Secretary-General's remarks at High-level event on Women in Power and Decision-Making

27 Feb 2015

Secretary-General's remarks at High-level event on Women in Power and Decision-Making

27 February 2015 - Thank you very much for the chance to address this important meeting in beautiful Santiago de Chile. I am delighted to see so many dynamic leaders here....
Secretary-General's remarks at High-level event on Women in Power and Decision-Making

Santiago de Chile, 27 February 2015

Thank you very much for the chance to address this important meeting in beautiful Santiago de Chile. I am delighted to see so many dynamic leaders here.

I am especially honoured by the presence of Her Excellency President Michelle Bachelet.  We will always be grateful for her impressive legacy as the founding Executive Director of UN Women.

I stand before you as someone who is keenly aware of the struggle for women’s human rights.

My mother is 95 and still going strong.  But when she came of age, she did not have the right to vote – like so many other women around the world at that time.

Slowly but inevitably, countries have granted voting rights to women.

Around the world, women shattered glass ceilings in the world of business and in the Governments.

We had a global breakthrough in 1979 when the General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Then in 1995, the United Nations mobilized the world at the Beijing Women’s Conference. Its Platform for Action remains our blueprint for full equality.

The United Nations Security Council finally adopted its first historic resolution on women, peace and security in 2000, landmark Resolution 1325.

I am proud to have appointed more women to senior decision-making positions than ever in United Nations history.

Women are rising at UN Headquarters and in our offices around the world.

I thank them for our progress on many fronts – from dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons to commanding our peacekeeping forces; from coordinating our humanitarian relief to leading our development efforts.

We must do all we can to break all glass ceilings at the United Nations, in the governments, in businesses...

This is an historic year when the United Nations takes transformative steps towards a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world.

We are part of the first generation that can end poverty … and the last that can avert the worst impacts of climate change.  

Next month in Sendai, Japan, we will convene a World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.

In July, we will focus on financing for development at a major Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Our Special Summit on Sustainable Development in New York this September should adopt a bold agenda that fully values the role of women.

The Climate Change Conference in Paris in December should give the world a new universal and meaningful climate agreement.

These many events have one common ingredient:  Success demands that we empower the world’s women.

Over recent decades, maternal mortality has been cut by around half.

We are close to full equality for girls and boys in primary school.

There are far more women in politics around the world.

But progress is too slow and uneven.

No country has full equality for women.

On average, women make up just one in five national parliamentarians.

The world has around 20 women national leaders.

Five of the world’s parliaments have no women, and eight governments have no women ministers.

In too many countries, women suffer from domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence.

These acts traumatize individuals and damage our societies.

We cannot uphold human rights or advance development unless we put an end to the global epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Words are not enough. We need action backed by funds, resources and political support.

We need to change mindsets – starting with men.

I thank the many grassroots women’s groups that fight for equality – and the men who raise their voices.

Our HeForShe campaign is mobilizing men to take steps toward gender equality. I was the first to sign on. And my UNiTE campaign has driven global action to end violence against women. Our Every Woman, Every Child initiative fights for the right to health.

I am committed to pushing hard for equality in public meetings and private talks. I tell business groups that I will not meet them again unless more women attend. I call on parliaments and national leaders to give women more decision-making power. In countries where there are no women leaders, I ask why half the population is not represented at the top.

Next week, we will open the Commission on the Status of Women in New York. This is another chance to galvanize the world. I will call on leaders to prioritize gender equality in their national and foreign policies.

When women lead, everyone benefits.

Progress is possible.

We see it right here.

Under President Bachelet’s leadership, Chile has advanced initiatives for women’s political participation.

Latin America and the Caribbean last year had the highest proportion of women in parliament. More than one in four parliamentarians was a woman – and that is double the number in 1995.

Also last year, this region had six female presidents or heads of Government – meaning women led more than 40 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean.


I call on the world to follow the example of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Empowered women do more than represent their gender and inspire young girls.

They generate new insights, ideas and initiatives.

Women policy makers can represent civil society views.

Women executives can fix blindspots in boardrooms.

Studies have shown that women judges often champion the rights of children, especially girls. They stand up for women’s inheritance and land rights. They reject discrimination against working women.

Companies with women on their boards outperform the rest. These enterprises do better financially. They practice greater corporate social responsibility. And they promote more women to high-level positions.

The United Nations Global Compact’s Women’s Empowerment Principles are guiding businesses to greater gender equality.

We need to increase investments in gender equality to achieve a truly transformative new agenda for sustainable development.

Failing to invest in women’s empowerment does not save funds – it wastes the opportunity to generate enormous returns in a country’s financial health and social stability.

I call on governments to allocate more resources for women across all sectors.

I call on States to meet their commitments on official development assistance.

And I urge the private sector to engage in more partnerships that mobilize substantial new resources.

I am here among eminent women leaders.

They have extraordinary talents and capabilities.

We are marching forward together on a path that was forged by pioneers in the fight for gender equality.

One of them was the Chilean feminist Amanda Labarca.

She was a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly in 1946.

By 1948, she was chief of the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, which is now part of UN Women.

Amanda Labarca once called for “a humanism that embraces family, neighbourhood, region, country, continent and world.”

This is the vision of the United Nations.

Let us, together, do everything possible to realize women’s equality in our lifetime so that we can secure the future for generations to come.

Thank you. ¡Muchas Gracias!