18 September 2008

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the launch of the Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009 report, in New York today:

I’m delighted to be here and show my strong support for the report we are launching today.

Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009 has a profoundly important message -- one that goes beyond even the progress of women.  It is about accountability, and how it can promote the kind of good governance that benefits all people.

Equally important, the focus of the report goes beyond resources.  Yes, we will always need funds for women’s empowerment and development.

But we cannot just wait for someone else to sign the check.  Progress 2008/2009 shows how to respond to resource constraints with a creative approach that puts women first.

That means ensuring women’s rights through accountability.  It means enabling women to mobilize and achieve more and better political representation.

But even this is not enough.  Representation has to generate legislation and enlightened policy.

This is at the heart of democratic governance.

Without accountability, Governments will not allocate resources fairly, which will hit the poor hardest.  Within that category, poor women are the most severely impacted, because they often lack access to education, political office and courts.  They are marginalized -- not mobilized -- and their needs are ignored -- not answered.

Accountability is the way out of this trap, by strengthening democratic structures to benefit the whole of society.  If any man asks why I support better accountability to women, this is my response: because a Government that answers to women will answer to you too.

I am here today because I want to amplify this message.  It is deeply symbolic that the report is launched in the same week as the world observed the first International Day of Democracy.  And that it comes just ahead of the high-level event on the Millennium Development Goals, which will be held on the 25th of this month.

One of my main reasons for convening that summit is to push the world to keep its promises to women and to galvanize political will among the leaders to put policy priority on gender improvement.

Let us be honest.  We have made great progress overall, but when it comes to maternal health our record is dismal.  It is unspeakable that one woman dies each minute from pregnancy complications or childbirth.  This is a silent emergency.

Yet there is no mystery behind these deaths.  To fix the problem, we don’t need a new vaccine, or a novel form of aid, or a 10-year research project and fancy technology.

All we need is to ensure that developing countries have what developed States provide at a minimum: prenatal health care and skilled attendants to help mothers survive the ordeal of labour.

All we need is common sense and political will to save half a million women’s lives each year.

We made that promise in 2000.  Progress 2008/2009 should be a powerful accelerator in our race to get there by 2015 -- the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals and the blueprint and vision for the twenty-first century which was agreed and promised by world leaders.

I commend all those who worked on this landmark document.  I recommend it to men and women everywhere.

Thank you very much and I wish you all success.

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For information media • not an official record