On behalf of the Nordic countries, let me thank you Mr. President for your initiative to facilitate a discussion about the contributions women, youth and civil society can make to the post-2015 development agenda.
My short answer is that women, youth and civil society are strong agents of change at the local, national, regional and global level. Important groups like persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and the LGBT community need to be listened to, included and given the opportunity to meaningfully participate in processes. A vibrant civil society is the cornerstone of any democratic society and in the Nordic countries we continuously seek input and advice from NGOs on policy matters.
The post 2015 development agenda is not an agenda for governments alone. It’s an agenda that must be owned by both governments and its people. Civil society have actively participated in the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals and they will have a prominent place in the High Level Political Forum on sustainable development, given the broad participation rights its establishment has ensured them. Their contributions are both important and valuable. In the process leading up to the 2015 Summit it will be important to ensure that the process continues to be inclusive. This will yield better results and ownership when it comes to implementation.
Civil society include youth groups and let me just say that we as member states need to place high priority on young people’s participation and involvement. Young people consist of more than 1.8 billion of the world’s population. They deserve influence in matters relating to the future. Therefore enabling the economic, social and political participation of youth is key to achieving sustainable development.
Today’s debate takes place just as the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals has begun its deliberations on key focus areas – which rightfully include Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
Lack of gender equality might be the most pervasive form of discrimination of all. We need to act with much more resolve to change the state of affairs. First and foremost because women and girls are entitled to the full realization of human rights. But also because societies will not develop and thrive to their full potential as long as the talents of half of their population remains untapped.
It is not surprising that an impressive number of countries, independently of their developmental status or regional belonging, agree that the world needs a stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment and their full enjoyment of human rights. There is also broad agreement that the new goal should go beyond the current MDG 3 to achieve transformative changes. It should be based on women as enablers, drivers and beneficiaries of sustainable development and poverty eradication.
Gender equality should permeate the whole post-2015 agenda. This translates into the following concrete terms:
- equal participation in decision-making in the domestic, economic, social and political spheres.
- equal access to productive assets, to jobs and to social services;
- the elimination of violence against women in all its forms, including domestic violence, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting;
- respect, protect and fulfil the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all individuals throughout the life-cycle, including through universal access to quality, integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services.
The evidence about the benefits to societies, women themselves and their families of equal treatment provides a compelling incentive to act. A few snapshots to illustrate the point:
1. The UNDP gender inequality index shows that countries with higher gender equality has higher gross domestic product per capita
1. Educating girls may be the single highest return investment available in the developing world. An extra year of primary education typically increases a person’s salary by 5 percent to 15 percent. An extra year of secondary school raises the salary the up by 15 percent to 25 percent. And when girls go to school there is a lower risk of early and enforced marriage and early pregnancy
1. When women are educated, they gain influence and control of their lives. Better economic opportunities and stronger political participation also strengthen their roles as agents of change to transform their societies for the better.
We are confident that next week’s meeting in the Commission on the Status of Women will provide guidance on the exact formulations on including gender equality, women’s and girls’ empowerment, and the full enjoyment of their human rights, both a stand-alone goal and throughout the post-2015 development agenda.
Mr. President, we need to ensure that gender equality, women and girl’s empowerment and human rights obtain the prominent place they require in the new sustainable development agenda. This is the right thing to do, and also the smart thing to do.
In sum, women, young people and civil society are critical in shaping, implementing and monitoring the Post-2015 Development Agenda. We, as member states, therefore have an important job to ensure that their voices are heard in the process going forward.