New York

09 March 2020

Secretary-General's remarks to 64th Commission on the Status of Women [as delivered]

I am very pleased to join you for the 64th Commission on the Status of Women.
 
I am truly saddened that the extraordinary circumstances ushered in by the spread of the coronavirus have left us no choice but to postpone the full session of the CSW and, instead, gather for just this one day.
 
I know that activists and women’s groups around the world share my disappointment.
 
But I also take heart because I know we remain committed to the cause of gender equality.
 
We all understand the imperative of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality.
 
This is, quite simply, a question of justice.
 
As a student volunteer in the slums of Lisbon, throughout my political career, and as the leader of the United Nations refugee agency, I have always felt compelled to fight for justice, equality and human rights.
 
As Secretary-General, I see one overwhelming global injustice: gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls.
 
Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power.
 
We still live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture, and have done so for millennia.
 
Centuries of discrimination, deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems and our corporations.
 
This simply has to change.
 
This year, the world marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action.
 
Together, they define the most comprehensive and transformative global agenda for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
 
With nations around the world searching for solutions to the complex challenges of our age, one way to get us on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
 
As we look back on Beijing, I am particularly heartened to see a new generation of inspired young activists across the globe taking forward its spirit of constructive action and fearless resilience.
 
Their efforts are sorely needed.  The vision of Beijing has been only partly realized.
 
Women in parliaments are still outnumbered three-to-one by men, women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and unpaid care and domestic work remain stubbornly feminized the world over.
 
In some areas, progress towards gender equality has stalled or even gone into reverse.
 
Some countries have rolled back laws that protect women from violence; others are reducing civic space; still others are pursuing economic and immigration policies that indirectly discriminate against women.
 
Women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services is far from universal.
 
We must push back against the pushback.
 
Dear friends,
 
A key legacy of the Beijing process was movement-building.
 
These past 25 years have seen growing, strengthened, vibrant, transnational and diverse women’s movements that are increasingly challenging slow and piecemeal progress by calling for urgent systemic change.
 
They are advancing gender equality and demanding accountability from governments and other powerful actors.
 
They are forging coalitions and working across themes, sectors and political boundaries to advance the rights of women and girls and show how they are inextricably linked to economic, social and environmental justice for all.
 
These movements are proposing bold new alternatives for a different world.
 
For example, young women’s activism for environmental justice in Africa has put the spotlight on the impacts of extractive industries and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production.
 
And the Ni una menos movement in Latin America has built strong alliances across classes and generations to demand action on violence against women and girls.
 
Now is the time to build alliances and stand together for women’s rights.
 
One such alliance is the Generation Equality Forum, being convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France to achieve tangible results on gender equality during the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Its vision is clear: equal participation of women and girls in political life and decision-making in all areas of life.
 
Here at the United Nations we are determined to lead by example. 
 
In January this year, we achieved gender parity – 90 women and 90 men – in the ranks of our full-time senior leadership, two years ahead of the target that I set at the start of my tenure, and we have a roadmap for parity at all levels in the coming years.
 
This long overdue change is an essential recognition of the equal rights and value of women staff, and a fundamental instrument to change power relations within our Organization.
 
It is also about improving our efficiency and our effectiveness for the people we serve.
 
This Commission is an opportunity to further galvanize the momentum for gender equality and women’s rights that has been growing around the world.
 
I urge you to use this session to focus on what unites us and to strongly reaffirm the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and its full, effective and accelerated implementation.
 
Let us send a clear message to the world that women’s rights are human rights, and that gender equality is central to all the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Thank you.