By Vanita Suneja
In 2030, when I would be turning sixty, I’d like to tell my grandchildren the story of how – once upon a time – the lives of poor people in South Asia were transformed: that leaders came together to bring economic prosperity and social development to people that until then had lived in an unequal and polluted world.
What I am more likely to tell them, is how – even with the knowledge that nearly 800 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation – governments failed to act and people remain locked in a cycle of ill-health and poverty.
Ending the cycle of poverty absolutely by 2030, without leaving behind a single person, is the most ambitious promise made to date by world leaders in 2015 when they adopted the sustainable development goals: which included the provision of universal access to water and sanitation that is essential for achieving significant progress in health, education and equality.
When people have access to clean water and decent sanitation, their wellbeing increases: women and girls have time to go to school because they don’t have to fetch water for their families – this responsibility often falls on the female members or a family, and with better health comes increased productivity both in school and at work.
For every £1 invested in WASH at least £4 is returned in increased productivity, primarily based on improved health and more time to work or study.
With floods and droughts affecting the region at different times of the year, it is important that climate-resilient services are set up. This includes managing resources responsibly and minimising the effects of climate change.
Governments in South Asia have taken steps in the right direction. Nepal has taken a rights-based approach to water, sanitation and hygiene in its constitution, which sets the bar for accountability at the highest political level. The constitution states peoples’ right to live in healthy and clean environment as well as the right to access to safe water and sanitation.
Through its Clean India Mission, an incredible story emerges from India, where considerable progress has been made on sanitation. The Indian government aims to ensure that the entire population will have access to a decent toilet by 2019, so that nobody has to go in the open after that.
Bangladesh has shown the way on inclusion, having achieved the Open Defecation Free status before 2015. The government of Bangladesh has since adopted an inclusive approach to water as well, and is working to connect all those living in makeshift houses in the capital’s slums to a piped network.
Despite this progress, South Asia faces daunting challenges. Governments, donors and the private sector must be held accountable if they are not doing enough. While 88 percent of South Asia’s population has access to at least basic water, still more than half the population of South Asia lacks access to even basic sanitation.
Disparities are large between cities and rural areas: while 5.6 percent of the urban population in South Asian nations defecate in the open – having no other option as no decent sanitation is available to them – yet in rural areas, this is as high as 45 percent.
For all nations to deliver on their commitment to provide universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, governments need to prioritise WASH – the NGO term for water, sanitation and hygiene – and ensure that finances are directed towards achieving those goals.
Sanitation, water and hygiene have a bearing on health, education, nutrition, equality and poverty eradication. WASH is thus crucial to breaking the cycle of ill-health and poverty in which too many people still live today.
An important part of the promise to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere, is to leave no one behind. This requires renewed focus on addressing the equity challenge.
The private sector and civil society groups have an important role to play in partnering with the government to reach out to marginalized and vulnerable populations.
This week, world leaders are coming together at the United Nations in New York to discuss the progress made on sustainable development goal 6 – to provide universal access to clean water and decent sanitation.
This is an important moment to highlight the urgency of having clean drinking water and a proper toilet, and to ensure that the lives of people in South Asia and beyond will be transformed within a generation.
Published on IPS on July 16, 2018
Gender equality in the workplace is key to unlocking significant business growth, and driving positive social and environmental impacts, according to Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, released ahead of International Women’s Day
London (5 March 2018) – Women’s leadership in business is critical to driving significant economic opportunities and driving better performance, as well as broader, long-term benefits for society and the environment, according a new report released by WomenRising2030, an initiative launched by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals, argues that, gender equality in the workplace can help unlock more than US$12 trillion in new market value linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals).
“We are at a tipping point when it comes to equality in the workplace,” said Marisa Drew, CEO of Credit Suisse’s Impact Advisory and Finance Department who is featured in the report. “Business benefits when all employees have a shared vision of the future – one that is fairer, more inclusive and sustainable. This report provides the business case for gender-balanced leadership to help propel these conversations in boardrooms and across the workplace.”
In 2017, the Business and Sustainable Development Commission showed in its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, there is a compelling financial incentive for pursuing sustainable business models: unlocking more than US$12 trillion per year and up to 380 million jobs by 2030. This new report, “Better Leadership, Better World: Women Leading for the Global Goals,”showsthat women leaders are accelerators, helping companies unlock this ‘economic prize’ associated with pursuing the Global Goals – 17 objectives to end hunger, poverty, and inequality, and effectively tackle climate change and resource degradation by 2030.
"Women’s leadership cannot be a ‘nice-to-have’ for business. Companies that continue to have male-dominated leadership will miss out on business opportunities unlocked by gender-balanced teams,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and member of the Business Commission. “At the current pace, it will take 217 years to achieve gender equality – and that’s bad news for economy and society. We at Unilever understand the importance of gender-balanced leadership and investments across our value chains. Women’s leadership makes good business sense."
Better Leadership, Better World identifies six leadership competencies critical to successfully developing business opportunities in line with the Global Goals: long-term thinking, innovation, collaboration, transparency, environmental management, and social inclusiveness. Research highlighted in the report underscores that women in business can play a critical role in deploying these six competencies within more gender-balanced leadership teams.
A number of studies support this argument, showing there are compelling financial incentives for companies to achieve gender balance across all levels. One study found If women were to participate in the economy identically to men, they could add as much as US$28 trillion to global annual gross domestic product by 2025. There is also evidence that businesses with more women in high-level management positions, particularly on directorial boards, are better able to shift their business’s focus from maximising short-term profit to achieving longer-term growth goals. Research shows that women leaders also tend to be collaborative and skilled at balancing multiple stakeholders’ interests to reach decisions that benefit all parties. Companies with more women on their boards are more likely to invest in renewable power generation, low-carbon products, and energy efficiency.
In addition to highlighting relevant research, the report features interviews with 25 senior women leaders from across diverse industries, including AXA, Credit Suisse, Mars, Symantec, Telenor, Thomson Reuters, and Unilever, as well as from major civil society organisations, including the African Development Bank, Ceres, the International Trade Union Confederation, the UN Global Compact, and Women’s World Banking.
Both technology and investment have been identified as drivers of the Global Goals, and industries where women’s leadership could help further accelerate achievement of the goals.
“We used to think that leading with purpose was a nice to have, however, today this has become a must have,” said Cecily Joseph, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Symantec Corporation. “Technology innovation is moving at lightning speed, and at the same time there is an underutilized opportunity to drive value for business and society. Female technology leaders can apply their unique and individual strengths to capitalize on this, creating businesses that outpace the competition and a world we can all be proud to be a part of.”
"There is incredible value in investing in women’s leadership, which is a priority for my company,” said Vineet Rai, founder Aavishkar-Intellecap Group, a leading impact investor based in India. “With the growth of gender-lens investing and expansion of the number of investments that promote women’s leadership globally, there is a positive shift happening in the investment world that cannot be ignored.”
The lack of women’s leadership is a global business issue. Women occupy just 15 percent of board seats worldwide. In the US, women account for an abysmal 5 percent of all CEOs among S&P 500 companies. And in the UK, the situation is worse: In 2016, there were more men named David (eight) than women (six) CEOs in the FTSE 1000. In the 1,557 largest listed companies in 20 Asia-Pacific countries, measured by market value, women account for just 12.4 percent of board seats. In Africa, women hold 14.4 per cent of board seats at the 300 largest listed companies. In 2016, one study of 1,259 listed companies in Latin American and Caribbean countries showed that on average 8.5 percent of board members were women.
There are promising signs that the winds are starting to shift. In January of this year, the world’s biggest asset manager, BlackRock, sent a letter to Russell 1000 companies with fewer than two women directors – an estimated 367 companies – asking them to justify how the lack of gender diversity on their boards aligned with their long-term strategies and to report on their efforts to address this gender imbalance. At the same time, the UN announced it had achieved gender balance across senior management.
“Meaningful change can happen,” said Gail Klintworth, champion of WomenRising2030 and Business Transformation Director of the Business Commission. “First, we need to speak in a language that consistently highlights the positive impacts for individual companies when there is gender-balanced leadership. Second, we need to break out of the echo chamber. Business needs to have more open dialogue with both men and women to challenge the status quo, and companies need to prioritise these conversations at every level.”
This report is a call to action for more companies to integrate the Global Goals into their core business strategies, value the leadership competencies critical to achieving the goals, build gender-balanced leadership teams, and promote gender equality throughout their value chains.
Published on the Business and Sustainable Development Commission on March 5, 2018
By Sophie Edwards
The United Nations has warned that progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals for women and girls is “unacceptably slow,” and has called for better data as well as a special focus on unpaid care work and ending violence against women to drive change.
The monitoring report from UN Women, “Turning Promises into Action,” released Wednesday, assesses progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, specifically looking at efforts to achieve gender equality — a prominent and cross-cutting issue across all 17 goals, the report states, as well as a standalone goal in itself.
“Progress for women and girls remains unacceptably slow,” UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in the report, adding that this “new data and analysis underlines that, unless progress on gender equality is significantly accelerated, the global community will not be able to keep its promise.”
While there has been some progress in recent years, the report concludes that the focus on women and girls provided by the SDGs is yet to turn into practice in most countries. For example, 15 million primary school-aged girls are out of school globally, compared to about 10 million boys; women hold only 24 percent of parliamentary seats; the gender pay gap stands at 23 percent; and gender-based violence is still a “global pandemic,” the report states.
It shines a light on huge disparities in the opportunities offered to women and girls living in the same countries. In India, for example, a woman aged 20–24 from a poor, rural household is 21.8 times less likely to have attended school, and 5 times more likely to have married before the age of 18, compared with a woman of the same age from a rich, urban household. Such disparities in education and opportunities also persist in developed nations, the report finds.
Furthermore, new and re-emerging challenges, such as conservative attitudes towards women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as climate change and environmental degradation, which are undermining “the livelihoods of millions,” are putting increasing pressure on women’s opportunities, the report warns.
It points to a number of key challenges holding back progress and concludes that “making every woman and girl count will require a revolution not only in gender data but also in policies, programming and accountability,” and offers recommendations to help member countries translate positive rhetoric about equality into practice.
Better data, statistics, and analysis on gender can be used to hold governments, companies, and other stakeholders accountable for their commitments to gender equality, UN Women advises. Additional financing and policies are also needed, it says.
Katja Iversen, head of Women Deliver, said the report contained “stronger messages, findings, and recommendations than we normally hear from a U.N. agency,” which she said is “very appropriate at a time when conservative winds are blowing” and threatening women’s health and rights.
She also commended the report for promoting an “integrated approach — looking at the whole girl and the whole woman and how the different dimensions of the SDGs are deeply intertwined with women’s well-being.”
“The evidence is clear: If we want to solve the world’s biggest problems, we need to break down the silos and work together across issues, sectors, and geographies — with women at the center,” she added.
Despite increasing attention to gender statistics in recent decades, effectively tracking and monitoring progress against the global goals is challenging in many countries for a number of reasons, including “uneven coverage” of gender indicators across the targets.
For example, UN Women finds that only 10 out of 54 gender-specific indicators are collected with enough regularity to be classified as Tier 1 by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group, which means they can be monitored in a reliable way at the global level. For another 24 gender indicators, “coverage is patchy and insufficient to allow global monitoring,” the report states, while 17 indicators are still being developed.
The report also points to a lack of internationally-agreed standards around how the data is collected as another fundamental challenge to effective monitoring.
Tanvi Jaluka, program coordinator for gender and development at the Center for Global Development, said the report was right to focus on the need for more and better data to monitor the SDG’s progress on women and girls.
“Holes in gender data exist because methodologies are not clear or because data standards are not actively being practiced by countries,” she said.
New areas of focus
Ensuring gender-equitable access to financial services is another major priority highlighted in the UN Women report, and one which Jaluka said currently receives too little attention.
“Unfortunately, a lot of attention is paid to the creation of jobs in the private sector and not to reducing the gender gap in financial services,” she said, adding that “countries should work with financial institutions to invest in and test innovative financial products, as well as deliver products that are specifically targeted toward women.”
“Taking these steps will promote productive labor activities, small and medium enterprise business growth, and savings and investment,” the CGD expert added.
The report also makes specific recommendations for change around unpaid care work which experts say is one of the key reasons why women, as the default providers of care, are less likely to have quality jobs, attend school, participate in political life, and become financially independent.
In South Africa, for example, providing free and universal child care for children aged 0 to 5 would “at least in part” pay for itself, the report suggests, by creating between 2.3 million new jobs and bringing 10 percent more women into the workforce. The associated tax and social security revenue from these new jobs would cover more than a third of the costs of investing in free early childhood education and care, it says.
The report also takes an indepth look at the issue of violence against women and girls, noting that despite the prevalence of violence against women inflicted by an intimate partner, there are still no laws to protect victims from such abuse in 49 countries. It offers a range of recommendations, including pushing countries to adopt and implement comprehensive legislation, and overhauling services for victims in order to reach the most marginalized.
Published on Devex on February 15, 2018
Economic development in the world’s most-disadvantaged countries – mostly in sub-Saharan Africa – is stalling against the background of a lukewarm global recovery, risking widening inequality, new analysis from UNCTAD has revealed (see report below).
Data suggests that the 47 least developed countries (LDCs), a long-established category of nations requiring special attention from the international community, will fall short of goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development unless urgent action is taken.
“The international community should strengthen its support to LDCs in line with the commitment to leave no one behind,” Paul Akiwumi, Director of UNCTAD’s Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, said.
“With the global economic recovery remaining tepid, development partners face constraints in extending support to LDCs to help them meet the Sustainable Development Goals.”
GDP growth rates will likely continue to fall short not only of their 2002–2008 average, but also of their 2010–2014 levels, Mr. Akiwumi said.
“Inequalities between the LDCs and other developing countries risk widening.”
The analysis highlights that LDC growth averaged just 5% in 2017 and will reach 5.4% in 2018 – below the target of 7% growth envisaged by target 1 of Sustainable Development Goal 8 on promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
Sustainability Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Hong Kong, as a chapter of the global SDSN of the United Nations, was launched on Monday.
It aims to mobilize expertise, information and resources from academia, philanthropy, government, business and nonprofits to respond to challenges of sustainable development at both local and global scales.
Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, chief executive of China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), said at the launching ceremony at the Chinese University of Hong Kong that HKSAR government is fully committed to sustainable development, especially its three main dimensions, namely economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection.
She noted that SDSN Hong Kong will connect stakeholders from various sectors forming a global network for the exchange of scientific and technological knowledge for the development of innovative ideas and practical solutions to sustainable development.
"Such connection is set to benefit Hong Kong, other members of the network, and the sustainable development of the world," Lam said.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of SDSN of the United Nations, delivered a keynote speech and called for international cooperation to achieve sustainable development goals.
"We are launching a partnership of great significance. I am deeply confident that we will contribute to Hong Kong's well-being, but I also especially excited that, through the collaborative partnership, Hong Kong will contribute to global well-being," Sachs said.
Published on Xinhuanet on January 8, 2018
🔎 Sustainable Development Goals; UN General Assembly
Addressing the general debate at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, leaders from South American countries urged the global community for greater cooperation and collaboration in addressing a range of pressing issues – from poverty to security challenges.
Underscoring the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), David Granger, the President of Guyana, said that the Goals represent the international community’s collective desire and determination to eradicate hunger and poverty, and ensure equal opportunities in education, employment and social justice for both men and women.
However, advancement of these Goals, he noted, is obstructed by violations of human rights, as well as by conflicts and violence that is displacing many from their homes, adding that the challenge before the UN is “to resolve to reinforce respect for the rights of citizens within the governance structures of [its] Member States.”
He also underscored the need to combat the impact of climate change, and expressed his country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Climate change is not a fiction of a few extremists,” said the President, noting that most recently, Caribbean islands and North American countries had felt the devastating impact of five successive hurricanes.
Also in his remarks, the Guyanese President reiterated that humanity must continue to striving for peace and highlighted the important role the UN through the International Criminal Court and the Security Council have in ensuring peace and respect for justice.
“Peace for the world’s peoples is the mandate of the UN. It can be achieved by addressing the world’s humanitarian crises, promoting justice within and between nations and resolving long-standing conflicts between states,” he concluded.
Also speaking today, Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara, the President of Paraguay, underscored the importance of the UN in confronting global challenges such as poverty and inequality, climate change, transnational crime, drug trafficking and terrorism.
Reaffirming his country’s commitment for the implementation of the Paris Agreement, President Cartes Jara urged all States, and in particular those with greater responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions, to take all necessary measures to preserve the planet from the consequences of global warming.
“In Paraguay, we have taken a social responsibility perspective, by fostering greater production of clean and renewable energy,” he said.
The President also informed the Assembly of Paraguay’s efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including building an innovative and inclusive institutional architecture to advance progress towards the SDGs and targets.
He also spoke of work in his country to combat poverty, build opportunities for the indigenous and rural communities, promote greater investments, as well as increase transparency and efficiency in Government processes.
Turning to the crisis emanating from the nuclear weapon development programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the President reiterated Paraguay’s condemnation of the nuclear tests conducted by the DPRK, in clear defiance of its international obligations, and urged a “firm rejection” by the UN General Assembly of such acts by the country.
Also addressing the General Assembly today, President Lenín Moreno Garcés of Ecuador said the road to achieving peace and successfully implementing the SDG’s depends on cooperation and dialogue.
Reflecting on misuse of resources, the President asked: “How could it be possible that resources allocated to implementing the SDG’s have been wasted on the absurdity of war?”
He added that fallout from conflicts extends beyond economic damages – they also rob people of “true freedom and democracy.”
For this reason, he said, it is important to respect sovereignty of States and reject the notion that militarism is the solution, which, he stressed “brings suffering, pain and death.”
Also in his remarks, Mr. Garcés informed the General Assembly of a temporary bilateral ceasefire signed just a few days ago in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, between Government of Colombia and an armed group, as an example of regional strides towards achieving peace.
In conclusion, the President expressed optimism about coexisting in “a more human, and just world,” can be attributed to the power of dialogue, political decision-making power, and collective action.
Published on UN News Centre on September 20, 2017.
By DELIA PAUL
14 September 2017: Saad Alfarargi, Special Rapporteur on the right to development, delivered his first report to the UN Human Rights Council. The report highlights the disproportionate impact of global pandemics, corruption, the energy and climate crisis, and other adverse global trends on the world’s poor and those living in Africa, least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS).
Alfarargi (Egypt) was appointed during the February-March 2017 session of the Human Rights Council. He is the first person to hold the post of Special Rapporteur on the right to development. In his first report to the Council, he laments that many people are not even aware that such a right exists, although the UN adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development more than 30 years ago. The Special Rapporteur also observes that the right to development has become politicized, with the international community failing to agree on what the right to development means or how to measure progress towards this right.
The report outlines the Special Rapporteur’s preliminary views, highlights implementation challenges and presents a preliminary strategy that will inform his work, including his approach to stakeholder engagement. Key challenges addressed in the report include politicization of the issue, lack of engagement in promoting, protecting and fulfilling this right, and adverse global trends, such as the energy and climate crisis, the increasing number of global disasters, corruption and illicit financial flows.
In his report, Alfarargi calls on development agencies to place the right to development at the center of their work. He emphasizes that the recent adoption of global agreements on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate, financing for development, and disaster risk reduction (DRR) means that ‘the building blocks for change’ are available.
The UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration in its resolution 41/128 of 4 December 1986. The 10 articles in the Declaration represent a wide range of intentions, including to bring about complete disarmament in the interests of strengthening international peace and security. The Declaration encourages states to undertake ‘all necessary measures’ for people to realize the right to development, including through providing equality of opportunity and eradicating all social injustices.
Published on IISD on September 19, 2017.