5 March 2010

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

Strong Policies, Effective Advocacy, Offer Only Way to Win Space in Which Women,

Girls Can Flourish, Secretary-General Tells Beijing Review Event

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)/Equality Now event in celebration of the fifteen-year review of the Beijing Declaration, delivered by Rachel Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, in New York, today, 5 March:

The Secretary-General regrets being unable to attend this event due to the calamity in Chile.   He has gone to see for himself the scale of the devastation so he can better guide the United Nations response in support of the Government of Chile.  He and I thank you for your understanding.  I will now read his message for today’s event.

Fifteen years ago the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action marked a milestone on the road to empowerment for women and girls.  It emphasized that equality, dignity and opportunity are inalienable rights for all.  And it has inspired action throughout the world; actions by groups such as Equality Now, which is co-hosting this event with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Your work to end violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world is commendable.  Violence and discrimination remain perhaps the biggest obstacle to achieving equality, opportunity and progress.  That is why I launched the “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign in 2008, and established a Network of Men Leaders.  We must put an end to these abuses.

As we look back on the struggle for equal rights for women, we see many landmarks.  The United Nations Charter itself, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Let me assure you today of our commitment to equality, opportunity and progress for all women and girls.  Here at the United Nations we are working to speed up our efforts for gender balance among staff.  And we are urging the General Assembly to move swiftly to establish a new composite gender entity to give more coherence and power to our work on behalf of women and girls.

We can only win freedom from fear and space for women and girls to flourish by strong policies and laws, effective advocacy and the examples of role models.  Role models such as the growing numbers of women leaders around the world; the women from all sectors of society who refuse to be subjugated; and our own brave women peacekeepers who are showing that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions as their male counterparts.

We must also be thankful for role models such as Sarah Jones, who has been described as a one-woman global village.  She is using her profound talents to help us better understand the society we live in.  Sarah:  on behalf of the United Nations we thank you for all you are doing to help us empower women and girls around the world.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record