Development goals are gender goals

Natalia Cardona, Advocacy Coordinator, Social Watch

All the Millenium Development Goals are gender related. Lack of progress in achieving them do not just result from the external shocks and crises. It is a result of developed countries not meeting the commitment stated at MDG 8, to create global partnerships around trade, aid and debt and technology transfer. Social Watch advocates for long-term social development policies that truly encompass gender as a key step towards equality and increased human wellbeing.

Thirty one years ago, many of the governments of the world committed legally to women's rights by signing the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Sixteen years later the Beijing World Conference on Women adopted a comprehensive plan of action towards gender equality. And this September, the presidents and prime ministers of the world will meet in New York at the Millennium Development Goal Summit to assess a decade of anti-poverty efforts. They will discuss how to progress in spite of the tremendous challenge coming from multiple and overlapping crises on climate, food, energy, finances and the economy. The challenge is tremendous and it will take the combined efforts of men and women to take the next step towards eradication of poverty for both men and women.

In spite of some progress, the commitments made at the Beijing conference and CEDAW are far from being achieved. Gender equity is not yet fully implemented nor is it always a component of sustainable economic and social development programs. By any measure, including Social Watch's Gender Equity Index, there is urgent need of progress in this area. Social Watch members share a concern that governments are quick to sign on to international instruments but short on implementation. There is also a gap in gender legislation and its actual implementation. With the present global recession there is also a need to take stock of the progress made towards Internationally Agreed Development Goals including the MDGs and emerging issues.

Lack of progress in achieving the MDGs –which are all gender related- and growing poverty do not just result from the external shocks and crises. In times of crisis it is women who bear the brunt of decreased financing for development. It is women who have to juggle taking care of feeding their children and other family members in dire economic, and as social programmes are cut they take on the burden of unpaid labour. The poor have no cushions and reserves to cope with crises. Yet there is hardly any discussion about this. The same countries that cannot find money to fund development nevertheless quickly mobilised trillions of dollars to rescue failed banks and corporations. The sarcastic comment we often hear is that "if the poor were a bank, they would have been rescued."

Crises are not gender-neutral. The current economic and financial crisis has women's and children's faces. They affect women because they exacerbate already existing inequalities and highlight the negative effects on women and women dependent economies. Yet hardly any measures taken by the countries to tackle the crisis have highlighted the promotion of women's employment and livelihoods. Without employment promotion of women, poor women are bound to sink deeper into precarious work and into jobs with lower productivity, meagre incomes and lack of social protection. Many of them also become more vulnerable to trafficking and illegal jobs.

While tackling the present crises and protecting women from the worst forms of exclusion and exploitation, we also need to have long-term social development policies that truly encompass gender as a key step towards equality and increased human wellbeing. Social indicators always take twice as long to recover during crises -we have learned this from previous crises in Asia and Latin America- and there is a need for a better assessment of how those indicators are doing. In other words, economic growth is no longer a valid measurement of human wellbeing and achieving human rights.