Closing remarks at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action

Closing remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, held on 27 September 2015 at UN Headquarters.


(As delivered.)

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank all the Presidents, the Prime Ministers, the Heads of State, the Deputy Prime Ministers, the heads of regional organizations, the development banks, and the representatives of civil society and the private sector who joined us today.

I thank His Excellency the President of China for his role as co-host, for his commitment to UN Women, and for more support to the women of China and for women in developing countries.

I thank President Michele Bachelet both for co-chairing, and for giving birth to UN Women as the first Executive Director.

It is the first time we had our leaders with us in this fashion and I hope you agree that it should not be the last time.

Today is really the start of the journey towards 25 September 2030.

Today we made sure that gender issues are part of the business of our leaders, of the heads of state and are fully mainstreamed.

With our leaders on the podium all talking about women and girls, we looked into the future we want: where women are not treated as a small interest group but as the majority issue that is mainstreamed in every facet of life and at the highest tables.

Today, leaders brought the Beijing Platform for Action to life and recommitted to it.

Leaders took charge and showed their strong responsibility for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Leaders also committed to meet the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals and to “step it up for gender equality,” so that we have substantive equality by 2030.

The work starts now. We cannot waste any time before we start implementation.

On the 24th September, we met the civil society thought leaders who called on all of us to “Step It Up.”

They called on us to create a new economic model that works for Agenda 2030 because the current model will not achieve what we want by 2030.

They called for a new economic model that works for women.

They called on us to ask leaders to do everything in their power to end wars.

Ms. Gertrude Mongella passionately called on our leaders to do all that needs to be done to give women peace and prosperity.

Our civil society leaders on the 24th also called for attention to the shrinking space for nongovernmental organizations, and they called for time-bound law reforms to end all forms of discrimination.

On the 26th September, we invited leaders from the private sector and philanthropists to give their support to Goal 5, to the whole Agenda 2030, and to UN Women specifically.

Their response, as you have heard from two of our speakers, Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, our co-chairs of that event, was enthusiastic. We had a full house of leaders who not only gave us support of the sort that the Government of China has announced, but committed to the agenda.

Among all our leaders, we have heard a growing consensus across critical areas for gender equality and women’s empowerment. We can clearly see common threads of concern among all those who spoke today, whether from developed countries, middle-income countries, or least developed countries.

One common theme that we heard today was the need to work harder to end violence against women. Almost every country, from the richest to the poorest, mentioned the issue of violence against women and girls, from Cabo Verde to Bangladesh, from Georgia to the European Union.

Many countries highlighted ending child and early marriages, and I was moved to hear how many countries committed themselves to ending female genital mutilation.

We heard many countries talking about the importance of prosecution, to ensure the rule of law, and that women are protected, as Bandana Rana from the Global Network of Women Peace Builders also highlighted.

Many countries committed to issues of women, peace and security, importantly dedicating efforts to support this all across the world because “we are not yet there,” as Chancellor Angela Merkel said. She, and many other countries, called on the world to end impunity. We heard many of you make strong commitments to strengthen and prioritize your national Action Plans on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Sweden committed to develop and train a network of women mediators, which within two years will be ready to assist peace efforts wherever they occur. That was music to our ears as this will provide a pool of resources.

Across the board you have acknowledged the importance of economic empowerment, both in gender-sensitive legislation that is needed, and in support for women entrepreneurs.

There was a strong call for gender-responsive budgeting and shared experience of countries that are already attempting to implement this.

Unpaid care work emerged as a key theme, from commitments to quality child care to commitments to paternity leave in other countries.

Issues of poverty, especially the poverty of women were raised. Unequal pay came up time and again, with commitment to deal with this through legislation and advocacy.

We therefore feel that we have quite a handful of issues that will allow us to kick start Agenda 2030, tomorrow.

From today onwards, for this Agenda to succeed, there can be no “business as usual.”

We have to Step It Up.

We have to make sure that we achieve some of these targets and goals before 2030.

We therefore are also setting for ourselves the date of 2020 as a time for us to evaluate thoroughly that we are going in the right direction.

We therefore urge you not just to think about 2030 but about 2016, 2017 , 2018, because every year we will report on the progress that we are making.

I would like to thank everyone who has made this day possible, from the staff here, to the guest speakers, to the Presidents.

I hope that this starts the beginning of the end of gender inequality.

Thank you.