Secretary-General Pledges ‘We Will Push Back’ against
Internal Resistance to Gender Parity
Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly high-level event on “Women in Power”, in New York on 12 March:
Madame President, let me begin by thanking you for this excellent initiative.
After having addressed this same room on Friday and Monday, I think my duty today is to be brief. Today, what matters is to listen to the voices of those that are making a difference: the women leaders that are indeed contributing to the necessary shift of power in today’s world.
I will limit myself to repeat what has been my central message in relation to this issue. As I said before, and I will say again and again, gender equality is fundamentally a question of power, as we still live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. That is the reason why I have been pushing so hard for gender parity here at the United Nations.
When I took office, I said we should concentrate on a surge in diplomacy. But, I believe that as important as the surge of diplomacy has been for us the surge in parity. The President of the General Assembly has already said that it was possible to achieve very quickly parity at the level of the Senior Management Group or our resident coordinators around the world. It was simple for one reason: those are the people I can appoint myself without limitations. Where I am free to act, we are coming very quickly to full parity within the United Nations. But, when we have to trickle down to go across the board in all structures of the United Nations, there we start to see the resistance, the obstacles and the pushbacks. What I can promise you is we will push back against the pushbacks, and we will not give up until we reach parity across the board in the United Nations.
And why parity? Why is it such an important objective? Why are we striving to open doors of opportunity for so many outstanding, talented, qualified women? Yes, of course, it is about equality. Of course, it is about fairness. But, it goes beyond that. We need parity — and let me repeat again — to change power relations in societies for gender equality to be a reality. And we also need change in power relations to advance peace and security for all, as gender equality is a key instrument of peace and security. To promote human rights for all, as gender equality is a central instrument for human rights. To ensure development for all, as gender equality is a fundamental tool for development.
The truth is that, when women are at the table, the chance of sustainable peace increases. When women have equal opportunities at work, development accelerates tremendously. And when gender is at the heart of humanitarian assistance, vital assistance has greater impact for everyone in a much fairer way. The bottom line is simple: when we exclude women, we all pay the price. When we include women, the world wins. We all win.
I understand that you are now focused at the Commission on the Status of Women on sustainable infrastructure. But, sustainable infrastructure is just a tool for a broader objective. And the broader objective is to build better societies, to change power relations, to close gaps, to tackle biases, to preserve gains and to push the boundaries of the possible.
I said yesterday, and I will repeat today, I am proud to be a feminist. For all those men that believe that gender equality is a necessity, I recommend that they are also feminists. We all need to be feminists in order to make sure that gender equality is achieved in our unequal societies.
Thank you especially to the women leaders present today in this room. Thank you for your leadership, for your example, and for powering the change the world needs. Thank you very much.