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The UN Secretary Generals Message on International Womens Day

New York, 8 March 2019

Gender equality and women’s rights are fundamental to global progress on peace and security,

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

The UN Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres

human rights and sustainable development. We can only re-establish trust in institutions, rebuild global solidarity and reap the benefits of diverse perspectives by challenging historic injustices and promoting the rights and dignity of all.

In recent decades, we have seen remarkable progress on women’s rights and leadership in some areas. But these gains are far from complete or consistent – and they have already sparked a troubling backlash from an entrenched patriarchy.

Gender equality is fundamentally a question of power. We live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture. Only when we see women’s rights as our common objective, a route to change that benefits everyone, will we begin to shift the balance.

Increasing the number of women decision-makers is fundamental. At the United Nations, I have made this a personal and urgent priority. We now have gender parity among those who lead our teams around the world, and the highest-ever numbers of women in senior management. We will continue to build on this progress.

But women still face major obstacles in accessing and exercising power. As the World Bank found, just six economies give women and men equal legal rights in areas that affect their work. And if current trends continue, it will take 170 years to close the economic gender gap.

Nationalist, populist and austerity agendas add to gender inequality with policies that curtail women’s rights and cut social services. In some countries, while homicide rates overall are decreasing, femicide rates are rising. In others we see a rollback of legal protection against domestic violence or female genital mutilation. We know women’s participation makes peace agreements more durable, but even governments that are vocal advocates fail to back their words with action. The use of sexual violence as a tactic in conflict continues to traumatize individuals and entire societies.

Against this backdrop, we need to redouble our efforts to protect and promote women’s rights, dignity and leadership. We must not give ground that has been won over decades and we must push for wholesale, rapid and radical change.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, addresses infrastructure, systems and frameworks that have been constructed largely in line with a male-defined culture. We need to find innovative ways of reimagining and rebuilding our world so that it works for everyone. Women decision-makers in areas like urban design, transport and public services can increase women’s access, prevent harassment and violence, and improve everyone’s quality of life.

This applies equally to the digital future that is already upon us. Innovation and technology reflect the people who make them. The underrepresentation and lack of retention of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics and design should be a cause of concern to all.

Last month, in Ethiopia, I spent time with African Girls Can Code, an initiative that is helping to bridge the digital gender divide and train the tech leaders of tomorrow. I was delighted to see the energy and enthusiasm these girls brought to their projects. Programmes like this not only develop skills; they challenge stereotypes that limit girls’ ambitions and dreams.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone.

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French Translation

L’égalité des genres et les droits des femmes sont fondamentaux pour progresser à l’échelle planétaire sur la voie de la paix, de la sécurité, des droits de l’homme et du développement durable. Nous ne pouvons rétablir la confiance dans les institutions, reconstruire la solidarité au niveau mondial et tirer parti des diverses perspectives qu’en luttant contre les injustices historiques et en promouvant les droits et la dignité de toutes et de tous.

 

Ces dernières décennies, nous avons vu les femmes réaliser de remarquables avancées dans certains domaines, en matière de droits et de leadership. Mais ces progrès sont loin d’être complets ou systématiques – et ils ont suscité une réaction hostile et inquiétante de la part d’un patriarcat solidement enraciné.

 

L’égalité des genres est essentiellement une question de pouvoir. Nous vivons dans un monde dominé par les hommes où la culture l’est également. Ce n’est que lorsque nous nous fixons comme objectif commun les droits des femmes, un nouveau cap à prendre au profit de toutes et de tous, que nous commencerons à faire évoluer la situation.

 

L’augmentation du nombre des femmes à des postes de décision est fondamental. À l’ONU, j’en ai fait une priorité personnelle et urgente. Nous avons assuré la parité entre les sexes parmi celles et ceux qui dirigent nos équipes dans le monde, et le nombre de femmes occupant des postes de responsabilité est le plus élevé jamais atteint dans l’Organisation. Nous continuerons à faire fond sur cette avancée.

 

Toutefois, les femmes se heurtent encore à des obstacles importants pour accéder au pouvoir et pour l’exercer. Comme la Banque mondiale l’a constaté, seuls six pays accordent aux femmes et aux hommes la même égalité de droits dans des domaines touchant à leur vie professionnelle. Et si les tendances actuelles se maintiennent, il faudra 170 ans pour combler l’écart économique entre les sexes.

 

Les programmes nationalistes, populistes et d’austérité ajoutent à l’inégalité de genre par des politiques qui restreignent les droits des femmes et suppriment l’accès aux services sociaux. Dans certains pays, alors que le taux d’homicide est d’une manière générale en baisse, celui de féminicide est en hausse. Dans d’autres, nous constatons un recul de la protection juridique contre la violence domestique et la mutilation génitale féminine. Nous savons que la participation des femmes aux accords de paix rend ces derniers plus durables, ce qui n’empêche pourtant pas les gouvernements qui plaident en leur faveur de ne pas réussir à traduire leurs paroles en actes. Le recours à la violence sexuelle en tant que tactique dans les conflits continue d’être à la source de traumatismes à l’échelle des individus et de sociétés entières.

 

Dans ce contexte, il nous faut redoubler d’efforts pour protéger et promouvoir les droits, la dignité et le leadership des femmes. Nous ne devons pas céder un pouce du terrain conquis depuis des décennies et nous devons appeler à un changement rapide, radical et en profondeur.

 

Cette année, le thème de la Journée internationale des femmes : « Penser équitablement, bâtir intelligemment, innover pour le changement », aborde la question des infrastructures, des systèmes et des cadres qui ont été en grande partie établis dans l’esprit d’une culture définie par les hommes. Nous devons trouver des manières innovantes de réinventer et de reconstruire notre monde pour qu’il profite à toutes et à tous. Les femmes occupant des postes de décision dans des secteurs comme l’urbanisme, les transports et les services publics peuvent accroître l’accès d’autres femmes, prévenir le harcèlement à leur égard et les violences dont elles font l’objet, et améliorer la qualité de vie de chacune et de chacun.

 

Cela vaut également pour l’avenir numérique qui nous entoure déjà. L’innovation et la technologie sont le reflet de celles et ceux qui sont à leur origine. La sous‑représentation des femmes et le fait qu’elles ne demeurent pas en poste dans les secteurs de la science, de la technologie, de l’ingénierie, des mathématiques et de la conception devraient être une source de préoccupation pour nous toutes et tous.

 

Le mois dernier, en Éthiopie, j’ai passé du temps avec l’équipe d’African Girls Can Code, une initiative qui contribue à combler le fossé numérique entre les femmes et les hommes et à former les responsables des entreprises de haute technologie de demain. J’ai eu le plaisir de voir l’énergie et l’enthousiasme avec lesquels ces filles menaient leurs projets. Les programmes de cette nature ne développent pas seulement les compétences : ils combattent les stéréotypes qui limitent les ambitions et les rêves des filles.

 

En cette Journée internationale des femmes, veillons à ce que les femmes et les filles puissent concevoir des politiques, des services et des infrastructures ayant un effet sur notre vie. Et apportons notre soutien aux femmes et aux filles qui suppriment les obstacles à la création d’un monde meilleur pour toutes et pour tous.

 

 

Bookmark the Spokesperson’s website:http://www.un.org/sg/en/spokesperson

 

Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

A Sustainable Future of Infrastructure By Grete Faremo

UNOPS has a key role to play in building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialization and fostering innovation

Investing in basic, sustainable infrastructure is essential to improving the living standards for communities worldwide. When we speak of the basics, we mean the fundamentals. These are issues which comprise common human needs all over the world. Just because these are basics, however, does not mean that addressing such concerns correctly is a simple task. In the case of infrastructure it requires coordinated, long-term planning that stretches across geographic, political and cultural boundaries.

Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Goal 9 Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

For too long infrastructure has been understood and evaluated solely by the presence of a building or a completed roadway. We know, however, that a hospital cannot function without a solid waste system, and a waste system, in turn, cannot function without the acquired and applied knowledge, institutions and underlying resources necessary to manage it. Yet when we talk about infrastructure, this understanding beyond the immediate is still too often overlooked. We need a shift in this thinking.

Quite simply, without infrastructure we would not have a healthy society. Essential services such as health care and education require infrastructure. For communities and businesses to operate and thrive, they need access to goods and markets. Infrastructure must respond to societal needs, but it also should be evaluated for its long-term outcome, including the resources required to ensure longevity.

Many of the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) will require solid, functional and sustainable infrastructure if they are to be reached. Reliable forms of energy, the availability of potable water, education, safety and security, social and economic services—all of these are made possible through resilient infrastructure.

However, this very reliance creates significant challenges. We must consider the bigger picture, both in terms of the opportunities and the risks. We must support development, but what if something goes wrong? What is the environment in which we are operating? What are the issues in today’s world? With climate change, for example, comes an increase in the frequency of natural disasters. So sustainable infrastructure not only supports development, but is essential for post-disaster recovery as well.

With our mandate within the United Nations system to lead on infrastructure, and our 20 years of experience developing infrastructure projects, the success of any infrastructure goal requires learning the lessons from practical experiences. We have this at the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). The international community and industry must work together to ensure that investment in infrastructure considers risk, placing security and resilience at its core.

At UNOPS our experience is broad and built upon partnerships. We work with the United Nations system, Governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. Our model encourages private investors to prioritize sustainable development. And right now, increased investment is needed to improve the security and resilience of critical infrastructure in developing countries.

The destruction caused by recent natural disasters in communities around the world highlights the need for a risk-based approach to sustainable infrastructure. Our work covers these areas. For example, in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, UNOPS supported the United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organization in a wide range of post-disaster activities, including the construction of shelters for the affected populations and managing the vast quantities of debris. We have also supported the Government of Brazil in constructing earthquake and cyclone resistant community hospitals, which incorporate environmentally friendly infrastructure such as external solar lamps and rainwater harvesting. There are many more such examples.

Existing infrastructure is also an important consideration. Assessments should be conducted seeking to understand how the structures already in place can be serviced and repaired. How do various developments interact with existing water treatment facilities, roads, bridges and utility grids, wherever they are in the world? It sounds simple, yet in many cases and in many parts of the world this factor is of ten overlooked.

Where risks cannot be eliminated, we need to improve management and mitigation. Disaster risk reduction aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards through prevention. There

The SDGs

The SDGs

is a direct correlation between risk and resilience—a reduction in risk contributes to an increase in resilience. In turn, effectively managing risk in our projects will contribute to more sustainable infrastructure development. This connection also needs to be better understood.

Whereas the resilience of infrastructure can be seen as the ability to absorb stresses caused by natural hazards—for example, how a building responds to an earthquake—the sustainability of infrastructure looks at the impact of that building on the environment. Sustainability helps reduce the footprint of a development, while resilience allows infrastructure to better withstand environmental impacts.

There are many principles and complexities within these issues. Ultimately, what is clear is that infrastructure systems must be developed in a way that supports essential services over the long term, beyond political cycles.

Without consideration of all of these factors, sustainable infrastructure will always be just a horizon we never reach. Which is why as we set the future agenda, we must not forget that truly sustainable development is reliant on its foundations, on the infrastructure upon which success can be built.

First published in the UN Chronicle, Department of Public Information, United Nations.

 

Grete Faremo is Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services.