12 November 2019

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 signature session: Accelerating Action to End Violence Against Women and Girls [as prepared for delivery]

Distinguished Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear friends,
On behalf of the entire United Nation System, I affirm our commitment to work tirelessly to end all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.
I thank the Presidents and leaders here today for your steadfast commitment to this cause.
Every woman and girl has the right to a life free of violence. Yet this horrific abuse of their dignity and rights happens in a variety of ways in all countries and communities, particularly affecting the most marginalized and vulnerable. 
Around the world, more than 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lives; 750 million women were married before age 18, and more than 250 million have undergone Female Genital Mutilation.
The United Nations is working to prevent and end violence against women and girls in many ways. Since gender inequality is a root cause of violence against women and girls, promoting gender parity and equality of opportunity for women and girls everywhere is one of our top priorities. 
A society that looks the other way when a woman or a child is being abused is one that speaks to weaknesses of men.
If current levels of violence against women and girls persist — whether through sexual and gender-based violence, harmful practices, femicide or labour exploitation — we will not achieve gender equality, or implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – our blueprint for peace, prosperity and dignity on a healthy planet will be in jeopardy. 
If women and girls – half the potential of a nation – do not have equal access to high-quality education, employment, health, equal renumeration for work, property, justice and leadership opportunities, nations will be denied vibrant, sustainable and prosperous futures.
More importantly, as long as half our population lives daily with the threat of fear and violence, we will never realize our basic humanity.
Excellencies, Ministers, friends,
The Sustainable Development Goals are interlinked, mutually reinforcing and indivisible. But gender equality can be considered the ‘docking station’ for achieving all the other SDGs.
We will not end poverty if violence continues to restrict women and girls’ access to places of work; if women remain in abusive relationships due to economic dependency; or if they do not have the basic right to decide on the number and timing of their children.
We will not achieve good health and well-being if harmful practices and violence continue to kill and injure women and girls. Women’s access to health care is a basic right, not a privilege.
We will not attain the goal of quality education if millions of girls are kept at home or bear the higher burden of household responsibility.
We will never achieve gender equality if millions of girls are married as children – leading to early pregnancies, greater vulnerability to health risks, diminished education opportunities and greater income inequalities.
We will not have decent work and inclusive economic growth if women in the workplace continue to experience violence – as leaders, peers or subordinates – in public and private, at home and abroad.
We will not live in sustainable cities and communities if public spaces are not designed to be safe and accessible for women and girls.
We will not ramp up climate action without the contributions of women and girls, who are at greater risk of violence due to the effects of climate change, including after natural disasters.
We will not adequately protect life below water or life on land if violence limits women’s economic independence and potential to manage natural resources.
We will not have peace, justice and strong institutions if discrimination against women and girls persists and perpetrators of violence enjoy impunity for their crimes.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The United Nations works in more than 190 countries to address violence against women and girls through our sustainable development programmes and our humanitarian operations. We also have several specific efforts to combat this scourge.
Five United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Population Fund and UN Women, co-lead the United Nations Joint Global Programme on Essential Services. This programme is working in 60 countries to improve access to high-quality services for women and girls who have experienced violence – bridging the gap between international commitments and implementation at the country level.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development offers us new opportunities to capitalize on our successes, and expand programmes to protect women and respond to their needs, including through new partnerships, commitments and revitalized models of multilateralism.
Working hand-in-hand with the European Union, we are delivering on the Spotlight Initiative -- the world’s largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Spotlight Initiative is working in more than 25 countries across five geographic regions, with initial funding of $500 million provided by the European Union.
The early results of these programmes include shifting attitudes amongst young people, and mobilizing traditional leaders to support the suspension of Female Genital Mutilation.
But such efforts require much greater investment. We are grateful to the EU for their support, but this is seed funding for what should be a global coalition to address the most pervasive human rights violation.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
Our goal is the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030.
I believe we can achieve it, if we work together.
Together, we will continue to collaborate closely with government and national partners, civil society and across the United Nations System to expand and improve high-quality programmes for the women and girls we serve – leaving no one behind.
I wish this Summit all success and I hope we will come up with far-reaching commitments with sustainable results that will improve the lives of women and girls worldwide.
Thank you.