Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Newsroom Archive: Jul 2014

  1. 17 July 2014

    Progress on MDGs a mixed bag for our Pacific neighbours

    Released on 7 July, The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Report 2014 examines the progress that has been made towards realising the MDGs. A set of eight goals to be achieved by December 2015, the MDGs are important stepping stones to improving the lives and futures of the world’s poorest.

    The report highlights some big improvements, namely that poverty rates have halved between 1990 and 2010, five years ahead of the 2015 timeframe. This has reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million. Other targets have been met, including:

    • Improved access to drinking water sources
    • Reduced child mortality
    • Reduced maternal mortality ratio
    • Increased political participation of women
    • Gender parity in primary school enrolment

    Despite clear progress, substantial effort still needs to be made in many areas to achieve the set targets. For example, “over one-quarter of the world’s population has gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet one billion people still resort to open defecation.”

    Furthermore, when considering data from Oceania, which concerns our Pacific neighbours, many statistics demonstrate setbacks:

    • The proportion of children under 5 who are moderately or severely underweight has increased from 18% in 1990 to 19% in 2012
    • The proportion of seats held by women in Parliament decreased from 4% in 2000 to 3% in 2014

    As for Pacific island nations, the Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report (2012) shows that, while improvements have been made, many of our Pacific neighbours are off track in achieving the MDGs. Papua New Guinea shows the least improvement: it is off track for all eight goals.

    The Australian National Committee for UN Women is particularly concerned that none of the Pacific island nations are on track to eliminate hunger and poverty. In the Solomon Islands, the number of slum dwellers is increasing, there is no improvement in under-five mortality or maternal mortality and there remains a very low representation of women in parliament.

    With mixed results arising from the MDG reviews, talk is now turning to creating Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon says “will serve as a core of a universal post-2015 development agenda. “Our efforts to achieve the MDGs are a critical building block towards establishing a stable foundation for our development efforts beyond 2015.”

  2. 16 July 2014

    Australian businesses sign to the Women’s Empowerment Principles

    The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Business SA and the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) are the latest Australian businesses to sign to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, at a luncheon hosted by ACCI in Sydney this week.

    The Women’s Empowerment Principles, a joint initiative of UN Women and the UN Global Compact, are a set of seven principles that offer guidance for business based on best practices from around the world. Amongst the Principles is to treat all women and men fairly at work, promotion education, training and professional development for women and measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

    When signing the WEPs, companies often do not have have all seven Principles firmly in place, but sign the Principles as a declaration of intention to transform their workplace. The cultural change that results can improve the reputation of the organisation, as well as improve bottom line performance and make full use of the talent pool of women in business.

    Despite the strong business case for working for gender equality within organisations, many Australian companies do not see gender diversity amongst their top priorities. ACCI, Business SA and the Australian Institute of Management however demonstrated their commitment to gender equality by singing the WEPs in front of 200 national and international businesspeople, NGO representatives and government staff in Sydney this week.

  3. 14 July 2014

    The B20 and G20 must make gender equality a priority: Joint statement by the Australian National Committee for UN Women and Oxfam Australia

    Across the world, women continue to earn less than men and do the majority of unpaid work. An Oxfam report on Monday finds that gender equality is far from a reality, in rich and poor countries alike. One of the most alarming figures is that, at the current rate of progress, it will be 75 years before women are paid equally to men.

    This year, Australia has a unique opportunity, as the host of the G20 in November, to help change this course – to push the G20 to make good on its promises to support inclusive growth and employment that will benefit women as well as men. In particular, Australia has the opportunity to lead on specific measures to address women’s full participation in the workforce.

    G20 nations are developing individual growth strategies to achieve an agreed 2 per cent increase in global economic growth. The glaringly obvious opportunity would be to focus on strategies to close the gap in women’s workforce participation, yet, oddly, this is not widely discussed. It is estimated that if men’s and women’s employment rates were equal, the US’s gross domestic product would increase by 9 per cent, the eurozone’s by 13 per cent and Japan’s by 16 per cent.

    One example of an investment that has driven growth is Quebec’s low-cost childcare program, which has resulted in the relative poverty of single-mother families falling by 14 per cent and their after-tax income shooting up by 81 per cent.

    While the program costs roughly 0.7 per cent of GDP, it has increased female employment rates with an estimated additional 70,000 mothers in jobs, resulting in a 1.7 per cent increase in GDP. This example demonstrates how investment in closing the participation gap between men and women can drive growth – which benefits everyone.

    At present, it would be fair to say that most of the policies of the G20 have tended to be gender-blind. Decisions are being made mostly by men, with little concern for their impact on women. For example, the G20’s fiscal consolidation and austerity policies have resulted in cuts to the public sector.

    While this may have achieved desired savings, it did not consider the impact that cuts to the public service would have on women, who are the majority of users for public services. The cuts also had ramifications for women’s employment, given the public sector has made significant progress towards equal employment of men and women. Regardless of the merit of the public sector cuts, there needs to be a gendered impact analysis of these policies before they are put in place.

    If Australia can influence an outcome of the G20 so that it effectively considers the different needs and experiences of men and women, we would be leading one of the most significant and necessary shifts in global economic decision-making in history. While the ball is in our court, Australia needs to ensure the G20 continues to advocate for strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is inclusive and considers the specific needs of women. These include the redistribution of unpaid care work within households and opportunities to share that work more equally, as well as the need for social protection and a regulatory and legal environment that protects women’s rights.

    This week in Sydney, influential business leaders from G20 countries are coming together with the aim of influencing the G20 agenda. At their two-day B20 summit, women will be few and far between – with only two speakers, three MCs and no women task force leaders participating. Is it really so hard to understand that for laws, policies and attitudes to reflect and respond to the needs and realities of our societies, women must also be in the inner sanctum?

    We are calling for the B20 and the G20 to treat gender equality as a priority. The G20 needs to prioritise policies that reduce the burden of unpaid care work and support initiatives that overcome the systemic barriers to women’s workforce participation. Steps must also be taken to ensure that women are represented at the highest levels of decision-making.

    At this rate, even our children may not experience a world where women are valued equally to men – but this course is not inevitable.

    In 2012, G20 leaders committed to breaking down the barriers that stand in the way of women’s full economic and social participation in their countries. Let this be the year when we start doing just that.

    Julie McKay is the Executive Director of the National Committee for UN Women
    Dr Helen Szoke is the Chief Executive of Oxfam Australia

  4. 4 July 2014

    Annual global cost of war hits US$9.8 trillion

    A recent study has demonstrated the staggering cost of war on the world economy. Put together by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the Global Peace Index (GPI) indicates that the global cost of containing and dealing with violence around the world was US$9.8 trillion.

    This is equivalent to a little over US$1 billion per hour.

    The overall cost of war is larger than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Small Island Developing States in the Pacific (US$8 billion) and 25 times greater than the GDP of Tuvalu (US$38 million). The Australian National Committee for UN Women is particularly concerned with this research, as women are disproportionately affected by both poverty and conflict.

    “This [$9.8 trillion] figure is staggering and demonstrates that war has a deep economic, not to mention human cost for all nations,” says Julie McKay, Executive Director of UN Women. “This figure highlights the need to involve women in peacebuilding and post-conflict restructuring of their nations, so that peace is long lasting and so that money can be diverted to where it is needed most.”

    90 percent of casualties in contemporary conflicts are civilians, of which women and children make up the majority. Sexual violence is often used as a weapon of war, with women as the primary targets.

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