Magdy Martínez Solimán: Remarks at the Executive Board Annual Session 2016 on the Implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy

Jun 9, 2016

President, Distinguished Members of the Executive Board, Colleagues and Friends,

It is a pleasure to be here today to report to you on UNDP’s progress in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women.

As you know, the Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017 provides detailed strategic entry points for integrating gender equality into each outcome area of the UNDP Strategic Plan, as well as for fulfilling an outcome specifically devoted to reducing gender inequalities and advancing women’s empowerment. The strategy also addresses UNDP’s institutional effectiveness and internal accountability to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

I would like to highlight some of the strong results of the past year - in both development outcomes and institutional effectiveness - and also bring to your attention some of the challenges that must be addressed to advance gender equality  through UNDP’s work and inside UNDP’s structure

Development Results

  • The first important element of analysis is that UNDP country offices have reported much work on gender equality under all Outcomes other than outcome 4, the pillar dedicated specifically to women’s empowerment. In 2015, only 49 Country Offices reported results under this outcome, an increase from 31 in 2014, but Outcome 4 remains the least resourced of all Strategic Plan outcomes.
  • This is especially regrettable in the light of the good work, with significant impact, that is done here: gender-responsive budgets and development strategies, including through the collection, analysis and use of gender-disaggregated data, and addressing gender-based violence.
  • Cumulatively, 57 country offices reported results on gender-based violence.  This work focuses on awareness-raising, legal reforms, access to services for survivors and access to justice and engendered support for the rule of law, including in conflict countries.  It includes our work in partnership with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UN Women and OHCHR to provide technical expertise and training on prosecuting and adjudicating sexual and gender-based violence cases for military, state security and judicial institutions.  In Iraq, for example, UNDP supported the provision of free legal aid services targeted at preventing and addressing sexual and gender-based violence. Nearly 9,000 internally displaced persons and refugees, more than 7000 of them women, directly benefited from legal, social and awareness-raising services on sexual and gender-based violence.  We also continued to support countries to address gender-based violence in the context of HIV and, with the support of the Government of th    e Republic of Korea, are consolidating our offer to address gender-based violence in the context of the SDGs.

Strongest Result Areas

  • Overall, UNDP’s strongest gender equality results were reported in two areas, the first of which is inclusive and sustainable growth and the second democratic governance and women’s political participation. Under Outcome 1, 81 countries reported results on expanding women’s jobs and livelihoods; much progress was also made on promoting social protection systems that address the differentiated needs of men and women. Research and advocacy to recognize the contributions of women’s unpaid labor are underway, under the framework of Agenda 2030.
  • Also under Outcome 1, we saw increased work on mainstreaming gender into natural resources management and ecosystem services programmes and projects.  
  • Our efforts on democratic governance and women’s political participation are yielding tangible results.  This includes through our work on electoral support, with constitutional commissions and parliaments, and training of candidates.  In Suriname, for example, UNDP supported training of women politicians that contributed to the number of women in Parliament jumping from 9.8 percent in 2010 to 33 percent after the May 2015 elections.  In Sierra Leone, we supported women's groups to develop recommendations for the new constitution, including to expunge clauses discriminatory to women and affirm women’s rights to land access and ownership and equal political participation.  UNDP also supported the South Sudan’s Women’s Peace Network to lead 10 state-level consultations which documented the experiences of approximately 800 women during the most recent conflict.
  • We also expanded our work on women in public service.  We have started implementing the recommendations of our report on gender equality in public administrations and working to develop a tracking mechanism which will generate globally comparable gender disaggregated data on women in civil service.

Other Areas of Notable Progress

Another significant area of progress was on ensuring the inclusion of gender issues in the very first stages of conflict recovery, which was a recommendation of last year’s evaluation of UNDP’s gender equality work. We undertook a thorough review of our operating procedures for crisis response and made tangible changes. These include:

  • Including gender equality as a standing feature in all Crises Boards;
  • Introducing an option of deploying a gender advisor in the set of “first responders” that will be deployed within hours of the onset of crisis;
  • Developing a checklist to ensure that all responders address gender issues and engage women’s organizations immediately after crisis;
  • Revising terms of reference for SURGE advisors to strengthen gender-responsiveness; and,
  • Strengthening the Express Roster on Gender with new profiles and CVs.

We will be monitoring UNDP’s commitment to allocate at least 15 percent of funding in peace building contexts to address women’s specific needs, advance gender equality and/or empower women and girls as a principal objective.  

On a global and regional level, UNDP continued to work in 2015 to demonstrate the linkages between gender equality and improved development outcomes. After the adoption of the SDGs, we convened regional dialogues focused on gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the goals. Together with the Arab Women Organization and the League of Arab States, we organized the first Sustainable Development Goals conference in the Arab region on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Gender was a key component in the 2015 Human Development Report, “Rethinking Work for Human Development.” It showed the unequal burden of non-remunerated care work carried by women around the world – providing concrete recommendations for reducing that burden while expanding opportunities for women to engage in paid work.  In fact, UNDP is now launching a new research initiative focused on documenting and sharing best practices in policies to address this issue. Research was also undertaken in 2015 on two regional human development reports which consider how gender equality impacts human development. The first, in Europe and the CIS region, focuses on inequalities including gender inequalities in employment. The second, which focuses on accelerating gender equality in the Africa region, argues that a greater focus on gender equality can mitigate the negative impacts of challenges facing the continent, such as the economic downturn, political unrest and the spread of disease. Both reports will be released this year.


Throughout 2015, UNDP continued to leverage inter-agency partnerships to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, chairing or co-chairing inter-agency groups on gender equality in 33 countries. Notable collaborations with UN Women included a global conference in Argentina on Women and Social Inclusion: From Beijing to Post-2015; the launch of a flagship initiative with UN Women and UNCDF, the Inclusive and Equitable Local Development Programme; and support for the global study on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the High Level Review of 1325, which took place in October of 2015. UNDP also partnered with UNFPA, UN Women and other agencies to draft essential services guidelines for quality service responses for women and girls subjected to gender-based violence and contributed to the drafting of the first UN framework to underpin action to prevent violence against women.

Areas to Strengthen

To conclude my remarks on development results, I would like to note a few areas ripe for strengthening.

  • First, we need to make a more concerted effort to move beyond investments into quantifiable gender-targeted results and towards transformative actions. This was a recommendation of the evaluation last year and it is especially true in post-crisis recovery work, where UNDP must use its livelihood interventions not just to provide jobs for women, but to empower women through skills development and leadership opportunities and by involving them in the design of post crises recovery.  
  • Second, while UNDP continues to be a leader in promoting women in decision-making, we need to focus more on investing in women’s participation in peace building and recovery, including by supporting women’s civil society groups. This is especially important given the protracted nature of crises.
  • Third, we must improve gender mainstreaming in conflict prevention and disaster risk reduction,. While there is an increasing number of national gender-responsive disaster risk reduction and adaptation plans, we need to see greater investments in women’s preparedness, as well as participation after disaster strikes. You will see in Gender Marker results that only 22 percent of expenditures under this outcome have gender equality as a significant or principal objective.

Institutional Results

I will now turn to how UNDP has strengthened institutional effectiveness and accountability to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment.

UNDP continues to be the leading UN agency in the tracking and monitoring of our investments in gender equality.  The Gender Marker ratings on UNDP global expenditures in 2015 show that 35 percent of UNDP expenditures made a significant contribution to gender equality or have gender equality as a principal objective. This is a slight increase from 2014, when the figure was 34 percent. However, this falls short of the 47 percent milestone for 2015 that was set in the IRRF of the Strategic Plan. However, only 4 percent of UNDP expenditures have gender equality as a principal objective. This is far short of the 15 percent required by the UN-SWAP and established in the gender strategy. The Outcomes with the highest percentage of expenditures with gender equality as a “significant” or “principal” objective are Outcome 6 on post conflict and post disaster early recovery (57 percent) and outcome 1 on inclusive and sustainable growth (42 percent).

Gender Capacities

Let me turn to gender capacities. When we adopted the gender equality strategy, we envisaged a strong core team of 29 gender advisors based both in HQ and in the Regional Centres.  We have created the 29 positions, but we have only filled 24 owing to budget shortfalls.

We also committed in the gender strategy to ensure that we have dedicated P4 or equivalent gender capacities in country offices with a portfolio over $25 million. Of the 41 country offices at that budget level, only 11 have dedicated gender advisers.  Last month when the Gender Steering and Implementation Committee met under the leadership of our Associate Administrator, ASGs discussed at length how to accelerate progress. Regional Directors reported that their Country Offices, while not having the core resources to afford international gender advisors at the P4 level, have equivalent support either as national officers or hired under different contractual modalities, such as Individual Contracts, which are not counted today. We need therefore to provide you with a better picture of what our gender capacities really are at the country level.

We are also continuing to strengthen Country Office capacities and commitment to gender equality through an expansion of the Gender Equality Seal, which awards Gold, Silver or Bronze seals to Country Offices or business units that meet a range of standards for gender mainstreaming.  In June 2015, 25 country offices were certified, and in August 2015, a second round of the Seal was launched with 28 new country offices enrolling – bringing the total number of participating country offices to 53.  This year we are piloting certification of Regional Centres.

Gender Parity

Mr. President, Members of the Board, UNDP has achieved the impressive reality of a gender-balanced workforce overall. This places us ahead of many inside of the United Nations and within the community of development partners. We can therefore focus on finer levels of exigence and try to fill our gender gaps in middle and senior management. Women comprise 40 percent of P4-P5 level professionals, and 38 percent at the D1 level. Country directors remain only 33 percent female. On the positive side, UNDP is approaching gender parity in deputy resident representative/deputy country director positions, with 46 percent of them women. This makes the future look promising, as we have the depth and the bench to attain our objective of gender parity at all professional levels of the organisation.   

UNDP has also made considerable effort to ensure gender parity in the resident coordinator pool – 49 percent of UNDP nominations to the resident coordinator pool have been women. Others should take note.  In the UN Development System, the percentage of female resident representatives/resident coordinators has risen from 36 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in February 2016.  

In 2016 we will strengthen accountability of managers for reaching gender parity targets and institute special measures to ensure an increase in the advancements of qualified women. My colleague Martha Helena Lopez, Director of the Office of Human Resources in the Bureau for Management Services, is here with me to answer further questions on this issue.

Progress Responding to Evaluation

Finally, we are fulfilling the recommendations of the 2015 independent evaluation of UNDP’s work on gender. In less than one year, of the 23 recommended actions, we already have initiated or completed 13. This includes the adoption of a revised gender parity strategy, the expansion of the Gender Equality Seal, and the inclusion of gender issues in the revised standard operating procedures in crisis contexts. We also have developed a gender analysis tool for project quality assurance, and revised a guidance note to improve the accuracy of the Gender Marker.  In addition, we are developing toolkits on mainstreaming gender in environment programming and GEF projects, and are reviewing tools for integrating gender into disaster preparedness and response.  The full update on how we are doing can be found in Annex 2.

I trust that the summary I have provided today demonstrated that UNDP’s commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment is solid - and is getting stronger and more comprehensive in spite of serious funding restrictions.

I would like to thank you, Members of the Board, for your continued support and oversight of our efforts. I would like to thank especially our core donors and programme countries who fund and support our work on gender equality in sustainable development. The demand is there and we are doing all we can to deliver quality technical assistance with the means of implementation at our disposal.  Your careful monitoring of gender equality results, and continued inquiries about this work, have strengthened our support to partner countries and, ultimately, helped advance gender equality and sustainable, inclusive development under the SDG framework.

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