Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the event Gender Equality: from the Biarritz Partnership to the Beijing+25 Generation Equality Forum on the margins of the 74th UN General Assembly


[As delivered]

Excellencies, Partners, dear friends, sisters. I also want to acknowledge the ministers of France and Mexico, who are our partners, as well as many other much appreciated ministers in the room; including Ireland, Spain, South Africa and Sweden. I am honoured to join France and Mexico who will be the gracious co-hosts of Generation Equality next year, and with civil society and the women of the world, who will provide the substantive leadership for this important and historic event. Without a strong feminist movement, no country has a chance for meaningful equality. I am honoured to represent UN Women, who is working with civil society leadership, and the two co-hosting nations to organize this important anniversary.

I also want to recognize with appreciation, Ms Melinda Gates whose support for ‘nothing but a results-driven outcome’ next year will impact the lives of women and girls. I thank her for the generous support and the encouragement she has given us on this initiative.

I also want to thank Denmark, Mexico, Norway, South Korea and Sweden, for all the support that they are also giving us. Generation Equality kickstarts in 2020 in May in Mexico and ends up in July in Paris, having benefitted from the deliberations of the 64th Commission on the Status of Women in March 2020 here at the United Nations, where we will have reviewed the global status of women over a period of 25 years.

The Commission’s review in March 2020 will be informed by the rich data that you have supplied. At this point at least 157 countries have submitted reports that are giving us an insight into the status of women in the world. There are also going to be regional conferences, which will conduct further reviews.

Young women feminists have already met in Tunis, thanks to Tunisia and Sweden, and these young feminists have stated that their desires and demands are for a world that is free of violent abuse, a world that is free of poverty, and a world that is free of climate injustice. Women of all ages also met in Vancouver, convened by Women Deliver, and called for investment in gender equality, accountability, and full bodily autonomy for all women and girls. In Biarritz, at the G7, France convened women from all walks of life to advance the G7. Some of the advisers who formed the Gender Equality Advisory Council are here with us today. The Council did not only advise the G7 countries. We also called on countries all over the world to be in partnership, and to become part of implementing the call for action that was made in Biarritz. We have taken steps to make sure that we will monitor the implementation of the outcomes of this important partnership.

It was a pleasure for me, Ms Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, who will also be speaking here later, to brief the G7 leaders about the work that was done by this collective of women and men advisors. We focused on four key areas that are relevant for all countries in the world: gender-based violence; access to inclusive, equitable and quality health and education; women’s economic empowerment; and ending discrimination in policy and public life, while ensuring women’s participation throughout. We ask all of you to join and support this partnership. We call on more countries to join the initiative, not in words but in concrete actions that are measurable, and with allocation of resources.

2.5 billion women and girls on the planet today are affected by discriminatory laws and lack any legal protection. In many countries as much as 75 per cent of the rights of women and girls are not protected in law. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, this is inexcusable in 2019. And it is for that reason that the Beijing +25 anniversary cannot be ‘business as usual’. 2020 will have to be a historic year in a generation. It can advance gender equality if we all pull together.

We have to make sure that we do not betray the struggles of the women who brought us this far and the future of those who are dependent on us today and tomorrow. We have to ensure that the critical anniversaries we are marking next year will have a meaning. These mega anniversaries of next year, whether the 75th anniversary of the UN, or the fifth anniversary of the SDGs and 2030 Agenda, are all connected to Generation Equality. I think there is a special place in hell for people who fail to advance gender equality, when they have the possibility to succeed.

I want to highlight the fact that this plan is not just about celebration. It is about ensuring that we form coalitions that will take action forward. We need all stakeholders to work together with urgency. We need the whole world to agree and adopt this plan for massive change that we can implement together, in our different spheres, in our places of work, in our schools, in our government departments, in our homes and in our communities.

This ambitious plan I’m talking about would be one that should work for women and girls in the world no matter where you are and no matter who you are.

We will make sure that we focus on costing what it will take to implement these noble and bold ideas. We will also make sure that private sector, civil society, governments, individuals, philanthropists and communities are part of implementing this bold plan.

So, in May, from 7-8, we will kick off in Mexico with the first Generation Equality forum, and on the 7-10 July in Paris we will consolidate what we have done here, what will have started in Mexico, what we will have done in our communities, and what we will have done during CSW.

We thank you for everything that you have done to bring us this far. This is not the end, this is just the beginning.

Thank you.