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UN chief calls for further advancement of gender equality

By Xinhua Time of article published Mar 10, 2020

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UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday was encouraged by what he saw as movement-building in gender equality and asked for more efforts to further carry forward the cause.

This year, the world marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action, which together define the most comprehensive and transformative global agenda for gender equality and women's empowerment, he told the opening meeting of the 64th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

"A key legacy of the Beijing process was movement-building. These past 25 years have seen growing, strengthened, vibrant, transnational and diverse women's movements that are increasingly challenging slow and piecemeal progress by calling for urgent systemic change."

They are advancing gender equality and demanding accountability from governments and other powerful actors. They are forging coalitions and working across themes, sectors and political boundaries to advance the rights of women and girls and show how they are inextricably linked to economic, social and environmental justice for all, said Guterres.

"These movements are proposing bold new alternatives for a different world."

By January 2020, the United Nations has achieved gender parity -- 90 women and 90 men -- in the ranks of its full-time senior leadership, two years ahead of the target that the secretary-general set at the start of his tenure, and the world body has a roadmap for parity at all levels in the coming years, said Guterres.

"This long-overdue change is an essential recognition of the equal rights and value of women staff and a fundamental instrument to change power relations within our organisation. It is also about improving our efficiency and our effectiveness for the people we serve."

But Guterres cautioned that the vision of the Beijing Declaration has been only partly realised.

Women in parliaments are still outnumbered three-to-one by men; women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and unpaid care and domestic work remain stubbornly feminized the world over, said Guterres.

In some areas, progress toward gender equality has stalled or even gone into reverse. Some countries have rolled back laws that protect women from violence; others are reducing civic space; still, others are pursuing economic and immigration policies that indirectly discriminate against women. Women's access to sexual and reproductive health services is far from universal, he noted. "We must push back against the pushback."

"With nations around the world searching for solutions to the complex challenges of our age, one way to get us on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action," said Guterres.

Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power, he observed. "We still live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture and have done so for millennia. Centuries of discrimination, deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems and our corporations. This simply has to change."

He saw the CSW as an opportunity to further galvanise the momentum for gender equality and women's rights.

"I urge you to use this session to focus on what unites us and to strongly reaffirm the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and its full, effective and accelerated implementation. Let us send a clear message to the world that women's rights are human rights, and that gender equality is central to all the Sustainable Development Goals," he said.

This year's CSW meeting, which was originally scheduled for March 9-20, has been reduced, for the time being, to a one-day event owing to fears for the coronavirus. The general debate and all side events have been cancelled.

The CSW asked capital-based delegations and other stakeholders to refrain from travelling to UN Headquarters in New York for the meeting, as recommended by the secretary-general.

"I am truly saddened that the extraordinary circumstances ushered in by the spread of the coronavirus have left us no choice but to postpone the full session of the CSW and, instead, gather for just this one day," said Guterres.

"I know that activists and women's groups around the world share my disappointment. But I also take heart because I know we remain committed to the cause of gender equality. We all understand the imperative of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality."

The CSW under the UN Economic and Social Council is an organ that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women. Its annual meeting is a major event for the cause of gender equality and is of special interest to nongovernmental organisations.

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