Gender equality necessary for success of post-2015 agenda – Executive Director

Speech by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Stocktaking Event on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, at UN Headquarters in New York, 11 September 2014.


[Check against delivery]

Mr. President,


Ladies and gentlemen.

At Rio+20, Member States unequivocally declared the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment for sustainable development.

Governments committed to ensuring equal rights, access, participation and leadership in the economy, society, decision-making and resource allocation.

They were keenly aware of the experience of the Millennium Development Goals, where progress was too slow and too uneven.

Member States recognized that creating a world with greater equality for generations to come is the defining and most urgent challenge of this century.

This year, at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, they went further.

The Agreed Conclusions called for gender equality and women’s empowerment to be included as a stand-alone goal, and to be integrated — through targets and indicators — into all other goals in the post-2015 development agenda.

Today we have the final report of the Open Working group that includes a strong goal on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and we have targets and indicators on gender equality mainstreamed across other goals.

We want to commend the Member States for taking us this far. I thank the co-chairs for their outstanding leadership, and their inclusive and consultative approach.  

We have reached an important milestone. We must build on this solid floor.    

The proposed goal addresses key structural constraints to gender equality:

  • Discrimination;
  • Violence against women and girls;
  • Harmful practices;
  • Unpaid care work;
  • A lack of participation in decision-making; and
  • Violations of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

In addition, several other proposed goals contain important targets that will contribute to achieving gender equality. We regard this as progress that we must build on, and not reduce from.

Action in these areas has the potential to transform the lives of women and girls in all countries  if we build further on this progress and ensure that we learn the lessons of the Millennium Development Goals.

The future post-2015 framework must have a strong grounding in human rights, and targets across the framework should be aligned with human rights standards.

The extent to which the rights of women and girls are violated, and the growing deadly impunity, makes the rights agenda critical and urgent.   

Important dimensions of gender equality need to be strengthened, such as: ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights; recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work; and ensuring women’s equal rights to productive assets and resources.

To be transformative, the post-2015 development agenda must be universal.  This means that all countries will work towards this agenda.

This means it applies to all people, wherever they live: women and men, boys and girls, and particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us.

For too long we have focused on statistics and aggregated progress. This left the poorest and most marginalized groups behind.

This time, we must increase capacity in the collection, use and analysis of gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data. We need a precise view to make well-targeted plans.


UN Women is ready to support Member States in the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.

Together with the UN system, UN Women is working to respond effectively to the high expectations of the new framework, in order to deliver transformative change. 

We are committed to addressing data gaps to enable improve monitoring and accountability.

We are working closely with civil society to understand and reflect the concerns and priorities of women and girls on the ground.

The new agenda must challenge the status quo and change the structures that perpetuate inequality, poverty, vulnerability and environmental degradation. We must ensure that the systems and root causes that are sustaining gender inequality are addressed adequately, with proportional intensity and determination.

We have to end the radically unequal distribution of power, resources, opportunities in formal and informal institutions, social norms, practices and policies at all levels.

The timeframe for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — 2015 to 2030 — can and must be used to break the back of discrimination against women. This must be a period that will enable the 21st century to be regarded as the century that empowered women and empowered humanity. 

Gender equality is a necessary condition for the success of the SDGs, and for ending poverty, inequality and building sustainable peace.    

To make the far reaching changes needed, the post-2015 women's agenda must be backed by the resources necessary for full implementation.

This is an historic opportunity. Let us grasp it.