United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

The Director-General opens the UNESCO Forum for Gender Equality “Beijing: 15 Years After”

On 19 October 2009, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, welcomed the panellists – Mrs Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues; Mrs Irina Bokova, Ambassador of Bulgaria to UNESCO and UNESCO’s Director-General-elect, and Mrs Shi Shuyun, Chinese Ambassador to UNESCO – to the 7th Gender Equality Panel entitled “Beijing: 15 Years After”. Ambassador David Killion, Permanent Delegate of the United States of America to UNESCO, also participated in the opening of the Forum.

In his opening remarks, the Director-General recalled that the Forth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 had placed “women’s empowerment at the core of the global development agenda”. Mr Matsuura highlighted that the Conference had stressed that “empowering women has far reaching impacts on society as a whole”.

The Director-General explained that the Platform for Action adopted at the Beijing Conference had identified critical concerns – “the persistent burden of poverty on women, unequal access to education and health care, violence against women, the impact of armed combat, political and economic inequality, lack of respect for the human rights of women, stereotyping women in the media, gender inequalities in natural resources management and discrimination against girls” – which remain unresolved today. “We all need to do more and better in these areas”, emphasized Mr Matsuura.

Referring to the august panellists, the Director-General characterized the meeting as embodying not only “the positive commitment”, but also “the concrete steps which are being taken to work towards women’s empowerment and gender equality at the national and international levels”. Mr Matsuura concluded by stating that tackling gender inequalities demands international cooperation and partnerships. “It is only through dialogue, joint efforts and sharing knowledge that we can sustainably work towards women’s empowerment and gender equality”.

Meeting the Director-General bilaterally prior to the Forum, Ambassador Melanne Verveer highlighted the crucial importance of educating girls and expressed her satisfaction at the prospect of working with UNESCO on this matter. She said she would return to UNESCO to discuss the details of such cooperation, in particular as concerns the safety of school-going girls and possible incentives to parents.

The Director-General underscored the importance of the MDG 3 in this regard and informed Ambassador Verveer that gender equality had been designated as one of the two global priorities of the Organization in its Medium-Term Strategy for 2008-2013. Mr Matsuura specifically mentioned the fact that UNESCO is among the UN agencies to have achieved gender balance in the Secretariat at the professional level in general. Much needs to be done though, as enormous inequality still exists at senior level. However, Mr Matsuura felt that a number of positive signals – the fact that Mrs Bokova was the first woman to be appointed as the Director-General of UNESCO, that UNESCO had set a target of achieving full gender equality by 2015, and that the Executive Board had adopted the Gender Equality Action Plan – indicated that the Organization was going in the right direction.

Author(s): Office of the Spokesperson - Source: Flash Info N° 210-2009 -  Publication Date: 22-10-2009

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