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Delivered by Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana

26 June 2020

Excellency Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister, Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and Chair of ASEAN 2020,

Excellencies, Distinguished participants, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to have an opportunity to address the ASEAN Leader’s Special Session at the 36th ASEAN summit on Women’s Empowerment.

The unprecedented severity of COVID-19 pandemic is impacting adversely the socio-economic development in Asia and the pacific and could further slow the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened risks and vulnerabilities of women and girls. We have witnessed disproportionate impacts of this ongoing crisis on women as frontline health care workers, caregivers and workers or entrepreneurs in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.

Today, ASEAN Leader’s Special Session on women’s empowerment will set the stage for exploring new strategic opportunities and leadership pathways for every women and girls in ASEAN and beyond.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

May I highlight key outcomes and priority areas of The Asia-Pacific Declaration on Advancing Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Beijing+25 Review, which was adopted in November 2019 at the United Nations in Bangkok.

The first priority area is to promote women’s economic empowerment. Women are active agents of change for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development; however, their labor force participation rate remains significantly lower than men’s in Asia and the Pacific. Women’s full participation can create large socio-economic benefits and multiplier effects in our societies.  

The second priority area is to strengthen women’s political participation and leadership. Achieving gender parity in political participation and leadership is very much an unfinished agenda. Women’s leadership in senior executive positions in business management is still significantly lacking in Asia and the Pacific. By strengthening women’s capabilities and encourage participation, many more women would gradually advance in taking up leadership roles in our societies.  

The third priority area is the elimination of violence against women and girls. Women and girls continue to experience physical or sexual violence. It is one the worst forms of human rights violation that limit gender equality and advancement of women’s empowerment. With appropriate legislations and policies, societies could collectively work for the elimination of violence against women and girls, and the realization of women’s rights.

Fourthly, the improvement of data and statistics remains a key focus.  Gaps in gender data and statistics have been one of the key factors that hinder informed decision-making and monitoring opportunities for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. With the improvement of gender data and statistics, we can measure progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has underscored the importance of strengthening legal and institutional frameworks with forward-looking policy action that put women empowerment and rights in the front and centre of our recovery plans and programmes.

Let us emphasize women’s entrepreneurship as a catalyst for promoting women’s economic empowerment. More than ever before, we must undertake initiatives to enable policy environments by increasing women entrepreneurs’ access to finance and digital technologies.

We must recognize women’s leadership in successfully fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and to show the way forward in supporting inclusive and resilient recovery. There is a clear case for challenging the traditional leadership and institutional architecture, and to strengthen women’s leadership.

Let us continue to improve regulatory and policy frameworks, and its timely and effective implementation in eliminating violence against women and girls. The United Nations is taking concrete steps in creating frameworks to protect rights of women and girls. We are committed to working with you to develop the multi-sectoral responses to eliminate violence against women and girls definitively.

We are working with relevant development partners and stakeholders to collect and analyze high-quality, timely, and sex-disaggregated data for preparing informed policymaking. The United Nations system is engaged with member States and relevant stakeholders in designing, improving and implementing gender-sensitive policies and programmes through policy-data integration tools.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

It is heartening to see a meaningful and tangible progress of gender equality and women’s empowerment in the ASEAN region over the past decades, despite several existing and emerging challenges.

I am pleased to inform you that UN ESCAP is closely working with the ASEAN member States and ASEAN Secretariat in moving forward the agenda of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Finally, I urge leaders to ensure gender equality, promote women’s empowerment and strengthen women’s participation as a central pillar of your efforts in creating inclusive, resilient and sustainable future.

Together, we must build back better for every women and girls. I deeply appreciate your continued trust and commitment in our partnership.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.  

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