– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Tijjani Muhammad Bande, President of the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
9 March 2020
Your Excellency Mher Margaryan, Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women,
It is a pleasure to be here today at the Opening of the 64th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. This year, 2020, marks twenty-five years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains the most comprehensive global agenda for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women.
I commend the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, his team, the co-facilitators from Algeria and Australia, all delegations, and the UN Women Secretariat for their tireless efforts, which resulted in the draft Political Declaration to be shortly adopted by consensus.
Clearly, CSW is one of the most important events on the calendar of our Organization. It brings together partners from around the world, for the realisation of gender equality and women’s rights: from high level officials from capitals, members of civil society, youth and many stakeholders.
Sadly, owing to the spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, we are missing the vibrancy which we have come to associate with CSW. Nonetheless, your work this Session is of critical importance and we are here today, on behalf of all Member States, to re-commit to the implementation of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
I acknowledge the Ministers, civil society and other stakeholders, who are unable to join us here today, for their continued conviction and work to ensure the full implementation of our joint commitment.
Change has been slow for most women and girls in the world, and to that effect, society as a whole is diminished. No country can claim to have achieved gender equality.
We must accelerate progress at all levels. As we begin this Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, we are for the first time, reviewing the progress of the Beijing Platform in the context of Agenda 2030.
Make no mistake: if we are to achieve any of the SDGs, we simply cannot exclude 50% of the population. It is everyone’s responsibility to uphold our pledge to leave no one behind.
The most existential threat facing us all, climate change, has a disproportionate effect on the most marginalised women and girls. Climate change exacerbate existing inequalities which inhibit women’s empowerment.
Yet, ‘Mothers of Invention’ around the world have mobilised their communities, and combined their expertise, leading initiatives such as Zero Waste Week, EcoWave Power, and Solar Sister. Just last week I met with women in Vusama Village, Fiji, who with UN support, have rejuvenated the traditional practice of salt making.
Indigenous women are spearheading climate action in their communities through the Innuit Circumpolar Council and initiatives such as TierrActivia in Peru.
Youth activists around the world have taken to this stage to call for climate action. We need women advocates, entrepreneurs, policy makers, political leaders, and innovators if we are to safeguard our world.
This begins with facilitating equal access to quality education for girls and boys everywhere. We have made important progress since 1995, with more girls in school than ever before, but we need to do more.
Schools should meet the needs of all students, and this includes the particular needs of girls. Schools must be safe spaces, with adequate sanitation facilities and gender-neutral curricula which enable girls, and boys, to reach their full potential, particularly in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
However, academic achievement alone does not guarantee women’s economic empowerment. Barriers remain which cause an enduring gender pay gap, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and difficulties re-entering the workforce after maternity leave.
Furthermore, occupational segregation persists. Indeed, women take on three times more unpaid work than men, and the majority of jobs which will be automated in the future are currently undertaken by women.
As we look towards 2030, we must work harder to remove all structural impediments to the full equality of men and women, everywhere.
Since 1995, instability, conflicts, and humanitarian crises have been holding back progress for women and girls. If we are to ensure peaceful, inclusive and democratic societies we need to uphold women’s rights in all contexts.
True peace requires the participation of everyone in society. Two decades since the adoption of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security we must ensure that women take their rightful place in all peace processes.
Indeed, women’s leadership is essential to continued peace and a strong multilateral system. However, it is concerning that last September only 16 of 192 speakers in the General Debate were women. This is not demonstrative of the United Nations we need. Globally, only 24% of parliamentarians are women. This is not representative of the people we serve.
I implore all Member States to include women in decision-making structures, in delegations, and in the list of speakers billed to address high-level fora. We need to hear the voices of those who have for too long suffered historical injustices and marginalisation. And when these women speak, the onus is upon each of us to listen.
This is a seminal year for gender equality and women’s rights, as we mark 25 years since Beijing, 20 years since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, and a decade since the establishment of UN Women. We also commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
Let us galvanise multilateral action around these key moments and not only recommit to the founding ideals of our organisation, but also work assiduously to realize them :
“We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to… reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women…”, presupposes action in this regard.
The Commission on the Status of Women is about building partnerships to uphold women’s rights and achieve gender equality.
We must forge new, and deepen existing, partnerships between women and men, and among Member States, the United Nations family, civil society and the private sector. Critical areas of action must be adopted and acted upon.
Let us begin by creating cultures of respect.
We must work towards eliminating stereotypes which are unbefitting of this era and perpetuate biases, discriminatory practices, and gender-based violence.
We must uphold our commitment to gender equality and be allies to women in our homes, in our communities, and in our workplaces.
We must teach our children, both boys and girls, that every individual, regardless of gender, is entitled to be treated with equal dignity and respect.
We must acknowledge that a woman in power is not a threat. We all benefit from representative leadership.
If we are truly to honour the founders of the United Nations, we must commit to entering the next quarter of a century as Generation Equality.
Let’s get to work.
I thank you.