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Christian Friis Bach

Bach's Blog

The Executive Secretary's Blog

Step it up for Gender Equality!

Let me congratulate all women - and men - today, on International Women’s Day.

The fight for gender equality is hugely important for all of us – both women and men. It is not women against men; or men against women. If gender equality is turned into an issue where it is the men who cause all the problems and women who have all the problems, then we will not achieve gender equality. We need to stand up for gender equality together.

In many communities, also in our region, what stands in the way for the full potential of young women are not only men, but also gender stereotypes that continue to encourage women to support their men at the expense of their own opportunities.  And such outdated stereotypes are not only promulgated by men, but also by many women.

In some countries, including my own country Denmark, we see new gender issues where socially vulnerable young men fall behind, while young women, encouragingly, seek higher education in the larger cities. Gender equality is complex.

However, there is a very long way to go before women in our region and worldwide have equal rights and opportunities. We continuously see gender-based discrimination and violence in all our 56 member countries. It is unacceptable. We must, as expressed by the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day “Step It Up for Gender Equality”.

Thus, we must all, women and men alike, examine if our words and actions are contributing to the myriad problems of gender inequality, such as inadequate access to resources or justice, discriminatory attitudes, unequal sharing of the burden of family care,  the gender pay gap, discriminatory and derogatory representation in media, gender-based violence, the glass ceiling, and many more besides.

The good news is that we can celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day with a new set of Sustainable Development Goals with a specific goal on gender equality (goal 5) and with clear gender targets in numerous other goals. This should encourage us even further to step it up for gender equality. And it should encourage Member States to argue, instead of insisting on separate mandates for different parts of the UN, that the mandate on gender equality in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda applies to each and every UN entity. This could greatly contribute to an even stronger cooperation on gender equality in the UN.

We are ready to do our part in UNECE. We will help our Member States achieve gender equality by devising statistical indicators of gender equality, building gender equality into our review mechanisms and survey tools, empower female entrepreneurs and striving to address gender issues in all aspects of our work.

Moreover, we have joined the International Geneva Gender Champions, which brings together the leaders of many Geneva-based institutions to advance gender equality. Here we have pledged to update our Gender Action Plan and initiate the development of a UNECE Gender Policy; to assess a selected number of UNECE projects and if needed introduce further guidelines to ensure gender mainstreaming; and to strengthen our commitment to gender mainstreaming in our Strategic Framework. Moreover, you will only see me on a panel debate if there is at least one woman on the panel.

Step it up for Gender Equality!


If you wonder why the animal accompanying my blog is a cow, it is because cows are fascinating animals; the cows of our host country, Switzerland, are famous for their quality; and because I am still a farmer, and miss the cows I had in Denmark. Now I got one back.