UN Official Praises Istanbul Summit, Prioritizes Women’s Rights

45

In a recent video message, Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, commended JWF for organizing the Istanbul Summit, an event that features women’s perspectives on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

Women’s rights are inseparable from men’s. They are not optional. Protecting and promoting women’s equality is the responsibility of every government. Human rights will only be respected and our societies will only flourish when governments deliver on that responsibility.

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

P illay opened her message by thanking JWF for inviting her to the first Istanbul Summit on May 31 to June 1, 2014. She said she was looking forward to the Summit’s contributions to a post-2015 development agenda that “truly focuses on the well-being of women.”

Pillay explained that although past development frameworks, especially the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), led to positive developments for many societies, they nevertheless failed to address critical issues. Oversights included gender-based violence, women’s unequal access to key resources, and the effects of conflict on women. Pillay also criticized the MDGs for being too narrowly defined and thereby neglecting women’s unpaid work as well as health issues beyond motherhood.

To rectify this situation, Pillay called for a new framework built on international human rights treaties. “Its goals must be aligned with the core principles of human rights, including freedom from want, freedom from fear, non-discrimination and equality, and protection of our environment,” Pillay said. “In each area, our new development framework must specify the actions that will be needed to ensure women’s rights with explicit reference to the reality of women’s lives and our long and suffocating legacy of discrimination.”

Developing such a framework requires the direct involvement of women in both the implementation and evaluation of policies and programs. In addition, tracking each goal’s progress is critical, leading Pillay to define accountability as the “heartbeat” of the new agenda. She said that governments in particular have a responsibility to protect and promote women’s equality. “Human rights will only be respected and our societies will only flourish when governments deliver on that responsibility,” Pillay said.

Pillay then related her ideas to the Istanbul Summit, which mirrors her conviction that peaceful and sustainable development is only possible when all rights, including women’s, are recognized. She called the Summit “a great opportunity to put forward the voices of women and to call on the governments of the world to meet [those] human rights obligations.”

Pillay concluded her message with her best wishes for the Summit’s success.

The appointment of Navi Pillay as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was approved by the General Assembly on July 28, 2008. She took up the post on September 1, 2008. Her mandate was renewed for two years beginning on September 1, 2012. Additional information about Ms. Pillay is available on the OHCHR website.