– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

1 October 2020

Mr. Secretary-General,

Distinguished Speakers,

Excellencies,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the high-level meeting to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We do not often face issues that each one of us must personally address.

It is very rare that each member of the society has a role to play to make the world a better place. It is even rarer that when each one of us takes a small step we can achieve a huge change.

This is why I would like to make a call, to each and everyone of us today.

First, to the leaders we will hear from later today:

I urge you to continue taking action, to meet the challenges of a rapidly developing world.

Your commitment to adapt, in order to meet the needs of the people we serve, is what will enable us to accelerate the realization of gender equality.

It is up to us to bridge the digital divide, to provide for girls’ education, to facilitate equal economic opportunity for women, to end the scourge of gender-based violence.

Second, to those of us here, in the General Assembly Hall:

The onus is upon us, to shift the status quo. Your pen, your voice and your votes have the power to shape society.

Here, in this Hall you speak not for yourself, but for those who have entrusted you to sit behind your national placard. You are expected to fulfill the aspirations of the world.

In the past session alone, representatives here at the United Nations have adopted resolutions on the girl child; to prevent violence against women migrant workers; to improve the situation of women and girls in rural areas.

Let us build upon this normative development.

I call on all Member States, to implement these resolutions. This requires more than legislation. We need to shift established norms. Each one of us must uphold our individual responsibility to create a more just world.

This is critical to sustaining peace, facilitating sustainable development and upholding the rights of the people we serve.

Third, to the civil society leaders who are joining us around the world:

I thank you. We would not be here without you. Twenty-five years after you gathered in Beijing, it is critical that you continue to raise your voice. You understand the complexity of the issues. You are the experts. We need to hear from you.

Your work in communities, bridging divides, and filling existing gaps, is even more critical as we contend with the global pandemic.

Indeed, if it were not for COVID-19, you would have been here in the General Assembly Hall. But fear not, your seat remains open.

Fourth, to the healthcare and social workers, who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic: in particular the women, who make up 70% of this labour force, we thank you. Women humanitarians have shaped the course of the world throughout “history”, or if you will permit me, “herstory”.

I urge you to accept this simple fact: “a woman in power, is not a threat”. It is time that men and women realise that when we embrace and celebrate diversity we all prosper. When the needs of women, who have been forcibly displaced are addressed, we are all safer. When women are engaged in peace processes, we are more likely to have lasting peace. When we break barriers and stereotypes, we can achieve what we never thought possible.

Volkan Bozkir

President of the UN General Assembly

Fifth, to all members of the United Nations system, including our Peacekeepers, who are working every day, to uphold the rights of women and girls, in the most challenging environments:

Please do not tire. We know that change takes time. Now is the time to up the ante.

Sixth, to everyone around the world:

I urge you to accept this simple fact: “a woman in power, is not a threat”.

It is time that men and women realise that when we embrace and celebrate diversity we all prosper.

When the needs of women, who have been forcibly displaced are addressed, we are all safer.

When women are engaged in peace processes, we are more likely to have lasting peace.

When we break barriers and stereotypes, we can achieve what we never thought possible.

Seventh, to the boys around the world:

Know that you are equal in every way to your sisters. You are no better or worse. But you have an extra responsibility to make space, to listen, to learn to be an ally. It is up to us to recognize our privilege.

And finally, to my granddaughters, and all girls around the world :

Know this: there is nothing that women cannot do. Dare to be the first. Dare to do what no woman has done before.

We need more women in power.

There is power in a podium.

There is power in information, data and science.

There is power in your words.

There is power in sharing your lived experience. There is power in an outstretched hand.

There is power in solidarity.

Never doubt your personal power. Assert your power.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I have to ask the question:

When will we reach full gender equality? In 2030? On the fiftieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference for Women? On the centenary of the United Nations?

Why wait? Let us take action today, to ensure equality tomorrow. It is up to you. It is up to all of us.

We need the full buy-in from governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations and you at home. The power of multilateralism is fueled by individual actions, by decision-makers at all levels.

It is time to level the playing field.

Each and every one of us has the opportunity and power to make a change.

I trust that we are in this together.

Thank you very much.