By Ramesh Jaura
BERLIN | NEW YORK (IDN) - United Nations General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have expressed their support for choosing a woman as the next UN Chief.
Speaking on ‘women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development’ at the opening of the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on March 14, Lykketoft said: “. . .the drive for Gender Equality has been the business of this Commission long before the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“And the empowerment of women and girls has been advanced by courageous feminists, women activists, government officials and others long before the 2030 Agenda was agreed.” So what exactly has changed since September 2015?
In many respects, very little, declared the Danish diplomat. Because women of all ages, of all religions and in all countries, continue to face discrimination. Adolescent girls continue to suffer violence, an absence of opportunity and to have access to sexual and reproductive health and rights curtailed.
Political systems continue to pay lip-service to gender parity and governments continue to clamp down on those who defend human rights, he stated, adding: “And labor laws and practices remain stacked in favor of men – as demonstrated by the fact that even in this Organization, the United Nations, we have yet to see a female Secretary-General.”
Of the seven candidates submitted by their respective governments to the UN General Assembly and Security Council presidents Mogens Lykketoft and Samantha Power respectively by February 29, four are men and three women.
The male candidates are: Srgian Kerim of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Igor Luksic of Montenegro; Danilo Turk of Slovenia, and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, who also served as the Portuguese Prime Minister.
Female candidates officially confirmed are: UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; Vesna Pusic, former Foreign Minister of Croatia, and Natalia Gherman, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Moldova.
The General Assembly President said, gender equality requires action not just on Goal 5 but right across the Agenda, adding that it can highlight the pitfalls, opportunities and concrete steps towards a gender-equal world by 2030.
“We have fifteen years to make this transformation happen,” he added.
Indirectly supporting the choice of a woman as his successor, UN Secretary-General said in his message for the International Women’s Day on March 8: “Confucius taught that to put the world in order, we must begin in our own circles. Armed with proof of the value of women leaders at the United Nations, I have spoken out for women’s empowerment everywhere.
“In speeches at parliaments, universities and street rallies, in private talks with world leaders, in meetings with corporate executives and in tough conversations with powerful men ruling rigidly patriarchal societies, I have insisted on women’s equality and urged measures to achieve it.”
He added: “I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement. Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.”
As the Commission on the Status of Women opened its sixtieth session on March 14 at the UN headquarters in New York, Ban Ki-moon called upon Governments, businesses and others around the world to step up efforts for gender equality.
Addressing delegates in the General Assembly, he said that in his many travels, he had been angered to see women excluded from politics – and inspired by “strong heroines” who were making a difference in some of the toughest places in the world to be female.
Next day, Ban was presented the first-ever Delivering for Girls and Women award by the global gender equality advocates Women Deliver during an event organized by Every Woman Every Child.
Women Deliver is a leading global advocacy organization for the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women. The Women Deliver award was created to recognize true visionaries for game-changing efforts that move the needle forward for girls and women, and to initiatives, like Every Woman Every Child, that will lead to significant progress in the future.
“While I am honored to receive this award, the true champions are fighting on the frontlines for health rights everyday,” said Ban. “This recognition is a testament to their dedication and to the hundreds of Every Woman Every Child partners who are united around a common vision to ensure the survival, health, and well-being of women, children, and adolescents in every setting.”
Every Woman Every Child was created by Ban in 2010 to arouse attention and support at the highest levels to end preventable deaths for women and children.
“The UN Secretary-General has helped propel gender equality and girls’ and women’s health, rights and wellbeing to the forefront of the global agenda and into the SDGs,” said Katja Iversen, CEO of Women Deliver. “His commitment to the new global health strategy and to the health and rights of every woman, every child and every adolescent everywhere has been outstanding.”
Goal 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals endorsed by the international community in September 2015 has set itself the target to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.
With the adoption of the SDGs, an updated Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030) for Every Woman Every Child underpins the movement and provides a roadmap for ending preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents.
Its three objectives – survive (end preventable deaths), thrive (ensure health and well-being) and transform (expand enabling environments) – are fully aligned with the SDGs. By working together, Every Woman Every Child partners are stated to have already saved the lives of millions of women and children and, by advancing the Global Strategy, will continue to support them to achieve their full potential.
According to the organization, more that 40 countries and over 120 multi-stakeholder partners have made commitments to the Global Strategy, totalling over $25 billion. At the event the Ban Ki-moon called all stakeholders to make a new commitment to Every Woman Every Child or renew an existing one, to be announced at three key moments this May: at the Fourth Global Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen; at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul; and at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Speaking to delegates at the CSW60, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), urged the international community to be bold in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For many women and girls at risk, change was not happening fast enough, she said, emphasizing how the Agenda, with its women-specific Goal 5, should be put into effect in tandem with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Antonio de Aguiar Patriota of Brazil, who chairs the Commission, said that the session was well-positioned to adopt strong conclusions. Now was the time to determine the “how” of the Agenda’s implementation, he said, adding that deliberations would focus on building alliances and taking stock of progress towards eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
Several ministers and other high-level speakers underscored the progress that had been made, the work that remained to be done and the valuable role that the Agenda would play in putting gender equality and women’s empowerment at the heart of sustainable development efforts.
“A transformation is necessary because the 2030 Agenda has set the bar higher than before”, said Adul Sangsingkeo, Minister for Social Development and Human Security of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, while Ummy Mwalimu, Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, on behalf of the African Group, said women were forced to bear the brunt of climate change, yet they were systematically excluded from decision-making mechanisms.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, Dawn Hastings Williams, Minister, Ministry of Communities of Guyana, said significant unemployment and underemployment in her region had led to a high proportion of female-headed households, placing women at a significant disadvantage when it came to greater economic autonomy.
A UN press media release said: “A number of speakers underlined the connection between sexual violence and the global refugee crises, saying that action was needed to support and protect women forced by armed conflict and violent extremist to flee their homes. Others regretted a lack of quality data to monitor the progress of gender equality and help develop more effective policies. [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 March 2016]
IDN is the flagship of International Press Syndicate.
Photo credit: UN