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Secretary-General Tells Women’s Commission Empowerment Fuels ‘Best Drivers for Growth’, Calling 2015 ‘Vital’ in Advancing Gender Equality

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the opening session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York today:

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to participate in this fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  A warm welcome to you all to the United Nations.  We are gathered here to celebrate the power of women on International Women’s Day.

We are here to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — a landmark in the struggle for the human rights of women.  We are here because 2015 is a vital year for advancing the cause of gender equality.  If the new development agenda is to be truly transformative, women must be at its centre and front.  As women thrive, so will we all.  If girls are held back, the whole world feels the pain.

Women continue to suffer disproportionately from the economic crisis, from the impacts of climate change, from the displacement caused by conflict, persecution and so much else.  Extremist groups continue to viciously and systematically attack girls and women.  The international community needs to translate its outrage into aid, services, support and justice.

Attacking a woman or girl means attacking a possible peacekeeper, police officer, professional or prime minister.  My UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign will continue to work to end all forms of violence against women and girls, including attacks in the home.

Women bear the burden.  Women pay the price.  But women are not just victims; they are agents of progress and change.  Empowered women and girls are the best drivers of growth, the best hope for reconciliation and the best buffer against the radicalization of youth and the repetition of cycles of violence.

There have been important advances since the Beijing Conference.  More girls have attained more access to more education than ever before.  Maternal mortality has been almost halved.  More women are leading businesses, governments and global organizations.

At the same time, progress remains unacceptably [slow], and our gains are not irreversible.  We must build on the Beijing foundation and complete our work.  I challenge all stakeholders to work together to achieve gender equality during the time frame set by the new development agenda.  Our goal must be:  50:50 by 2030.

I welcome the determination of Member States to make this happen.  The UN system, led by [the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women] UN-Women, will strongly support your efforts.  I urge Governments to work closely with women’s groups and organizations, particularly the human rights defenders on the front lines.  Let us also recognize the crucial role of men in changing mindsets.  Without changing the mindset of men, we may not be able to change this current situation.  In the twenty-first century, truly powerful men are those who believe in and work for the empowerment of women.

The world will never realize 100 per cent of its goals if 50 per cent of its people cannot realize their full potential.  Too often, leaders have used women to advance their own power. We must use our power to advance women.  Even at this time, there are five countries in the world where not a single woman is represented in parliament and eight countries in the world where not a single woman is a cabinet member.  I would not disclose the names here of those countries.  I would strongly urge the leaders of those countries to change this unacceptable situation.

Let us work together, use this year of potential to secure the future for all where nobody is left behind in this world.  That means that women should be at the centre and front in all spectrums of our life and development and peace agenda.

I thank you very much for your leadership and commitment.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.