Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the virtual launch event for “Citizens Call for A Gender-Equal World: A Roadmap for Action”, a public perception survey in 17 countries by Women Deliver & Focus 2030

Date: Friday, January 29, 2021

[As delivered]

2021 promises to be a milestone year for accelerating global progress on gender equality. We are determined not to miss that opportunity, even under these unusual conditions. And I am sure all of us who are here today believe that we cannot miss that opportunity.

At the Generation Equality Forum we will call on governments, corporations, civil society, young people –and in fact people of all ages and backgrounds, around the world – to step up with bold commitments to make gender equality a reality.

We want Generation Equality to be a major inflexion point that will build momentum through 2025 up to 2030. The actions we are taking in Generation Equality provide us with a once-in-a-decade opportunity at a critical and challenging time. This is the time to accelerate the attainment of women’s rights. It is also an opportunity that we cannot delay or minimize.

We all know about the decades of underinvestment in gender equality. In our report on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action we identified this underinvestment. We know that COVID-19 threatens to roll back even those limited and hard-won gains that women have made.

So, as we gather here today, our collective response is critical to women and girls. We have to demand relief measures that are targeted to women and girls in the long term, as well as in the short term. We must look at both urgent and short-term stimulus as well as interrogate the long-term economic reforms, which address for instance the macroeconomic fundamentals as envisaged in the SDGs. The response to the long-term needs must go beyond the stimulus packages, which are limited in nature. That must include policy and programme reorientation, the consideration of political outlook, and global solidarity against the narrow nationalism that we are beginning to see as far as the vaccine is concerned. And we also want to see targeted interventions that will have an impact on women and girls.

The pandemic response must be sustainable, must rebuild and must be transforming. To qualify as building back better, it must bring together all these elements.

The findings of this report [Citizens Call for a Gender-Equal World: A Roadmap for Action by Women Deliver and Focus 2030] show that people around the world recognize gender equality as an issue of our time, and one that has been made more urgent by COVID-19. So, we have to seize this moment while we have this public sentiment.

The survey provides powerful endorsement of our cause. The fact that 80 per cent of respondents consider gender equality to be an important cause means that leaders must understand that and listen to their citizens. The fact that the people want their governments to increase their funding to gender equality using the taxpayers’ resources must also be listened to by governments. And of course, we must also make sure that there is a combination of both public and private investment into the agenda for gender equality.

The Generation Equality Action Coalitions encapsulate all of these issues. Generation Equality stands poised to be part of the transformation that will direct change that is both concrete and scalable, and will address the key challenges, some of which are raised by this report.

I am encouraged by the support we have seen from our partners, and I thank you.