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Statement by H. E. Mr. Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia at the Fifty-Eighth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women


Panel Discussion on „Accountability and participation of women and girls in the implementation of the MDGs“

Financing for gender equality

Excellences, distinguished members of delegations and civil society, Ladies and Gentlemen,


This year we have reached the 20th anniversary of the Cairo Programme of Action on population and development, and next year we have the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. Both of these anniversaries signify important milestones in the agenda for women’s empowerment. We are also approaching the 2005 World Summit’s Millennium Development Goals’ target year of 2015 and should evaluate what has been achieved in this regard and what remains to be done with regards to the post-2015 agenda.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


Gender equality is a goal that can only be achieved with a good toolbox for which we need responsible policymaking and educated decisions combined with efficient global cooperation and joint efforts. Only then can we create a solid basis to enhance the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls, enhance access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, access to education, contribute to family planning and empower women and girls, tackle violence against women and girls, including domestic violence and violence in armed conflicts, to fight against impunity and create rehabilitation networks for victims. To be clear – Estonia stands firmly in support of all those issues and continues to enhance its contribution world-wide.


The main responsibility towards achieving MDGs and also future sustainable development goals should lie with the nation states and their governments. Often progress towards fulfilling these goals is not even a question of financial resources, but a question of policies. The effectiveness of the international community’s support and official development assistance is much higher in those partner countries, where the public institutions are capable, transparent and accountable, and where adequate policies are in place and implemented. The support from Estonia and our fellow EU member states remains significant, considering that currently the EU contributes more than half of the official development assistance worldwide.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to stress that gender should be mainstreamed into every policymaking and funding decision. Specific measures are of utmost importance, but a wider shift in a global society and in people’s minds can only be achieved by using the so-called “gender lens”. Gender equality markers should be used in policy-making, project proposals and their financing processes.  Taking gender into account in all fields that engage people will help us to achieve also the MDG-s.


It is also essential to make good use of strong public-private and non-governmental partnerships. Thereby I would like to give special attention to the initiatives related to education. Welcoming the Secretary General’s Global Education First Initiative, we have noticed and applaud the contributions and pledges by the private sector. Microsoft, Nestlé, Mastercard and many other partners around the world are making commitments to achieve the targets of the Initiative. We wish that there will be more such initiatives and cooperation with the private sector in the future.


Education is crucial for ending poverty, contributing to social integration and full employment. Studies have proved that for every year of primary education, a girl’s earnings increase by 5 to 15 per cent. Just one additional year of secondary schooling boosts girls’ future earning potential by 15-25 percent. Similarly, in 2012 the World Bank found that eliminating discrimination against women in the workplace could boost worker productivity by up to 40%.


Supporting education and especially education for girls and women has also been and remains an important component of Estonian bi-lateral development assistance programs. Estonia has supported projects contributing to the quality of and access to education in countries like Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, but also in Yemen and Afghanistan. Besides projects to support general education, we have also supported vocational training and entrepreneurship education for women, as entrepreneurship remains one of the most important ways out from poverty.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


We shall take full advantage of the technological developments of the 21st century that create enormous possibilities to empower people, enable people to participate in decision making processes and enhance their living conditions.


Broader use of information and communications technology, bridging the digital divide and Internet freedom are at the heart of a new and sustainable global society.


Dear friends,

To move forward I suggest the following for our discussion and possible future action:

  1. The cooperation between various authorities at the international and national level continues to be both necessity and a challenge. Estonia is a strong promoter of progress indicators which help us to evaluate the impact of our actions, the changes achieved as well as trends. More attention should be given to the qualitative change and development.

  2. Action needs resources and good results can be achieved when both the public and private sector contribute. With effective donor coordination, sometimes very little additional resources are required to implement the objectives set out in the Action Plans on a much larger scale.

  3. The twinning network of partner countries, wherein a donor country could support a partner country to develop its implementation capacities should be broadened. For example, within the UNSCR 1325 network, we have about 40 countries with NAP – it should be easy to double this number.

  4. Full use should be made of 21st century tools like the ICT and Internet to increase participation and empowerment of women and girls in our societies. There are many positive examples  how women have successfully used social media and online news platforms to various ends to enhance their living conditions: rallying support for reforms in the legal systems of states, gaining access to markets to expand economic opportunities, engaging constituencies to promote women’s participation and monitoring incidents to enhance safety. Bridging the digital divide is essential to achieve sustainable global society.

  5. Qualitative change is not only about addressing women and girls. It is also about men and boys. Suppression of women and girls, sexual and gender-based violence, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, early and forced marriages   – all these must remain in the past  and men and boys have an important role to play in achieving this. In this connection I would like to welcome the campaign “He for She”, launched last week by UN Women.

  6. I would also like to note that legal restrictions on sexual orientation and gender identity must be removed and sexual and reproductive health and rights must be recognized and promoted. I firmly believe that no culture or religion should be used as an excuse for violence against women and girls or for treating women and girls as subordinate members of society.

  7. I consider it to be of utmost importance that sustainable development goals will continue, now more through a human rights based approach, towards goals we set with the MDG’s. The SDG-s must be clearly defined with implementable and measurable goals and covered with sufficient resources.

  8. Education shall be on the frontline of attention and contributions as there is no future without education for all. Sustainable development goals must address post-primary education levels with forward-looking courage.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you, and I wish us a lively continuation of the discussion.


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