Making it happen – financing gender equality and women’s rights in the post-2015 development agenda

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director of Policy and Programme, John Hendra, at the 69th UN General Assembly side event “Making it happen – financing gender equality and women’s rights in the post-2015 development agenda” on 22 September 2014, New York.


Opening remarks

Thank you Ambassador Donoghue, Distinguished Panelists, Colleagues,

On behalf of UN Women, I’d like to thank our co-organizers OECD-DAC and AWID, and in particular our co-host Ambassador Donoghue and the Government of Ireland, for their collaboration in organizing this important discussion. I’d also like to thank all our panelists - Bai-Kuntha Aryal, Lydia Alpizar Duran, Emily Esplen, and Jeroen Verheul. We look forward to hearing from you on the critical issue of financing for gender equality and women’s rights.

This event builds on earlier discussions including at the Global Partnership for Effective Development in Mexico, and side events during CSW 58, and the 2014 Development Cooperation Forum this past summer. 

Ambassador Donoghue spoke of the Open Working Group, and as UN Women we were very pleased to see a dedicated goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which really builds on MDG3 by addressing underlying structural constraints to achieving gender equality, with strong targets on ending all forms of discrimination against women, ending violence against women and girls, and harmful practices such as early, child and forced marriage, recognition of women’s unpaid care work, and lack of access to sexual and reproductive health – issues which were missing from the MDGs.  Further we were very pleased to see the inclusion of strong gender-related targets under many other goals in the proposal – not all, but many.  

While certainly not perfect, taken together, the gender goal and related targets are potentially transformative. And that is welcome. But as we also know, there is significant room to raise the bar even higher to ensure women’s rights, and human rights, are included across the framework.  For example, in the final agenda, we would like to see a stronger emphasis on women’s right to access land and resources, and on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. So we will need to continue our advocacy efforts in this regard.

At the same time, we also need to now focus on the ‘how’ and the ways in which the sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be implemented. What’s especially critical is that the ambition of the gender equality goal and of the SDGs more broadly, is matched by equally ambitious means of implementation , and in particular, ambitious financing.

Because we have a real, once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in the gender equality goal itself, but also, and as importantly, in gender dimensions of other critical issues such as infrastructure and resilience-building. This investment is absolutely critical if we are to achieve gender equality and women’s rights.

As Ambassador Donoghue highlighted, the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing also recently released its report, which emphasizes that financing needs for poverty eradication and sustainable development remain significant, including for gender equality. 

As the formal negotiations get underway, it will be very important that we articulate a clear financing strategy and agree together on how to execute this strategy. If we don’t properly and effectively link financing for gender equality with the gender goal and gender-related targets, they will remain just “ink on paper”. 

The next few months will be absolutely critical in this regard. We need to ensure that gender equality and women’s rights are prominent in the financing discussions. Because if we don’t, we won’t see the resources that are needed.

We know this to be the case. Financing for gender equality remains inadequate. There continues to be a gap between the commitments governments have made, and their investments in gender equality and women’s rights. 

As OECD analysis has shown, while funding for gender equality has indeed increased between 2002 and 2012, in some sectors such as economic empowerment, it has stalled. In others, such as women peace and security, women’s leadership, and sexual and reproductive health and rights, it remains very low. Yet all these sectors are fundamental to promoting women’s empowerment and realizing women’s rights.

The 20-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action clearly highlights the absolute necessity of ensuring adequate financing for gender equality as a cross-cutting issue in all of the critical areas of concern. 

We are already seeing in national reports for the Beijing +20 review that adequate financing for gender equality remains a challenge.  For example, countries are reporting that violence against women laws are not being implemented due to a lack of funding. And in some countries, gender equality mechanisms can’t fulfil their mandate due to a lack of resources and capacity. This has to change. Governments must invest “minimum critical resources” in achieving gender equality and women’s rights.

And this means that we must put gender equality and women’s rights front-and-centre in the overall ‘financing for sustainable development’ dialogue, in particular in the lead-up to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) that will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July 2015.

Closing Remarks

Many thanks to Ambassador Donoghue, our great panelists Bai-Kuntha Aryal, Lydia Aplizar, Emily Esplen and Jeroen Verheul, and to you in the audience for the great questions. In closing, I would like to make the following nine points to summarize our discussion this morning:

First, adequate financing for sustainable development, and in particular, for gender equality and women’s rights, is essential if the transformative potential of the new post-2015 development agenda is to be realized.

Second, there is simply no way that the broader Sustainable Development Goals set out in the report of the Open Working Group can be realized without investing sufficiently and significantly in gender equality and women’s rights. Because as we know, investments in gender equality pay off – women’s increased participation in education, in the workforce, and in decision-making all have direct positive impacts on broader development outcomes.

Third, and central to this, is stronger accountability of all actors for delivering on their commitments to gender equality and women’s rights. As Nepal has shown, Gender-Responsive Budgeting (GRB) can be an excellent tool to enhance accountability and transparency. Going forward, we need to better look at the impact of GRB and extending it to local government. Civil society also plays a critical role in holding governments accountable for their policy commitments.

Fourth, the next sustainable development agenda is universal and therefore all governments – developed and developing alike – have an obligation to commit adequate resources for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights, in line with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  It is also clear that we need to see a specific target on financing gender equality and women’s rights included in the new development agenda.

Fifth, while there is great potential in public-private partnerships (PPPs), these need to be grounded in common values, understandings and priorities with a strong basis in human rights.  There are examples of promising PPPs, but we need to unpack these experiences to draw out the main achievements and challenges and capture the lessons learned in order to support the development and implementation of successful multi-stakeholder partnerships.

Sixth, we need to learn from both experience and analysis. It is clear that we need to target much greater investments to particularly underfunded areas, including women’s economic rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s peace and security. We also need to capitalize on opportunities, like the global study on resolution 1325, and the FLOW Fund’s experience in getting significant resources directly in the hands of women’s rights organizations.

Seventh, the principles of accessibility, transparency and accountability are all essential for financing commitments to gender equality and women’s rights. Transparency contributes to making information available on financing decisions, which is necessary to strengthen government and donor accountability for delivery on their commitments. UN Women’s work supporting countries to implement gender-responsive planning and budgeting does exactly this by strengthening transparency on budget allocations for gender equality.  In all our efforts in financing gender equality we need to ensure that we look beyond a narrow focus on individual-level interventions to address structural barriers that prevent the achievement of gender equality.

Eighth is the critical role of statistics and the importance of collecting disaggregated data on different dimensions of inequality. We don’t just need a data revolution – we need a ‘gender data revolution’. This will require strengthening gender statistics with a particular focus on sex and income-disaggregated data, as this provides critical information for more effective financing allocations. We need to capitalize on the recently agreed minimum set of 52 gender indicators as well as the core nine indicators on addressing violence against women and ensure they are rolled out to every country.

Ninth, and finally, we must continue the dialogue on financing gender equality and women’s rights in light of the ongoing negotiations on the new post-2015 development framework and, in particular, in the lead-up to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia next year. All of these negotiations are ultimately political and we as advocates need to come together to ensure that gender equality and women’s rights is positioned at the centre of these debates. It is ultimately a political process and we need the politicians and policymakers to put the issue on their agendas so that it becomes owned by them as a priority.

Means of implementation are defined as “the interdependent mix of financial resources, technology development and transfer, capacity‐building, inclusive and equitable globalization and trade, regional integration, as well as the creation of a national enabling environment required to implement the new sustainable development agenda” (

Presented at the 42nd session of the UN Statistical Commission (2011).