UN officials call for concrete commitments on gender equality at World Humanitarian Summit

Young women and girls carry water in Nigeria. Photo: World Bank

17 March 2016 – Top United Nations officials today called on leaders to attend the World Humanitarian Summit in May and make concrete commitments to enhance gender equality, as women and girls are “central” to humanitarian action.

“We are now just two months away from the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, which will provide an unprecedented opportunity for leaders and stakeholders from all sectors to make firm commitments to enhance gender equality in humanitarian action,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told participants attending a side event of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

Underway at UN Headquarters in New York since Monday, this year’s 60th session of CSW focuses on women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. Mr. O’Brien insisted that humanitarian action cannot be effective unless it delivers equally for all women, men, girls, and boys.

“If you have any doubts many of you will know from my previous life I am proud to have coined the phrase which I occasionally hear recycled back to me: ‘On the evidence, if you get it right for girls and women, you get it right for development.’ Nine months into this job, I can confirm that if you get it right for girls and women, you get it right for humanitarian action,” he underlined.

The relief chief warned that the gender gap has existed for too long, imperilling women’s lives, health, and right to thrive in their own communities. “The World Humanitarian Summit is a once in a generation opportunity to be able to say that humanitarian action will now be working for all affected people,” he declared.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of UN Women – the United Nations entity tasked with promoting gender rights – lamented that in areas of conflict, women and girls are frequently targeted and denied access to education, reproductive services, healthcare, and participation in economic and political life.

“At the same time, women are essential to recovery and resilience building. The centrality of gender is reaffirmed by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goal 5 and its related targets,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, referring to one of the 17 goals included in this Agenda adopted by all UN Member States last September.

Mr. O’Brien echoed this message, highlighting that the Agenda puts gender equality “at its heart.”

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