Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls – Gaps & Lessons Learned – CSW 58

Commission on the Status of Women – Fifty-Eighth Session, Panel 1


Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls – Gaps & Lessons Learned

Moderator: Ms. Christine Löw, Vice-Chair of the Commission (Switzerland)

Panelists: Chrispine Gwalawala Sibande (Malawi), Senior Policy Advisor, Ipas Malawi, Ms. Ursula Schäfer-Preuss (Germany), Chair, Global Water Partnership, Ms. Radhika Balakrishnan (USA), Executive Director, Center for Women’s Global Leadership, Rutgers University, Ms. Virginia Gomes (Portugal), Member and Rapporteur, United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ms. Isabel Ortiz, Director, Social Protection Department, International Labor Organization.

Major themes and Discussion:


1) The MDGs failed to take into consideration a human rights framework in the accomplishment of their outcomes

  • Human rights principles must be central to the achievement of MDGs, SDGs and the post-2015 agenda. Acceptable human rights standards should be used in achieving outcomes. For instance, mandatory testing of women for HIV violates their right to bodily integrity and autonomy
  • Several international human rights agreements provide the necessary framework and ethical basis for the achievement of the MDGs for women and girls. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),  International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • UN conferences have provided critical platforms to embed human rights priorities in the development agenda: Rio, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing

2) The MDGs are not en-gendered

  • En-gendering the MDGs would have implied mainstreaming a gender dimension that should result in equal rights and equal opportunities for women through the achievement of all the MDGs and not only MDG 3, and MDG 5
  • In MDG 1, for example, we know that more women than men fall below the poverty line and that the depth of poverty is greater for extremely poor women. Women face greater difficulties in accessing land and other livelihood resources and that they carry the disproportionate burden of unpaid care work.  Yet, in MDG 1, there is no indication of the gender dimensions of poverty
  • The MDGs also failed to include other key areas within the women’s rights agenda, including violence against women, sexual and reproductive health and rights, women, peace and security issues
  • The MDG framework does not recognize discrimination and inequality as factors that have led  to rural communities, the poorest households and ethnic minorities being left behind
  • There is no guarantee that achieving MDG goals and targets improve living conditions for the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups

3) MDGs lack an enabling environment

  • Their achievement has been challenged by global economic policies
  • The 2015 agenda has to be designed in an environment that reduces the disparity between the agenda’s goals and macroeconomic, trade development and investment polices and fiscal policies
  • Governments must mobilize the maximum available resources to meet human rights obligations. This means governments must review all sources of revenue including tax revenue
  • Appropriate financial regulation should be put in place so that women’s rights do not retrogress due to a global, national crises or austerity phases
  • States that are parties to the ICESCR are also under a “minimum core” obligation to ensure the satisfaction of, at the very least, “minimum essential levels of each of the rights” in the ICESCR. Even in times of severe resource constraints, states must ensure that rights are fulfilled for vulnerable members of society
  • A consistent approach to the participation of rights holders, including the right to information, freedom of expression, assembly and association, and the accountability of duty-bearers is imperative for women who face negative traditional cultural and behavioral stereotypes that often make their informed participation impossible
  • Focusing on the duty-bearers will provide accountability at multiple intersecting levels – local, national, regional and international creating an enabling environment for the MDGs

4) Future achievements can benefit from reviewing best practices

  • Since 2002 German Development Cooperation has supported Cambodia and especially the Ministry of Women´s Affairs (MOWA) in putting policies and strategies in place to substantially reduce gender-based violence. One of the main achievements was the Law on Prevention of Domestic Violence that was passed by the Parliament in 2005
  • EU Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women´s Empowerment in Development (2010-2015)
  • Germany in the MENA region, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia – “Economic Integration of Women in the MENA Region” focuses on gender inequalities and gender stereotypes at the workplace, media campaigns with public and private stakeholders

4) Gender Equality is under-funded

  • In 2012 official development assistance (ODA) stood at $126 billion presenting a decline in allocable aid. Aid for gender equality = $22 billion
  • There is an urgent need to channel more funds towards women’s political and economic empowerment
  • Limited funding for women’s rights and gender equality is a crucial factor restraining the achievement of the MDGs for women and girls

5) Women have been the most affected by the global recession

  • Women have been most affected by  unemployment, underemployment, wage cuts, reduced benefits, decreased demand for migrant workers, lower remittances, lack of assets and credit, higher food, fuel and medicine prices
  • Governments have cut back on social protections such as healthcare and employment


Conclusions- Going forward, we need to:

  • Embed the MDGs in a human rights framework
  • Look at all MDGs through a gender lens and apply the principles of gender-mainstreaming to all MDGs and the 2015 agenda
  • Collect better data (disaggregated)
  • Build accountability into all actions
  • Have gender-responsive budgeting


Submitted by

Geeta Desai,

Advocacy Convener, WG-USA,

GWI Membership Committee