Deputy Secretary-General: Statements
New York, 1 March 2010 - Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at opening of 54th Session of Commission on the Status of WomenMr. Chairperson,
President of the Economic and Social Council,
Under Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs,
I am honoured to be here at the opening of the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission dates back to the earliest years of the United Nations.
Today, fifteen years on from the Fourth World Conference on Women and the landmark Beijing Declaration, its goals remain just as fundamental, if not even more so, to our global mission.
This year, the Secretary-General has designated gender equality and women's empowerment as priority areas where there are distinct strategic opportunities for progress.
Many countries have achieved gains in various areas, including education and the development of national laws, policy and programmes.
Much of this progress can be attributed to the efforts of women's groups and networks at the global, regional and national level.
Women continue to play a vital role in advancing the agenda. Women's groups have shown tremendous creativity and determination in demanding commitments, and holding their governments accountable for delivering on them. I applaud your work.
The results are clear. More and more people now understand that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is not just a goal in itself, but a key to sustainable development, economic growth, and peace and security.
More and more leaders, from all walks of life – women and men – are taking a public stance on decent work for all and other such issues.
They are also speaking out against the pandemic of violence, which remains a cause for global shame.
In particular, sexual violence during conflict is endemic.
Last year, as you know, the Security Council adopted two strong resolutions on this issue.
The Secretary-General's new special representative on the subject has just taken up her duties.
And, the Secretary-General's “Unite to End Violence against Women” campaign and the recently launched 'Network of Men Leaders' are also helping to expand our global advocacy efforts.
Violence is the most blatant manifestation of discrimination against women, but it is not the only one. Injustice and inequality persist in developing and developed countries and in all regions.
In 2000, the 23rd special session of the General Assembly called for the removal of laws that discriminate against women by 2005. But many such laws still exist across the globe.
In most countries, gaps remain between legislation and implementation. And negative attitudes and stereotyping continue to prevent change.
Women still outnumber men among the world's poorest people. Many women work in vulnerable and low-paid jobs without social protection. And around the world, women are still generally paid less than men for the same work.
Two-thirds of illiterate adults are women – a statistic that has not changed in 20 years. Unpaid domestic and care-giving work remains a predominantly female realm, limiting women's opportunities for education, training, employment and political activity.
Only 25 countries had reached 30 per cent or more women parliamentarians in 2009. This marks a significant increase from 1995, but it is still insufficient.
We have also seen limited progress on reproductive health. Maternal mortality remains unacceptably high. Almost all these deaths could be prevented.
So, while we have seen advances in the past 15 years, we have not seen enough.
The message emanating from the regional meetings held in preparation for this CSW session is clear – we need to move from commitment to action.
Many good lessons have been learned over the years in areas such as education, participation in decision-making, maternal health and ending violence against women.
There are many good and promising practices to build on, from legislative change, policy development and capacity building, to sector-specific initiatives and efforts to improve data collection.
Let us use this session to explore how to scale up and better support such practices.
The 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching.
The Secretary-General and I are strongly committed to ensuring that the United Nations provides every possible support to governments and civil society in order to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment. They are integral to all the MDGs.
Here at the United Nations, the decision by Member States to consolidate our existing four gender entities into one dynamic body is an historic opportunity. The new gender entity will champion a stronger role and voice for women in global governance and policy-making.
It will strengthen accountability across the UN system for gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment, and will significantly enhance our ability to assist countries to implement their gender commitments.
What this means, particularly for women and girls in developing countries, is that they will have greater life opportunities and be better equipped to make choices for themselves.
They will be able to look forward to leading fulfilling working lives and caring better for their families.
They may even become representatives and leaders of their communities – as many of us have been fortunate to do.
Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable.
Standing up for women's rights and development is standing up for the global good.
I wish you a productive session.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.