New York

15 March 2018

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks to the 2018 Women’s Empowerment Principles Forum [as delivered]

Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I am very pleased to welcome you to the 2018 Women's Empowerment Principles Forum.

This is an important opportunity to discuss how, as leaders from the public and private sectors, civil society, governments and academia, we can take action together for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UN Member States embraced a highly ambitious, universal and interlinked plan that reaffirms the importance of human rights, effective institutions, adequate financing and partnerships. With its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the 2030 Agenda is a pledge by the governments of the world to work in partnership for peace, prosperity, dignity and equality for all people on a healthy planet.

Gender equality, as both an objective and driver of sustainable development, is key to achieving not only Goal 5, but all the SDGs.

But progress is lagging behind aspiration. There are pervasive gender inequalities in every dimension of sustainable development – as described in UN Women’s new report ‘Turning Promises into Action’.

Brand new data on extreme poverty in 89 countries shows that globally there are 4.4 million more women than men living on less than $1.90 a day. The gender pay gap stands at a stubborn 23 per cent globally. And violence against women and girls is rampant around the world, with one in five women and girls having experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner in the past 12 months.

We need action on four critical fronts:

First, we need to put gender equality at the centre of implementation. Women’s access to economic resources—land, labour market earnings, social protection—is essential for eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, better education, health and nutritional outcomes, and the achievement of inclusive growth.

Second, we must close the financing gap. Without adequate resources, many of the essential services on which women and girls depend will remain unavailable or inadequate. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda shows the way, but we also need to think about innovative ways to make funding work harder for us, whether that is microfinancing, crowdfunding or strong partnerships with the private sector and international financial institutions.  

Third, we need to improve monitoring. We need hard facts on what works for women and girls, so that we can change direction if needed. This means improving disaggregated data on gender, and supporting national statistical systems, particularly in developing countries.

Fourth and finally, we need to strengthen accountability for gender equality commitments at all levels. Targets and pledges are not enough. We need to hold people to them.

We know it is possible to improve outcomes, where women and girls can participate meaningfully in planning and decision-making, where there are incentives to advance gender equality, and where poor performance on women’s rights is acknowledged and has consequences.

Gender equality and women’s economic empowerment are an economic and business imperative. We look to the private sector to generate innovation, employment and financing that will bridge gender gaps in the world of work and advance the 2030 Agenda.

This helps not only women, families and communities; it is good for business. Companies that invest in women, support women’s leadership and commit to gender equality typically outperform their competitors.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles developed by the UN Global Compact and UN Women are aimed at guiding businesses on empowering women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

These Principles offer great potential for change, and I am happy to say that nearly 2,000 Chief Executive Officers worldwide have already committed to them.
It is now up to us to ensure that they are followed-up with action and accountability. I urge everyone here to do your part.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s Forum is a timely opportunity to share good practices in implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and to advance catalytic partnerships that help to fast-track women’s equal participation in the work force and as entrepreneurs.

We will only achieve sustainable development through such innovative, multi-sectoral collaborations.

The theme of this year’s Commission on the Status of Women is lifting up some of those farthest behind: rural women and girls. We must also recognize the key role the business community can play in supporting women in rural communities.

The UN must set an example on gender parity. I am proud to say that as of January of this year, in line with Secretary-General António Guterres’s new system-wide strategy on gender parity, we have achieved parity in the Senior Management Group of the United Nations for the first time.

We all need to accelerate our efforts to achieve Planet 50-50 by 2030.

This Forum is a chance to stay engaged, keep the ambition high and work together in our collective endeavour for a better, more just future with peace and dignity for all.

Thank you.