5 June 2018

European Union, United Nations ‘Spotlight Initiative’ Aims to Target Unjust Gender Paradigms, Says Deputy Secretary-General, at Regional Development Event

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the opening of the European Development Days, in Brussels today:

It is an honour to join our partners from the European Union and around the world.  When I was told that this year’s European Development Days would focus on gender equality, I knew I had to be here.

We are now in the third year of work to advance the Sustainable Development Goals.  Goal 5 calls on us to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.  I often call it the “docking station” for all the goals.

Without equality and empowerment, we will simply perpetuate today’s paradigm:  Trying to address all the world’s challenges with only half the world’s assets.

This is as unwise as it is unjust.  Just last week, the World Bank detailed how women’s equal participation in the labour force would unlock $160 trillion — almost 2 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) — resources that could be reinvested in sustainable development.

Yet, a stark reality prevails:  More women than men live in extreme poverty.  The pay gap stands at an inexcusable 23 per cent.  Gender roles have been slow to change.  Women are not fully included in decision-making — from Governments to boardrooms to peace processes.

Violence against women and girls remains a global pandemic.  Attacks and discrimination are deeply embedded in social norms, attitudes and practices.

Addressing these mindsets will require significant investments of time, resources and political will.  That is why the European Union and the United Nations have embarked on a major multi-year partnership:  the Spotlight Initiative.

Spotlight aims to support Governments, build on the leadership of civil society, and focus on the most urgent needs — such as preventing violence, providing services for survivors and reforming the criminal justice system.

While the country programmes are currently being developed, they will build on and scale up existing efforts.

In Malawi, for example, the initiative will support dialogue on discriminatory social norms through community theatre and engage traditional leaders and educators.  In Mexico, it will train health‑care workers on identifying early signs of abuse and prevent violence through school-based campaigns which challenge the idea that manhood is premised on violence.

In some countries, Spotlight will focus on the most extreme form of violence — femicide.  Worldwide, almost 1 in 2 murdered women are killed by a partner or ex-partner.

Often, in the wake of these murders, we find that women have indeed reported to the police, or sought medical care.  But, service providers did not have adequate information or the means to identify the risk.

Some of this violence takes place in a context of the broader insecurity that women face, particularly where they are advocating for women’s rights.  Last year, in Argentina, the body of student and activist Micaela García of the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) movement was found week after she disappeared.

Through the Spotlight Initiative, we can work to make such violence — against activists like her and so many others — a thing of the past.

I commend the European Union for its generous funding and for the leadership of European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica.  The United Nations is strongly committed to leading by example by empowering women within the Organization itself.

Today, for the first time in United Nations history, there is gender parity in the Senior Management Group and among those nominated to be Resident Coordinators — our team leaders on the ground.  We have a long way to go.  But, we have a plan and we have the will.

Let me also stress that while we talk about women and girls, let us not forget men and boys.  They are crucial partners in changing norms and empowering women.  They are also beneficiaries, since gender equality brings gains for all of society.

Let us also do more to invest in the capacities of young people in general.  They are well placed to fight the biases and correct the mistakes of older generations.

When we first began planning the Spotlight Initiative, we had no idea that a global movement would rise up to shake the pillars of patriarchy.  By October 2017, over 1.7 million tweets included the hashtag “#MeToo”, and 85 countries had at least 1,000 tweets on the subject.

I, too, have stepped forward to say “Me, too”.

We hope that through the Spotlight Initiative we can strengthen this movement and build a peaceful, equitable world with zero violence against women and girls.

For information media. Not an official record.