Opening Remarks by Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

Vienna Policy Dialogue: Advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women: role of development cooperation

Honorable Barbara Prammer,
Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you to this important Vienna Policy Dialogue on “Advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women: the role of development cooperation”

Too often discussions on women in development take place in silos.

We are therefore delighted that we have representatives from a wide range of stakeholders, from both developing and developed countries.

They are bringing unique expertise and experience on gender issues and development cooperation to this meeting.

This augurs well for our discussions over the next two days.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As we meet today, the world as a whole has made great strides towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

This progress has been made in spite of the economic and financial crisis that continues to beset much of the world.

It is also occurring in a rapidly changing development landscape. One marked by an increased number of actors, and new approaches.

It is now widely recognized that achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women is a sine qua non for the achievement of all MDGs.

Yet women have not benefitted equally from past progress. They continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets.  Women’s participation in decision making at all level remains far from adequate.  Violence against women continues to undermine efforts to empower women and to ensure respect for their equal rights.

Indeed, poverty continues to have a female face.

All of us have a duty to change this. All of us have a role in bringing about that change.

Women are important agents of development. But they will only be able to serve as agents of development if they have an environment that enables their full potential.

Looking ahead, we must ensure that gender equality and the empowerment of women are at the centre of a post 2015 global development agenda.

Indeed, the outcome document of the Rio + 20 conference, “The Future We Want” placed the issue of gender equality at the centre of sustainable development.

I am confident that Member States will reflect that strong focus in their deliberations on Sustainable Development Goals.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

The MDG experience holds several important lessons that should help guide the process of formulating a post-2015 global development agenda.

First, many suggest a post-2015 development agenda should build on the achievements and lessons learned of the MDGs.

The MDGs included gender equality and the empowerment of women, both as a stand alone goal, and in terms of targets and indicators. Half of the MDGs have gender-related targets.

Many see this twin track approach as critical in generating political support and the necessary financial backing for the empowerment of women.

Experts have therefore stressed the need for building on this successful approach.

Second, a future development agenda must address the root causes on gender inequality.

MDG-3 and the targets and indicators that frame MDG-3 are often seen as being too narrow, with their focus on more technical solutions.

In this regard, the future development agenda must address the underlying economic, social and cultural drivers of gender inequality.

To pave the way for the transformational change needed, we must vanquish stereotypical attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality. One concrete way is to support gender mainstreaming in macroeconomic policy making.

This can be done through increased reliance on gender responsive budgeting and planning processes. This would, in turn, help to advance a gender-responsive global partnership for development.  And, an effective mutual accountability mechanism.

Third, a future development agenda must be grounded on a strong mutual accountability framework that can help actors to hold each other to account for commitments made on gender equality and the empowerment of women. 

Today, the potential of mutual accountability mechanisms for the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women, remains largely untapped. We must address this gap moving ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These are some of the thoughts I wish to share at the start of our dialogue. Over the next two days, we will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth these and other important issues.  

I look forward to hearing your views.

Thank you.