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“On this day and every day, let us recognize that all of us have a better future when women and girls can reach their full potential — and together, let’s renew our efforts to advance dignity, equality, and limitless possibilities for all.” — President Joe Biden on International Women’s Day 2022 

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is the central United Nations platform for the annual follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year’s session took place in New York between July 5 and July 18 under the theme “Building back better from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” At this year’s HLPF , the Economic and Social Council completed an in-depth review of SDG 4 on quality education, SDG 5  on gender equality, SDG 14 on life below water, SDG 15 on life on land, and SDG 17 on partnerships for the Goals. During the Forum, the United States reaffirmed its support for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its commitment to the full implementation of the 17 SDGs.

Gender equality is a catalyst that can help advance progress across all SDGs. The United States was pleased to contribute during the HLPF interactive panel discussion about SDG 5 and proudly co-sponsored a side event on Achieving Gender Equal Nationality Laws. In her remarks at the discussion segment of the panel, the U.S. Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, declared that “Women’s equal right to nationality is a critical aspect of democracy and of preventing and reducing statelessness.” The Under Secretary further emphasized the United States Government’s commitment to preventing and reducing statelessness and protecting stateless persons by highlighting its status as the largest single donor to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

While much progress has been made, the United Nations Secretary-General’s 2022 Report on “Progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals ” affirms that “the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030 and has been pushed farther off track by the socioeconomic fallout of the [COVID-19] pandemic.” Startling statistics confirm this conclusion. For example, working women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. They accounted for 39.4% of total employment before the pandemic in 2019 but made up nearly 45% of global employment losses  in 2020. Women and girls also face upticks in gender-based violence globally due to the pandemic; 10 million additional girls are at risk of child marriage  in the next decade because of pandemic impacts.

Despite the setbacks posed by COVID-19, the United States remains committed to achieving gender equity and equality through its domestic and foreign policy and has made great leaps toward gender equality since the last HLPF review of SDG 5 in 2017. The United States elected the first woman and first woman of color Vice President and shortly after its inauguration, the Biden-Harris Administration established the White House Gender Policy Council . The first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality  was released in October 2021 which serves as an umbrella strategy for domestic and foreign policy efforts on gender. This includes the update of the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally, the first-ever United States National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence, and the Global Women’s Economic Security Strategy, which will all be released later this year. The Biden-Harris Administration also signed into law the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 earlier this year. The Women, Peace, and Security agenda has undergone major policy accomplishments as well via the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 and the 2019 United States Strategy on Women, Peace, and Security. These policies reflect the United States Government’s high-level commitment to gender equity and equality.

To move these policies forward, the President’s FY 2023 Budget requested approximately $2.6 billion for foreign assistance designed to advance gender priorities in accordance with the National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality (more than doubling the amount requested in the previous year). Existing programming from the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues (S/GWI) at the Department of State has already made an impact. Notably, the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE)  program has supported more than 10,500 women entrepreneurs in El Salvador and Honduras through more than $4.5 million in loans, which leveraged over $1 million in matching private sector funding and trained loan providers on awareness of challenges and barriers to women entrepreneurs, such as gender-based violence. Just as meaningful, the Supporting Her Empowerment — Girls’ Resilience, Enterprise, and Technology (SHE’s GREAT!)  uses a global “Gender and My Community” curriculum along with STEM + Arts education to build economic empowerment skills and reduce girls’ vulnerability to gender-based violence, including harmful norms and practices.

With programs like these, the United States supports women and girls, in all their diversity, around the world with the aim of achieving SDG 5. Recognizing that there is still much work to be done, the United States participated in and made commitments to the Generation Equality Forum. Convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of France and Mexico in June 2021, the Generation Equality Forum is an opportunity to make bold, measurable commitments to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The United States made over 30 commitments on preventing and responding to gender-based violence, advancing women’s economic security and promoting economic justice, and protecting and expanding sexual and reproductive health rights.

The 2022 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Review of Sustainable Development Goal 5 served as a reminder of the world’s moral and strategic responsibility to strive for gender equality. The United States strongly supports the 2030 Agenda, is committed to its full implementation and remains determined to lead global efforts to achieve gender equity and equality.

About the Author: Rachel Greenspan serves as a Student Intern in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State. She is currently completing undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and will graduate with a major in Public Policy (with a focus in International Gender and Human Rights Issues) and a minor in Spanish in May 2023.

U.S. Department of State

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