We must not let this opportunity slip away – Lakshmi Puri

Speech by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the Third Committee, 70th session of the General Assembly, New York, 12 October 2015.


[Check against delivery] 

Chair of the Third Committee,
Your Excellency Mr. Omar Hilale,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have recently celebrated the adoption of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that will create a more peaceful, just and sustainable world for all. We now have an agenda with a Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls at its centre, and reinforcing targets threaded through and underpinning all the other goals. Thank you for bringing the process to fruition, and creating this moment of potential that we now face together.

Meeting our ambitious Sustainable Development Goals requires not only the dedicated commitment of Member States, but transformative financing to ensure that the goals are fully and effectively implemented, and that gender equality and women’s empowerment is realized. This key point was endorsed in July at the Third Conference for Financing for Development in Addis Ababa.

These gains critically benefitted from the groundswell of commitment generated through the Beijing+20 (CSW59) process. Member States, civil society, the UN system, the private sector, academia and individual women and men came together to assess progress, gaps and challenges at national, regional and global levels. An unprecedented 167 countries prepared national reviews, and all five regional commissions brought together stakeholders in the common cause for gender equality. 

CSW59 was not only a moment for celebration, it was also a moment where Ministers and Government representatives pledged the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Platform for Action and to close the gender equality gaps through:

  • strengthening implementation of laws, policies, strategies and programmes;
  • increasing support for institutional mechanisms for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls;
  • transforming discriminatory norms and gender stereotypes;
  • significantly increasing investment to close resource gaps;
  • strengthening accountability for the implementation of existing commitments; and
  • enhancing capacity-building, data collection, monitoring and evaluation.

The momentum for new, transformative and decisive action for Planet 50-50 by 2030 that we were able to generate reached a peak at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action, co-organized and co-hosted by UN Women with the People’s Republic of China, on 27 September 2015. This was a historic milestone as never before have Heads of State and Government convened around commitments to gender equality and women's empowerment.

With the participation of 140 Member States, 64 Heads of State and Government and 8 Deputy Heads delivering commitment statements, the Global Leaders’ Meeting was the largest and most influential gathering of world leaders dedicated to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. Civil society, private sector and philanthropic leaders voiced strong calls to action that must now be acted upon by decision-makers.

One key milestone still remains to be reached – and that is the climate agreement to be adopted at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015. We must spare no efforts to ensure that this agreement adds its own decisive contribution to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Climate change impacts women and men differently. Women are agents of change and leaders in adaptation, mitigation and resilience. The agreement must empower women to lead and participate effectively as we tackle climate impacts together. We count on your stewardship to bring this effort to a successful conclusion.

The reports we prepared for this session echo some of the critical developments of recent months. 

Our report on violence against women migrant workers (document A/70/205) is timely as the world is currently struggling to respond to the vast numbers of refugees and migrants seeking a better and safer future. Desperate migration often has a woman's face and violence against women is a challenge at all stages of the migration cycle. Women and girls migrate as they are targets of aggression and subjugation by extremist groups, and of routine violence in conflict situations. They are denied their rights and subject to persecution and discrimination. As they seek better lives for themselves and their families, they encounter the perils of people smuggling and trafficking. As migrant workers, they contribute to the economies of their host countries, but also are exposed to exploitation and violence. 

It is thus more urgent than ever for States to have in place effective legal, policy and regulatory frameworks that protect women migrant workers, including domestic workers, and ensure their access to justice.

For quite a few years now, this Committee has considered the situation of women in rural areas (document A/70/204). Their role in rural economies, in supporting their households in the achievement of food and nutrition security, in improving rural livelihoods and in generating income and overall well-being is well documented. Rural women are at the forefront of coping with the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and post-conflict situations. Yet, rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and men for Millennium Development Goal indicators for which data are available. They also face multiple forms of discrimination, inequalities and violence. 

States therefore need to step up their efforts and investment in rural development and in rural women's access to infrastructure and services and ensure their human rights and their economic, social and political empowerment – as they are key to achieving virtually all the SDGs. There is now a new opportunity to link up the implementation of SDG 5 and its means of implementation to other SDGs for rural women, especially those on food security and sustainable agriculture. 

And finally, we have once again analyzed the reflection of gender perspectives in the work of the General Assembly, the ECOSOC and its functional commissions (document A/70/180), in an effort to support you in your own monitoring. 

We were disappointed to find that the percentage of resolutions with a gender perspective adopted by the General Assembly at its 69th session declined in comparison to previous years. At the same time, resolutions with a gender perspective adopted by the Economic and Social Council in 2014 showed a strong increase of 16 percent compared to 2013. We call on this Committee, which takes the lead on gender equality issues in the Assembly, to work closely with your colleagues in other committees to reverse this trend and to match the centering of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the sustainable development, peace and security, financing for development, human rights and humanitarian agendas. UN Women will do its utmost to support you in these efforts. 

The major gains for gender equality and women’s empowerment over these last years and especially in the 2030 Agenda now must be translated into action, at all levels, and by all stakeholders. We are all responsible for ensuring measurable progress for women and girls by 2020, and for full gender equality by 2030. UN Women has endeavoured to respond effectively to this new and expanded guidance, and to requests and expectations from Member States for support of normative intergovernmental processes. 

As implementation and follow-up gathers speed, these demands will only grow. UN Women must be fully equipped and have the capacity to provide substantive support that will ensure that the transformative, inclusive and integrated sustainable development agenda results in the accelerated realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Notwithstanding all our efforts, our resources are not commensurate with the task given to us. We therefore appeal to this session of the General Assembly to strengthen the capacity of UN Women to fully implement our normative support function, for UN Women to be financed for purpose so that we are fitter for purpose. The report before you provides the evidence and makes the case for such increased funding.

The opportunity to realize transformative change for women and girls has been built through Beijing+20, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Through our joint efforts and concrete actions, we will achieve Planet 50-50 by 2030. We must not let this opportunity slip away.

I thank you.