"We want girls and women to have a voice in all the decisions that affect their lives."

Statement by Ambassador Martin Shearman of the UK Mission to the UN at the UN Women Executive Board

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Thank you very much Mr President, and thank you to you and to the Executive Director for your statement and address today.

As many have said this meeting of the Executive Board comes at an important time. We will celebrate the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals as part of the 2030 Agenda later this month. With UN Women and others, the UK pushed for a strong and explicit commitment to empowering girls and women and achieving gender equality in this development framework. And together we have succeeded in placing that commitment at the centre of the 2030 Agenda.

The SDGs will move us forward from the MDGs by addressing the underlying, structural causes of gender inequality. They provide a comprehensive set of measures that will be critical to achieving transformational change in the lives of girls and women.

We want girls and women to have a voice in all the decisions that affect their lives. So that they have control over their bodies and the right to choose if, when and how many children they have.

We want girls and women to have the opportunity to live a healthy life, one free from violence, a life where they can access quality primary and secondary education. A life where decent work, at a minimum I should say, means equal pay for work of equal value; so that they can control their finances and can lift themselves out of poverty

As you have said Madam Executive Director, the challenge ahead remains huge; hundreds of millions are subject to the daily scourge of poverty. Girls and women bear the brunt.

Too many girls still face the cruel prospect of being forced into marriage. Too many are still subjected to the human rights violation of female genital mutilation and cutting. And rampant everyday sexism and gender inequality everywhere continue to undermine women and girls’ potential.

UN Women will play a central role in ensuring the new Global Goals are turned into action on the ground. It has the crucial responsibility of galvanizing global leadership and ensuring system wide co-ordination on girls and women. That’s why the UK is proud to commit nearly $20 million per year of core funding to UN Women. UN Women is crucial to holding to account and supporting the rest of the UN system and us, the Member States, on our gender commitments. To continue the success of this work, we want UN Women to build its legitimacy and capacity even further across the world.

I would like to focus briefly on two particular issues where progress is particularly important.

The first is Women’s Economic Empowerment, which is critical for gender equality and for achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Our Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening will be delighted to co-host with you, Madam Executive Director, an event on 25 September in the margins of the UN General Assembly to call on Governments, civil society and the private sector to take action to transform our economies by ensuring better opportunities for girls and women around the world.

We encourage others to make commitments to this agenda and to join us in building a global coalition in support of the economic empowerment of women and girls.

Secondly, let me turn briefly to Women, Peace and Security. The High Level Review in October is a crucial opportunity to turn the tide on how we support women and girls affected by conflict. We look forward to receiving the Global Study, and urge UN Women’s leadership to continue working with countries in the run up to and beyond this important anniversary. We are pleased to have provided some funds to enable follow up to the Global Study recommendations on the ground.

We believe it is clear that UN Women’s capacity in the field must be strengthened to enhance the voices of women in conflict and humanitarian settings, and we encourage Member States to support this goal. We also look forward to seeing the roll out of the Global Acceleration Instrument, which we hope will further women’s effective participation.

Finally Mr President, of course in order to achieve results on all of these important issues, UN Women needs funding that is aligned with its mandate, is predictable, and gives UN Women the opportunity to focus and further strengthen areas in its comparative advantage. In the UK’s view, this is not primarily about programming. We see UN Women’s key added value as its expertise, capacity to influence, support and hold to account the broader UN system, governments and civil society so that we do more and we do better in our efforts to advance gender equality so that we realise our gender commitment. In this context we find the idea of the “flagship programmes” interesting and look forward to hearing in more details how these programmes will be developed and implemented and how they will contribute to UN Women’s work.

We welcome the financing dialogue as an opportunity for further discussion on UN Women’s funding. And in this and future sessions, we would like UN Women to provide more analysis of the areas that are underfunded, to explain what more could be done with more funding; and to continue to think creatively about alternative funding mechanisms. We hope you will also encourage civil society and the private sector to take part in these dialogues too.

Mr President

After three years of negotiation on the new Global Goals, the real work begins. We now have an opportunity to make significant progress on gender equality. UN Women has an important role to play in turning these commitments into tangible results. And the United Kingdom looks forward to working with you to turn the new Global Goals into action.

Thank you very much.

Published 15 September 2015