Building a More Gender Equal World
As I write this foreword, like many of my United Nations (UN) colleagues around the world, I continue to work from home due to the COVID-19 crisis. However, while the pandemic has changed how the UN operates, it has not changed our commitment to realising a more gender equal world.
Gender equality and women’s rights have advanced immensely since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years ago (Beijing+25). Some of the major success stories include progress in education and health. Between 1995 and 2018, for example, the number of girls of primary and lower-secondary school age who are out of school nearly halved. The global maternal mortality ratio declined by 38 percent from 2000 to 2017.
However, the 2019 UNDP Human Development Report shows that overall progress on gender equality has been mixed. Progress has occurred faster for basic capabilities such as voting and self-employment than for enhanced capabilities, where there is more power at stake – such as women’s leadership in business and politics. There isn’t just a gender gap – this is a power gap.
We see these gender inequalities every day. Political violence towards women is at its highest level ever. Climate change may increase the risk of violence against women 5 while the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a massive spike in gender-based violence. 6 As the world shut down in the face of the pandemic, it had a marked effect on the 92 percent of women workers in developing countries who are employed informally with limited social protection. Indeed, public trust in governments is decreasing and 2019 was marked by an unprecedented mobilization of women’s movements.
Against this global background, and together with our UN sister agencies and other partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) places gender equality at the very heart of our development efforts. As the largest UN organization in the field, with operations in 170 countries, UNDP plays a key role at the global and national levels to advance women’s rights and gender equality – offering effective, value-for-money development support to countries and partners.
This work is guided in part by our Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2021. In 2019, UNDP made large strides in implementing this strategy, with transformative work in areas such as governance and gender-responsive climate action. UNDP is now working to ensure that gender is strongly integrated into all of our COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
This annual report highlights key achievements made by UNDP in closing gender gaps in 2019, as well as emerging trends and challenges that lie ahead. Learning from these lessons will be vital to accelerate progress towards gender equality at the speed and scale now needed.
Achim Steiner Administrator United Nations Development Programme