Twenty-five years after its adoption, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action remains the most comprehensive and transformative global agenda for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Its 2020 progress review for the first time takes place in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 2030 Agenda, including SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls, highlight the centrality of gender equality to progress across all the Goals and targets.
The Decade of Action and Delivery to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, launched by world leaders in September 2019, contributes to the mobilization of stakeholders to tackle both emerging and existing gaps in the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
The report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly (E/CN.6/2020/3) demonstrates that important gains have been achieved since 1995: for example, more girls are in school than ever before and more countries have reached gender parity in educational enrollment; the global maternal mortality ratio has decreased significantly, and the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel increased over the past decade.
However, in recent years progress has not been fast or deep enough, has been uneven and even stalled in some areas. No country has fully achieved gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Major gaps remain and challenges persist that affect the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls and their enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. Many women and girls experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, vulnerability and marginalization throughout their life course.
The gender gap in labour force participation has stagnated over the past 20 years, and the majority of employed women work in the informal economy. Women and girls are disproportionately responsible for unpaid care and domestic work, and women are more likely than men to live in extreme poverty. Women still hold only a quarter of seats in single or lower houses of parliament around the world, and reports of attacks on women in political and public life are increasing. Violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres remains pervasive. Despite shrinking civic space, stakeholders all over the world have been inspired by women’s movements and energized by youth activists and are mobilizing to accelerate progress and achieve systemic change.
As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates pre-existing inequalities and threatens to halt or reverse the gains of decades of collective effort, it is more important than ever to accelerate action for the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, women and girls are disproportionately affected. World leaders must acknowledge and support the critical role that women play in building resilience and recovery efforts in both the rapid response and the long-term of building back better.
Action by all stakeholders, from Governments to civil society, the private sector to academia, trade unions to national human rights institutions, and from the local to the global and multilateral level are now more urgent than ever. Only through concerted efforts will the promise of the full, effective and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years after its adoption, and of the gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development be realized, for all women and girls, everywhere.
The high-level meeting is an opportunity to demonstrate the political will and leadership that will bring about the transformative change needed to address root causes, structural barriers and discriminatory practices and social norms that underpin discrimination and inequality. Achieving gender equality is everyone’s responsibility.