Seizing Opportunities for Gender Equality at the United Nations

Opportunities to Advance Gender Equality at the United Nations

The 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the deliberation on the new Sustainable Development Goals and the convening of the third International Conference on Financing for Development all provide opportunities to advance gender equality. These must be seized.

UN Women is tasked with leading this effort. To achieve this, we must ensure that a gender perspective is systematically mainstreamed into all United Nations policies and activities.

The United Nations Charter

Gender equality is a central tenet of the United Nations Charter. The preamble of the Charter states that full equality between men and women is a fundamental value and objective of the United Nations. The Charter establishes a framework of normative international standards to guide the work of the United Nations in advancing human rights, development, peace and security.

The Charter also establishes the Commission on the Status of Women, which has a mandate to make recommendations to ECOSOC. In 1979, the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which has been described as an international bill of rights for women.

The Convention requires States parties to take steps to eliminate discrimination against women on the basis of their gender and to promote the equal participation of women in all fields of public life. The Convention, along with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and a variety of resolutions of the United Nations system, sets the standard for the international community to work towards gender equality.

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is the most progressive global blueprint ever developed to advance gender equality. It builds on political agreements reached at three previous global conferences on women and consolidates five decades of legal advances aimed at securing equal rights with men.

Since 2000, UN member states have conducted national reviews of progress towards the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPFA). These are consolidated by the Commission on the Status of Women into a global report that is presented to the United Nations General Assembly.

This year, the world will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BPFA and the 25th anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325. It is a time to look back at the many gains made, but also to press ahead with more ambitious goals. To address global challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change and violence against women, faster progress across all pillars of the 2030 Agenda will depend on the full and effective integration of a gender perspective.

The Millennium Development Goals

Women’s empowerment is a crucial building block for achieving all of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Empowering women and girls increases economic growth, promotes human rights and sustainable development and contributes to more stable societies.

The United Nations and its member states must ensure that their policies, programmes and budgets reflect a gender perspective. This is key to implementing the goals and commitments in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Despite progress, global inequalities persist. Women have less access to education and health services, are more often victims of violence and discrimination and lack economic independence. They are also under-represented in decision-making at all levels of society.

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created a new UN entity – UN Women – to lead the advancement of women and gender equality. This was a major milestone for the world body. It merged four existing UN bodies to accelerate the process and deliver on the promise made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, world leaders committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 5, Gender Equality, is a key goal and an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda makes clear that the realization of all human rights and the pursuit of sustainable people-centered development are not possible without gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender mainstreaming — the integration of gender perspectives into all programmes and activities of the United Nations system — is the most effective means to advance gender equality and empower women and girls.

Gender parity is a fundamental priority and a moral obligation for the United Nations. The UN System-wide Policy on Gender Equality endorsed by the Board seeks to foster a culture of equality and equity in all duty stations. Learn more about the Strategy in this video message from Secretary-General Guterres to staff.

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