Opening Statement at the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing+25 Review

Honourable Ministers,
Civil Society Organisation Representative, Vica Krisilia Larasati,
Ms. Anita Bhatia, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women,
Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women,
Distinguished delegates, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Welcome to the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on the Beijing+25 Review, organized by UN ESCAP in collaboration with UN Women and many other members of the UN family. Twenty-five years on from the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, I am delighted to see so many distinguished delegates. There is a strong sense of commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women in the room. I hope we can transform this energy into an ambitious ministerial declaration in the coming days.

The gender gap in primary education has been closed. Maternal mortality in the region has been halved. In the opening video we have heard from young women about the opportunities on offer to them which many in their mothers’ generation could not have imagined, opportunities for education and greater freedom over their lives. There is much progress to celebrate on the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Twenty-five years on, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action continues to guide our work.

This review process has brought to light many progressive measures underway in our region. I am thinking of the adoption of legislation to guarantee women’s equal inheritance rights and end domestic violence, or strategies to boost girls’ access to education at all levels, including in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The numerous measures taken by member States to promote women’s economic participation through gender-responsive labour market policies, address workplace discrimination and support entrepreneurship are impressive.

At ESCAP we have collaborated with financial institutions and the private sector to support women’s access to finance and ICT. We want to create an enabling environment which empowers women to unleash their creative energy and fulfil their business aspirations. Encouraging women’s leadership is another priority. Today, we will launch a new publication on “pathways to influence and women’s transformative leadership” written in collaboration with UN partners. We need more transformative female leaders in our region. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on it.

Despite remarkable achievements, there is no doubt that equality remains out of reach for far too many women and girls. As we chart our common journey, let us build on the wealth of experience, knowledge and good practices from our region, and act where gaps are still wide. You have identified several priority areas for action. I would like to highlight just three.

First, let us eliminate violence against women and girls. Even where countries have adopted progressive legislation and policies to prevent violence, there is strong evidence it continues unabated in our region. While continuing to strengthen regulatory and policy frameworks, the focus must now be on effective implementation. Implementation which hinges challenging underlying negative gender norms, stigmas and stereotypes which perpetuate violence and discrimination. The United Nations is already strongly supporting action to break this cycle. We are committed to working with you to develop the multi-sectoral responses to eliminate violence against women and girls definitively.

Second, let us significantly increase the political participation of women. Despite more than doubling the proportion of women in parliament since 1995, the female parliamentary participation rate stands at a mere 18 per cent across the region. In other words, a mere 2 per cent annual rate of growth in the last 25 years. There is clear case for strengthening the meaningful participation of women throughout all decision-making realms. How else can we be sure the needs and perspectives of women are reflected in the decisions that govern our lives?

Third, let us redouble our efforts to economically empower women. While the Asia-Pacific region has experienced strong economic growth, women’s labor force participation rate remains significantly lower than men’s. Women are clustered in vulnerable informal employment and undertake three times more unpaid work than men. When guaranteed equal opportunity, choice and access to resources, women’s full participation will multiply the capacity of the whole of society. Women’s economic participation creates strong, positive effects in households, communities and economies. A whole-of-government approach is needed to ensure gender equality is central to national policy agenda and actions. Gender-responsive planning and budgeting have a critical role to play.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The United Nations is wholly committed to supporting your efforts to realize women’s rights for an equal future, working closely with civil society and other partners to whom we are grateful for actively participating in the national review process. Over the next three days, leaders from the region will share experiences and good practices across different thematic clusters to accelerate progress on the Beijing Platform for Action.

Guided by your wisdom and by your vision, I hope we can adopt a meaningful Declaration that will serve as the regional framework for action to close gender gaps and achieve the SDGs. A Declaration that will bring a uniquely Asian and Pacific voice to the global level and resonate for generations to come.

Thank you for your attention.