Thank you so much, Michelle, and thanks to all of you who are here at the Session on Gender as part of the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. First and foremost, I want to thank UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, Korean Minister for Gender Equality and Family Minister Kim Kum-lae, everyone participating on this panel, and all of my colleagues and counterparts in the audience for prioritizing this discussion today.
I was standing listening to Michelle, who in her usual effective and strong way was making the case, but I could sense in her voice the same frustration that I feel from time to time, which is: How much longer do we have to make this case? This is a cause near and dear to my heart, as I know it is to many of you. It is at the core of our development and diplomacy policy. We know all the reasons why removing barriers to women’s integration and participation is essential to building growth and development, and we know that it is now quantified. The World Bank, the IMF, other internationally recognized sources have demonstrated time and again how much GDP can be increased, how much per capital can be increased. So we really have no choice but to tailor and target women and girls in our development programs.
And there’s an old saying: “What gets measured, gets noticed.” So that means we must collect data so we are constantly focused on how better to integrate women into our economies, and using this evidence, to build gender-inclusive development policies that work.
Now, for example, many countries collect data on loans given to small and medium sized businesses. But very few track how many of those businesses are owned by women. How many women who apply for small business loans actually get them? What are those loans worth compared to loans granted to men? With reliable answers to questions such as these, we can begin reforming credit policies, asset, ownership, and inheritance laws that still disadvantage women.
When we measure these same indicators consistently over time, then we will notice whether or not we are making progress.
Earlier this year at the OECD’s 50th Anniversary Ministerial, I called on the OECD, the World Bank, the UN, and the international community to standardize the data we have on women’s inclusion to make it more useful. These institutions have now come to the table here in Busan with a list of core indicators to track women’s status in education, employment, and entrepreneurship.
And today I am very pleased to announce a new collaboration between several governments and international organizations. It’s called the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality, or EDGE. This initiative responds to the growing demand of countries for financial and technical support to improve gender statistics. EDGE will help harmonize economic data broken down by gender across different surveys and national systems. Five donors have already pledged to support the EDGE initiative, creating partnerships with National Statistics Offices to implement common pilot activities that collect data on women’s entrepreneurship and assets – two areas where gender gaps in the data are largest.
Now, gathering this kind of empirical evidence is critical to the Busan Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development. And I look forward to seeing this initial data report and implementation plan that we have each agreed to share by next June.
In this forum, we have emphasized the need to hold ourselves to higher standards of accountability and transparency, and to stay focused on delivering results. The Action Plan will help us track our progress and stay on target over the next few years. And most importantly, it will help ensure the commitments we make here are translated into real improved opportunities for women – more women accessing education, more women finding employment, more women entrepreneurs receiving small business loans.
I believe we are entering the age of participation, one in which every individual can make valuable contributions to the global marketplace if they have the opportunity to do so. And it is incumbent upon us to make sure that men and women alike have that opportunity.
So I am very grateful to each of you for recognizing the absolute core importance of this work, and I turn it back to my friend, Executive Director Bachelet, and our panel of experts. Thank you.