New York

15 July 2019

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks on Gender Equality and Women's Leadership [as prepared for delivery]

I would first like to take this opportunity to recognize all the great women leaders in this room. 

I warmly welcome this initiative of the President of the General Assembly and hope that this will serve as one more call to action for more women in leadership – both within and outside the organization. 

It is noteworthy that this meeting on women in power is taking place in the margins of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

It offers a great opportunity to reaffirm that gender equality is at the core of the 2030 Agenda and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

From boardrooms to parliaments, from military ranks to peace tables, and of course in the United Nations itself, more women decision-makers means more inclusive solutions that will benefit everyone. 

Women’s full participation and leadership at all levels of decision-making is essential to unlocking the transformational change we seek.

From driving increased spending on health, education and social protection, to enacting laws against discrimination, women leaders have a strong track record as agents of change.

As women we understand intrinsically the importance of dignity, equality and opportunity for all. 

Opportunity for our societies means women’s leadership and greater gender balance leads to unlocking trillions for economies, an enhanced bottom line for the private sector, and stronger and more sustainable peace agreements. 

This is because inclusion matters. 

But while it is important to remind ourselves of the pragmatic case for inclusion, it is critical that we emphasize that women’s equal participation is a basic democratic right. As more than half the world’s population, it is a matter of justice that we are equally represented. 

Good news is that attention to gender equality and women’s leadership is today increasing. 

This is not always positive – the rise of authoritarian groups, violent extremist and hate groups, and anti-democratic forces all have in common a push back on the rights or women and girls. 

This is especially important as we embark on preparing for a series of anniversaries and high-level events during this year’s General Assembly next year in 2020 that will celebrate and reflect on global gains for women and girls. 

These include the 25-year-review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 25 year anniversary of the International Convention on Population and Development; UNFPA’s 50th anniversary, the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. Together, these milestones must build to real change. 

As you meet today to reflect on the inspiring progress and dynamism of women in leadership, I urge you to recall a stark reality: global progress on gender equality is still far too slow. 

In fact, a recent report found that no country is on track to fully achieve Goal 5 of the SDGs on gender equality by 2030. 

And despite some important progress, we are far short of attaining the elusive “gender balance” goal in leadership established in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. 

Significant gender gaps and biases remain, and hard-achieved gains are threatened by a context of heightened risk and uncertainty. 

Discriminatory laws, policies and regulations constrain women’s equal opportunities and outcomes. 

Barriers to women’s representation and leadership are many and persist everywhere, from structural barriers, gender bias and discrimination to gender-based violence and intimidation. 

If we are to achieve our ambitious sustainable development agenda, our world needs more women – and more young women – in power, standing up for the gender equality that will create more just and resilient societies and lead to peace and prosperity on a healthy planet. 

Here, at the United Nations, under the leadership of our ‘Feminist in Chief’, we are doing our part. One of the first commitments the Secretary-General made in coming to office was to drive the Organization to gender parity, particularly in its leadership. 

Today, we have historic levels of women’s representation at the highest levels of the Organization and we are well ahead of the 2021 target of parity in senior leadership.

To the women here today, I thank you for your leadership and commitment to improving the lives of women and men and girls and boys around the world and working to advance gender equality for a sustainable work.

The United Nations counts on you to be constant champions of equality.

Together, we can bring the 2030 Agenda to life and build a future of opportunity and dignity for all. 

Please accept my best wishes for a successful meeting.