Address interlocking crises of care, jobs and environment to achieve promise of SDGs, say experts

UN Women

At a side event of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, jointly organized by UN Women, UNDP and ILO on 6 July, expert panelists reflected on deep and interlocking crises and their disproportionate impacts on women and other marginalized groups. They identified transformative actions for an inclusive and equitable recovery.

Asa Regner, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, shared UN Women’s forthcoming Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice, which urges governments to strengthen the care economy, create sustainable livelihoods and support a ‘gender just’ transition to environmental sustainability as part of COVID recovery. Regner welcomed recent financial commitments at the Generation Equality Forum in Paris and emphasized that “financing is a feminist issue, since it is about power and priorities,” urging governments and donors to strengthen gender-responsive budgeting.

Busi Sibeko, an Economist at the Institute for Economic Justice, South Africa, contextualized the current moment within the colonial history of extractivism, the contemporary flows of wealth from the global south to global north, and an international financial architecture that privileges profits at all costs. She called for progressive taxation and debt cancellation to increase fiscal space, including for social protection measures which are critical in the COVID-19 response.

Gita Sen, distinguished Professor at the Public Health Foundation of India, highlighted the pressing need to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines, therapeutics and personal protective equiptment as an “act of global social justice.” She urged redoubling of efforts to strengthen health systems, including to ensure that community health workers, who are mostly women, are adequately paid and recognized for their vital work.

Armine Yalnizyan, an Economist at the Federal Task Force on Women in the Economy in Canada, was unequivocal in saying that “sustainable development is not a choice, but the only vehicle that can get us into the future.” She stressed measures to reduce distributional inequalities, support care as infrastructure of the economy, and ensure that all essential workers have decent jobs.

On the issue of decent work, Paola Simonetti, Deputy Director, Economic and Social Policy Department, International Trade Union Confederation, called for investments in sustainable infrastructure and the care economy, and improved working conditions for women workers, including by preventing gender-based violence and harassment, promoting equal pay for work of equal value, and ensuring equal parental leave policies.

Looking to the future, Mariama Williams, Principal, Integrated Policy Research Institute and a Director at the Institute of Law and Economics, Jamaica, stated that an effective, just transition to a low-carbon economy is paramount for gender equality. It must include equitable access to climate financing, green jobs for women, and acknowledgement of women’s contributions to low-carbon economies.

In closing, Raquel Lagunas, Head of UNDP’s Gender Team, emphasized that government responses to the pandemic had mostly failed to address gender inequality adequately, noting that prioritizing gender equality is a choice that all should make. Beate Andres, Director of ILO’s New York office, recognized the importance of an intersectional approach and how gender equality and women and girls’ well-being are integral to a green and inclusive socio-economic recovery.

The session highlighted the interwoven nature of the crises and argued that transforming the economic systems that have precipitated these crises is essential to reduce inequalities, prioritize care for people over profit, and bring about a gender-just, sustainable future.

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