Gender Equality ‘a Game Changer’, Stressing Women, Children, Youth at Centre of Sustainable Development Agenda
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the opening of the Nairobi Summit to Advance the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, in Nairobi on 12 November:
I am pleased to join you today. We are here to reignite, accelerate and keep the promise made at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo 25 years ago.
The bold, rights-based vision of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) — that development must put people first, that access to health, education and human dignity must be equal for all persons — informed the bold vision of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.
In this current age of urbanization, increased migration, population growth and an ageing population, the ICPD Programme of Action has never been more relevant for people, especially women and girls. As accelerators for the Sustainable Development Goals, the outcomes of the Programme of Action must be carried forward. Our common framework for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership depends on it.
Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment and upholding women’s rights is a game changer — for poverty reduction, inclusive growth, democratic governance, peace and justice. The Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved until women, girls and young people are able to control their bodies and their lives, and live free of violence.
The power to choose the number, timing and spacing of children is a human right that can bolster economic and social development. When people can exercise their rights, they thrive and so do societies at large. When these rights are denied, people’s ability to achieve their full potential is constrained, and economic and social progress is impeded.
That is why Governments must invest in human capital throughout the life course — from birth to older age and particularly in helping children and adolescents to develop their full potential. This also means giving young people a place at the table to contribute to the formulation, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes, such as those related to job creation and employment.
As we take stock of progress towards 2030, the situation is clear: we are far from where we need to be. Too many are still being left behind, unable to enjoy their rights and aspirations. Their stories highlight the pervasive injustice of inequality. They are the stories of the poorest amongst us, of indigenous, rural and marginalized people and communities who face the greatest gaps in services.
This is why the Secretary-General recently responded to the global call from Member States for a Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. In addition to the anniversaries of ICPD and the Beijing Women’s Conference, next year will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations and the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. The Nairobi Summit is one of the first opportunities to heed this call and mobilize the needed political and financial momentum.
Since the founding of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), five decades ago, its leadership and operational work has been instrumental in expanding access to sexual and reproductive health care; in preventing and responding to gender-based violence; in tackling female genital mutilation and early marriage; and in empowering young people.
We must continue to work even harder towards preventable maternal and child mortality, achieving the unmet need for family planning and eliminating violence and harmful practices against women and girls everywhere, not least in humanitarian and fragile settings. As a result, the coming 18 months will be a pivotal period for assessing progress, evaluating where we are lagging behind, protecting our gains and accelerating transformative change.
This must be informed by high quality data and analysis to support evidence-based policies and programmes. In the spirit of the ongoing United Nations development system reform, coordinated support and action from United Nations country teams will be instrumental to deliver on the promise of ICPD for women and girls.
The United Nations resident coordinators, in tandem with UNFPA country offices, are spearheading efforts to build consensus and catalyse action around national commitments to empower women and girls and their families and communities. Theses country efforts are supported by the Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child initiative, which is a catalytic multi-stakeholder platform that places women, children and adolescents at the centre of the sustainable development agenda.
UNFPA is also working with young people to mobilize new partnerships, building on robust collative efforts such as Family Planning 2020, Spotlight Initiative, She Decides, Women Deliver, and joint programmes with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to end child marriage and female genital mutilation.
We have unfinished business in pursuing rights and choices for all. Hundreds of millions of women and girls are still waiting for the promise to be kept. They have been waiting long enough. It is time for urgent and transformative change as we enter the decade of action to 2030.
I am encouraged by the energy, activism and solidarity I have seen first-hand in my recent travels — amazing women and men, young and old, pushing for equality, pushing for inclusion, pushing for change. Their time has come. I am confident that, with the full commitment of each of us, we can succeed in ensuring that women and girls are truly at the heart of sustainable development. Thank you.
Following is the United Nations Commitment Statement by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, as prepared for delivery, at the Nairobi Summit in celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, in Nairobi on 12 November:
In celebration of the twenty-fifth-year anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, and with strong and unwavering support for the full implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, the Key Actions for its Further Implementation and the Outcomes of its Review Conferences, as drivers and accelerators of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals; the United Nations System commits:
To uphold the human rights of all people, including their right to sexual and reproductive health, and to accelerate all efforts in support of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us, to ensure that no one is left behind;
To intensify system-wide efforts to eliminate all preventable maternal and child mortality and morbidities, to eradicate gender-based violence against women, girls and youth, and to eliminate the unmet need for family planning that constrains the rights and well-being of millions of women and young people and limits their potential;
To support investments in the capabilities of adolescents and youth that uphold their rights, and create the necessary conditions through which they can fulfil their potential by guaranteeing access to quality education and appropriate skills at every level, including access to comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly services that ensure their health and empowerment, as a necessary precondition for the realization of the demographic dividend, upon which the inclusive economic growth and sustainability of much of the world depends;
To support national Governments in the full and accelerated implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development agenda, in line with national implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, by leveraging synergies across the United Nations system, including through enhanced alignment and coordination in the work of the United Nations country teams as a result of the United Nations reform process;
To ensure that no one is left behind and that we reach the furthest behind first, through the timely and coordinated production and dissemination of disaggregated data, to further support national governments in the elaboration of data-driven policies, strategies and
programmes geared towards the fulfilment of the International Conference on Population and Development agenda as a critical contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.
To incorporate the outcomes of the Nairobi Summit as an integral component in the Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.