Speech: “Gender mainstreaming is crucial”—Lakshmi Puri

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at the ECOSOC Coordination and Management Session of 2017, on 7 June in New York.

Date: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

2017 marks 20 years since the adoption of the ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system (1997/2), recognizing that the goal of gender equality would not be achieved without a systematic and consistent process of gender mainstreaming which would allow assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels.

Twenty years back, the Council promoted gender mainstreaming as “a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated.”

Over the years, intergovernmental resolutions in the ECOSOC and the General Assembly have sought to advance gender mainstreaming in the UN system. For example, every year the Council adopts by consensus the gender mainstreaming resolution, and the new Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review has also given strong mandates for gender mainstreaming.

The context of the 2030 Agenda has made the Council’s guidance more relevant than ever before. Member States’ commitment to the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the historic gender equality related intergovernmental norms and standards, and the commitments made in sustainable development, peace and security, human rights and humanitarian action in the last 5 years. This demands the system to be fit for purpose, including through the effective implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy in all policies and programmes to ensure concrete gender equality outcomes, especially at the country level.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

We have come a long way since 1997. We have seen a significant increase in political will and commitment to gender mainstreaming with established institutional arrangements, such as gender units, gender specialists and gender focal points in the UN system and elsewhere.

Initiatives have been undertaken to develop the capacity to identify and address relevant gender perspectives in all areas of our work, at both normative and operational levels. Gender perspectives are being incorporated into planning, budgeting and reporting processes.

The United Nations continues to support Governments, at their request, to develop gender-sensitive policies and strategies and to take gender perspectives into consideration in all areas of collaboration. Considerable support is also given to capacity development.

Assessing gender mainstreaming

Yet at times a less than stellar picture of gender mainstreaming has been presented. It has been viewed as unclear and as a replacement for standalone programmes for gender equality and the empowerment of women. These myths must be quickly dispelled.

Gender mainstreaming and standalone gender equality programmes are not mutually exclusive, and for us to arrive at gender equality a twin-track approach remains necessary. The twin-track approach is about consistent and visible policy prioritization and targeted programs and about gender mainstreaming in all key policies, programmes and institutions. Agenda 2030 follows this approach.

Reinvigorating gender mainstreaming

There should be no confusion as to why gender mainstreaming is crucial and what is needed to ensure it. We need political will and commitment from the very top, but above all we need human and financial resources to deliver for all women and girls.

The work on gender mainstreaming and enhancing gender equality needs better funding. Underinvestment in gender continues to impede results yet it remains the norm. The number of staff working on gender issues at least 50 per cent of their time stands at only 3.5 per cent of UN staff. This is not enough to make a difference. UN entities need to ensure that resources, both human and financial, are earmarked in their respective budgets. It cannot be business as usual if we want to step it up for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

Nothing propels implementation more than effective accountability mechanisms. In this light the UN-System Wide Action Plan constitutes a significant breakthrough. It has propelled progress, accelerated gender mainstreaming in the institutions of the UN system and yielded a clearer and more consistent picture of system-wide strengths and challenges related to gender mainstreaming.

Similarly, the UNCT Performance Indicators for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (also known as “The UNCT Gender Mainstreaming Scorecard”) function as an accountability mechanism at the country level.

At this juncture, five years after the inception of the innovation of the UN-SWAP and about a decade after the initiation of the Scorecard, both are due for update and alignment. In this vein, we now look forward to the launching and full implementation of both the updated UN-SWAP and the UNCT SWAP Scorecard in the beginning of 2018. 

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I now have the pleasure to introduce the report of the Secretary-General (E/2017/57) on “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system”, prepared pursuant to resolution 2016/2, which requested the Secretary-General to report on gender mainstreaming, including on progress in the implementation of the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

  • This year, 65 entities, departments and offices reported under the UN-SWAP. The number of reporting entities was 55 in 2012, which was the first year of implementation of the UN-SWAP.
  • In its five years of its implementation, the compliance against UN SWAP indicators has more than doubled. During the reporting period, the performance areas of capacity development, capacity assessment and knowledge generation and communication recorded the largest gains. 
  • In 2016, 78 per cent of all reporting entities met or exceeded the requirements for the gender policies and plans indicator. An additional six entities have committed to developing or implementing policies in 2017, which suggests a projected compliance rate of 88 per cent by the end of 2017.
  • Gender policies and plans remain one of the strongest drivers of institutional change. We have consistently seen that entities with gender policies outperform those without.

There are, however, some troubling trends worthy of note as well.

  • First, the current rate of progress is insufficient. The UN system will not meet all performance requirements by the 2017 deadline, set by the Chief Executives Board for Coordination. Some of this lies in the area of parity where progress is dependent on factors beyond normal ranges of control, such as retirements.
  • Second, we have observed that the rate of progress itself has slowed. Intensified efforts therefore remain necessary.
  • Third, efforts need to be focused on adequate resource allocation without which all indicators will progressively start to suffer and gains lost.
  • And finally, for the fifth consecutive year, resource allocation emerged as the weakest indicator.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

  • The role of UN Country Teams, supported by gender theme groups is critical to ensuring gender mainstreaming in country level programming

Key results in 2016 include:

  • Gender remained the number one area of focus of joint programmes, with almost 110 joint gender programmes implemented out of a total of 380.
  • All regional UN Development Groups (UNDG) are supported by gender working groups that strive to enhance joint action on gender equality and the empowerment of women at the regional level.
  • A total of 97 interagency working groups on gender provided policy, technical and capacity-building support to the UN country teams in their effort to enhance gender mainstreaming.
  • In Somalia, for example, the gender theme group developed a Gender Accountability Framework to support the United Nations Integrated Mission improve synergies and collaboration in the areas of leadership, advocacy, programming and reporting for gender equality.
  • Gender perspectives are increasingly being reflected in UN common country programming.
  • The United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) continue to show an increasing focus on gender equality. In 2016, 91 per cent of the 27 UNDAFs rolled out in 2016 contained at least one outcome level result that support gender equality and the empowerment of women.

The United Nations system is making steady progress in gender mainstreaming including in the context of the UN-SWAP. Nevertheless, critical gaps exist. To address them, may I highlight some priority actions that are also foundational and without which continued and adequately paced progress may be more elusive:

  • First, sustain political commitment and leadership at the highest levels. It remains an essential condition for progress towards and realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
  • Second, ensure provision of adequate human and financial investments to support gender mainstreaming within and across entities. While accountability and compliance is central, support rendered for its attainment is equally so.
  • Third, enhance operational coherence, capacity and expertise of UN country teams on the systematic and comprehensive mainstreaming of gender in country-level common programming frameworks, particularly the United Nations Development Assistance Framework.
  • Fourth, intensify support to produce gender statistics and robust data, which is fundamental for supporting gender mainstreaming as well as monitoring implementation of global and national commitments on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.
  • Fifth, strengthen gender mainstreaming across the development, peace and humanitarian agendas.
  • Finally, increase tracking for financial allocations and expenditures for gender equality, using gender markers to identify resource gaps and commit to specific targets.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates,

  • UN Women views the Council’s resolution before you today as an important political commitment to gender mainstreaming. This year’s resolution provides very strong actions for the UN system to continue to work collaboratively and be accountable for accelerating the full and effective mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the UN system, including in the context of the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.
  • In this regard, UN Women looks forward to the Council’s adoption of the resolution “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes of the United Nations system”.

Thank you.