Speech by Lakshmi Puri at an International Meeting ahead of the G77 Summit

Keynote address by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the International Meeting ahead of the G77 Summit: “Women’s Proposals for a New World Order”, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, 29 May 2014.

Date: Thursday, May 29, 2014

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Excelencia, Señor Presidente Evo Morales Ayma, 

Excelencias, Queridas Ministras,

Señoras y Señores,

Colleagues and Friends,

¡Buenos días! Encantada de estar con vosotros hoy en este encuentro histórico!

Today is indeed a historic day. For the first time in its 50 year existence, the G77 is holding an international meeting exclusively dedicated to women and gender equality ahead of your Summit of Heads of State and Government, in June. You all have thus made history!

We at UN Women are proud and honoured to be part of this historic moment. We have high hopes that this will be the first of many such meetings. We also hope that it will be a stepping stone in positioning the G77 as an even greater leader in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment on the international stage. This is significant as the G77 represents the largest coalition of countries in intergovernmental bodies – a total of 133. 

I would like to salute the leadership of Bolivia and your personal commitment, Mr. President, for this unprecedented initiative. En el nombre de las mujeres, muchas gracias!

This is testimony to your engagement for social justice and human rights, for equality among nations and among human beings and for an end to discrimination on any basis. It is also a tribute to my sisters and the women´s movement and civil society of Bolivia and Latin American region, which is vigorous, active, engaged, diverse and mobilized.

If we want the 21st century to see the end of discrimination, inequality and injustice, we must focus on women and girls – half the world’s population who continues to experience discrimination every day and everywhere. 

If we want to create a New World Order, women and girls must be at the center. The 20th century saw the end of colonization and the end of apartheid. The 21st century must see the full realization of gender equality and women’s rights. If women are put down and held back, humanity cannot progress.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This meeting takes place at a critical time. 

First, the target date for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals  is fast approaching. Now is the time to do a last push for implementation, but also to review progress and gaps in the implementation of the MDGs to inform the next development agenda. 

Second, the 20 year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Beijing+20 , provides us with an opportunity to drive accelerated and effective implementation of the gender equality and women’s rights agenda. 

Third, the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda and Sustainable Development Goals  is coming to a critical point. The Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals is about to complete its work and Member States will finalize the new development agenda in the course of next year. 

We need to take full advantage of these processes and their interconnections to ensure that gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment feature prominently in the new development agenda and to accelerate implementation. National women machinery and movements in all countries thus need to engage and influence these processes.

As we know, gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment remain an unfinished project. Everywhere in the world, women continue to experience violence, earn less than men for the same work, assume the bulk of the responsibility for unpaid care work, lack access to education and health, and lack an equal voice in decision-making.

And while the Millennium Development Goals were successful in focusing attention on issues such as equal participation in primary education, they failed to address critical issues such as violence against women, unpaid care work, women’s limited control over assets and property, wage discrimination, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and unequal participation in public and private decision-making at all levels.

We now have a historic opportunity and a collective responsibility to do things differently. This means taking a universal, rights-based, transformative approach in order to address the structural inequality and gender-based discrimination that underpin and reinforce gender inequality. 

UN Women is very pleased to see the strong affirmation by Member States for a dedicated goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the post-2015 development agenda. Adopting such a goal, setting concrete targets and indicators is critically important to advance gender equality and women’s rights in all countries. 

It is also critical to ensure that gender equality dimensions are integrated in other focus areas. For example, a future goal on education must include targets and indicators that monitor the rights of women and girls to a quality education at all levels. A sustainable energy goal should include targets on access to sustainable energy for women’s economic empowerment. Gender-sensitive targets and indicators across all focus areas are not duplicative, but point to the inter-linkages between areas.

And while achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is an end in itself, it is also essential to sustainable development in its three dimensions – economic, social, and environmental.

The Rio+20 outcomes resolved to “unlock the potential of women as drivers of sustainable development”. It decided to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of sustainable development. It called for women’s full and effective participation in sustainable development policies, programmes and decision-making at all levels. Now is the time to make these promises a reality. 

Earlier this year, the Commission on the Status of Women  undertook a goal by goal assessment of the MDGs from a gender equality perspective. It clearly identified progress, gaps and remaining challenges. 

The overwhelming message from CSW is that a comprehensive and transformative approach is urgently needed to address the structural barriers to gender equality and to lay a strong foundation for the future agenda. 

This includes addressing the persistence of historical and structural unequal power relations, between women and men, poverty and inequalities, disadvantages in access to resources and opportunities that limit women’s and girls’ capabilities, and growing gaps in equality of opportunity. 

In this context, it is critical that the most transformative targets possible are included in the dedicated goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  

First, this should include a target on eliminating discrimination in laws, policies and practices. Today discriminatory laws, policies, social norms, attitudes, harmful customary and contemporary practices and gender stereotypes continue to hold back progress for women and girls. We have a good practice and an example to follow in the Bolivian Constitutional law, which includes the fight against all kinds of discrimination including gender discrimination.

Second, violence against women and girls in all its forms must end. This is one of the most pervasive human rights violations and carries tremendous costs for individuals, families and societies. There cannot be sustainable development without an end to violence against women. Bolivia has s comprehensive law against violence against women and a law against political violence, which is pioneer in the region and beyond.

Third, realizing the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and adolescent girls throughout the life cycle is an essential priority. Women cannot be fully empowered if they cannot decide freely and responsibly the number, timing and spacing of their children. Ending child, early and forced marriage is also a priority. We trust that Bolivia is continuing on a path of progress on this.

Fourth, a target must aim at recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work. This has been identified for a long time as a key barrier to women’s full and equal access to education, employment, political participation and other activities. Unpaid care work can be reduced through public investments in infrastructure and essential basic services, employment policies that help to reconcile paid work and care responsibilities for both women and men, and support more equal distribution between women and men, and between states and households.

UN Women is working with the Government of Bolivia in different programmes addressing the burden unpaid care work and exploitation of women paying special attention to the situation of indigenous women.

Fifth, ensuring equal access to productive assets and natural resources, including land, housing, and financial services is essential to women’s autonomy and economic empowerment. We are working with the Government of Bolivia on this most important agenda of women economic empowerment.

Finally, a target must aim at ensuring equal participation of women in decision-making in public and private institutions. It is time for women to participate equally in decision making in the household, the private sector and institutions of governance. For democracy to be meaningful and inclusive, women’s voices and leadership must be amplified in all public and private spaces.

I am pleased to note that these targets are already part of the working document in front of the Open Working Group. We count on the G77 leadership and Bolivian as chair to ensure that they are retained in the final document. 

And beyond targets, we need to address gender dimensions of the means of implementation.  We need to ensure the data revolution is a gender data revolution, so that we have in place the baselines to measure progress, in particular on sensitive and hard to measure issues such as violence against women. 

And most critically, we need more than just a dedicated goal on gender equality, we need enhanced and dedicated money and resources for financial and technological purposes. There continues to be a significant disconnect between commitments and action – and a major reason for the gap between what is said and what is done is the inadequate level of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment. You get what you fund – and we are simply not getting enough for gender equality. This has to change.  

With new commitments for gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment likely to be made in the new post-2015 development agenda, all governments – developed and developing alike, need to ensure adequate financing, and put in place systems and capacity to track what they invest in gender equality. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Closing the gap between commitments and action is also the focus of Beijing+20. The entire review and appraisal process must result in accelerated implementation of the commitments made nearly 20 years ago.  

Beijing+20 is not only the occasion to assess how far we have come, at the national level, as well as together in the global community. This is the time for very concrete and specific action to close the gaps.  

This is the time to finally put the full political weight behind the passage of long-pending legislation to eliminate discrimination against women and promote gender equality.  

This is the time to allocate the resources to fund services for victims and survivors of violence against women.  

This is the time to strengthen national data collection and undertake a time use survey to better understand unpaid care work or a survey on violence against women. 

This is the time to make public spaces safe for women and girls.  

This is the time to improve rural infrastructure to strengthen women’s access to markets and help tackle rural feminized poverty.  

This is the time to showcase champions of gender equality, to recognize role models that have overcome stereotypes and helped level the playing field for girls and women in all areas, in politics and business, in academia and in public service, in the home and the community.   

I call on all of you to make your commitments in a highly public and visible manner.  

UN Women has just launched an advocacy campaign – online and offline – for social, political and resources mobilization, entitled “Empowering Women – Empowering Humanity:  Picture It!” We are seeking an active engagement from all stakeholders to make Beijing+20 a highly visible, dynamic, and engaging process with a focus on political and social mobilization, knowledge generation, and enhanced resources. Mr. President, we seek for your active participation on this campaign as you have done with all our previous campaigns.

At the global level, we will bring partners together to recapture the “spirit of Beijing”.  From June 2014 to September 2015, a series of global events on the 12 critical areas of concern of the Platform for Action will take place. These events will look thematically at the state of play on gender equality and will highlight achievements, gaps and challenges in relation to the specific objectives of the Platform for Action with a focus on action. 

The fifty-ninth session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in March 2015 will be an occasion to exchange good practices and lessons learned, to share achievements and setbacks, and discuss ways in which governments in collaboration with stakeholders are successfully moving forward the agenda for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of human rights. We are planning on global leaders commitment at the conference. 

I call on all members of the G77 to actively participate in the Beijing+20 process. This includes submitting your national reports, if not done already, attending CSW59 at the highest possible level of Government, fully engaging in our campaign, organizing national events, and participating in or hosting global events. 

As Beijing+20 and the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda come together, it is essential for the G77 to be a leader for gender equality and women’s empowerment. This historic moment is not only an occasion to celebrate the undeniable progress we have made, but also to confirm and reaffirm the commitment to its full, effective and accelerated implementation.

This political focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment must be at the center of our efforts to create a world that is more just, more fair, more balanced. It is central to the New World Order that this meeting will envisage. 

Finally, let me end Señor Presidente with a special tribute to you for being part of our different campaigns including ending violence against women. I had the privilege of joining you at a football match in New York last year on the occasion of the High level United Nations General Assembly Session. Together, UN Women and you, Mr. President kicked the ball to make a goal against gender inequality, injustice, discrimination, violence against women and poverty. Let us continue to score goals for gender equality and women´s empowerment in all respects, so that all of humanity wins!

Gracias. Buenas tardes a todas y a todos!