Innovation and Technology, which is the focus of this year’s International Women’s Day, presents powerful opportunities for gender equality, and offers welcome hope at a time of great challenges for women’s empowerment. In fact, the regional progress report on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) released this week ahead of the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development showed that the use of information and communication technology is the only target of SDG 5 (“Achieve Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls”), which the region is currently on track to achieve.
While it is clear that much work remains to be done to catalyse progress on the remaining eight SDG 5 Targets, this important indicator of progress identifies innovation and technology as an area with strong momentum towards effective change as we draw closer to 2030 and consolidate our efforts for gender equality.
The disproportionate impacts on women of the cost-of-living crises, the toll of conflict and displacement, and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic that are being experienced across our region, risk further setting back progress towards equality. Innovation and technology can play a part in responding to the challenges of multiple and overlapping crises.
We have for instance seen innovation and technology highlighted as a means of securing information, protection, education and employment, as one of the six key recommendations of UN-Women in their assessment of the challenges encountered by young women affected by the war in Ukraine, together with support for women-focused economic empowerment programmes among other actions. Similarly, UNECE’s own Guidance on Measuring the Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Women and Men acknowledges the vital importance of ICT and digital skills for women in the post-pandemic labour force, noting the improved earning opportunities and access to education and training which such skills can catalyse.
With the digital and green transition at the heart of discussions at UNECE’s 70th session of the Commission on 18-19 April, I encourage all member States to ensure gender equality remains an integral part of this shift.
From the gender-specific considerations of equitable access to education, entrepreneurship opportunities and employment, to the gendered dynamics of ageing, standards development and recovery from conflict – we must continue to bridge the digital divide and further enhance the use of technology to promote the empowerment of women.
At UNECE we Increasingly see evidence through our normative and technical work that the advancement of gender equality is vital to improving economic integration, cooperation and the promotion of sustainable development. For this reason, we continue to centralise gender equality and the empowerment of women across our entire Programme of Work, where we have consistently made gains. One such example is our continuing work on gender responsive standards, supported by a Team of Specialists, where Standards Australia became the 81st signatory to the Declaration on Gender-Responsive Standards and Standards Development, joining standard-setting bodies from our region and around the world. UNECE’s support to member States offers a regional vantage point to highlight important gender dynamics for policy considerations across sectors - for example, by shedding light on the impact of the energy transition and post-covid socioeconomic recovery on women and the role of women within the current energy landscape of our member States.
My personal commitment to leveraging my position as Executive Secretary of UNECE to ensure a focus remains on women’s access to and participation in economic development remains strong. This is especially important as we experience a growing movement of backlash against women’s rights and equal opportunity which has escalated post-pandemic.
We know that more work is required. UNECE is firmly committed to supporting its member States and further deepening cooperation with partners across the UN system and beyond – including civil society and the private sector – to deliver on gender equality at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.
Let us together set a new norm for the region by stepping up for the full engagement of women in our economies. Putting this commitment into action will serve all of us, in times of crisis and for sustainable development