GENEVA, March 8, 2019  — Women’s leadership and equal participation in public affairs is a key element of democracy and a pre-requisite for achieving sustainable development, independent experts from the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (Committee) said today in Geneva in a joint statement with the Inter-Parliamentary Union on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

“Our societies will not enjoy human rights, peace, sustainable and inclusive development if women are excluded from playing an active role in leadership on an equal basis with men,” said Ms. Hilary Gbedemah, Chair of the Committee. As stated in the 1997 Universal Declaration on Democracy adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union “the achievement of democracy presupposes a genuine partnership between men and women in the conduct of the affairs of society”.

While there has been progress, globally only 7.2 per cent of Heads of State and 5.7 per cent of Heads of Government are women, and only 19.1 per cent of Speakers of parliament are women (IPU, Women in Politics 2017). Various impediments continue to hinder women’s equal participation and leadership in politics, including the lack of empowerment policies for women and girls, stereotyping, persistent discrimination against women in law and practice, harassment, intimidation and violence.

United Nations Member States have demonstrated their political commitment to equal the participation of women and men in public affairs and decision-making including through endorsing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, to name a few.

Women’s participation and equal opportunities for leadership are at the centre of the Member States’ commitments enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular goal 5. “In its landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, the United Nations Security Council stressed the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement at all levels and in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security,” the statement reads.

Among other measures outlined in today’s statement, Committee members and IPU urged Member States to ensure an equal number of women and men in leadership positions in all governance bodies, through transparent and fair processes, such as dual leadership and gender rotation in leadership positions.

“The antidote to strongman politics is women’s political empowerment. While some progress has been made in terms of women’s political participation and leadership despite many difficulties and some setbacks, progress in this area needs to be accelerated through specific policy and legal interventions. It is now time to turn talk into action” said Ms. Gbedemah.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women monitors States parties’ adherence to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which to date has 189 States parties. The Committee is made up of 23 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is the global organization of parliaments. It was founded in 1889 as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue between all nations. Today, the IPU comprises 178 national member parliaments and 12 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy, helps parliaments to become stronger, younger, gender-balanced, and more diverse. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a dedicated committee made up of MPs from around the world. Twice a year, the IPU convenes over 1500 delegates and MPs in a world assembly, bringing a parliamentary dimension to the work of the United Nations and the implementation of the 2030 global goals. More information available on

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