President Halonen addresses Beijing +20 NGO ForumNovember 5, 2014 | Geneva, Switzerland

Task Force Co-Chair President Tarja Halonen gave a speech at the concluding session of the NGO Forum that preceded the inter-governmental Beijing +20 Europe and North America (ECE) Regional Review in Geneva on November 6-7, 2014.

Halonen expressed support for the stand-alone goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls proposed by the Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group, but called for the addition of explicit reference to human rights for women and girls, including sexual and reproductive health and rights. “There is no equality for women without the full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights, freedom from violence and right to education and learning,” Halonen said.

The former President remarked on the persistence of gender discrimination in all societies, and pointed out that “young people, in particular adolescent girls, still lack access to comprehensive sexuality education which would give them basic tools to protect themselves for instance from unwanted and unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, abuse and sexual harassment, and to plan their lives. Women and girls also continue to die in the absence of access to safe, legal abortion.”

Halonen called for the international community to fulfill its commitments from the Beijing Platform for Action, including to address issues of unpaid care work and violence against women, equal pay for equal work and non-discrimination and sexual harassment in workplace, and called for increased resources and strong accountability systems. “Investing in women is a very smart investment. We have strong evidence today to show what the positive impact of women’s role and contribution is, and could be, across all dimensions – the social, economic and environmental – of sustainable development, “ Halonen said.

Visit the following links to learn more about the global Beijing +20 review process, the Europe regional review, and the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Declaration and Recommendations from the NGO Forum on Beijing +20 are here.