“Luxembourg is well positioned to take a leading role…in the national implementation of the SDGs”—Lakshmi Puri

Statement by Lakshmi Puri, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General & Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, at the Foundation of Luxembourg’s Cooperation 2016 conference on gender equality and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2016

UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri meets with Luxembourg Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Romain Schneider during her visit to the country to talk about the Sustainable Development Goals from a gender perspective at the Ministerial discussions during the Annual Meeting of Development Cooperation. Luxembourg recently announced a EUR 3.95 million (USD 4.4 million) contribution to UN Women’s Climate Resilient Agriculture flagship programme in Mali. Photo credit: UN Women/Oulimata Sarr
UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri meets with Luxembourg Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs Romain Schneider during her visit to the country to talk about the Sustainable Development Goals from a gender perspective at the Ministerial discussions during the Annual Meeting of Development Cooperation. Luxembourg recently announced a EUR 3.95 million (USD 4.4 million) contribution to UN Women’s Climate Resilient Agriculture flagship programme in Mali. Photo credit: UN Women/Oulimata Sarr

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On behalf of UN Women, I express our appreciation to the Government of Luxembourg for the opportunity to participate in these important annual Development Cooperation discussions on Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5), as well as the broader gender equality dimensions and commitments across all the SDGs.

I am pleased to acknowledge that Luxembourg is in the top five industrialized nations in the world to have met the UN target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) contributed to Official Development Assistance (ODA)—which Luxembourg achieved back in 2000. Also the Government of Luxembourg has been a steady supporter of UN Women since its establishment and is one of UN Women’s highest per capita contributors.

It must be emphasized that Luxembourg is well positioned to take a leading role among developed countries in the national implementation of the SDGs. The Government’s efforts can now be furthered in the light of the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda and the outcome document of the Conference on Financing for Development which recognized the urgent need for significantly increased resources to close the gender gap. Such efforts in the frontloading phase of the 2030 Agenda is critical to ensure full, effective and accelerated action so that by 2020 substantive progress is consolidated.

On our side, UN Women is also making huge strides to support Member States in ensuring that 2030 Agenda delivers for all women and girls. By leveraging the inherent economies of scale associated with operational activities, UN Women is contributing to the localization of the SDGs through its high-impact and scalable Flagship Programme Initiatives (FPI). In this regard, we extend our sincere thanks for the Government’s generous support (EUR 3.95 million) of UN Women’s Climate Resilient Agriculture flagship programme in Mali, which will contribute towards meeting eight of the SDGs. Closing the gender gap in agriculture has shown to have a transformational impact on women’s lives and significantly contribute to realizing gender equality and sustainable development for society as a whole.

Other impactful initiatives that UN Women has undertaken to push forward the frontier of the gender equality goal, include the recently launched and rolled-out Youth strategy; its strategy on the Role of Religion and faith-based organizations in Advancing Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment; as well as its strategy to mobilize men and boys as gender equality champions.

Through these initiatives, UN Women is broadening the scope of civic and private sector engagement in gender equality and the empowerment of women, while using its convening power to bring these stakeholders together with government partners to ensure that the implementation of all the SDGs—at local and national levels—remains true to the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda “…to realize the human rights of all and to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls,” and to ensure that no one is left behind as we work to make sustainable development a reality.

Hard-won gains, but vigilance needed:

The substantive gender equality commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development represent a significant and hard-earned victory for the women’s movement, civil society, governments worldwide and UN Women.

The SDGs build on existing commitments to gender equality such as those contained in the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) and CEDAW.

SDG 5 to achieve—not just promote—“gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls” zooms in on unequal power relations between women and men, and addresses the structural barriers that hold back progress for women and girls, including the need to:

  • End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere;
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres;
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation;
  • Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family;
  • Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life;
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights;
  • Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources;
  • Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women; and
  • Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels.

SDG 5 is accompanied by gender-specific targets and indicators across other goals, constituting what we call the gender equality compact of the 2030 Agenda which if implemented, has transformative potential for women and girls throughout the world.

Furthermore, there is explicit recognition that achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment is not only a sustainable development goal, but ‘a crucial contribution to progress across all the Goals and targets’ in order to realize the Agenda’s objectives of people, planet and prosperity for all.

The framework’s integration of the three dimensions of sustainable development—economic, environmental and social—and its strong references to human rights principles, such as equality and non-discrimination, and to concepts of universality and ‘leaving no one behind’, also represent a significant step forward.

At the same time as celebrating these gains, we must also remain vigilant to ensure that we hold on to them and continue to advance. Women’s rights activists know too well from experience that these gains are often fragile, particularly in the context of persistent attacks on women’s control over their own bodies and sexuality; access, ownership and control over resources; and division of power and labour.

Luxembourg as a leader in national implementation of SDGs:

Luxembourg is well positioned to take a leading role amongst developed countries in the national implementation of the SDGs. This includes advocacy with developed countries to ensure they implement the SDGs at a national level and meet ODA commitments.

We also look to Luxembourg to set an example in national implementation and to work multilaterally and bilaterally to ensure that gender equality and human rights are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, including by championing Goal 5.

It is especially important to mainstream gender equality across all areas, with a specific focus on areas where there is commonly a lack of, or insufficient attention to gender equality and human rights, such as economic policy, trade, finance, taxation, environment, governance and peace and security.

UN Women welcomes the EU Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 for External Action, which is very much aligned with the SDG 5, and provides a good entry for exchanges at country level, e.g. within the Gender Donor Group on the Climate Resilient Agriculture flagship (which Luxembourg is part of in several countries). The recent recommitment to the EU-UN Women Memorandum of Understanding, signed in June by our Executive Director, High-Representative Mogherini and Development Commissioner Mimica, explicitly refers also to strong collaboration in the context of the implementation of the SDGs—the GAP is a great tool at country level to make this happen. 

How to go a step forward and ensure the full, effective and accelerated implantation of the 2030 Agenda:

The Commission on the Status of Women adopted a set of Agreed Conclusions on “Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development”, on 24 March 2016. The Agreed Conclusions provide us with a set of global policy recommendations to guide national implementation, which all stakeholders can use to further hold governments to account.

Let me refer to the vector of the 10 “I”s of gender-responsive implementation that UN Women has identified as emanating from the CSW 60 Agreed Conclusions:

  • Inspiration from the intergovernmental normative frameworks and human rights convention. Gender equality is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and it demands that all SDGs—not just the 11 SDGs that have gender-sensitive targets—must deliver for women and girls and make full use of and bring out their full potential. Political will must be kept alive. In all international agendas and their regional, national and local implementation—be it migration, climate change, sustainable urban development, peace and security, humanitarian action—in every situation and in every context, SDG 5 should be a reference point.
  • Implementation – An enabling environment and governance are key. At the national level, this means ensuring that gender equality is a top priority in decision-making about national strategies, budgets and policies to implement the SDGs and that women are at the table to effectively influence decisions. The adoption and reform of laws, policies and measures including special measures and actions, the removal of discriminatory laws and policies, are critical to ensuring their full, effective and accelerated implementation of the gender equality compact of the SDGs.
  • Institutions - Creating, empowering, strengthening and resourcing gender equality and women's empowerment institutions at all levels—global, regional, national and local—and ensuring that all key institutions—political, economic, judicial, social, cultural, public services, etc.—work in a gender-responsive manner. Gender equality machineries that are most often under-resourced and lack authority, need to be strengthened and supported to influence implementation across all policy areas.
  • Information – generating comprehensive gender equality and women’s empowerment related value chain of data, statistics, indicators, monitoring systems, frameworks, and capacities in SDG implementation, follow-up and review at all levels to assess progress and gaps and guide policies and actions. There are 50 indicators on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Global Indicators Framework on SDGs which require a gender statistics revolution and support.
  • Inclusion – of all key stakeholders, particularly civil society, women's movements, youth, men and boys, faith-based organizations and the private sector for movement building, transforming social norms and addressing the needs of all women and girls especially those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization. Not only must the implementation of the 2030 Agenda ensure that no woman or girl is left behind, it must mean that the poorest and most vulnerable groups of women—for example, disabled and indigenous women and girls—move forward.
  • Investment – significantly increased and enhanced financial investment and resource mobilization from all sources, including ODA, to close gender equality gaps at all levels—targeted and mainstreamed, transformative actions for financing gender equality and women’s empowerment as committed to in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.
  • Integration – of gender equality and women’s empowerment across all SDGs and the entire 2030 Agenda and systematic mainstreaming in the implementation of its three dimensions, an all-of-government approach including in development assistance activities and initiatives.
  • Indivisibility - The prioritization of SDG 5 and gender-sensitive targets threaded across all SDGs in their implementation is a key task for all governments and will have a force multiplier effect on the achievement of all SDGs. Structures will need to be in place to ensure that all parts of government address gender equality concerns in their planning, decision-making, policy action and budgeting. This means stepping up coordination between gender equality ministries and other ministries—health, education, finance, environment and justice, for example.
  • Innovation - driving political, economic and social innovation that is gender-responsive through deployment of science, technology and innovation, modalities and means of implementation, information and communications technology (ICT), and media, including social media, innovative partnerships and advocacy platforms is a priority.
  • Impact - these commitments must lead to actual change in the enabling environment and make systemic and substantive impact on the situation of all women and girls, especially those most marginalized and must be the benchmark for accountability.

This year is about learning and what works and doesn’t work:

At the global level, 22 countries made national voluntary reviews to the High-level Political Forum (HLPF) in 2016. The reviews focused on institutional arrangements, alignment of national development strategies with the 2030 Agenda, financial resources, and national priorities. Most presentations (17 of the 22) made reference to gender equality issues. Civil society contributions, including those by the Women's Major Group, seemed to suggest that insufficient efforts were made at the national level to engage civil society organizations in national processes and national reports.

In the lead-up to the HLPF, UN Women worked with the countries making national voluntary reviews on ways to integrate gender perspectives.

The HLPF adopted a Ministerial Declaration, which includes a paragraph linking realizing gender equality with progress across all goals. The Declaration commits to a significant increase in investments to close the gender gap and strengthen support for institutions in relation to gender equality at the global, regional and national levels and reiterates the 2030 Agenda’s call for systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective. This language is based on the 2030 Agenda.

Moving forward, more work needs to focus on the linkages between existing gender-responsive mechanisms and policies and national efforts to translate the 2030 Agenda into reality. Multi-stakeholder participation can help to overcome silo-thinking and monitor at all stages that national implementation efforts deliver for women and girls, in all countries.

Following the HLPF, the General Assembly adopted a resolution on follow-up to the 2030 Agenda. The resolution provides the theme for next year’s HLPF 2017: Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world. SDG 5 will be among the goals that will be reviewed in-depth next year.

In conclusion, at this historic juncture, Luxembourg is in a privileged position to take the lead in the push for progress in this most important 21st century project for humanity within your country and in the EU, to take the special responsibility to be flag bearers of gender equality for the world.

And, women of Luxembourg know well that gender equality and women’s empowerment is yet to be realized and that despite progress challenges remain. Educator, literary writer and biographer Anne Beffort was the first national women who obtained a PhD at the time when girls were not allowed to attend secondary school. The Anne Beffort stamp is a reminder that just a century ago Anne Beffort participated in the creation of the first public school for young girls. In commemoration of her contribution to women's rights in Luxembourg, since 2003, the Anne Beffort prize is awarded each year to persons or organizations working in the domain of equal opportunities between women and men.

May the Anne Beffort prize be awarded to the Government of Luxemburg for its resolve to advance the gender equality goal and consolidate positive change in the reality of thousands of women and girls in Mali.

For Planet 50-50 by 2030, Luxembourg let us Step It Up for Gender Equality and the empowerment of all women and girls everywhere!

I thank you!