Advancing Asia-Pacific Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Post-2015 Development

Delivered at the closing of the ministerial segment of the Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review in Bangkok, Thailand.

Your Majesty, Queen Mother Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck of Bhutan,

Your Excellency, Mr. Enele Sosene Sopoaga,
Prime Minister of Tuvalu,

Excellencies,
Distinguished Delegates,

Introduction

Edith Wharton, the first woman winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature, once wrote that: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it”.

You have done much this week to renew, focus and amplify the light which continues to shine from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

Your adoption today of the Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is a concrete and forward-looking commitment to the more just and sustainable future we want for women and men, girls and boys, in every country of our region.

This action-oriented outcome, when implemented, will help us consolidate our achievements, work on our gaps and priorities, and tackle these through stronger institutions and partnerships, with greater financing and accountability for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Our Declaration reaffirms our commitment to fully and effectively implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, encompassing all twelve critical areas of concern.

Together we will address existing and emerging challenges and opportunities; combat discrimination in all its forms; and create an environment which eliminates the root causes of gender inequality and gender violence.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates

Future Action for Equality & Empowerment

In the opening yesterday, I underscored the importance of five critical requirements identified by our senior officials for advancing this agenda. I would like to recognise and applaud some of the many significant advances made in each of these areas in the final outcome document.

In terms of institutional strengthening, it is especially encouraging to see the focus on promoting gender-responsive legislation; improving capacities of parliaments and national machineries; increasing budgetary allocations; as well as enhancing coordination and synergies across government ministries and agencies.

Regarding increased financing, effective gender-responsive planning and budgeting will be critical – with much scope for multi-year and multisectoral financing for initiatives in all of the 12 critical areas of concern. ESCAP will also focus our support to help member States look at options to enhance and diversify sources of financing and tools for results-based tracking of allocations and expenditures for gender equality, women’s rights and economic empowerment of women and girls.

Enhanced Accountability will also be essential. The inclusion in the Declaration of the need to strengthen national statistical offices and systems, and to establish nationally appropriate measurable targets and indicators, aligns very closely with the new mandate given to ESCAP and the other United Nations regional commissions – to drive regional monitoring and accountability for the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. Just next week, we will be hosting another major Ministerial conference on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, which form the core of many of these key datasets.

Given the lessons learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), stronger partnerships, based on inclusivity and mutual accountability, must be forged to ensure effective implementation. Coordination and consultation with all key stakeholders – especially civil society and the private sector – must be non-negotiable, supported and supplemented by the whole United Nations system with our development partners. ESCAP, through its work on Asia-Pacific sustainable development financing, will explore options to leverage better North-South cooperation, and to augment this by effectively nurturing South-South and triangular cooperation.

We also take note of the guidance provided by the Conference on strengthening regional cooperation, which is one of ESCAP’s core priorities. With the increasing success of ASEAN’s cooperation and integration processes, we can draw significant lessons for the rest of our subregions to also advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in these efforts. I am pleased to announce today that the secretariat will work through and with the United Nations Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM) to launch new joint analytical work in this regard. We will also carry the outcome of this Conference to the 71st session of the Commission, and ensure that it is shared with the ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women as the Asia-Pacific regional input.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to express our deep appreciation to everyone who contributed to the success of the Conference.

In particular I would like to offer our sincere thanks to Her Majesty, the Queen Mother of Bhutan for her leadership and inspiration. I would also like to thank the Chair of the Ministerial Segment of the Conference, His Excellency, the Prime Minster of Tuvalu, for the smooth and results-oriented conduct of the meeting.

Our thanks must also go to all the Vice-Chairs and the Rapporteur, as well as to the Chair of the Senior Officials Segment.

Let me also thank the Royal Thai Government for hosting the Conference, and a special word of appreciation to the Deputy Prime Minister for inaugurating the ministerial segment and hosting the gala dinner last night. The National Council of Women of Thailand has also been an important partner in making this all possible.

To UN-Women – our long-standing and valued collaborators in the Beijing+20 regional review process, our thanks for all of your support. Special recognition is also due for all of the other UN agencies and entities who contributed to this event.

No Beijing+20 review could possibly succeed without the vibrant and passionate engagement and participation of civil society – and to all our CSO representatives another big thank you.

Finally, I must thank my ESCAP secretariat team, who have worked so hard this past year to prepare for this Conference.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, let us take from this Conference the light of a new vision for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and a shared determination to shine that light into every corner of Asia and the Pacific.

There is already renewed global and regional progress. Leaders of the G20 countries, for instance, have called on their Governments to reduce the gap in participation rates between men and women in G20 economies by 25 per cent by 2025, which could see an additional 100 million women entering the global labour force.

We stand together today as guarantors of the rights and opportunities which vest in every woman and every girl – as equal, valuable and valued partners in shaping the future prosperity and destiny of our region.

I thank you.