Equality is path to progress for humankind, world leaders tell Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Goals Week

Equality is path to progress for humankind, world leaders tell Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Goals Week

DUBAI, 17 January 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the time needed to bridge the gender gap – which was already at 100 years – by another 36 years. World leaders agree that the need to course-correct and urgently achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment is essential not only for the sake of fulfilling a human right, but also for the advancement of humankind, Expo 2020 Dubai’s Global Goals Week heard today (17 January).

Contributing different perspectives on the state of gender equality and women’s empowerment, panellists and speakers at The Women’s World Majlis | Gender Equality, the Mother of All SDGs addressed everything from cross-generational approaches to the role of women in peace.

The event took place at the Women’s Pavilion as part of Global Goals Week, under Expo 2020 Dubai’s Programme for People and Planet, serving as a platform for world leaders and change-makers from around the globe to connect and work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand, said: “If we can’t achieve SDG 5 [Gender Equality], then we can’t achieve the SDGs. When women have less access to healthcare and education, and are more numerous among the poor and hungry, you just can’t make progress. Turn that around: if women are fully supported, then you are not only fulfilling their right to equality, but it’s also a huge contributor to prosperous societies, families and economies … We need to take to heart the framing UN Women had around its Beijing+25 event, bridging the energy, insights and perspectives of younger women with that of older women who have fought so many battles. That rich diversity and intersectionality will help us tackle issues together. We’ve got this far, but it’s not far enough, and we should be an unstoppable force.”

In an earlier panel discussion, speakers agreed that progress required better legislative framework, alongside a change in attitudes. Her Excellency Epsy Campbell Barr, First Vice President of Costa Rica, congratulated the Women’s Pavilion for its efforts and said: “We need a network of men working on SDG 5, because many leaders see it as a goal only for women, while other SDGs are for the wider world … The women’s movement has brought about many new and necessary laws, but we expect the laws alone to change reality … If we are involved in the field of women’s issues, then it is easier to get political commitment. We need to make major changes and use our budgets to secure equality, and that requires decisions to be made by a large group of people across different organisations.”

Her Excellency Sonja Hyland, Deputy Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs, Ireland, said: “Due to Ireland’s own conflict, women, peace and security is a huge part of Ireland’s foreign policy agenda as a member of the UN Security Council, and also its national agenda. We have worked on our peace process for four decades and are still implementing it, and we’ve learnt that if you don’t include women, you’re not going to have sustainable peace … We all must keep going back to the evidence whenever people question the focus on women. Whether it’s in conflict and security, business, or development with social and economic aims, we should flip the question and ask: what do you think you’re going to achieve without 50 per cent of the world’s population?”

Her Excellency Stella Ronner-Grubacic, Ambassador for Gender and Diversity, European External Action Service, said: “The building of infrastructure [policies on gender equality] has been a major achievement of these past few decades and has really changed things. However, now comes the hard part of implementing this infrastructure, which includes gender mainstreaming into our work. This needs to cease to be an afterthought or separate agenda item, but rather should become a reflex … and gender-responsive leadership is really important, and must be properly introduced internally and externally. We need to look at how to instill this in all leaders and managers, and hold them accountable for it. This also means being given the tools and training to live up to commitments.”

Running from 15-22 January, Expo 2020’s Global Goals Week, in association with the United Nations, aims to drive progress on the achievement of the Global Goals at a critical time of uncertainty in the midst of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Global Goals Week is the seventh of 10 Theme Weeks under Expo 2020’s Programme for People and Planet, offering an exchange of inspiring new perspectives to address the greatest challenges and opportunities of our time.


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