Secretary-General, Addressing ‘Women Deliver’ Conference, Underlines Importance of Immediate Concerted Action to Deliver for Women

7 June 2010

Secretary-General, Addressing ‘Women Deliver’ Conference, Underlines Importance of Immediate Concerted Action to Deliver for Women

7 June 2010
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Addressing ‘Women Deliver’ Conference, Underlines Importance

of Immediate Concerted Action to Deliver for Women


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks to the “Women Deliver” Conference in Washington, D.C., today, 7 June:

It is a great pleasure to open this landmark conference.  Dr. Fred Sai, thank you for your kind introduction — and for your many years of work for women’s health.

We are here for a historic undertaking.  This is the right time for us to come together.  Ten years into the new Millennium, we are ready to take stock of what has been achieved.

This is the right setting.  How wonderful to see so much commitment in one room — ministers and Government officials, advocates, health-care providers, foundations — and all of you good friends of the United Nations.  And it is great to be joined by so many men here.  Delivering a better world for women and children is men’s work, too!

This is the right topic.  Invest in women — it pays.  This is one of the best investments we can make for this and future generations.  Working together, we aim to make 2010 a turning point for women’s health.  Thanks to advocates like you, the world has started to recognize that delivering on women’s health must be front and centre in the push to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Recent statistics show some success.  But progress to reduce the number of women who die in childbirth is far too slow.

This need not be.  We know how to save women’s lives.  Some simple blood tests, consultation with a doctor, if available, and qualified birth attendant, especially midwives, can make a huge difference.  Add some basic antibiotics, blood transfusions and a safe operating room and certainly efficient transportation, and the risk of death can almost be eliminated.

But hundreds of thousands of women continue to die in childbirth every year, 99 per cent of them in developing countries.  We must translate what we know into global action — fast.  The best way — the only way — to make these simple measures universal is through global partnerships.

I am here today with a clear message:  if we act now, and act together, we can deliver for women.  That is why I am announcing a renewed commitment, a new push from the United Nations to help Governments deliver for mothers and children.  Here it is [holds up Joint Action Plan]:  our plan to accelerate progress on women’s and children’s health; our plan to help us meet the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015.

This plan calls for every part of the world’s health infrastructure to work together, towards one goal.  Governments and health services in developed and developing countries alike.  International organizations, businesses, private foundations.  Non-governmental organizations and civil society.  All are part of the picture.

We have already tried the piecemeal approach.  Tackling one problem in isolation, mobilizing one group at a time.  It hasn’t worked.  We must fight for women’s health with all our resources, all the time.  When we work together, we succeed.  We have seen it in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  We have seen it with malaria.

Our Joint Action Plan demands that all women and children should benefit from the relatively simple, proven health practices and known technologies that save lives.  It asks for new commitments from everyone – Governments, foundations, civil society, corporations, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.  And it has a framework to track progress.  Accountability is one of its watchwords.

The coming months are critical.  We must seize opportunities for collaboration.  These include the G-8 and G-20 summits, the African Union Summit on Maternal, Infant and Child Health Development, the International AIDS Conference.  We must finalize this plan for decisive action.  By September, all actors must be clear on what they will do and how they will do it.

I invite all of you here today — ministers, chief executives, doctors, nurses and midwives, and health advocates — please read the plan.  Stand up.  Make your voices heard.  Give us your ideas.  Lives are at stake.  We need your creative thinking.  We need to keep our promise of a healthy world for all women and children.

To deliver on this promise, we must address more than health inequalities.  We must address discrimination of all kinds.  Gender inequality is a danger to women’s health.  The United Nations is working to end it.

First, we are working to combat the worldwide epidemic of violence against women.  Women can never fulfil their potential or participate fully in society when they live in fear:  fear of rape as a weapon of war; fear of domestic violence; fear of being trafficked for sex.

I have launched a global campaign aimed at raising awareness.  Wherever I travel, I tell leaders that this is a matter of moral leadership, a matter of political will.  All of us must see it as our business to put an end to these practices.

Second, the United Nations is determined to make its work for girls and women more effective.  Last year, Member States agreed to unite the functions and

mandates of multiple United Nations bodies into one.  Women and girls will have a powerful new champion, both on the world stage and within the United Nations.

Which leads to my third point.  Empowering women starts at home.  Since I became Secretary-General, the number of women in the top posts at the United Nations has increased dramatically.  Many of these are the first women appointees to positions that have been held by men for the past six decades.  And let me tell you, it does make a difference.

But that is just a start.  I intend to do more, and not just at the senior levels.  Women are still outnumbered by men at almost all my meetings.  Women more than hold up their half of the sky the world over.  The United Nations should be no exception.  Indeed we must lead.

Women’s health in the developed world has come a long way in my lifetime.  I myself was born at home, in a small village in the Korean countryside.  There was nothing strange or special about that fact.

I remember as a child asking my mother why women who were about to give birth would gaze at their simple rubber shoes, which they left at the back door as labour drew near.  My mother explained that the women wondered if they would ever step into those shoes again.  Giving birth was so risky.  They feared for their lives.  Her answer started me on the journey that has brought me here today.  A journey to help every woman step back into her shoes after giving birth.

Women are the glue that holds our societies and our nations together.  Mothers make the world work.  But too often, the world is letting mothers down.

Pressure is building for change.  I can feel it in this hall today.  We are seeing a global movement for an end to the silent scandal of women dying in childbirth.  No woman should have to pay with her life for giving life.

We can stop this, and we will.

Thank you all for your work.  Thank you for your vision and commitment.  Let us join to change the world – by helping women deliver.  Real results, for real people.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.