United Nations-led Conference Opens on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) opened the “Asian and Pacific Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: Beijing+20 Review” today, with its gaze firmly fixed on advancing the status of women and girls in the region.

“This 20 year review of the Platform for Action occurs at the nexus between the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals and the formulation of Sustainable Development Goals,” said United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, in her opening address to more than 700 participants including ministers and representatives of civil society. “This Conference provides a unique opportunity to recommit Asia and the Pacific to the goal of gender equality and the means of accelerating the realization of human rights and opportunities for all women and men, girls and boys.”

The Conference will review the progress and remaining challenges, and identify priority actions, for achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment in Asia and the Pacific. The Conference is convened by ESCAP, in cooperation with UN Women, in advance of next year’s 20-year commemoration of the adoption of the global agenda for gender equality – the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

In her video message to the Conference, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, stressed: “Member states are moving into the final stage of crafting the post-2015 development framework, it is vital that in your regional and global development cooperation you remain vigilant in this process to maintain a strong gender goal as well as the targets and indicators on gender equality across other goals.”

In her keynote address, Her Majesty Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk, the Queen Mother of Bhutan, highlighted the urgency of eliminating violence against women and girls, stating that the “eradication of violence from the lives of women and girls, along with peace, democracy and sustainable development in the region, will become possible when women and girls are valued, when their ability to fully and freely exercise their human rights is wholly supported, when there is equality in the exercise of power and when decisions are made to fully resource comprehensive and evidenced-based interventions.”

Addressing the opening session, Mr. Yongyuth Yuthavong, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand underlined that “gender equality is a matter of human rights and is integral to the peaceful, equitable and democratic development of our country and of the region.”

Over the next two days, delegates to the Conference will discuss and identify strategies for accelerating implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, as a key means of achieving gender equality, including such measures as strengthening government institutions and accountability, forging stronger partnerships and enhancing financing.

The Asia-Pacific Conference concludes on 20 November with the anticipated adoption of the “Asian and Pacific Ministerial Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment”, which will serve as the regional voice in next year’s global discussions and agenda setting.