Remarks by UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at the launch of the Beijing+20 campaign

Remarks by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson at the UN Women launch of the Beijing+20 campaign at the Apollo Theatre in New York, 26 June 2014.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

Good afternoon!  What an inspiring, hopeful and energizing event and audience!  It is great to be here with all of you to celebrate the world’s women’s march towards full empowerment.  This is your century!  This is good news in a world of bad news these days.

Since the Beijing 1995 Conference, we have come a long way on women and education, women and health, women in the workforce and women in public life.

Thank you all for helping to realize these achievements for women – and indeed, fundamentally, for Man and Mankind.

At the same time, we see terrible discrimination, violence and atrocities against women and girls.  In Pakistan, last year, Malala was shot in the head by extremists.  She recovered miraculously and continued her struggle for education for girls.

In April, the world watched in horror as more than 200 Nigerian girls were abducted by terrorists from a place where they should have felt safe – their school.

We cannot rest until we secure the release of these innocent victims, and make sure that all girls and women are protected.  Protected from threats, from attacks, from sexual violence, so that they can fulfil their potential and live their dreams.

Dear Friends,

Today’s launch of the Beijing+20 Campaign is not a ceremonial commemoration – it is a celebration and Call to Action.

We celebrate that more girls are in school than ever before.  But we also face the reality that less than a handful of countries have achieved full gender equality at all levels of education.

In too many parts of the world, pregnant women fear having a daughter because they know she will be subjected to female genital mutilation.  The UN is working closely with several countries to abandon this cruel practice. 

We are beginning to see progress.  The African Group in the UN General Assembly recently sponsored the first-ever resolution against this violation of dignity and physical integrity.  Now we must aim to end it.

In other arenas, more and more women are taking their rightful place in political life.  But still, only a little more than 20 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide are women.  We have work to do!

Fewer women are dying in childbirth.  But in places like South Sudan, these entirely preventable and needless tragedies kill one in seven pregnant women.

Next year, the Member States of the United Nations will come together to chart a road ahead for the sustainable development agenda.  A new set of goals will be established for the world we want and the world we need by 2030.

I am confident that this agenda also will be driven by goals to achieve gender equality, empower women and girls and fully protect their human rights.

Beijing of 1995 is not just a still-unfulfilled promise to women and girls – it is an unfulfilled promise to all of us, women and men, a promise to our shared humanity. 

The essence of the Beijing vision is that equality for women and girls, equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation will build a better world for us all.

That vision is vibrantly alive tonight in this legendary Apollo Theatre in New York.  But let us remember - it is also alive in cities, villages, schools, workplaces around the world with millions of women and girls standing up for their rights.

Together with all of you, the United Nations, UN Women under the leadership of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and the whole UN family will be part of our common struggle for human rights, peace, justice and equality for all.  With your help - governments, civil society, the private sector - we can succeed.

Remember: nobody can do everything – but everybody can do something.  Let’s go to work!