21 September 2017
High-Level Event Urges Action on Women’s Empowerment; EU-UN Launch Spotlight Initiative on VAWG
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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A high-level event on women’s economic empowerment called for ensuring the full and equal participation of women in the economy.

The EU and the UN launched the ‘Spotlight Initiative’ to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

19 September 2017: A meeting of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment called for governments, multilateral institutions, the private sector and others to accelerate action to ensure the full and equal participation of women in the economy and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event took place at UN Headquarters in New York, US, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s (UNGA) annual General Debate.

UN Women and the Group of Champions on Women’s Economic Empowerment organized the event, ‘Leave No One Behind: Actions and Commitments for Women’s Economic Empowerment,’ which aimed to take forward recommendations made in the Panel’s March 2017 report. The report recommends practical, transformative actions to accelerate progress on seven drivers of change identified in the Panel’s first report and advance women’s economic empowerment.

The event highlighted several inequalities between men and women in the labour force: only 50 percent of women of working age are engaged in the labor force, compared with 77 percent of men; women are paid 23 percent less than men, on average; women do over two and a half times more care work and unpaid household work; and women are concentrated in informal and precarious employment.

The UN Secretary-General stressed his personal commitment to give “full priority to establish parity in all bodies of the UN, as quickly as possible.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed women’s economic empowerment “contributes to more stable and resilient economies and more peaceful societies” and is “a necessary condition” for achieving the SDGs. He said the inequalities faced by women in the labour force represent “a loss for society as a whole”, pointing to studies that find that women’s equal participation in the economy could result in a 26 percent increase in global gross domestic product (GDP). Guterres urged translating the Panel’s recommendations into actions to realize gender equality and women’s rights in the economy. He also stressed his personal commitment to give “full priority to establish parity in all bodies of the UN, as quickly as possible.”

Co-chair of the Group of Champions and President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera, said Group of Champions will serve as an example on ending gender equality, stressing there is significant work “left to do regarding gender discrimination and exclusion.”

Co-chair of the High-Level Panel and IKEA Switzerland CEO, Simona Scarpaleggia, emphasized the importance of following commitments with action. Scarpaleggia said IKEA is actively working to achieve gender equality, saying that IKEA has “convinced 40 CEOs of companies operating in Switzerland to commit to concrete actions to advance the women’s economic empowerment agenda.” HLP member and Executive Director, Oxfam International, Winnie Byanyma, said to say women are “being left behind is too polite. They are crushed at the bottom of the pyramid.” She called for efforts to build a more human economy that values women’s work and increases their decision-making power.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka shared UN Women’s efforts to implement the Panel’s recommendations, including the launch of the ‘Making Every Women and Girl Count’, a data collection initiative that aims to ensure disaggregated data to track SDG implementation. UN Women also contributed to the launch of Unstereotype Alliance, with 20 major companies with the largest advertising and marketing budgets globally, to transform advertising and marketing efforts to ensure they do not perpetuate stereotypes against women.

Also on women, the European Union (EU) and the UN launched an initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG). The EUR 500 million ‘Spotlight Initiative’ is aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s focus on leaving no one behind and aims to galvanize high-level political commitments and provide large-scale, targeted support to tackle violence against women and girls. The Initiative will, inter alia: implement comprehensive programmes to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls; strengthen legislative frameworks, policies and institutions; promote preventive measures and access to services; and improve data collection on the topic in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia-Pacific. The Initiative is a multi-stakeholder trust fund that is open to other donors. [UN Press Release] [UN Women Press Release] [UN Secretary-General Statement] [EU Press Release] [EU-UN Joint Communique on Spotlight Initiative] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on Panel Recommendations] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on First Report]

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