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Statement at Open Working Group for Sustainable Development

Gender, Speeches, Ireland, Global, 2014

Thank you Mr. Chair, I am delivering this statement on behalf of Ireland, Norway and Denmark;


  • The experience since the establishment of the MDGs and preceding decades has shown that equality is not a natural outcome of development processes. 
  • On the contrary, the inherent disadvantages of living in poverty mean that poor people, including those that are already at a disadvantage because of discrimination based on their gender, ethnicity, disability or any other status, are less able to access economic opportunity and turn it into real livelihood benefits.
  • Where public policies fail to redress this disparity and do not provide equal opportunities and ensure the right to development, the natural outcome is that the better-off benefit disproportionately and inequality increases.
  • The rapidly growing inequality we are witnessing is absolutely unacceptable.  Inequality reinforces and perpetuates exclusion, marginalisation and exploitation, which in turn impact on sustainable economic growth, social cohesion, conflict and long term stability.
  • The new post-2015 framework must do better on inequality than the MDGs therefore we would like to see at this meeting an expression of strong support for integrating the promotion of equality across the entire framework.
  • Gender-based discrimination and denying women and girls their rights is the most longstanding and fundamentally discriminatory form of inequality and it is pervasive across most societies. It compounds and is reinforced by other inequalities.
  • The disadvantage and exclusion that women and girls experience from living in poverty is multiplied by the gender inequality they face in their own households and communities. Achieving gender equality in poor communities is a key to reducing the poverty of women themselves and that of their families and communities.
  • The realisation of women’s and girls’ rights and their full participation and leadership in all areas of sustainable development is fundamental to achieving gender equality and is a prerequisite for poverty eradication.  This is particularly true in food and nutrition security where the inequity women small holder farmers’ experience contributes to the challenges they face in moving beyond subsistence farming.  Therefore achieving gender equity would be a major contributor to achieving food and nutrition security.
  • This calls for renewed focus on the rights of the poorest women and girls and on addressing their needs and the inequalities they face. We will need targets and indicators to capture progress on gender equality in issues such as access to land, energy, education, and political and economic power.  It is essential that such indicators differentiate to show progress among the poorest and most marginalised women relative to the better off and we need to commit to reducing the disparity in the progress achieved for the different groups.
  • While significant progress has been made in some areas and MDG3 has been a powerful tool for advocacy and resource mobilisation, helping draw increased attention to the importance of gender equality; progress on meeting the specific needs of women though has been weaker.
  • This is evidenced for example by the significant underperformance in delivering MDG 5 on reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to reproductive health. Today complications related to pregnancy and childbirth remain leading causes in adolescent death in developing countries, taking the lives of 70,000 adolescent girls each year. We believe that the poor performance on this goal indicates the commitment toward gender equality and reflects the severe lack of respect, protection and fulfilment for and of women’s basic human rights
  • The new development agenda must be rooted in principles of human rights.  Advancing universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights should be an integral part of the gender equality agenda.  This includes ensuring universal access to contraception, eliminating early/forced marriages and female genital mutilation (FGM), ensuring access to post-abortion care, sexual education, skilled birth attendance, post-natal care and prevention and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, including HIV/AIDS.
  • Women should be able to make independent decisions in regards to family planning. Denial of women’s sexual and reproductive rights undermines women’s opportunities for education and employment, exacerbating gender inequalities and poverty with devastating consequences for their children, families and societies.
  • Therefore we call for an ambitious goal on gender equality as well as its effective mainstreaming across all other goals, targets and indicators to reflect the renewed commitment to dismantle the structural underpinnings of gender inequality, transform gender relations and effect positive change in the lives of all women and girls.
  • Such a goal would reflect a renewed recognition of gender inequality and commitment to our obligations to dismantle the structural drivers behind it, including understanding the attitudes, behaviours and practices that perpetuate gender stereotypes and all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. The targets must relate to meeting the specific needs of all women and girls, promote their empowerment and their ability to gain and exert influence over the political, economic and social processes that determine their livelihood opportunities.
  • The new framework should use gender disaggregated targets and indicators across the range of goals and set targets for reducing the disparities.  This should allow effective national level data collection, measurement and disaggregation to address discriminatory legislation, social structures and cultural practices as well as the distribution of power and resources.  This would support fight discrimination through an evidence based approach.
  • We need to ensure that the new framework encompasses broad gender equality issues such as gender based violence which has been referred to as "the most pervasive yet least recognized human rights abuse in the world”. Gender based violence prevents girls and women from reaching their potential and impoverishes individual women, their families and whole societies.
  • The empowerment of women living in conflict-affected environments and in peace-making and peace-building is particularly important as it reduces the disproportionate risks they face in fragile and dangerous situations and because it leads to more effective and equitable conflict resolution and more durable peace.
  • Empowerment requires the elimination of legal and other barriers to, and proactive support for women’s participation on an equal footing with men in economic and political decision-making from the household to the national and international level.
  • Finally we need to ensure that our global commitments are translated into concrete decisions on what we finance. Investments need to focus on those areas which have proven to have a significant positive and transformative impact on poverty and sustainable development. Investments in reducing inequality are essential to deliver equitable and inclusive growth, sustainable social cohesion, peace and stability. Supporting women’s leadership, the economic empowerment of poor women and men, girls’ access to primary, secondary and tertiary education and the prevention of violence against women are critical investments - and will pave the way for women and girls to enjoy the full expression of their rights and to contribute to, and benefit from, discrimination free societies.


Mr Co-Chair we thank you for this opportunity to contribute to this important debate.