UN: UN urges private sector to help close gender gap

New York, US (PANA) - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says although businesses were not part of the discussions at the historic Beijing Women’s Conference 20 years ago, it is now clear that achieving gender equality will require the concerted efforts of the private sector.

Ban, who spoke at the 59th UN Commission on the Status of Women side-line event, tagged: "Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs)", said removing the barriers that kept women and girls on the margins of economic, social, cultural and political life must be a top priority for all – businesses, governments, the United Nations and civil society.

"As we reflect on the Beijing 20 findings and prepare to implement the sustainable development goals that will guide us for the next 15 years, until 2030, it is extremely positive to see so many business leaders stepping up to work with us," he said.

He noted that the Women’s Empowerment Principles provided a roadmap for businesses to play their role in respecting and supporting women’s rights.

The UN chief recalled that he launched WEPs in 2010, and the initiative aimed to engage businesses to advance gender equality and sustainability, stating that, in the past five years, it had reached nearly 1,000 companies, each of which had made a commitment at the highest level to implement the seven guiding Principles.

"I am particularly gratified that seven Women’s Empowerment Principles are resonating around the world, helping hundreds of companies to identify gaps and scale up their efforts to implement gender equality and empower women in their workplaces, marketplaces and communities," Ban said.

He also said there were many examples of companies that were taking real steps to close the gender gap, from a global electrical energy company linking gender diversity performance with financial bonuses to a sanitation company in India headed by a female CEO making bio-friendly toilets available to poor communities.

Others are a Turkish bank designing products to support women entrepreneurs and a renewable energy company in Brazil setting up a domestic violence support system.

To that end, the secretary-general encouraged businesses supporting Women’s Empowerment Principles to join UN Global Compact and communicate their progress annually.

In her keynote address, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State, said the gathering came at a pivotal moment in gender equality, noting: "We are here to build on the progress of the past and the promise of the future."

"Men and women who understand that gender equality is not just morally right but the smart thing to do are growing in numbers, and we may be approaching critical mass but we have to keep on pushing because what we are doing here today is smart for companies and for countries," Mrs. Clinton said.

She stated: "Some of you were with me at the Beijing Conference where remarkably leaders pledged to work for the full participation of women and girls.

"Out of Beijing came the Beijing Platform for Action and in many parts of the world it turned into an organizing document, and UN women was created, the UN Security Council recognized the role of women in peacekeeping missions, the World Bank promoted women’s role in development, and national laws were passed to close gender gaps in health and education.

"Now, 20 years later, it is our job to keep ambition alive."

Mrs. Clinton also noted that, "all the evidence reveals that despite the obstacles that remain, there has never been a better time in history to be born a girl.

"A girl born in Lesotho 20 years ago could not hope to own property, now she can. Also, a girl born 20 years ago in Rwanda grew up in the shadow of genocide and rape, and now there are more women serving in her country’s parliament than in anywhere else in the world.

"But, despite all this progress, we are still not there yet. More than 30 million girls never go on to secondary schools. More than one million girls are never born because of gender-based selection mainly in China and India. More than half the nations in the world still have no laws on the books combating gender-based violence and an estimated one in three women is subject to it.

"Rights have to exist in practice not just on paper, and laws have to be backed up with resources not just political will."

She also said that deep-seeded cultural bias continued to hold girls back, saying: "Join us in making absolutely clear that the full participation of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century. We can’t afford to leave anyone behind."

Also speaking, Ms. Mary Robinson, former UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, said the women’s empowerment principles were the best step forward that the UN Global Compact had taken in the last 15 years.

Ms. Robinson stressed the importance of fully integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment into the several important international processes going on in 2015.

She focused her comments on addressing what she called the "double injustice" of climate change and gender inequality.

Gender equality, she noted, was recognized within the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals through Goal 5, but was not as secure in the climate process.

Ms. Robinson said that she was disappointed at the recent meeting in Lima of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) at the failure of negotiators to be specific about the link between climate change and gender equality.

But, she added that she had seen an improvement in Geneva, during the UN Human Rights annual session, where "relatively good" gender and human rights languages had entered into the text to identify the effects of climate change on women and the need to empower them to overcome the challenges.

"We need that balance to ensure that we will achieve our objectives," she said, as she outlined the gravity of the climate change crisis facing the world, including the human rights dimensions faced by countries like Kiribati, which purchased land from Fiji because of the existential threat posed by climate change.

"If the response to climate change is such that people have to move from the land where the bones of their ancestors are buried, it is clear that a people-centred approach was not being taken to tackling the crisis."

She said that she was motivated as a grandmother to consider what her grandchildren would say about the work done by leaders in 2015, because she knew it would hugely impact their lives in 2050.

"That’s why we need this grand alliance," she said of the link between women and the business sector, saying that, "because we have a lot to do to secure a very good, legally binding agreement in Paris, referring to a crucial meeting of UNFCCC parties set for the end of the year.
-0- PANA AA/MA 10March2015

10 march 2015 22:41:09

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