Speech: Gender equality – just, prudent, and essential for everything we all aspire to


[As delivered.]

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous delivers closing remarks to the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UN headquarters, 27 March 2024. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.
UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous delivers closing remarks to the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, UN headquarters, 27 March 2024. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

You have arrived at Agreed Conclusions for CSW68 [the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women]—congratulations! As the world was watching, you showed the very best of the multilateral system, and you came together to advance critical normative work for women and girls everywhere. You have recognized the inequalities that impact the lives of women and girls living in poverty and the solutions we have and we need to address them.

And you agreed that these inequalities do not define us, but that we are defined by wanting to urgently overcome them.

You adopted robust Agreed Conclusions, a blueprint that envisages a world with greater financial inclusion, increased spending on social protection, increased stability, equal opportunities, and great hope, rights, and freedoms for women and girls everywhere. A world that will no longer accept that one in ten women lives in poverty. A world that will accelerate the investment in women and girls and that urgently pursues the realization of the fundamental rights of all women and girls to live in peace and prosperity everywhere.

This is a special moment. I thank you all for your dedication and determination to bring this CSW68 to a successful close.

I thank His Excellency Ambassador Antonio Manuel Revilla Lagdameo of the Philippines for his able leadership as Chair of the Commission, together with the very able Vice Chairs, their Excellencies Ms. Yoka Brandt of the Netherlands, Ms. María Florencia González of Argentina, Mr. Māris Burbergs of Latvia, and Ms. Dúnia Eloisa Pires do Canto from Cabo Verde.

A special deep appreciation goes to Her Excellency Ms. Yoka Brandt of the Netherlands for her most skilful facilitation. Her Excellency, you would agree, shepherded you with grace and determination to reach the Agreed Conclusions. I also would like to thank her able team, in particular Robin De Vogel, for their support.

The Agreed Conclusions will only have value in as much as their implementation in countries makes a difference in the lives of women and girls, and in as much as they contribute to accelerating progress on the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. We are a mere six years away from 2030. Gender equality remains our best chance to reach them.

I hope that you will use the Agreed Conclusions as you discuss the Pact for the Future, and that you will be bold and ambitious in advancing them, as we head to the Summit of the Future in September, to the Fourth International Conference on Financing for Development in 2025, and, of course, the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action next year.

This year’s CSW had two heads of state, three vice-presidents, and more than 100 ministers in attendance. Nearly 4,000 delegates in total contributed to the different deliberations.

We had a record number of close to 5,000 civil society representatives, the second highest number we have ever recorded. We saw more than 1,000 side events and parallel events. Partners came together to share experiences and dreams, and also to recommit.

And we benefitted from the creativity, energy, and substantive contributions from the youth delegates, including adolescent girls, who brought a fresh perspective to this year’s CSW. Upholding the Youth Forum and youth space is integral to our work here, which should be strengthened as part of the official Programme of Work of this Commission.

We also welcomed the adoption of the Resolution on women, the girl child, and HIV and AIDS, led by SADC [the Southern African Development Community], and commend Member States’ commitment to increase investment in gender equality and the empowerment of women in the HIV response.

It is not my wish to dampen this moment. Yet, in a world of cascading crises, de-democratization, gender equality backlash, and restricted civic spaces, women and girls will continue to be disproportionately impacted.

It makes the work you have done here all the more important.

I opened this CSW calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. I close it by reiterating this call and the call of the Security Council two days ago, for an immediate ceasefire, unhindered access to humanitarian assistance, the release of all hostages, and for peace. Sustainable, just peace for all women and girls everywhere must be our collective priority. In Gaza, in Sudan, in Haiti, in Ukraine, and elsewhere in the world.

UN Women stands with every woman and girl everywhere who is facing the scourge and the consequences of war and conflict.

We stand with all women peacebuilders, negotiators, human rights defenders who continue to pursue justice for women and girls—often at high personal cost.

As we close this session, we begin to turn our attention to next year when you will discuss 30 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action.

The scale of our ambitions, your ambitions for Beijing plus 30, must match the scale of our and your responsibility to achieve equality for every woman and girl, in all their diversity, not in 300 years, not in 100 years, not in 50 years, but urgently—now. There is much work to be done and much reward in doing it.

I look forward to working with the new CSW Bureau who will take this forward.

So, let us leave this room as collective champions for gender equality. Let us find new ways to do more, together, to accelerate progress and strengthen our partnerships.

And let us make the case, powerfully, for equality. Let the world hear what we have asserted over the past two weeks: that gender equality is just and prudent, and essential for everything we all aspire to.

I thank you.