Speech: Our ability to deliver on the promises of the SDGs depends on our decision to put women and girls at the center – World

Opening remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous at the ECOSOC High-Level Segment/Ministerial Meeting of the 2022 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, 13 July 2022.

[As delivered.]

It’s an honor to be here with all of you today.

Over the past week, we have heard strong commitments and a renewed sense of urgency in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda.

Concrete calls have been made to move from words to action.

The thematic review of SDG5 was clear. We have to do things differently.

We need to increase investment in gender equality. We must promote and support women’s health, education and leadership. We need to ensure that women can access funding and resources.

Forty-four countries have submitted or will submit their voluntary national assessments by the end of this forum. Eleven for the first time.

We welcome this effort to take stock of what has been done, and what remains to be done.

Your Excellencies,

Hurry up. We have only eight years left before 2030. And we have heard that we are very far from the mark.

A devastating pandemic has affected every region of the world – every country, every woman, every girl – and has deepened inequalities.

And even as we struggle to recover, we continue to leave people, women, girls and countries behind.

This is also evident in our solution to end the pandemic, namely access to services and vaccines.

In 2021, the WHO set a global COVID-19 vaccination coverage target of 70% by mid-2022. As of last month, only 58 of WHO’s 194 Member States had met the 70% target.

In low-income countries, only 37% of healthcare workers had received a full course of primary COVID vaccination.

This too has a gender impact, as 70% of frontline health workers worldwide are women.

We face wars, crises, humanitarian emergencies, food, energy and financial insecurities, inflation and unsustainable debt. We see the severe impacts of climate change, with loss of biodiversity and increased pollution leading to floods and droughts, and more crises.

Peace, security, prosperity and a life free from violence are far from the reality for most people, especially women and girls.

These crises aggravate the pre-existing gender poverty gap. No matter where in the world, it is women and girls who bear the brunt of job losses and falling economic security.

It is women and girls who bear the pressure of reduced public services.

These are the women and girls who have faced heightened domestic violence, at phantom pandemic levels, as a result of COVID-19.

There is no corner in the world where violence against women and girls does not exist.

Two hundred and forty-five million women and girls have been victims of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

Around the world, gender-based violence hotlines have seen an increase in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic, as women and girls are locked down with their abusers and services become inaccessible.


If we had any doubts, last week sent the message that we must redouble our efforts – if history is not to judge the 2030 Agenda as proof of our unwillingness to deliver on the promises we made to those who need our collective efforts, the most.

The good news is that we have solutions. Throughout this week we have heard about what needs to be done. It simply requires that we are doing it. It just requires that we all do it.

I ask that we recognize the central role of gender equality in these solutions. We know that SDG 5 is not just a goal in itself. This is the key and the foundation of the SDGs as a whole.


This year you have taken an in-depth look at the progress of SDG 5 implementation. Many of you have presented impressive results on the progress of SDG 5 in your countries. From an increase in the number of women in the workforce to new legislation to combat violence against women.

We remain hopeful in the face of these achievements.

But a review of progress by UN Women and the United Nations Statistics Division reveals that only one SDG 5 indicator is “close to target” globally.

This only indicator is the proportion of seats held by women in local authorities. I applaud that.

Yet in all other areas, including equal time spent on unpaid care and domestic work, sexual and reproductive health decision-making, and effective policies on gender equality and women’s empowerment. women, the world is “far from being targeted”.

Data gaps continue to hamper our ability to successfully monitor all SDGs. For example, there are several SDG 5 indicators for which the world does not have sufficient data to assess progress, the most prevalent being the indicator tracking women’s secure rights to land.


The distance to achieve SDG 5 is long and the time is short.

Bold, evidence-based actions and increased funding are needed for a whole-of-society effort to meet the needs and rights of all women and girls.

As we have heard repeatedly from the Secretary-General, we need renewed multilateralism and reinvigorated commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder that we are interconnected, and so are our solutions; that our future depends on everyone’s prosperity and, indeed, that no one is left behind.

We know it can happen. We saw this a few months ago during the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. For the first time, Member States negotiated agreed conclusions recognizing the essential role of women in the search for climate solutions.

The negotiations were difficult and lengthy, but showed the best of our multilateral system and the importance of working together to collectively advance the rights of women and girls everywhere for a more sustainable common future. We look to CSW to continue on this path.

Your Excellencies,

We know the solution. We heard it featured here over the past week. We see it in every resolution passed on women’s leadership.

We identified it in Goal 5. It’s simple: greater gender equality translates into more sustainable and peaceful societies.

COVID-19 has been a clear lesson in the power of gender equality.

UN Women and UNDP assessed nearly 5,000 policy measures adopted by 226 countries and territories in response to COVID-19.

The assessment showed that although women and girls have been at the forefront of the response to the pandemic, they have been sidelined in shaping the recovery and remain underrepresented in decision-making processes.

But we also found that countries with strong public services and gender-sensitive social protection systems were better placed to respond to the pandemic.

And countries mounted a more effective response when they had more women in leadership, in parliaments and in ministries.

Just as we know that peace agreements are more likely to last when women are meaningfully involved, social policies are more likely to be effective when leadership is balanced.

To conclude, I have five requests to get us back on track with the 2030 Agenda.

First, let’s increase investments in social protection and gender-sensitive public services to increase resilience to future shocks.

Second, let’s build institutional capacity, increase women’s leadership, and recognize the voice and agency of all women and girls to shape their future.

Third, let’s ensure that there is adequate funding for gender equality, including by prioritizing gender equality in both national budgets and official development assistance.

Fourth, let’s make sure we have a strong database and access to data. It is not acceptable that halfway through our program we still have areas where data is lacking to provide a proper picture of progress.

Fifth, recognize and embrace the important role and contributions of civil society and women’s organizations, women human rights and environmental defenders, and young women and men around the world.

A greater place for them in decision-making processes will result in transformative change in our communities and societies and accelerate our path to recovery and resilience.


I assure you again that UN Women will continue to work with you. We will continue to strengthen our partnerships at country level, supporting all Member States that request it, with gender expertise and the power of our mandate and voice.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development remains the world’s best roadmap for peace, security, recovery, dignity and shared prosperity.

We are all too aware that we are far from being on the right track, but equally sure of the power of multilateralism and of our collective and united action.

I remind all of us that our ability to deliver on the promises we made in the 2030 Agenda depends in large part on our collective decision to put women and girls at the center of all action.

Only then can we lay the foundations for a more sustainable, resilient and equitable future for all.

I wish you all much success and thank you.

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