I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The Nordic countries are committed to supporting developing countries, in particular Least Developed Countries (LDCs), in their efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We have seen considerable progress in fighting extreme poverty at the global level in recent years, despite setbacks due to the recent financial and economic crisis. Nevertheless, poverty levels remain high and persistent in many parts of the world. We need to act firmly to close the gaps between the current reality and the MDGs, while at the same time ensuring that the progress made will be sustainable.
Sustainable economic growth is a key factor in poverty alleviation. It creates opportunities for enhanced welfare, productive employment, security and economic freedom for individuals and communities. Our focus must be on how to translate growth into substantial poverty reduction on a lasting basis. Therefore sustainable economic growth must be pro-poor and inclusive. Growth has to be equitable and enhance social justice and sustainability. These qualitative aspects of growth must be paid due regard in order for us to achieve the MDGs.
Sustainable growth and poverty reduction will also depend on how countries are affected by conflict and climate change. Conflict has a devastating impact on the level of poverty. However, we are not going to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs, without focusing especially on countries affected by conflict and fragility. At the same time, climate change threatens to reverse some of the development gains that have been achieved to date. Deforestation, drought, desertification, degradation of natural coastlines, poor infrastructure and extreme weather patterns are also among the factors that make eradicating poverty a challenging task. They are closely linked to agricultural productivity and food security. Eradicating poverty requires building long-term resilience and ability to mitigate the effects of external shocks and crises as well as resilience to climate change and natural hazards.
At the same time, universal access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy services is critical to poverty reduction. The Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative provides an excellent opportunity to catalyze action by all stakeholders towards providing universal access to modern energy by 2030.
The Nordic countries would like to highlight the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as one of the key policy considerations for poverty eradication and development. The mutually reinforcing links between gender equality, poverty eradication and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals are well established and have recently been further consolidated by the WDR on Gender Equality and Development. We have great expectations of the ability of UN Women to push this agenda forward.
Gender differences in labour force participation, unemployment rates and wage gaps are a persistent feature of global labour markets. Progress has been made on educating girls, albeit sporadic, depending on the region and the girls’ ages. Also, women are becoming more engaged in political fields although slowly. In addition, progress is insufficient on meeting the targets of reducing maternal mortality and achieving universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in developing countries. Various forms of violence against women and girls continue to be a widespread phenomenon in virtually all societies and is a serious threat to their health and very lives! It affects their ability to get an education, and prevents them from taking part in economic and political activities and contributing to development.
Women and girls form a disproportionately large share of the poor in countries all over the world and the impact of poverty differs between women and men, girls and boys. Women, especially in rural areas, are highly dependent on local natural resources for the livelihood of their families as they are most often responsible for securing water, food and energy. Therefore, climate change and conflict – both contributing directly to poverty – have a different impact on women and men. Sustainable and equitable growth is also dependent on women’s contribution to the economy and their increased access to infrastructure, economic assets and financial services.
Removing formal and informal barriers to education, introducing social protection measures and gender responsive labour laws and policies will all contribute to a more constructive participation of women in the labour market. It will also contribute significantly to overall economic growth – gender equality is smart economics. Moreover, women must be able to fully participate in formal and informal decision-making at the local and government level. This is quite simply an issue of democracy and accountability mechanisms should be put in place to ensure this. Women’s burdens in the informal labour market also need to be reduced in order to ensure that women can exercise their right to participate in making decisions that affect them.
The Nordic countries can fully support the recommended actions to be taken by Member States and relevant actors, as laid out in paragraph 72 of the Secretary-General’s Report on “Integrating a gender perspective into national development strategies”, A/66/219, to empower women in achieving the internationally agreed development goals. Emphasis should be placed on integrating gender perspectives in all development cooperation work, building on the national ownership of gender-mainstreaming initiatives.
Thank you, Mr. Chair