Helen Clark: Statement on Why Access to Clean and Affordable Energy Matters to Women and Children At the Energy and Women and Children’s Health Event, Sustainable Energy For all Forum

05 Jun 2014

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Statement on
Why Access to Clean and Affordable Energy Matters to Women and Children
At the
Energy and Women and Children’s Health Event,
Sustainable Energy For all Forum
United Nations, New York

I am very pleased to be part of this important event, marking the dedication of the first two years of the “UN Decade on SE4ALL” to the “Energy-Women-Children-Health” nexus.

As women and children bear most of the burden of fetching and carrying fuel when modern energy supply is not available or affordable, focusing on this nexus is critical. It is estimated that, each year, 4.3 million premature deaths, mainly of women and children, are associated with inhaling toxic fumes from fuels such as wood, animal waste, and charcoal used for cooking and heating. Women in rural areas often spend between one and four hours a day collecting dung and/or firewood. In the Southern State of Tamil Nadu in India for example, a major reason given for keeping girls aged 10-12 out of school is that they are needed to help their mothers collect cooking fuel..

The positive news, however, is that there has been some progress. Over the past two decades, 1.7 billion people have gained access to electricity and about 1.6 billion have gained access to less polluting household fuels.

Addressing energy needs in ways which relieve the burden on women and children requires integrated approaches which go well beyond the provision of electricity and fuels, and link energy services to national development priorities, including to women’s and children’s health, and to livelihoods, job creation, environment, transportation needs, and education.

For UNDP, access to energy is not an end in itself. It is a means to lifting human development, and ensuring that the progress countries make actually reaches the most vulnerable, including women and children.

UNDP is proud to be associated with work in West Africa where 3.5 million people are benefiting from access to small power engines which provide energy in villages. With this new source of energy, children can do their school work at night, health clinics can save more lives, communities can pump water more easily, and women can reduce dramatically the time taken for processing agricultural produce like grains and seeds.

If we apply principles of equity, inclusiveness, and sustainability to our approach to energy supply, we not only can increase access but also can ensure that it reaches the poor and marginalized.

The UN Decade on “Sustainable Energy for All”, the Secretary General's SE4ALL initiative, and the post-2015 development agenda all provide opportunities to advance access to clean and affordable energy for all.

UNDP has ensured that the convening power of UN Resident Co-ordinators and UN Country Teams has been used to rally key stakeholders in countries behind the Secretary-General’s SE4ALL initiative.  We have also supported many countries to develop their capacity to expand access, particularly to off-grid, decentralized solutions.

We hope that the launch of the UN Decade on SE4ALL will see the scaling-up of efforts by governments, development partners, the private sector, and civil society to ensure universal access to clean and affordable energy. UNDP is fully committed to play its part in achieving that.