UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka with members of a grassroots soccer organization in South Africa. Photo:  UN Women/Karin Schermbrucker

In Cape Town, South Africa, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka meets girls involved in the Grassroots Soccer SKILLZ programme, a grantee of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Photo: Karin Shermbrucker

Foreword by the Executive Director

Fast forwarding to the future we want

2015 was UN Women’s fifth year. As we marked this milestone, the United Nations celebrated 70 years of fostering human rights, and governments and civil society assessed 15 years of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, and of Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Informed by these reviews, we looked ahead to the world we want with the Paris Agreement on climate change, and saw the transformative power of women and girls set at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In 2016, the first year of the new Agenda, we have set the expiry date for gender inequality and are focused on the areas of impact to accelerate progress. This means achieving substantive equality and transformative change by 2030.

We know that the big vision for ‘people, planet and prosperity’ will be brought to life locally. This year’s annual report illustrates our maturing structure of resourceful and enterprising country offices. It highlights our coordination role within the United Nations and successful programmatic work last year in 93 countries, from helping to boost women’s income through climate-resilient agriculture in Morocco, engaging religious leaders to increase women’s leadership and participation in peace processes, to working with partners to develop a comprehensive framework for the prevention of violence against women and girls. With the continuing strong support of civil society and a rapidly growing network of partners in both public and private sectors, UN Women is ready to take this impact to scale.

At the 60th Commission on the Status of Women, Member States agreed on what action was needed to make the 2030 Agenda a reality for women and girls and acknowledged UN Women’s central role in its implementation. One of the ways we will do this is through the large, multi-stakeholder Flagship Programmes developed in 2015. These high-impact, scalable programmes focus on strengthening the voice of women and girls to remove the structural barriers to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and are geared to achieve life-changing results.

We are also tackling the major structural obstacles to gender equality through new instruments such as the Secretary-General’s new High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, locating what will most effectively support women’s greater participation in the workforce and boost their productivity.

The collective commitment to the Agenda 2030 vision to ‘leave no one behind’ through the pursuit of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals was further backed by the individual pledges made by Heads of State and Government at our Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action in 2015. To date, 93 governments have made concrete commitments to action that will support key facets of the Sustainable Development Goals, and Goal 5 in particular. In making these pledges they drew on their national findings from the 2015 reviews, using the understanding of the gaps and failures in progress to commit to change. Crucially for sustained progress, they committed to finance the pursuit of gender equality as agreed in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, with targeted actions and investments.

Together, working closely with Member States on national implementation, we will build ways in which women and girls can operate as solution makers, peace builders and change agents for more resilient communities. This role in solutions is increasingly pressing as we face the stresses and challenges of violent extremism, climate change and mass displacements of populations.

UN Women will continue to push for swift and effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda, increased investment in gender responsive budgeting, the collection of quality sex-disaggregated data, and stepped-up partnerships with civil society, business communities, the media, academia, men and boys, and youth. We need to frontload progress, so that by 2020 we are already seeing results among the most vulnerable and marginalized, so that we can, as Agenda 2030 promises, leave no one behind.

Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director

UN Women: Five years young and going strong