Poised for Post-2105 Era, Women’s Commission Considers Innovative Ways to Overcome Uneven Progress on Gender Mainstreaming, Development Goals
Like the Millennium Development Goals, progress on gender mainstreaming remained uneven across a landscape of United Nations functional commissions and work remained to be done to galvanize meaningful change in the post-2015 era, the Commission on the Status of Women heard today during interactive discussions on the penultimate day of its two-week annual session.
Mapping the activities of those bodies and how a gender perspective was included and ensuring national responsibility were among suggestions speakers made during a discussion on “the Commission on the Status of Women as a catalyst for gender mainstreaming — a dialogue with functional commissions”.
Looking forward, panellists and delegates alike suggested effective solutions at a panel on “managing the transition from Millennium Development Goals to sustainable development goals: lessons learned for gender equality from the Millennium Development Goals and galvanizing transformative change”. Presenting examples of national achievements, some speakers called for sufficient resources to implement specific actions in all development areas from a gender perspective. Others suggested a more integrative approach to the sustainable development goals than had been taken with the Millennium Goals.
Also today, the representative of South Africa, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on the Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2015/L.2).
The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 20 March, to conclude its fifty-ninth session.
This morning, the Commission held a dialogue with United Nations functional commissions on the Commission on the Status of Women as a catalyst for gender mainstreaming. The panel was chaired by Commission Chair Kanda Vajrabhaya (Thailand) and moderated by Martin Sajdik, President of the Economic and Social Council. Panellists were: Bénédicte Frankinet (Belgium), Chair of the Commission on Population and Development; Simona Mirela Miculescu (Romania), Chair of the Commission for Social Development; Bente Angell-Hansen (Norway), Vice-Chair of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice; Victoria Romero (Mexico), Vice-Chair of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development; and Chandra Roy-Henriksen (Bangladesh), Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
Opening the meeting, Ms. VAJRABHAYA pointed out that while Member States had called upon the Commission and all intergovernmental bodies to mainstream gender perspectives into all issues under their consideration, an analysis showed that progress on gender mainstreaming across functional commissions remained uneven. Those trends suggested that there was scope to explore ways to enhance gender perspectives in their work.
Mr. SAJDIK said analysing adopted resolutions was one way to assess progress in gender mainstreaming. An analysis of Economic and Social Council resolutions showed only 37 per cent had included a gender perspective, which he called “food for thought” on how to promote greater attention to gender perspectives in its work. Gender mainstreaming applied across the board, he said. Areas, such as technical issues, might not present easy or obvious ways to do that, but that did not void the responsibility. While the Open Working Group on sustainable development goals had proposed a stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, implementing the post-2015 agenda would be impossible without integrating gender equality, the empowerment of women and the human rights of women and girls throughout all goals.
In that regard, gender equality and women’s empowerment were central to the work of the Commission on Population and Development, Ms. FRANKINET said, since it was tasked with implementing the 1994 Cairo Programme of Action. Issues of gender were “omnipresent” in the Programme of Action, she said, and the Commission frequently dealt with related themes, including gender and development in the context of population, sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as gender-related aspects of HIV/AIDS, youth, migration and ageing. While the Commission had advocated for gender mainstreaming in other functional bodies, including those dealing with development, obstacles remained, she said, noting that improvements could be made in the harmonization of the work of the functional commissions. In addition, better coordination of the Commission on Population and Development with the Commission on the Status of Women on various themes could be achieved, in part to avoid duplication and to ensure complementarity.
The Commission on Social Development had also been tackling gender mainstreaming, said Ms. MICULESCU, with all but one resolution incorporating that perspective. Although no gender-dedicated item was on the Commission’s agenda, the promotion of women’s empowerment and gender equality were self-evident in a range of issues addressed, she said. States had underlined that to reduce poverty, which affected women disproportionately, its root causes must be addressed. Likewise, they stressed the need to address women’s issues in other areas, including the labour market. Looking forward, she said a people-centred post-2015 agenda was needed to guide efforts for the next 15 years. The concept of leaving no one behind was central to the discussion and entailed collecting disaggregated data to ensure the most vulnerable would be included, she said, emphasizing that certain groups, such as older women and girls with disabilities, should not get lost in the process. She suggested setting out a map of activities of the functional commissions and how the gender perspective was being included of their work, to reveal complementarities and prevent duplication of efforts. Reviews, such as today’s discussion, should also be held regularly, she said.
Gender was also part of the work of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, said Ms. ANGELL-HANSEN, speaking via videoconference. That could be seen in its recent recommendations to the General Assembly that were associated with gender, including on crime prevention in the post-2015 development agenda. Judicial systems and criminal law systems needed to be gender sensitive and the rights of women needed to be better promoted, she said, noting that the Commission had endorsed updated models, strategies and practical measures on the elimination of violence against women in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. Its work was also focused on women in a range of areas, including the treatment of prisoners, trafficking and the smuggling of migrants. Many of those issues would be central points of discussion at the upcoming thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, to be held in Doha next month, she concluded.
Also essential for sustainable development, as well as for women’s empowerment were science, technology and innovation, said Ms. ROMERO. Recalling that the Beijing Platform for Action repeatedly mentioned that science and technology could help achieve gender equality, she said the Commission on Science and Technology for Development had been mindful of the gender dimension from its inception in 1993. It had identified seven areas for priority action and aimed to promote gender equality through the experts invited to its meetings. However, including gender perspectives in reports and policies was not enough. Monitoring on progress was needed, she said pointing out that in certain fields the situation was actually worsening and the gender gap must be addressed. Towards that end, a publication on gender links to science, technology and innovation was being provided to the Economic and Social Council. Building women’s capacities in those fields would enable them to take advantage of new opportunities and contribute to gender equality in all areas of life, she said. The ever-increasing use of mobile phones opened possibilities to get at the root causes of gender disparity in societies, she added. She hoped the current dialogue would open up new avenues for collaboration on achieving the Platform for Action’s world vision.
The situation of women was already an integral part of the work of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which had made 150 recommendations on a broad range of related issues, said Ms. ROY-HENRIKSEN. Those included education, culture, health, human rights, environment, climate change and violence, she said, highlighting the fact that they were complex, multidimensional and could not be addressed in isolation. As an advisory body of the Economic and Social Council, with a mandate to provide expert advice throughout the United Nations system on indigenous issues, the Forum, since its inception in 2000, provided a platform for indigenous women to share their experiences, achievements and gains. Emphasizing that the issues facing indigenous women had to be raised specifically, she said, adding that violence against women and girls had been the subject of a 2012 expert group meeting. The Outcome Document of the first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples had also included specific references to indigenous women, she said. In terms of the Commission on the Status of Women, she was pleased with its recent adoption of two resolutions concerning indigenous women: “Indigenous Women: Beyond the 10-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action” and “Indigenous Women: Key actors in poverty and hunger eradication”.
In the ensuing dialogue, a number of delegates expressed their appreciation that gender mainstreaming was taking place not only at the national level, but also at the top echelons of the United Nations bodies. Some noted, however, that — as the functional commissions were in fact “reflections of us” — the true responsibility of gender mainstreaming remained with the Member States.
In that connection, many speakers shared their experiences with mainstreaming gender across different sectors, ministries and other national institutions. Echoing a view heard through the discussion, Finland’s delegate said “gender mainstreaming doesn’t happen on its own”. What was needed, she said, was a conscious change in attitude, a specific focus on gender in new programmes and disaggregated data. She also proposed mapping gender-related themes that were common to all the commissions, such as violence against women. The representative of Jamaica called on States to institute “gender certification” policies to ensure mainstreaming in all national offices.
Panellists addressed delegates’ questions about how gender mainstreaming was carried out within the commissions. In that regard, Ms. ROMERO said that the Commission on Science and Technology for Development had an advisory board on women’s issues that was responsible for gender mainstreaming. That was a unique structure among the functional commissions, she said, noting that other commissions could learn from it.
Responding to a number of queries about the way ahead, panellists also cited challenges, including insufficient political will, determination and action on the part of Member States. Going forward, speakers said it was incumbent upon Member States to carry out their gender mainstreaming duties.
Representatives of the United States, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Kuwait, Kenya and Japan also participated in the interactive session.
This afternoon, the Commission held a panel discussion on managing the transition from Millennium Development Goals to sustainable development goals: lessons learned for gender equality from the Millennium Development Goals and galvanizing transformative change. It was moderated by Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona, senior research fellow at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. It featured presentations by: Gita Sen, professor of public policy, Indian Institute of Management, India; Noelene Nabulivou, programme adviser, Diverse Voices and Action for Equality, Fiji; Irène Esambo, president, Centre d’Etudes sur la Justice et la Resolution 1325 (2000), Democratic Republic of the Congo; and John Hendra, senior coordinator, “UN Fit for Purpose” for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Opening the discussion, Ms. CARMONA said that, while the Millennium Development Goals had played an important role in galvanizing resources and attention for gender equality and empowerment, progress had been uneven in the lives of women and girls and had fallen short of expectations. Despite important education gains, other areas lagged behind, including reducing maternal mortality and improving women’s access to work and to sanitation facilities, and mixed success was found among countries and socioeconomic groups. Targets set in the Millennium Goals had been narrowly framed and excluded several fundamental issues, such as unpaid care work by women and their lack of access to assets and resources and low participation in decision making at all levels. Realizing sexual and reproductive health rights and eliminating violence against women and girls were also excluded in the targets. The Millennium Goals did not tackle the structural foundation of gender inequality, she said, hoping that as the international community moved forward to the post-2015 development agenda, lessons learned from the Millennium Goals would form the basis for the way forward so the unfinished business would become a central priority.
Ms. SEN highlighted significant gaps and disconnect in the Millennium Goals and their targets. Using the example of the goal of gender equality and the target being only education, he said that was not enough. While the Millennium Goals and sustainable development goals shared a similar objective, the post-2015 development agenda had a much more inclusive and sharp set of targets that addressed multiple dimensions of gender inequality and women’s lack of power. Further, it recognized the role of power relations and discrimination. In that regard, the first target was the elimination of discrimination against women and girls, which had not been explicitly mentioned in the Millennium Goals. Other targets included eliminating violence against women, providing not just equal education between boys and girls, but quality education and providing equal access to employment and equal pay for equal work. With those and other examples in mind, she urged all stakeholders to support gender equality through adequate financing, strengthened data and monitoring efforts and national capacity-building.
Ms. Nabulivou said sustainable development was only possible in a just world. For that to happen, it was necessary to address the structural barriers preventing the full realization of women’s rights, he said. Women’s progress needed to be measured against such barriers, she said, for instance, for Pacific women and girls of all ages and in all their diversity. Small island developing States and their special circumstances must also be recognized for the sustainable development goals to be of any value. Also needing attention was the full articulation of women’s reproductive rights. In addition, there needed to be cross measurement, she said. The upcoming indicator development process had to be shaped, not by the perceived time constraints, but by the best possible results for all countries that reflected their special circumstances. The strongest outcomes must then be reflected in the post-2015 work. In closing, she said the right to development was central to women’s rights, adding that rights of marginalized groups, including persons with disabilities, must also be included.
Mr. HENDRA said there was a huge opportunity ahead for a human rights-based post-2015 agenda. With the imminent intensive negotiations, it was clear already that the new agenda was a significant departure from the Millennium Goals. While those goals were largely North-South and vertically aligned, the new goals could be more integrative. Going forward, the United Nations system would need to focus on several key elements: unity, human rights, equality, integration, data collection and women’s empowerment. Universality meant that all countries needed to implement, monitor and report on such issues at local and global levels. Governments needed to implement their gender commitments, as inequality was a reality in every country in the world. Efforts to bring change for women and girls needed to be matched by investments and by an international system that was ready to tackle the new agenda, he said.
Ms. ESAMBO said that through adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the United Nations had recognized the need to improve gender equality in the context of peace and security. Yet, despite efforts made by the United Nations, States, civil society and the local communities, the resolution’s implementation was still unsatisfactory. Several obstacles included weak decision-making positions or bodies that were seeking to implementation roles, such as ministries of gender. Given those hindrances, it was imperative to move from statements towards actions, she urged. Offering concrete recommendations, she said States should step up their national action plans and implement resolution 1325 (2000) in legislation and at the grass-roots level with a view to ownership by citizens. Peer review mechanisms must be established and civil society must be supported so that it could bolster existing monitoring and indicators. The United Nations also needed to support framework dialogues to talk about peace and security issues.
During the ensuing debate, delegates discussed a range of ways in which women’s and girls’ rights could be better integrated into the global development agenda. Sudan’s representative said that the gender gap could be bridged by promoting health, especially for children. The rights of women and girls should be at the heart of the educational agenda, Turkey’s representative said, highlighting that the rate of girls in primary school had risen to 99 per cent in his country.
Speakers, including the representative of Switzerland, also pointed to shortcomings in the Millennium Goals and offered suggestions that the new agenda addressed pressing issues, including violence against women. A representative from the non-governmental organization Women’s Strife Worldwide said that the new agenda’s goals represented a turning point and an opportunity to raise those and other issues relating to women and girls.
Panellists were then asked: “What was the one concrete action key to making sure the sustainable development goals delivered change for women and girls?” Mr. HENDRA said that in order to have a transformative agenda, the world needed to take a very different approach. It could not be “business as usual” — not for the international community, not for business and not for the United Nations. Ms. SEN stressed the crucial nature of genuine partnerships between the United Nations system and women’s organizations, noting that the creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) had been made possible by the mobilization of civil society and then accepted by Member States.
Ms. NABULIVOU said there needed to be a conceptual shift in order to change the narrative. It was necessary to remove the “false narrative” that there was some kind of difference between the right to development and the right to have full gender equality. Ms. ESAMBO said it was important to focus on monitoring indicators for gender equality and not just produce reports, but rather ensure that recommendations were implemented.
A number of speakers shared national experiences in implementation of the Millennium Goals, highlighting achievements in education, health care and political participation. Senegal’s representative said her country had established key measures, enabling the national assembly to reach 43 per cent female membership since the 2012 elections. Cuba’s representative said her country had eliminated gaps in education and health, reaching a gender parity of 1 and 1.2 in secondary education, while reducing the rate of infant mortality in the last four years.
Despite such achievements, many speakers called attention to challenges their countries faced. The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said it had had limited progress in addressing gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls. She urged the United Nations to place robust mechanisms to ensure that registered gains thus far were maintained, scaled-up and monitored. The representative of the Solomon Islands said “external shocks”, such as climate change, global financial crises and the energy crisis, also posed obstacles to gender equality, urging the international community to “change the way we do business”.
LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN-Women, said the international community had before it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance the lives of women and girls. Noting the importance of using current findings, she called for continued collaboration among the United Nations, Member States and civil society to capture their unique experiences and urgent needs as nowhere else was the gender data revolution more needed than in the case of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Speaking in the discussion were representatives of Indonesia, European Union, Italy, Uganda, Iran, Guyana, Indonesia, Finland, Australia, Mexico, Madagascar, Saint Lucia and Nepal. The representative of the non-governmental organization BWCCI also participated.