Closing speech by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

CSW58, New York, 21 March 2014.


[Check against delivery]

Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
Colleagues and friends,
Ladies and gentlemen,

These past two weeks of the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women have been a whirlwind of meetings, statements, side events and discussions.

There have been agreements and disagreements. 

Participating in this session were delegates from Member States, representatives from intergovernmental organizations, more than 450 non-governmental organizations, and many colleagues from the United Nations.

This demonstrates the interest that Member States, civil society and the people of the world have in the matters affecting women and girls.

Let me express my appreciation to all of you—to the representatives of government, intergovernmental organizations and civil society, to my colleagues in the United Nations and also to the media for their coverage.

I would especially like to thank the Chair of the Commission for his strong leadership.

Please join me in showing our appreciation to the Chair, His Excellency Ambassador Libran Cabactulan of the Philippines.

Special thanks also go to the Vice-Chairs,
H.E. Mr Carlos Garcia Gonzalez of El Salvador,
Ms. Neli Shiolashvili of Georgia,
Ms. Christine Low of Switzerland, who facilitated the negotiations on the draft agreed conclusions, and
the Vice-Chair cum Rapporteur, Mr. Mohamed El Bahi of the Sudan.

Thank you all very much.

The priority theme, on the challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, holds significant importance.

It has been a time for us to consider the new experience gained from the MDGs.

There is overwhelming evidence on what it would take to create a better world for women and girls, and a better world for all of humanity.

What we have achieved here is about using the evidence learned to meet existing challenges and to shape the future.

Thank you all for your work as national delegations, regional groups, like-minded groups across regions – and many of you who have shown global leadership on difficult issues.

You have raised the debate by bringing new issues and approaches forward to advance the status of women.

Many delegations have underlined the importance of addressing structural inequality, and of more fully engaging men and boys to achieve gender equality.

You have stressed the importance of engaging youth, religious and traditional leaders, and their constituencies.

This shows we all understand that women’s issues are part of every aspect of life in every society, and part of every human endeavour.

During debate, a vast majority of speakers expressed support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda, and for mainstreaming gender equality perspectives in other goals and targets.

Delegates have called attention to the structural inequalities that need to be addressed, such as: violence against women and girls, continued gender pay gaps, women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work, low levels of women in decision-making, and the persistence of discriminatory attitudes, norms and legal frameworks that impede progress.

We also heard speakers call for greater access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, and for women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

We heard speakers reaffirm their commitment to international conventions and agreements such as:

  • the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women,
  • the Cairo Programme of Action,
  • the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,
  • the Rio+20 outcome “The Future we Want”,
  • Security Council resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security,  
  • and regional agreements and conventions to protect women’s rights.

We heard calls to remove reservations to CEDAW and for its universal ratification and implementation.

We heard many examples of good practice at the national level to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, of progress achieved in many of the areas covered by the MDGs, and of new laws, policies and programmes that have made a difference in the lives of women and girls.  

Many of these experiences serve as inspiration of what is possible—when there is political commitment and leadership, and when we commit to the investments necessary to close the gaps. 

Many speakers emphasized the importance of achieving strong and meaningful agreed conclusions that lead to concrete follow-up action.

Anything less would have betrayed the mission of our overlapping generations.

My friends,

Thank you for coming through, despite the system of negotiating at this Commission.

This process is complex and even seems—at times—to work against the Commission objective of setting global standards and formulating concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.

Yet despite all the trials and tribulations, you have reached an agreement. I congratulate all of you!

You were able to reach consensus, to put differences aside, and to focus on the greater good for the rights and dignity of girls and women and the benefit of humanity.

The words we pronounce, write down, and adopt can make a difference.

A difference for the girls who are trafficked into sexual slavery, for the women who labour day-in and day-out without pay or recognition, or for the girls who are forced to marry as child brides.

Because we represent the world, we can make a world of difference.

So this agreement is a cause for celebration. And, most importantly, it is an action plan for implementation.

This will require political will, backed up by commensurate resources.

As the Commission rightly points out, funding in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment remains inadequate.

Investments in women and girls will have to be significantly stepped up.

As many Member States have underlined, this will have a multiplier effect on sustained economic growth.

And you can count on the full support of UN Women in transforming words to action! With you as representatives of government, and with our civil society partners, whose determination in the past few days has enriched our collective resolve. 

During this 58th session, in addition to the agreed conclusions, the Commission adopted several resolutions on issues such as gender equality and natural disasters, and the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women. 

As we now launch into the final phase to accelerate achievement of the MDGs for women and girls, we are bolstered by the comprehensive agreed conclusions.

We need to link these efforts to the preparatory process for the review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. 

We now stand on the shoulders of great women of the last centuries, who have lifted the lives of so many women before us, so that we may stand here today.

Our challenge is to set a decisive course and place the destiny of women and girls on a new course during this 21st century—a course of true equality.

Without a doubt, the evidence shows that if we advance equality for women, we will advance progress for all.

I ask you: Are we not lucky to be the generation that is taking this destiny forward? Are we not lucky to be sitting here with evidence, knowing what needs to be done?

With this agreement today, we are taking the right steps forward.

As we move towards 2015, we begin our journey together to a better future.

Today there is growing recognition that women’s full and equal rights, opportunity and participation are essential for peace that is lasting, and development that is sustainable.

We cannot end poverty, inequality, conflict, or address climate change or any other major problem facing our world today, without the full and equal participation of women.

Now as we close the session, we look forward to the implementation of existing agreements, and to increased accountability. 

We look forward to the next 12 months in which we envision, and will support, rising political and social mobilization.

We will rally leading up to next year’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women.

We look forward to working with all of you to support urgent action to implement the Beijing Platform for Action!

I thank you.