• Women Gain at Rio+20: Securing the Future We Want by Securing Gender Equality | Winnie Byanyima

    23 Jul 2012

    Four Women in South Sudan
    The global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, so how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes? Photo: UNDP South Sudan

    The global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, so how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes?

    Rio+20 reaffirmed the goals of building an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable world. The representatives of more than 100 governments made over 690 voluntary commitments, including five specifically on gender equality.  But critical questions remain: Did Rio+20 adequately represent all global citizens? Will Rio+20 advance women’s rights worldwide?

    The outcome document references gender equality in 44 paragraphs. World leaders affirmed that gender equality and women’s participation “are important for effective action on all aspects of sustainable development.” The outcome document encourages donors and non-governmental organizations to fully integrate commitments and considerations on gender equality and women’s empowerment in development programmes and policies. The document made a “call for the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.”

    Despite proposals for powerful language that would have backed gender equality and women’s empowerment outcomes during the negotiation process, most were lost to numerous rounds of editing. The Rio+20 outcome document has been criticized as being too soft on gender equality. Women’s organizations have expressed disappointment with the document’s stance on women’s reproductive rights. Language such as “recognizing” and “taking note” was used instead of “commitments” and “decisions.” Investors were “invited” to take a stance on gender issues, not “urged.” Given the remaining inequalities and discrimination worldwide, isn’t there a clear urgency?

    As we prepare for landmark anniversaries of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Summit, and planning the post-2015 development agenda, UNDP will continue to work closely with governments and other partners to ensure that gender equality commitments are met.  As a collective force, we can move from rhetoric to reality and see measurable progress towards the future we want by ensuring that women and men, boys and girls are able to live their lives to their full potential. 

    Talk to us: As the global development agenda is undergoing drastic changes, how can we ensure that gender issues are adequately addressed in these processes?


About the authors
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Winnie Karagwa Byanyima is the Director of the UNDP Gender Team and a leading champion of women’s rights in Africa, where she has acted as a broker across civil society, bilateral and multilateral actors.

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Blerta Cela works as Policy Specialist and Gender Thematic Trust Fund Manager in UNDP’s Gender Team.

Read about UNDP's efforts to empower women