Invest in Women

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 4 March 2014

Women’s Empowerment and equality has been an initiative at the United Nations since the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), in 1979. Since then, many efforts have been made, but women are still at a much greater disadvantage to education, work, independence, and positions of power, just to name a few. The meeting held at the start of the 3 weeks focused on women’s empowerment was about how to take steps in the private sector to invest in women as entrepreneurs. Many different speakers shared insight from their experience and industries, a call for responsibility and action on all fronts was echoed into the afternoon.

Carolyn Buck Luce, the days moderator, explained the shifts currently taking place, lending a hand to women’s empowerment, and gender balance. “Executives are realizing that it’s up to us, there is a tipping point emerging where companies will need to embrace a longer term view and embrace the possibility that they could be a unique engine for sustainability and equality in the world.” Ambassador Melanne Verveer followed with the understanding that women invest their earned money back into the family, only enhancing the family unit and the success those children experience. “Women may be victimized,” said the ambassador, “but are not victims.”

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In Africa, 43% less women than men have access to the internet. She Will Connect, launched by Intel in 2013, puts emphasis on targeted countries to make internet more accessible to women who are completely disconnected. It is initiatives like this in the private sector, among others that become game changers for women everywhere. Another example is The Coca-Cola Company, who started the 5by20 movement, to empower 5 million female entrepreneurs globally by 2020. The majority of women find themselves in the bottom line of companies pyramids. Entrepreneurs and industries have started businesses training and learning programs for women to gain skills and agency in the industry that has exploited them for so long. Erika Karp, the CEO of an investment firm focused on creating sustainable solutions for capitalism, had a compelling moment during the panel. She stated that we must have synergy with all of the issues: climate change, sustainable energy, women’s empowerment, access to water; all of these issues must come together to guide the world because the time for change is right now.

Meeting Title: International Women’s Day 2014: Turning Inspiration into Action: Next Steps for the Private Sector to Empower Women Globally

Key Speakers: Carolyn Buck Luce (Managing Partner-Imaginal Labs), Robert Orr (Assistant Secretary General for Strategic Planning), John McKernan (President-U.S. Chamber of Commerce), Ambassador Melanne Verveer (Executive Director-Institute for Peace), Chelsea Clinton (Vice Chair-Clinton Foundation), Jane Nelson (Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative), Pierre Börjesson (Senior Sustainability Specialist- H&M), Dotti Hatcher (Executive Director- P.A.C.E. Global Initiatives), Diane Melley (V.P. Global Citizenship Initiatives- IBM), Charlotte Oades (Women’s Economic Empowerment- The Coca-Cola Company), Aman Singh (Editorial Director- CSRwire.com), Priya Agrawal (Executive Director- Merk for Mothers), Sharon D’Agostino (V.P. Corporate Citizenship-J&J), Leith Greenslade (Vice-Chair- Office of UN Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals), Rebecca Fries (Director- Value for Women), Dr. Jeff Lundy (Manager-Research- Corporate Citizenship Center- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Jeannette Ferran Astorga (V.P. Corporate Social Responsibility, ANN Inc.), Michelle Greene (Head of Corporate Responsibility-NYSE EuroNext), Mary Ellen Iskenderian (President and CEO-Women’s World Banking), Erika Karp (CEO-Cornerstone Capital Group), Kara Valikai (Director-corporate Citizenship Center- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation), Dr. Vishakha Desai (President Emerita), Sahba Sobhani (Acting Programme Manager), Marc DeCourcey (Executive Director- U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation)

Written by WIT Representative: Stephanie Harris

“Be globally literate and globally sensitive, the time is truly now!” -Dr. Vishakha Desai

Poverty, Inequality, and Women’s Rights: They All Must Be Addressed, But How?

United Nations, New York Headquarter, 6 February 2014

Professor Ocampo gave the first presentation, in which he spoke about income inequalities throughout the world. Inequality has two dimensions, inequality among countries, and inequality inside countries. Historically, free markets have allowed wealth inequalities to rise, and the state has historically stepped in to address this problem. In countries where the state hasn’t played that role, inequalities are very high. Inequality in that sense, is a choice of society: they can change the inequality if they adopt the correct changes.

Mr. Moreno spoke next and said that we rarely talk about inequalities in ability, and that it is something that needs to be addressed when we discuss development. He called on countries to create a policy that will include those with disabilities and allow them to participate socially, politically, and economically on the same level as everyone else. Mr. Moreno said that we cannot attain any goal unless we think holistically.

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Ms. Ameline was the final presenter, and she spoke about discrimination against women. She said that sustainable development will continue to be a dream unless the rights of women are realized. She stressed the importance of progress indicators by statistically analyzing the measurable impacts that are being made over time.

The representatives of Morocco, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico agreed that we should eradicate material poverty, but also spiritual poverty, such as racism, individualism, ageism, and others. We cannot work on the SDGs without acknowledging the human dimension. The representative of Japan asked, “What can the United Nations, through the SDG’s, do to change the inequalities in society, if the society has chosen those inequalities?” The representative of Indonesia was concerned about the kinds of domestic economic policy that can be used to address income inequality.

The floor was then opened for a general discussion. Benin said that although the world target for poverty reduction has been reached, 49% of the population of the LDCs still live in extreme poverty, lacking access to critical education, health and transportation infrastructure. Guinea said that there needs to be a framework that addresses inequalities in governance, wealth, gender, and education.

The executive director of the ITC, the International Trade Commission was given the floor, sharing that we need to facilitate the entrance of women into the workplace more than we already. Women are projected to be 30% of the workforce by 2020, and they reinvest 90% of their earnings back into their families, which improves quality of life. Therefore, the UN needs to craft a standalone goal relating to women’s rights and women’s empowerment.

Meeting Title: Sixth meeting of the Eighth Session of the General Assembly Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals

Key Speakers: Professor José Antonio Ocampo, Columbia University; Mr. Lenín Moreno, Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility; Ms. Nicole Ameline, Chair, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Representatives of Bolivia speaking on behalf of the G77+China; Mexico; Japan; Indonesia; Peru; Morocco; Benin on behalf of the LDC’s; Guinea on behalf of the Africa Group; Executive Director of the ITC

Written by WIT Representative: Jacob Roth

Global Unemployment Trends

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 24 January 2014

Mr. Stephen Pursey, Director of the Department of Multilateral Cooperation at the International Labour Oranization (ILO) chaired a briefing on the organization’s recently released report “Global Employment Trends 2014: Risk of a jobless recovery.”  Mr. Pursey stated there are currently 62 million fewer jobs globally than before the Financial Crisis of 2008.  Women and young people are the most likely to be unemployed. He explained that under employment prevents poor people from, “working themselves out of poverty.”  He also noted concern about increased long-term unemployment and skills-mismatch, in which college educated people are failing to find jobs at their skill levels.

Mr. Olav Kjørven, Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, then spoke about the rising inequalities that the report reflected. He challenged the business elites to focus on the growing class stratifications.  He stated, “Extreme levels of inequalities have always led to social fractions and politicalupheavals.” Further, Mr. Kjørven expressed apprehension about how youth unemployment might affect an entire generation.

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Next, Ms. Ronnie Goldberg, Senior Counsel to the United States Council for International Business, established that strengthened property rights and business friendly regulations were necessary to create jobs.  She called for more internships to alleviate youth unemployment and a restructuring business environments to accommodate womenwho are raising families. Mr. Peter Bakvis, Director of the Washington Office of the International Trade Union Confederation, added that improved minimum wages and access to collective bargaining would be helpful in decreasing underemployment.

Meeting Title: Briefing on “Global Employment Trends 2014: Risk of a jobless recovery” (organized by the International Labour Organization (ILO)) 

Key Speakers: Chair, Stephen Pursey, Director, Multilateral Cooperation, International Labour Organization; Olav Kjørven, Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, Bureau for Development Policy, UNDP New York; Ronnie Goldberg, Senior Council, United States Council for International Business (USCIB); Peter Bakvis, Director, Washington Office, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)/Global Union Federation

Written by WIT Representative: Katherine King

Threats of Social Inequality

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 20 January 2014

On Martin Luther King day, an important meeting was held by the Economic and Social Council on the threats of social inequality. Illustrating the link economic inequality has with social, racial, and many other types of injustice and inequalities, the meeting began with a quote by Martin Luther King, “The inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice.” The keynote speaker, Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, an economist and Professor from Columbia University, spoke on issues regarding America’s struggle with social inequality, and the model the US has passed on to much of the world. Dr. Stiglitz spoke further on topics such as: unequal opportunity, access to health, access to education, and exposure to environmental hazards. 

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OxFam Report

It is not just economic law and monetary policy that determine the gap of inequality, it is the politics and policies that often manipulate how deep the gap recedes, Dr. Stiglitz explained. The world is imbedded in a global economic trade system that not only has it’s own set of rules effecting intercontinental situations, but also effects issues within individual countries. Dr. Stiglitz emphasized this issue in an effort to promote responsibility and thoughtfulness in policy making.

One panel member, Irene Khan, a lawyer and humanitarian, spoke further on the importance of politics and policies in changing social inequality in the world. Ms. Khan commented on situations where people can be excluded from laws, like a homeless person without an address, or a woman who has no rights against sexual violence. She asked why the Millennium Development Goals have been silent on human rights and questioned the worlds allowance of justice to become privatized. In her final comments she emphasized the need for laws to be relevant and people empowered to gain equality and security.

The final panel member, Elliot Harris, the UN environment director for the New York Headquarters, supplied his strategies for how inequality can be addressed in the field of sustainable development. He explained how trade, production, and consumption weigh on the poor with their insufficient funds for labor, dependance on a degrading environment, and an almost non-existent voice in comparison to that of the wealthy. One solution Mr. Harris shared was a focus on job creation and greater income generation in areas the poor already work. In giving the poor a higher share of their own markets, income security and sustainable use of natural resources becomes possible. In closing, the conversation on how to use green growth as a means to social and economic equality in the world will continue.

Meeting Title: ECOSOC: Threats of Social Inequality

 Key Speakers: Joseph Stiglitz, Claudio Bisogniero, Michael Doyle, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Irene Khan, Elliot Harris

Written by WIT Representative: Stephanie Harris

Post 2015 Development Agenda Recommendations

United Nations, New York Headquarters, 20 January 2014

On Monday, January 20th, the Woman’s International Forum (WIF) held a presentation featuring Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, special advisor to the secretary general on the post-2015 development planning. She opened her presentation by recognizing the 715 days left to accomplish current Millennial Development Goals (MDGs). With little time before the post-2015 agenda is implemented, Ms. Mohammed suggested various changes to the MDG’s to better adapt the new agenda with current global affairs. The special advisor stated the most essential characteristic of the post-2015 agenda is the need for realistic goals with common denominators. She finds this quality imperative to the effectiveness and adherence to the post-2015 agenda.

Following her introduction, Ms. Amina Mohammed continued her presentation by arguing that the post-2015 agenda should distribute its goals between climate change, openness and responsibility of governments, inequality and discrimination, technology, and job security rather than focusing primarily on poverty. Although she acknowledges the gravity of poverty throughout the world, she stated that the current MDGs focus far too heavily on this issue and not enough on the areas previously mentioned. Moreover, Ms. Mohammed argued that gender inequality should be a priority in the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. With inequality and discrimination embedded in economic, social, and political domains, the advisor to the secretary general emphasized that societies will not be able to successfully evolve, making regional issues of the world generational issues. The post-2015 agenda gives member states an opportunity for a global paradigm shift, changing worldwide views that negatively effect the population.

The final part of her presentation addressed the significance of the post-2015 agenda’s global success. “Failure is not an option,” Ms. Mohammed stated, as she argued the progress for this agenda must not mirror the limited success of the current MDGs. In addition, Ms. Mohammed emphasized the use of pilot projects should be completely eliminated in the post-2015 agenda, explaining the wealth of knowledge in the world to know if a program will be effective and scalable. She supported this idea with her personal experiences in Nauru, the United Nation’s smallest member state with a population of less than 10,000. With poverty rates extremely high and a meek future for their young people, Ms. Mohammed argued that the post-2015 development agenda must reach small nations similar to Nauru, as it is essential this agenda does not, “leave any member state behind.”

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Meeting Title: Women’s International Forum: Meeting on “The Post-2015 Development Agenda – Enabling a life of dignity for all”

Key Speakers: Special Advisor of the Secretary General on Post-2015 Development Planning, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, H.E. Irmeli Viinanen, H.E. Malini Nambiar

Written by WIT Representative: Alexander Luong