Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France


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Distinguished Members of the G7,

I am honoured to have been invited by President Macron to join a diverse group of 35 advocates from 23 countries as part of a G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, which was initiated last year by Prime Minister Trudeau in Canada.

We have produced a set of recommendations for you, Excellencies, on strengthening legislative frameworks in support of gender equality. Our package focuses on four key areas that are relevant for all countries in the world: 1) gender-based violence; 2) access to inclusive, equitable and quality health and education; 3) women’s economic empowerment; 4) ending discrimination in policy and public life and ensuring women’s participation.

This is the “Biarritz Partnership”, which is a call for strong commitment and action to ensure that the legal frameworks in G7 countries support women’s rights.

And our call is not just to the G7, but to all governments around the world.

We hope that you can use your considerable influence to support gender equality around the world and join the brave women and girls who fight for gender equality every day.

As part of ending violence against women, we welcome your support for the International Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence that (fellow G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council members) Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege spoke about. The fact that the Nobel Peace Prize recognised their work is a testimony to the importance of fighting gender-based violence.

On women’s economic empowerment, we call on you to use your influence to remove the barriers limiting women, both in the workplace and at home. This includes: recognising, reducing and redistributing unpaid care work, and ensuring parental leave for both mothers and fathers; promoting financial inclusion; and improving access to capital and property. This will have a positive impact on inclusive and sustainable economic growth in your countries and around the world. More women in the labour force could grow the world economy by 26 per cent. And this phenomenal opportunity is in your hands.

On education, we call on you to ensure that every girl gets 12 years of quality education at home and abroad, as education is the closest thing to a silver bullet in every society.

On health, we call on you to ensure health systems guarantee health for all, including on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Deciding on one’s own body is the bedrock of gender equality. In the same way that no one legislates over men’s bodies, women’s bodily integrity has to be respected.

On discriminatory laws, more than 2.5 billion women and girls on the planet today are affected by discriminatory laws and the lack of legal protections. Passing laws that are good for citizens is every government’s privilege. I have been a Minister and a Deputy President, and I fully appreciate your position. I know Heads of State have considerable influence to support the change of laws and policies.

This is why we urge you on behalf of those 2.5 billion women and girls to lead on this. To make Biarritz Partnership a reality, we urge you to: Overturn the discriminatory laws that continue to hold women back; enact legal reforms that accelerate progress for girls, women and gender equality in your countries; make sure there is financing to carry out these reforms, including through strong accountability and governance mechanisms, and support for civil society; measure and report on progress.

We call on all countries to adopt laws that are comprehensive, ensuring alignment with international standards, such as CEDAW, the Istanbul Convention and the ILO Violence and Harassment Convention, adopted in June 2019. We call on all countries to withdraw all potential reservations to these instruments.

We do not only ask you to be as brave as the women and girls who live in countries where honour killing is allowed by law, where marital rape is allowed by law and where wage inequality is permitted, even when it is not allowed by law. We are actually asking you to be great and we stand ready to support you.

Next year in Paris we will evaluate progress on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and progress from Biarritz to Paris 2020. We need to start with the implementation of Biarritz as a way to accelerate and scale up for gender equality and in support of the Beijing Declaration.

France, Mexico and UN Women will convene the Generation Equality Forum, with the leadership of civil society in support of the feminist agenda, in which youth is essential. The forum will kick off in Mexico in May 2020 and culminate in Paris in July 2020 – to mark 25 years of the Beijing Declaration.

The main outcome of the Forum in 2020 will be a set of “Action Coalitions” with concrete commitments made by governments, the private sector, civil society and other actors in support of closing the gender equality gap before 2030.

We count on G7 countries to make bold commitments and support this effort, building on your existing commitments to the Biarritz Partnership and earlier G7 agreements on gender equality.

We also call upon you to treat the issue of climate change with greater urgency. For both climate change and gender equality, we do not have a minute to waste.

Brave leaders and individuals ended legislated slavery, racism and colonialism. Now is the time to end legislated and practiced gender inequality.

As Mandela has said “it falls upon every generation to be great”. So, we are not only asking you to be brave, we are asking you to be the great generation of leaders who will take bold steps to address climate change and to end gender inequality. We call upon you to pronounce 2030 as the expiry date of gender inequality.

Thank you.