On the occasion of the adoption of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, we, as the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition, reiterate our concern that the Sustainable Development Goals, Targets and Means of Implementation continue to fall short of a global agenda that addresses systemic imbalances, inequalities, and discrimination, rooted in gender equality principles that deny the basic human rights of women and girls. There have been substantial strides towards a more inclusive process, and the Coalition welcomes the commitment of the Co-chairs, member states, Major Groups and other stakeholders since the commencement of the Open Working Group Process, which has created a new tool for realising gender equality and women’s human rights. Despite contentious issues that prolonged debates during the July-August 2015 Intergovernmental negotiations, the consensus document reflects emerging development challenges, tackles short falls of the MDGs, and takes concrete steps by the international community towards an action agenda. This agenda is more inclusively defined and envisioned, although it still falls short of creating a holistic agenda for feminist development as sustainable development. Moving forward, we remind the international community that gender equality and women’s participation and human rights must be at the centre of all implementation efforts for sustainable and gender equitable development and peace.
The outcome document, “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” agreed to by member states in the lead up to the 70th General Assembly and Post-2015 Development Summit, sets an ambitious vision for the next 15 years, striving for “a world of universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination (para 8). Member states have committed to “work for a significant increase in investments to close the gender gaps and strengthen support for institutions in relation to gender equality and the empowerment of women at the global, regional and national levels. All forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls will be eliminated…” (para 20). The International community has committed to: “redouble our efforts to resolve or prevent conflict and to support post-conflict countries, including through ensuring that women have a role in peace-building and state-building. We call for further effective measures and actions to be taken, in conformity with international law.”
The document has been strengthened in terms of gender-equality and women’s empowerment, in large part thanks to the tireless and unwavering advocacy and coordination of the our Coalition’s members, the Women’ Major Group, and other allies who fought for women’s priorities, demands, and roles as agents of change in the agenda. In particular, we acknowledge the recognition throughout the Preamble and Declaration of women’s human rights and achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment as a prerequisite for sustainable development. We also acknowledge Goal 5 dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the inclusion of women as a cross-cutting issue in relation to poverty and agricultural productivity, health, and education. We note the importance of specific means of implementation tied to each goal, ensuring that appropriate policy reform, financing, and other resources will be dedicated to achieving gender-equality and women’s empowerment. However, we remain highly critical of the Means of Implementations link to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which retained regressive and discriminatory language on financing and governance reform, multilateralism, and gender equality.
As such, the members and constituencies of the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition are deeply concerned that the document up for adoption has failed to achieve a comprehensive gender equality strategy and human rights based approach to development, and has not addressed the urgent need for reforming structural and systemic inequalities and discrimination.
Systemic discrimination and power imbalances, including lack of financing, and insufficient policy space for developing countries, pose serious threats to the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Despite the strong push by developing countries and civil society and other stakeholders for specific references and reformulation of the role of IFIs as well as the decision-making power and policy space for developing countries, the post-2015 agenda mentions policy space only with specific limitations and qualifications (para 44 &63), and does not leave room for structural reform of existing dynamics and power relations. With its rhetoric to “leave no one behind,” the development agenda perpetuates these barriers, and excludes populations facing conflict, instability, environmental threats, and communities in marginalized areas. The full realization of their rights, and the implementation of the SDGs will only occur with substantial commitments from member states, donor countries, UN agencies and other stakeholders to follow their words with concrete actions and resources. We do, however, support the recognition and support of countries in special circumstances, including LDCs, LLDCs, SIDs, and MICs, with the understanding that their development challenges require continuing resources and capacity building.
Stronger language on human rights and discrimination to guide the agenda and the formulation of targets and indicators has been overlooked in favor of the five pillars of sustainable development: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. Noting the integrated nature of social, economic and environmental development, the document fails to layout comprehensive human rights based approach to sustainable development or recognize the universal and cross-cutting nature of respecting, protecting and fulfilling rights. The agenda also fails to include LGBTQ rights and its language on non-discrimination does not account for migratory status, economic status, age, or culture.
The agenda has increased the role and power of the corporate sector and international financial institution at both the local and global policy making levels, coupled with lack of transparency and public accountability for these actors. Their role was further emphasized in the focus on a “New Global Partnership” (para 39). The prioritization of profit over people, and conflating economic development with economic growth, is a barrier to fulfilling human rights, particularly as the agenda has failed to guarantee regulatory frameworks and accountability mechanisms to ensure that people and the planet come before progress and economic growth.
Gender mainstreaming and coherence with existing international commitments will be critical in the implementation and follow-up and review of the agenda. Similar to the Zero Draft, “Transforming our World” does not adequately articulate gender inequality, discrimination and structural and systemic disadvantages. While the targets and means of implementation under Goal 5 seek to address the gaps remaining from MDG 3, gender equality and women’s empowerment, these issues remain siloed as “women’s issues.” In its vision, the agenda commits to ensuring the role of women in peace building, but without complementary targets and indicators to monitor this change. Standalone targets on eliminating violence against women and ensuring universal access to education, while critical, must be linked to their impact on women’s economic, political and social empowerment, reinforcing the integrated nature of realizing human rights. And while the agenda calls for policy coherence with existing international platforms it neglects critical gender equality commitments within instruments such as CEDAW, ICCPR, ICESCR, UDHR, BPfA, the Cairo Declaration, the Maastricht Principles, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the CRC, and Security Council Resolution 1325.
Unpaid Care & Domestic Work responsibilities disproportionately fall on the shoulders of women, and the final draft neglects to treat unpaid work as a human right, affecting their ability to participate equally and effectively in the labor force with adequate social protections and compensation. Rather, it is limited to Target 5.4 without corresponding means of implementation or commitments to legislative or policy change.
Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, a contentious issue throughout the last of the intergovernmental negotiations, retains universal access to reproductive rights, and sexual and reproductive health care (Target 5.6). While access to healthcare has been guaranteed, the targets throughout the agenda, despite their mention of women, youth, indigenous, the aging, and the disabled, disregard the full inclusion of people who are marginalized and socially excluded based on their sexual orientation and gender identities. The inclusion of all people, including those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities, is critical for realizing universal human rights.
Peace and security have been recognized as key to achieving sustainable development, yet without addressing gendered militarism, the connections between gender equality and peace, and the arms trade, the post-2015 development agenda will not achieve transformative and peaceful change in regions experiences conflict. It is deeply concerning that the root causes of conflict, including illicit arms trading, financing of fundamentalism, and the role of northern governments in proliferating conflict, were not addressed with concrete accountability mechanisms and time bound commitments. Women human rights defenders and activists in particular require substantial protection frameworks and resources to reduce the obstacles and risks they face due to ongoing violence, instability, and structural inequities, upholding the human rights principles of universality and nondiscrimination in all aspects. We call on all governments to take leadership and put robust, effective and gender sensitive protection , measures, so that Women Human Rights Defenders in all their diversity can do their work in their specific contexts.
The Means of Implementation and Global Partnership stress the need for mobilizing a diverse range of resources to implement the sustainable development goals, and there is a commitment to ensure women’s equal rights to access economic resources. However, specific resource commitments have not been linked to the realization of women’s human rights and advancing gender equality. Furthermore, we are concerned with the reliance on private financing for development and women’s empowerment, diverting attention away from the role of states in removing global obstacles to development, mobilizing official development assistance and sufficient domestic public resources. We call for adequate and sufficient resource allocation and investment for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the realization of women’s rights in general.
Follow-up and review of the sustainable development goals is not gender neutral, and it is alarming that governments will be held accountable to targets more than 10-15 years in the future, despite the urgent need to address inequalities, exclusion, systemic discrimination, which lead to serious human rights violations. We urge member states, UN Agencies, and all other relevant stakeholders to monitor sustainable development vis a vis existing international reporting platforms in the interim, as well as recognize civil society led reviews of progress on a shorter and more relevant timescale. While we acknowledge the inclusion of disaggregated data in the means of implementation, many of the existing targets and indicators remain aspirational as there is limited data on key challenges and threats for women, including taboos related to reporting domestic violence, harassment, rape and other forms of gender-based violence. Thus it is critical to ensure that indicators developed by the IAEG are supplemented by relevant capacity-building for developing countries and all stakeholders active in monitoring and collecting data. We urge member states to take seriously the commitments to engage with all levels of civil society and communities– local, national, regional and global – and include innovative forms of data collection in government reporting and implementation plans to accelerate progress, equality, and peace.
The push to achieve sustainable and inclusive development does not end at the Post-2015 Development Summit; it is only the beginning of an intensive process of planning, implementing and monitoring the goals and targets. It is critical that member states take advantage of this opportunity to address systemic inequality and discrimination, both within and between countries, which remain serious impediments to realizing sustainable development. As a global coalition with strong constituencies at the international, regional, national and local levels, with diverse expertise and experience, the Post-2015 Women’s Coalition commits to fulfilling its role as civil society in the implementation and monitoring of the development agenda. Our commitments will be guided by an integrated approach to holding governments accountable and implementing the SDGs, that includes human rights instruments and existing gender equality commitments.
We, as the coalition, commit to:
- Analyze outcomes of international and regional processes to make them accessible and relevant to women’s groups and other community based organisations (CBOs).
- Provide alternative modes of communication, in particular through info graphics, social media and trainings on policy literacy and advocacy, with a intent to make this knowledge available in multiple languages
- Encourage and support the participation of women, feminists, and grassroots activists in spaces open to civil society consultation, and continually push to increase policy space for women’s allies
- Facilitate ongoing regional meetings of activists to ensure that networks are connected, empowered and implementing action plans
- Develop policy briefs and knowledge products to increase awareness of gender equality and women’s empowerment within the context of the SDGs, poverty eradication and financing for development
- Promote and enhance the visibility and legitimacy of regional challenges and priorities in international decision making spaces
- Raise awareness of practices at the local, national and regional levels that enhance gender equality and women’s empowerment, such as gender budgeting, implementation of international human rights conventions at the city scale, and citizen led monitoring mechanisms that have been mainstreamed into government decision making