Partnerships key to success of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Win-win partnerships are key to achieving women’s and girls’ economic empowerment and will lead the way towards sustainable development, according to Plan International, UNIDO, UN Women and the World Bank.


(Brussels) Women’s and girls’ economic empowerment sets a direct path towards achieving gender equality and is a critical element of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Achieving this will require all actors, whether governments, international institutions, civil society organizations or the private sector, to move beyond ‘business as usual’ and employ new ways of thinking and acting.

That was the message delivered at this year’s European Development Days (15-16 June)—Europe's leading forum on development and international cooperation—during the high-level panel on “Building win-win partnerships for women’s and girls’ economic empowerment” on 16 June.

“Women’s and girls’ empowerment is probably the most important part of sustainability as they are half the world’s population,” said Arup Banerji, Regional Director for EU Countries, Europe and Central Asia at The World Bank Group.

Girls and women remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Gender discrimination often means that girls and women end up in insecure, unprotected and low-wage jobs; it curtails their access to financial resources and control and ownership of property; it limits their participation in shaping economic and social policies. And because girls and women perform the bulk of household work, they often have little time left to pursue economic or educational opportunities.

“We have been addressing symptoms for years but not root causes,” said Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of child rights and humanitarian organization Plan International. “We must tackle basic discriminatory social norms that create barriers to girls’ and women’s economic empowerment.”

Building win-win partnerships

Drawing on approaches captured by the UN High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, strategies from the World Bank, UNIDO, UN Women, and Plan International as well as the EU Action Plan on Gender Equality in External Relations, participants in the panel explored how to create win-win partnerships to realize targets pertaining to girls’ and women’s economic empowerment in the 2030 Agenda.

“Gender inequality has many facets and the causes are historically embedded within laws and cultures, so we need a variety of different actors and partnerships from across the board to get involved in challenging the multiple discriminations faced by women and girls around the world,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The private sector, accounting for 90 per cent of jobs in developing countries, will have a particularly important role to play in achieving economic empowerment for women and girls. In this context, it is crucial for non-profit organizations to understand the criteria for an effective and mutually beneficial partnership.

Putting words into action: Delivering on the SDGs

Under the title “Sustainable Development Goals in Action,” this year’s European Development Days are all about implementation, and as highlighted by participants during the panel, women’s and girls’ economic empowerment is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development.

“When we talk about leaving no one behind, the one group that is easy to identify in every country is women and girls,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “In order to fully achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda, we must start by addressing gender inequality and the challenges faced by women and girls.”

But how can we ensure that all actors keep their promises to the world’s women and girls? Panellists agreed that collecting more and better data on issues affecting women and girls around the world will play a crucial role in ensuring that the 2030 Agenda delivers for them. “What we don’t know, we can’t solve,” said Mr. Banerji.

One key solution is ensuring we understand what girls and women face and need is to let them have a say. Ayesha Durrani, a young leader and business owner from Pakistan, said: “If women and girls don’t have a say, progress won’t happen.”

“We need to give girls themselves a voice to challenge basic social norms and we need to stand by them,” Ms. Albrectsen added.