Remarks by Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, at the Opening Ceremony of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, France


[As delivered]

Thank you very much, dear President Macron, thank you for having us. Thank you to France and Mexico, for both countries made this day possible. Thank you, Secretary-General Guterres, and thank you to the President of the European Council and our youth representative for being here.

Women everywhere in the world are squeezed into a small corner. Women make up one quarter of those who are managers, they are one quarter of parliamentarians around the world, they are one quarter of those who negotiate climate change, they are less than one quarter of those who negotiate peace agreements. All these decisions have a fundamental impact on their capacity to have a life that is meaningful.

When I started to work for UN Women, my budget was also one quarter – of a billion dollars. It was meant to increase to half a billion dollars; of course, we did it and surpassed that. But clearly that was never enough.

That was never enough for the large problems that we face in society that impact women. And so, I went out to you to assist. I went to private sector, philanthropists, to young people and adolescents. And I went to civil society, who were already part and parcel of fighting for change for women and a strategic ally for UN Women.

Generation Equality, which brings us together here, is about change. It is about moving from making promises to telling us what you are going to do in order for the situation of women to change.

So today, I’m going to tell you what we have been able to do. We have almost 1000 commitments that have been made by Member States, by private sector and the other actors that I have highlighted, which will change the lives of women in the areas that we have identified in Generation Equality.

Countries from the Global South have put their foot forward, regional organizations like the African Union and the European Union have put their foot forward, young people, through their advocacy, have put their foot forward, and philanthropists and the private sector and our Member States have put their foot forward. So, in total, we now have over USD 40 billion put forward by all these actors. And we are still counting.

The private sector will use some of the money for the changes that need to happen in their companies. The philanthropic organizations will use the money for grants, and I am glad that some of the grants will support small grassroots organizations and youth organizations to do their work.

And of course, Member States have committed to change policies and programmes, including making sure that the number of women who are represented in their governments increases. I know that there are governments here today and at home who will tell you about what they are going to do. I do not want to steal their thunder.

So, today is a happy day from that perspective. But this is not everything we need. The fight still has to continue. What we are doing today is to take a step forward. We are extending the number of people who participate in gender equality. We are intergenerational - in that young people are at the core of what we do. What we do must benefit and change the lives of young people.

We thank you for the contributions that you have made and we call on you to stay with us, to monitor what we do with these resources. In UN Women, we have put in place a secretariat that will oversee the implementation of this and will report.

We have organizations that will implement their actions in groups, in the care system, for example, or in bringing policing into gender-responsiveness. There will be groups of countries that are coming together and who will be making announcements in this regard.

This is what we see as enhanced multilateralism. This is what we see as support to the work that we do in the intergovernmental space, where we need to be pushing upwards all the time, so that there is a race to the top.

I want to say, one quarter is not enough. One quarter is not equality. Equality is one half, where both men and women are together. Thank you.