Gender inequality addressed by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals


New York - Promoting equality, including social equality, gender equality and women’s empowerment was one of three key topics on the agenda for the eighth session of the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals, which met last week at UN Headquarters to discuss the post–2015 development agenda. They also discussed oceans and seas, forests and biodiversity as well as on conflict prevention, post-conflict peacebuilding and the promotion of durable peace, rule of law and governance.

Photo: UN Women/Shaista Chishty

“The post-2015 development framework must be firmly anchored in the principles of human rights —universality, equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, and accountability,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in her keynote address to the OWG. “It must recognize that realizing the rights, wellbeing, and human development of all people —men and women, young and old, rich and poor— and not only the achievement of economic growth, is the hallmark of successful and sustainable societies.”

During the OWG session, participants expressed concerns over the wide —and in some respects widening— inequalities within and among countries.

The OWG co-chairs summarized the key points of the discussion, including addressing inequality through affordable access to quality education, social protection, healthcare, as well as productive and remunerative employment opportunities. They also highlighted the need to provide access to equitable opportunities, services and participation for vulnerable groups. They identified broad support for priority actions toward preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls and empowering women legally and economically as well as by strengthening women’s voice through participation in leadership and decision-making in all areas of life.

Many participants raised the issue of respecting and fulfilling the sexual and reproductive rights of all individuals to include access to information, education and services. The need to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care and domestic work was also recognized as an area for action.

Participants also highlighted the importance of aligning gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment with international agreements, including CEDAW, the Beijing Platform For Action, the ICPD and the Rio+20 outcome document.

Throughout the OWG session, gender equality was affirmed as an essential means for sustainable development and poverty eradication, as it was agreed that no sustainable development could occur without gender equality and the full participation of women and girls.

This OWG session was the first time that so many countries gave support for a specific goal for post-2015, with more than 100 Member States expressing widespread support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, supplemented by cross-cutting gender targets in all other goals.