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"Beijing +25: Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region"

  | Tatiana Valovaya Speech

29 octobre 2019
"Beijing +25: Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region"

Remarks by Ms. Tatiana Valovaya
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

Beijing +25: Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region
Tuesday 29 October 2019, 10:00
Room XVIII, Palais des Nations

Ms. Algayerova,
Ms. Regnér,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you today for the opening of the Beijing+ Regional Review Meeting for the UNECE region.

Gender equality is both an objective and driver of sustainable development. It is key to building safe, peaceful, healthy, and prosperous communities, and to achieving not only Goal 5, but all the Sustainable Development Goals. The barriers to achieve gender equality in our societies are therefore severely jeopardizing our chances to realize the 2030 Agenda.

Important progress has been achieved on gender equality and the empowerment of women across the UNECE region in the last five years. Many countries improved national capacity for integrating gender into policies and national action plans.

Efforts to combat violence against women and domestic violence within the region also accelerated since the entry into force in 2014 of the Istanbul Convention.

Significant efforts were made to support women's inclusion into the workforce by addressing the gender pay gap, introducing proactive labour market policies and tackling work-family reconciliation. Women's political participation at the national level has seen important progress, with some countries being close to parity. Important initiatives have been taken to promote women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to address the pension gap and to strengthen the health sector.

Despite significant progress and lessons learnt, which could also serve to help developments in other regions of the world, structural issues at the root of gender inequality, such as legal discrimination, unfair social norms and attitudes, and low levels of political participation, are still hampering the ability of the countries in UNECE region to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5.

As we gear towards the global Beijing+25 review in 2020, this regional review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action serves as an important tool to assess both gains and current challenges, and to develop strategies towards achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is fitting that the regional review takes place in Geneva. Home to international organizations, representatives of States, NGOs and civil society actors and academic institutions, International Geneva is the operational hub of the multilateral system and the best place to design and test collaborative and innovative solutions.

International Geneva has been a leader in developing innovative solutions on gender equality. For instance, the International Gender Champions initiative – a leadership network that was born in Geneva in 2015 and spread since then to other cities – now includes 235 active Champions – heads of International Organizations, Permanent Missions, and Civil Society Organizations. By committing themselves to undertake concrete, measurable and time-bound actions, these champions actively promote and mainstream gender equality within their entities. We have seen the impact of this leadership network growing stronger over the years.

As an International Gender Champion myself and as the first woman to head the United Nations Office at Geneva, I consider gender equality at UN Geneva an essential priority. By pursuing the implementation of the Gender Policy we have made significant progress towards reaching gender parity. For example, in 2015, women occupied 44 % of positions in the professional category, and by the end of 2018, parity at non-senior levels was attained. In 2015, there were 38.6% of women in senior positions, and by the end of 2018 female staff represented 46% of senior level staff. It is important to note that this progress has been achieved through the selection process based on merit rather than a sort of “preferential treatment”. I believe that this course of action is important for the long-term success of reaching parity while maintaining merit-based professional balance.

One of our main goals is to grant female and male staff equal chances. In addition, we continue undertaking measures to create an enabling environment for both, women and men. For example, I have made clear that I would be applying a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual harassment or abuse. In this context, a groundbreaking campaign against sexism was also carried out in 2018 at UN Geneva to raise awareness and counter such behavior. I believe that the UN has a responsibility to lead by example and demonstrate the core values of equality, human rights and non-discrimination through our actions.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am encouraged to witness strong participation of government representatives, civil society and key stakeholders from the ECE region, including women and youth groups, in this review meeting. With the wealth of relevant international, national and local actors around this room, I am convinced that the outcome of this review will serve to further advance progress in closing the gender gap and achieving the objectives set out in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

I wish you a successful meeting.