Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the Generation Equality Forum in Mexico today:
I thank President [Andres Manuel Lopez] Obrador for launching this Generation Equality Forum, in Mexico City and virtually, across the world. My thanks go also to the Governments of France and Mexico and all other participants.
Twenty-six years ago, feminists, activists and young people focused collective action on achieving gender equality through the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. You continue to drive progress toward that goal.
You have pushed to break down deeply ingrained patriarchal institutions and social norms. And you shifted power towards those who are too often disenfranchised or silenced. There have been significant victories. But progress has been too slow.
Gender equality is essentially a question of power — and power remains predominantly in the hands of men. In many places, the very idea of gender equality has come under attack. Regressive laws are back and horrific violence against women is increasing, which I condemn utterly.
And now, the seismic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic have shattered the lives of millions of women and girls and destroyed many of our gains. It is time to regroup and re-energize our quest to create a more equal, more just, more sustainable world in which all people can realize their human rights without discrimination and without fear.
This work is for all women: for the mothers everywhere who strive to combine professional lives with increased burdens of care; for indigenous girls and child refugees; for a woman living with disabilities or seeking a career in technology and the sciences; for women human rights defenders and so many others. This work is for all — and it must be carried out by all — women and men alike. As we recover from the pandemic, we must focus on five critical steps.
First, protect women’s equal rights and repeal discriminatory laws. Second, ensure equal representation — from company boards to parliaments and beyond — through special measures and quotas. Third, advance women’s economic inclusion through equal pay, job protection, targeted credit and investments in the care economy and social protection. Fourth, immediately enact emergency response plans to address violence against women and girls. Fifth, give space to the intergenerational transition that is under way and to the young people who are advocating for a more just and equal world.
By the time we get to Paris in June, we want to see bold commitments and investments on the table, and a strong multi-stakeholder movement for gender equality. The realization of the equal rights of half our population is the unfinished human rights struggle of this century.