Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Opening remarks: Expert Group Meeting on Strategies to Achieve Gender Equality
and Empower all Women and Girls through the Gender-responsive Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Dear Ms. Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women,
Dear delegates, experts, ladies and gentlemen,
A warm welcome to all of you coming from far.

I am very pleased to be here with you and deliver these remarks.

This meeting will focus on the key issue of gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As you know, the 2030 Agenda represents the commitment of all of us to eradicate poverty, ensure prosperity for all, and protect our planet.

Gender equality, and the empowerment of all women and girls are part of the 2030 Agenda and goals in their own right.

They are also essential to any meaningful strategy to achieve all the other SDGs. It is by now well documented that any improvement along these dimensions of equality and empowerment spills over into positive benefits for many of the other goals and targets.

Governments and all other stakeholders have started to implement the 2030 Agenda.

They will get together here at the United Nations from 10 to 19 July this year at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), which is the central platform for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda.

The theme of the HLPF this year will be “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world”.

The set of goals to be reviewed in depth during the HLPF includes SDG 5: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. But more broadly, SDG 5 is central to the theme of the review itself.

This expert group meeting will provide recommendations to accelerate the implementation of SDG 5 and to ensure the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

These recommendations will serve as inputs to the intergovernmental negotiations in the context of the HLPF.

It is important to note that the work to be carried out here during these two days should not be seen in isolation from other initiatives and mechanisms. It has to complement these other efforts.

For example, last week, from 22 to 25 May, the Second Economic and Social Council Forum on Financing for Development Follow-up was held here at the UN.

The Forum reaffirmed that achieving gender equality, empowering all women and girls, and the full realization of their human rights are essential to achieving sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development.

It also highlighted that it is critical that policies and actions are not just gender-responsive but actively seek to advance the goal of gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment.

It highlighted, for example, gender-responsive budgets at the national and local levels as contributing to transparency and equal participation of men and women in revenue and expenditure decisions.

I am pleased to note that Ministers and high representatives were committed to continue to pursue policies and enforce legislation that seek to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Another example is the Second Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals (STI Forum), which was held in here at the UN to weeks ago, on 15 and 16 May.

The Forum noted that despite women being the majority of new university graduates in most countries, they still account for less than one third of all researchers.

Even in countries where women are strongly represented in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (the so called STEM education), they lag behind men in the workforce.

That Forum noted that this low participation of women in science reflects the low female participation in the work force and the occupational gender segregation in the economy at large.

As these examples highlight, there is already a considerable set of findings and recommendations related to SDG 5 that will serve as input to the HLPF.

The question we should ask is: What is the value added of this expert group meeting within this process?

As experts in the field, I encourage you to go beyond the scope of SDG 5 itself in the discussion.

You need to go deeper to elicit key recommendations to implement the agenda, addressing possible tradeoffs and harnessing synergies through the interlinkages of SDG 5 with the rest of Agenda 2030.

There are many demanding issues within this discussion that are waiting for practical solutions.
Let me give you a few examples, closer to my own area of work.

From the economic perspective, we all know about lower rates of women’s participation in the labor force and gender pay gap.

In 2015, global average labor force participation was less than 50% for women as compared with 76% for men. As for young women it was only 37% compared with 54% for young men.

What can be done to remove the bottlenecks that inhibit the participation of women in the labour market?

Recent studies have shown that economic development alone does not automatically increase female labour force participation.

Moreover, even as women enter labour force they are likely to go to lower paid occupations, reinforcing the gender pay gap. In this very country, women earn on average 80 cents for every 1$ earned by a man.

Other reasons behind a gender pay gap include choice of working hours but also discrimination and bias against women in the workplace.

How do we ensure that women are entering and participating in the labour market on equitable terms, and being paid the same amount for equal work within such setting?

There are also other issues requiring high and immediate attention. Estimates show that 30% of women have been victims of gender-based violence in their lifetime, and harmful practices of female genital mutilation are still in place in at least 30 countries, in which around 1 in 3 girls aged 15 to 19 have undergone the practice.

These are very diverse problems and we ask your targeted, sharp and concrete recommendations on how to address them.

We also ask for your suggestions on how to make the most of the interlinkages with the rest of the Agenda 2030: both where achieving targets of SDG 5 can boost progress on other goals; as well as how to ensure that progress on other goals is in turn having a maximal impact on SDG5.

We know where we need to go; and we definitely know why we need to get there. We need you to help us to identify the “how”; which strategies we need to put in place for a gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

We are here to support you.

I wish you all a very successful expert meeting.

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