Mr. President, Members of the Executive Board,

It is a pleasure to present to you today UNDP’s third gender equality strategy, which covers the period 2018-2021.

As you know, gender equality is an integral aspect of the 2030 development agenda – both as a goal (SDG 5) but also as a vital component of achieving progress across all the other sustainable development goals. In addition to SDG 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls – gender equality is reflected in 36 targets and 54 indicators across the SDGs.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment get to the heart of one of the guiding principles of the 2030 Agenda, to leave no one behind. Unless we open opportunities for and secure the rights of women and girls, we will stand no chance of ‘leaving no one behind’.

As the integrator for SDG achievement within the UN system, UNDP has a critical role to play in ensuring that gender equality is part of all development efforts. With our broad development mandate and expertise, we are not only well-placed to integrate gender into our work, but we have a responsibility to do so.

For this reason, I am pleased to be here today to present to you the third UNDP Gender Equality Strategy.  This strategy is aligned with the 2030 Development Agenda; it accompanies UNDP’s strategic plan and it sets a tone for how UNDP will elevate and integrate gender equality across all of our work.

The gender equality strategy lays out some of the evidence of how gender equality accelerates development. For example, leveling the playing field for women farmers – who are denied equal access to seeds, tools, financial credit and other productive resources – would have a dramatic impact on food security. According to FAO, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, which could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent per year and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.[1]

In another example, evidence shows that women’s participation makes peace agreements more sustainable. According to an analysis of 182 peace agreements, when women participate as witnesses, signatories, mediators and/or negotiators, resulting agreements are 35 per cent more likely to last at least 15 years.[2]

The gender equality strategy reflects the guiding principles of the 2030 development agenda. It first and foremost recognizes gender equality as a human right as well as instrumental to the achievement of sustainable development.  It considers women and men as active agents of change and development, not simply beneficiaries and vulnerable groups and it recognizes how working with men and boys is of critical importance to change gender norms and attitudes and achieve gender equality.

The gender equality strategy delineates how we will work across the outcomes of the UNDP Strategic Plan to mainstream gender equality throughout our work. In particular, it outlines four priorities which are called to attention under Signature Solution 6 and address fundamental structural barriers to gender equality. They are:

1.       Removing structural barriers to women’s economic empowerment, including women’s disproportionate burden of unpaid work;

2.       Preventing and responding to gender-based violence;

3.       Promoting women’s participation and leadership in all forms of decision making; and

4.       Strengthening gender-responsive strategies in crises (conflicts and disaster) prevention, preparedness and recovery.

As the annex on lessons learned outlines, ‘implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy 2014-2017” yielded many lessons, which we have tried to address in this strategy. These include moving beyond skills training and projects that ‘count women as beneficiaries’ to addressing structural challenges such as economic policies that redistribute the care responsibilities that prevent women from equally participating in the economy.  It emphasizes the importance of tackling structural barriers to gender equality – institutional, legal, societal and attitudinal. It emphasizes the need to bolster the mainstreaming of gender equality in particular areas where there is room for improvement – such as crisis resilience and climate action.

Although a lot has been done to improve UNDP’s crises response and recovery work, this is an area that requires attention and for which UNDP will be devoting more attention in the new strategy.  In particular, the strategy calls for  gender equality and women’s participation to be integrated at the earliest stages and for opportunities to be created for women to contribute to and participation in sustainable livelihoods in ways that improve outcomes for them and their families.  I am happy to announce that later this year we plan to launch guidance for country offices on how to work better on all aspects of fragility and recovery from a gender lens. 

Signature solution 6 elevates the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment, but it also cuts across all signature solutions and development contexts.  This reflects the essence of UNDP’s new global policy platform, in which the signature solutions are not meant to be implemented in isolation, but to be integrated with one another.

In addition, the gender equality strategy is consistent with the direction we have received from the QCPR and the Common Chapter of the strategic plans of UNDP, UN Women, UNICEF and UNFPA in that it sets us up to improve and intensify our collaborative work with other UN agencies so that we apply each agency’s unique strengths toward common aims.

In July, UNDP and UN Women signed a Memorandum of Understanding to demonstrate our strengthened collaboration. As UN Women is UNDP’s largest joint partner, making sure that we maximize the potential of our partnership, playing to each agency’s strengths and avoiding duplication of efforts, will be a significant factor in how well we progress toward fulfilling the goals of the gender equality strategy, as well as the UNDP Strategic Plan and the 2030 Agenda. The MOU notes key areas of cooperation, which are: legal and policy reforms to advance gender equality; gender-based violence; crises/post-crises response and early recovery; women’s political leadership; mobilizing the private sector to advance gender equality; economic empowerment; and energy.

Working more closely with the Private sector and civil society are also highlighted as approaches of the new gender equality strategy. In particular, the strategy commits UNDP to help countries create space and opportunities for women’s organizations and networks and this is an area where we see strong opportunities to work together in particular with UNW.  The strategy also recognizes that the private sector has an important role to play in creating a decent work environment for women; livelihood opportunities; and in changing behaviors values and norms.  Two key initiatives to advance this work include (1) the Private Sector Seal: a certification program for companies to meet global standards – for this initiative we are working in partnership with UNW as part of implementation of the recently signed MOU and (2) the Inclusive and Equitable Local Development Programme, which leverages the partnership of UNCDF, UNW and UNDP to unlock private and public investments in gender sensitive projects at the local level in LDCs.

The strategy also underscores the importance of strong leadership and accountability for gender equality, both in UNDP’s development assistance and in our own workplaces.

As leadership stems from the top, I’m pleased to note that, following the lead of the UN Secretary-General, the UNDP Administrator will be signing on as an International Gender Champion. Additionally, this strategy calls on senior managers throughout our organization to champion gender equality in speeches and meetings and to ensure gender balance in panels and missions.

We have strengthened the Gender Steering and Implementation Committee, which will now meet twice annually, chaired by the Administrator. The GSIC met in July, when it took decisions related to the implementation of both the Gender Parity Strategy and the Gender Equality Strategy, including to strengthen performance monitoring to hold all managers accountable for advancing gender equality.

The strategy also calls for expanding the UNDP Gender Equality Seal, which incentivizes country offices to integrate gender equality into all aspects of their development work. Launched in 2011, the Gender Equality Seal serves as a certification programme and learning platform to support country offices/units to address gaps, document and share innovation and knowledge and advance organizational change for gender equality. Since 2011, more than 50 country offices have been awarded a bronze, silver or gold certification. Over the period of the Strategic Plan, 2018-2021, UNDP will expand the Gender Equality Seal to ensure that more country offices benefit from capacity-building and organizational change for gender equality.

UNDP is committed to having an inclusive, diverse and harmonious working environment. The gender equality strategy references recent measures to strengthen our policies and support for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual exploitation and abuse. Some of the measures now in place include a new confidential, 24-hour, multi-lingual helpline; counseling services for victims; a stronger policy on retaliation and we have improved the capacities for investigation. Finally, and importantly, we are conducting extensive outreach to ensure that all managers are aware of their responsibilities to prevent sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation and making sur all staff are aware of the services available to them.

While I have highlighted some of the aspects of the new Gender Equality Strategy, I invite you all to read it in full.

In closing, I’d like to reiterate our commitment to gender equality as central to our work and to express my thanks to the members of this Executive Board for so consistently supporting our efforts to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women both in our development work and within the organization itself. Your keen interest in the development of this new Gender Equality Strategy is yet another sign of your deep commitment to this vital area of work.

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