18 September 2008 Stronger accountability measures are needed to track progress governments and multilateral organizations have made in implementing their commitments to enhancing women’s rights, according to a new report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The publication – “Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009, Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability” – says that there is a long way to go to ensuring that pledges to women’s rights are translated into changes in their lives.
“Without accountability, Governments will not allocate resources fairly, which will hit the poor hardest,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today at the report’s launch.
“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.”
In legislatures, women decision-makers are outnumbered four to one, while women earn on average 17 per cent less than men. Some one-third of women are victims of gender-based violence during their lives, and one in 10 women dies while pregnant despite the fact that preventing maternal mortality is relatively inexpensive.
The report points out that accountability mechanisms work best for women when they can ask for explanations, information and – when needed – compensation or investigations.
It “shows how to respond to resource constraints with a creative approach that puts women first,” Mr. Ban said.
“That means ensuring rights through accountability. It means enabling women to mobilize, and achieve more and better political representation,” he added.
The publication’s launch comes one week before world leaders converge on UN Headquarters in New York to discuss the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty goals with a 2015 deadline.
“Building accountability for gender equality is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi told reporters in New York, adding that moving from “commitments to results” is crucial to meet the MDGs.
Governments and organizations not doing a better job of answering to women impede poverty reduction as well as human development, she said, pointing to the example of maternal mortality.
“Reforming the health system to reduce maternal mortality is cheap and uncomplicated,” Ms. Alberdi said, but more than half a million women die every year from complications giving birth.
The rate of maternal mortality is falling at a rate of 0.4 per cent annually, far shy of the 5.5 per cent drop needed to meet the fifth MDG, which calls for slashing the ratio by three-quarters by 2015.
The UNIFEM study calls on multilateral aid and security institutions to step up efforts to work towards their own standards regarding gender equality, noting that organizations such as the UN have no agreed means to assess the amount of funding earmarked for women’s rights.
News Tracker: past stories on this issue