During the fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women from 9 to 20 March 2015, the progress made since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 20 years ago will be reviewed. During the session, the current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women will be addressed, as well as the opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda. This is an excellent moment to emphasize the importance of gender for questions concerning capacity and institution building and on the existing challenges and opportunities.
In order to better contribute to the developments concerning gender equality and the empowerment of women. UCLG made it’s Committee on Gender Equality a permanent Committee in 2011. According UCLG Women’s Equality Agenda, ‘in order to meet the challenges of sustainable human development, it is crucial that women be empowered and involved in local government as decision-makers, planners and managers.’ This requires the integration of gender issues into capacity and institution building activities. For the involvement of women in local governments necessitates institutions and practices that support this. Currently, only 5% of Mayors and only 20% Councillors are female worldwide, a representation gap that needs to be addressed urgently. UCLG Women believes that a sustainable democratic basis can be reinforced and the efficiency and quality of local and regional government can be improved by systematically integrating women in our social systems. Being the level of governance closest to citizens, local and regional governments are in a unique position to contribute to this process.
In the preparatory documents of the session of the UN, some of the major challenges and opportunities are mentioned. One of their major points is the ‘persistent gap between norms and implementation and between commitment and action’. It is argued that in many countries, not enough progress is being made even though the institutional and judicial frameworks often exist. Another challenge is the current absence of strong accountability mechanisms, which are important elements in capacity and institution building in governance. These mechanisms can fulfil a key position in the engagement of women in local government, through integrating gender components into capacity and institution building efforts. This could be done through stressing the need for gender equality within local governance institutions, and by acknowledging and combating disparities between the educational levels of women and men in its focus on capacity building.
The fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women – and the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals – present an opportunity for the world to make a next move concerning gender equality and to place more emphasis on the support to women’s participation in local decision making. As UCLG Women puts it on their website: ‘The full and equal participation of women is both a means and an end of sustainable development.’
Sources: The session webpage: CSW59, UCLG Women’s The Equality Agenda and a Review and Appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly of ECOSOC, as published on the UN Women website.