UN International Conference on Financing for Development

18 March 2002, Monterrey, Mexico


Co-Chairs, President Fox, Ambassadors Jacoby and Ahmad, Distinguished Ministers, Delegates, Colleagues and Friends,

Thank you for this opportunity to address this international Conference on Financing for Development. This conference provides an ideal opportunity for the creation of an international financial system based on the values of economic democracy, transparency, accountability, and the inclusion and empowerment of all people. The United Nations Millennium Summit provided the international community with a clear set of development goals that now need financial support. It set targets for monitoring the commitments of the 1990s. These commitments are so vital because they represent a vision of a world freer from want, freer from fear. We are here in Monterrey, to meet a challenge: to ensure that this vision is made into a reality. We are here to ensure that resources follow the rhetoric.

I have just returned from Afghanistan, from an extraordinary national consultation with Afghan women who are helping to rebuild their communities and country. Their task is enormous; the level of devastation and poverty is immense. But the experience was an inspiration, because women in Afghanistan are determined to show the world that we need to break from gender blindness in our development approaches and in our resource allocation. I would like to use this an example for us here in Monterrey. We need to be constantly aware of the fact that the people who have the most at stake in economic and financial decisions made at the highest levels, are often not at the table. There is a terrible cost to their exclusion.

This conference can make a difference if the conference processes and outcomes reflect gender equality as a core development goal. This conference can make a difference if it provides the financial framework to back the Millennium Declaration’s “resolve to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable.”

Gender inequalities inhibit a country’s development through imposing a high cost on a nation’s quality of living by hindering productivity, effectiveness and progress. Distortions in the family as well as in the economy limit women’s access to resources, productive activities and participation. They create the feminization of poverty and violence. Any meaningful development requires the removal of major sources of “unfreedom” including institutional arrangements that deny people the means of expanding their opportunities and increasing their capabilities. This conference provides the opportunity to place renewed emphasis on the inclusion and participation of women and their perspectives in the shaping of development outcomes.

So what do women want? We want institutions to be monitored and economic policies to be evaluated in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals, especially the halving of absolute poverty and the eradication of feminized poverty. We want a world freer from want, freer from fear. More specifically, women want the following to be prioritized and appropriately resourced:

1) Improving women’s skills, expanding their access to and control over productive resources. Women and children comprise the majority of the marginalized and impoverished. Poverty eradication needs to address the issue of feminized poverty.

Women’s heavy burden of poverty is not simply an individual or solely a women’s concern. Women’s impoverishment has implications for the family and for the generational transfer of poverty along female lines as girls are pulled out of schools into the care economy. Women want the implementation of mechanisms that expand their access to and control over public as well as private financial flows, including but not limited to micro-credit, and other productive inputs such as land and intellectual property rights. Women want the removal of legal and institutional barriers to their full participation in the productive sectors of the economy.

2) Re-assessment of benefits and costs that result from domestic and international policies. Women’s unpaid and under-valued work and their health situation are often “hidden costs” that prevent achieving sustainable development goals. This has created not only resource poverty but also time poverty for women. They therefore want adequate public financial and institutional support for the care needs of communities and families, and greater partnership with men as care providers. They want the care economy to be taken into account in financial decision-making and structural adjustment policies.

3) Greater participation in economic decision-making. The Monterrey Consensus affirms the need for greater coordination of the UN system to “mainstream the gender perspective into development policies.” We want a commitment of adequate financial and technical assistance to incorporate a thorough analysis of gender impacts and women’s perspectives in the wider financing for development agenda.

Women affirm the Conference’s support for gender budget analyses, focusing on both revenue and expenditure and carried out at national, provincial and local levels. UNIFEM is working with governments, civil society organizations and within the UN system to ensure the implementation of the Beijing commitment to incorporate a gender perspective into the design, development, adoption and execution of all budgetary processes. Promoting equitable and effective resource allocation to support gender equality and women’s empowerment is clearly part of financing for development.

Women also affirm that Official Development Assistance (ODA) is a powerful tool to promote sustainable development, gender equality and human rights. It is vital for donor countries to set timetables and raise ODA levels while ensuring it directly targets women and the poor. Gender budget analysis has produced innovative and effective methods for highlighting where resources are going and how effective they are in matching policy goals. I would like to call for gender budget analysis to be applied to official development assistance, within the international financial institutions as well as among donor countries. The UN Secretary General proposed a doubling of the current levels of ODA as a reasonable target. Women support this proposal.

Women are also calling for a re-thinking of the conditions for trade and foreign investment to contribute to development goals. The Monterrey Consensus acknowledges that FDI has the “potential” to do great things, including transfer technology and stimulate economic growth. But we know that technology and growth alone do not result in either sustainable development or gender equality. The terms under which foreign capital enters the country and trade takes place plays a significant role in determining whether such flows will contribute to development goals.

Women therefore want an establishment of a more comprehensive framework of impact and inter-linkages between international trade and incentives, distortions and inefficiencies in the domestic economy, as well as the differential impact on men and women. They want an assessment of the effects of trade liberalization by sector, so that we can take proactive measures to protect workers in declining sectors while preparing employees and entrepreneurs to take advantage of new economic prospects emerging from the expansion of growth sectors. They want the removal of institutional barriers that prevent women from accessing domestic gains from international trade, including reform of formal lending and banking procedures and also customary laws restricting women’s full economic participation. They want gender sensitive employment policies and childcare provisions (ie. that the inseparable relationship between the formal economy and the care economy). They want the implementation of a binding universal code of conduct for foreign direct investment and TNCs with emphasis on overall employment conditions and business ethics as well as ecological concerns.

In many developing countries, external debt burdens not only hamper efforts to increase economic growth, they also stunt human development and exacerbate social inequalities. The enforced prioritization of debt repayments over funding for social sectors by governments means that women are often forced to shoulder the devastating effects of adjustment policies. Women therefore ask that debt cancellation for highly indebted poor countries proceed with human development as a precondition for development and gender equality as a central component of human development. They want new loan negotiating procedures that ensure that future development loans are incurred only under conditions of transparency and accountability. They want to ensure that the gains from new loans are equitably distributed throughout the population.

In closing, I would like to stress that the financing for development process presents an ideal opportunity for a more systematic approach to  poverty reduction, social and gender equality, sustainable ecological development. We have an opportunity today to set out precisely how, in what time frames and with what appropriate benchmarks development based on transparency, accountability and equality can be embedded throughout the international and national financial systems and monitored for its effect on human progress. There is no turning back if we want a safer world for our children.