Closing remarks by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, to the 63rd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City

Date: Friday, March 22, 2019

[As delivered]

Thank you very much for your hard work, your dedication, and the priority that you have placed on improving social protection, public services and sustainable infrastructure for women and girls. I’m glad that we have been able to finish before midnight, because today is World Water Day—a perfect day to remind us of the 2.1 billion people who still lack safe water at home. Today you agreed to try even harder to solve this problem and others.

I thank the Chair for your leadership, your friendship and your support, and for creating an enabling environment that made these negotiations succeed this week. Thank you, Vice Chair, for all your support to the delegations as well as to the Bureau. And I especially want to thank the facilitator, Ambassador Koki Muli Grignon, without whom we would not have completed this complex process. I also thank you for being able to continue to function under pressure and the unprecedented attacks on you. Truly, it tells us that women are very strong. Koki, thank you so much.

I also want to thank each delegate who was here from capital, from missions, and all the people who supported you, for all the hard work, the long hours, the sleepless nights, the concentration, and the manner in which you sat here toiling for the women and girls of the world.

I thank my team, led by Christine Brautigam, who gave such valuable support. They too spent sleepless nights; I sometimes could not understand how they were still able to concentrate and focus when they had not slept the previous night. I also want to thank all the UN Women staff who contributed directly and indirectly to supporting this team in their different ways.

As you know, the work did not only start with the negotiations. The week before, all of you were busy in the commissions, discussing passionately, sharing ideas and lessons learnt. Thank you for that work too, because as we leave here, we are richer with ideas and new possibilities of what could be done to improve the status of women and girls.

This year was very special because of the number of young women and young people who participated. They made their presence felt with contributions of high quality. I want to thank the delegations who made it possible for many of those young people to be here. This investment will have a high rate of return, I promise you.

With the Agreed Conclusions you have given us the possibility to take the work forward, to make sure that we address the discrimination that may be suffered by women and girls in every part of the world, whether because they are disabled, because of their sexuality, because they are human rights activists, or because of poverty.

The Agreed Conclusions, even though not everybody got everything they wanted, give us enough to take home, to work and to take further the work of improving the quality of life of women and girls.

You were able to tell us what to do about policies and laws, and about data and ensuring that we are evidence-based in our work. You were also able to tell us what we can do in order to make sure that the productivity and economic viability of women’s work in the formal and the informal sectors are also taken forward.

We are living in a world where we have the largest number of young people ever. This Commission is definitely one that can address the needs of young people, today and in the future. We must never miss that opportunity.

I appreciate, with respect, the way delegations had repeatedly to go back to agreed language to ensure that we facilitate consensus and to proceed. However, we also need to look forward and to leapfrog ahead, ensuring that we constantly add new, bold language that can take us significant steps forward. That balance will always be important.

I thank you for the support that you have shown to Ambassador Koki after these unacceptable incidents of cyberbullying. This has no place in the UN. It is important that we keep a high level of civility amongst ourselves. It is also important that the collegial engagement that we have established is upheld, because this is what makes this truly a special place to be in and to engage. If we lose that, we take away one of the most important instruments that makes multilateralism what it is. So, thank you for the support, and the fact that you have been unanimous in your condemnation.

This work that you have agreed to will cost money. Please ask your ministers of finance to invest generously in support and in the work of women and girls. As we prepare for next year’s Commission, and as we prepare to note not only what we have done in the last 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action, but where we want to be in the next 25 years, I know that you will be the greatest ambassadors for this agenda.

We look forward to sitting with you next year. Thank you, thank you for everything that you do.