Statement on the Agenda Item 3: Annual Report of the Executive Director at the UN Women Executive Board Virtual Annual Session

U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 22, 2020

As Submitted for the Record

We thank the Executive Director for her report on the UN Women 2018-2021 Strategic Plan.

The United States will contribute $10 million in voluntary funding to UN Women for the 2020 fiscal year with the intent to collaborate on agendas that enjoy consensus across Member States.  These resources are to be specifically used to: promote women’s economic empowerment; prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls, including by strengthening judicial, legislative, and enforcement institutions; and advance the women, peace, and security agenda.

The United States has been a long-standing contributor to UN Women and the largest contributor to global health, security, and humanitarian assistance for more than a half century, saving lives all over the planet. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have truly mobilized as a nation to combat the virus, both at home and abroad, committing more than $12 billion for the international COVID-19 response. As a core component of our response and recovery, the United States and the American people continue to promote equality, empowerment, and opportunity for women and girls around the world. We look forward to partnering with UN Women to advance this shared goal.

UN agencies should maintain focus on these core, shared efforts while also addressing the serious challenges facing women and girls due to COVID-19. The pandemic has caused major disruptions in the workplace, increased intimate partner violence, and placed a disproportionate burden of care on women.  We also call on UN Women to facilitate policy approaches that are data-driven and based on the priorities of women who are most in need of support.

There is a strong basis for coordinated action on these shared areas, which coincide with several of UN Women’s overarching objectives. They remain among the most critical needs for women and girls around the world.

The United States, however, has grown increasingly frustrated with recent UN Women initiatives that appear to be motivated more by certain political agendas rather than the real and urgent needs of real women. To this end, there are several areas of the Executive Director’s report which the United States does not support.

The United States defends human dignity, supports access to high-quality health care for women and girls across the natural lifespan, and believes in legal protections for the unborn. First, we do not support the insertion of agendas or new terms that stray outside of negotiated consensus reached by Member States within the ICPD Programme of Action and its report, or the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as adopted by the General Assembly. In the Executive Director’s report references (para. 4) to “a pushback against women’s rights, including against sexual and reproductive health and rights” is not only unsupported by facts, but is also an inappropriate assertion of “rights” that do not exist. This term does not enjoy international consensus, is not found within either ICPD or Beijing, and is a term that deems access to abortion as essential. As was made clear in the consensus reached by member states with the ICPD Programme of Action, there is no international right to abortion, nor is abortion recognized as a method of family planning. There is, moreover, no duty on the part of States as donors and recipients to finance or facilitate abortion. Each nation has the sovereign right to implement programs and activities in support of women’s health consistent with their own laws and policies.

Second, the report states that UN Women supports CEDAW implementation (para. 17).  The United States has not ratified the Convention and expects that UN Women will respect the sovereignty and legitimate prerogatives of Member States when engaged in this area of work.

Lastly, the report describes UN Women’s launch and support for the Generation Equality initiative (para. 7 and elsewhere).  The United States does not support the use of the Generation Equality campaign to alter the consensus we worked tirelessly to reach at Beijing twenty-five years ago. Despite the Member State consensus reached twenty-five years ago in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, not all commitments have been achieved by the international community. These commitments should continue to be the main accelerators to achieve equality between women and men and any change to these priorities must be as a result of a formal negotiation among Member States.

We categorically reject efforts by a self-appointed and narrowly drawn group of activists to overturn and supplant the delicate consensus reached by Member States at Beijing and to circumvent the multilateral process that supports global progress for women. We have repeatedly urged UN Women to address the serious problem.

We continue to be a stalwart defender of all women, men, children, and families and support programs to improve their health, life, dignity, and well-being.

Thank you.