CSW58 will have the crucial task of moving forward the global consensus and committing governments and other stakeholders to further actions in the time remaining for the MDGs. It should also create the foundation for a stand-alone and transformative gender equality goal and for consistent integration of a gender perspective across the entire post-2015 development agenda.

The present Africa Preparatory Consultation, therefore, is a critical stepping stone towards a successful CSW58 that will deliver on all these accounts. It is galvanizing gender equality ministers and senior government officials to ensure that the session reflects the concerns and expectations of women and girls from the region, and that the evidence, lessons learned and good practices, as we know them, are fed into the global process in March.  We are pleased that we have been able to partner with key stakeholders in facilitating this gathering of Africa’s gender equality leadership.

UN Women is also working in other regions to help build political commitment and a conducive environment for a strong outcome at CSW58 that will energize achievement of the MDGs for women and girls and lay a strong foundation for the post-2015 development agenda from a gender perspective.

At United Nations Headquarters, preparations for the session are intensifying.  The Chair-designate of CSW58, H.E. Mr. Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines convened a briefing of Member States on the status of preparations for the session.I encourage Member States to focus on the lessons learned from the MDGs, on the gaps, on the missing issues, to help us move forward, immediately at CSW58, and towards a transformative post-2015 development agenda.

I also encourage Member States to use the momentum to step up efforts for the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, through renewed political commitment, extensive social mobilization and mobilization of new investments in gender equality. I urge all of you to undertake comprehensive commemorative activities for Beijing+20, involving all stakeholders, in particular civil society. UN Women will be a reliable partner in your efforts.

Thank you.