Speech

Prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's speech at MDG3 konferencen on Economic Empowerment of Women, 17 April 2008 in Copenhagen

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Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me first thank you all for coming together here in Copenhagen to discuss a subject of vital importance - the Empowerment of Women. Gender equality is a basic human right. But it is also smart economics. It is one of the most important driving forces behind economic growth and the fight against poverty.

Political commitment to gender equality and empowerment takes more than words. It takes concrete actions and priority of resources.

A recent World Bank Report clearly states that there is a substantial resource gap between a solution to the challenge and the current efforts. It estimates that a doubling of resources is needed in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on gender equality – MDG3 - and thus promoting empowerment of fifty percent of the world’s population.

We need to invest more in gender equality. The developing countries must use the resources needed to achieve this goal. But we need to increase the development assistance targeted at women. Denmark has committed itself to double its assistance focused on gender equality from year 2008 to 2010.

It is a great pleasure for me to stand here today with the President of Liberia Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to announce a strong MDG3 partnership between our two countries. Liberia is a shining example of a new leadership asserting itself in Africa. And a brilliant example of women as frontrunners in the reform processes on the African continent.

I am pleased to announce that Denmark will contribute 100 million Danish Kroner in the coming 3 years in support of Liberia’s poverty strategy. The focus will be on economic empowerment of women. The ambition is that the Danish contribution should be scaled up and replicated by other bilateral donors and multilateral organizations. We invite other donors – governments, multilaterals and the private sector – to contribute to the initiative.

The ambition is to promote Liberia as a MDG3 pilot country and demonstrate that change is an option. That true gender equality can be achieved. If we succeed in Liberia, it will be a positive example to many of Africa’s fragile countries. We must seize this opportunity – provided under the strong leadership of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

In many countries, gender gaps are considerable. To bridge these gaps takes leadership. All actors must engage to bring about change. It demands dedicated efforts from the highest level in governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society. We need to invest both politically and financially. The international community committed itself when we agreed on MDG3. We must stay committed to see results.

What are the priorities? Well, the ‘to do’ list is long:

First and foremost we must ensure the establishment of a level playing field that increases women’s economic opportunities. Therefore: We must increase women’s access to quality employment: - to high-value agriculture, - to business opportunities, - to land and resources, credit, technology - and to essential infrastructure such as transport, water and energy.

On top of that we need to focus on the women of tomorrow. We must ensure that young girls get the opportunity not only to be enrolled in the schools – but also to complete their education. The new generation of women should be given the means to plan their own future, to make their own choices.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Today’s conference marks the Launch of a MDG3 Global call to action.

Women are development multipliers. To invest in the empowerment of women is an investment in – not only one – but all of the Millennium Development Goals.

We must bring forward the message that gender equality is not a supplement to other development goals. It is pointed out that gender equality should be ‘mainstreamed’ into other development initiatives. It sounds very nice. But unfortunately it often means that nothing happens.

To achieve better results empowerment of women and a special call to the MDG3 goals should be placed at the center stage as a goal in itself.

To ensure that empowerment of women and gender equality is kept at the forefront of the development efforts at all levels and by all actors, we propose to initiate a Global Coalition of governments, international organizations, private sector actors and civil society.

The Coalition is committed to make the MDG3 goals a key issue on the way to 2015. And it stands ready to be held accountable for efforts towards the achievement of gender equality and empowerment.

The coalition should work for: - substantial increase in resources to gender equality and women’s empowerment; - strong accountability in the MDG3 efforts at both international and national levels; and - active involvement by the private sector.

At this conference, we should focus on how to create economic options for women that put poverty reduction on a faster track.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I encourage all of you present here today to “do something extra” – to invest in the women of today and the women of tomorrow. Because it pays off.

My ambition and that of the Danish Government is to establish a strong Global MDG3 Coalition in the run up to the UN high level meeting on 25th September in New York.

Denmark will host a side event at the New York meeting. The outcome should be a strong signal of genuine commitment to MDG3 and the empowerment of women across the world.

It is my sincere hope that our discussions will stimulate further concrete actions and commitments by the different actors present here today.

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Thank you very much.