Credit: UN Women

What To Expect From the UN’s Generation Equality Forum On Gender Equality

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of people from around the world will gather in Paris and online for UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum to kick off five years of action toward gender equality.

According to organizers, the Forum is the “most significant global feminist movement since 1995, when leaders gathered in Beijing to launch the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.” Co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France, the three-day event will address the gaps from the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, slow progress toward Sustainable Development Goal 5 (gender equality), the rest of the SDGs and new challenges created by the pandemic.

“What we’re trying to do…is to say, ‘Enough! Gender equality can’t wait. It’s not a sideline issue, it’s actually at the heart of achieving global equality, sustainable economies and peaceful and prosperous societies,’” Michelle Milford Morse, Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy at the UN Foundation, said at a media event.

The June 30 to July 2 event was supposed to take place last year, but was postponed because of the pandemic. It was preceded in March by a kickoff event in Mexico City.

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The Generation Equality Forum is inspired by the Paris Agreement. It will get government leaders, intergovernmental agencies, philanthropies, the private sector, and civil society to make bold commitments toward gender equality over the next five years. Those commitments include policy, budget and legal changes, the implementation of new, groundbreaking programs, and – perhaps most importantly – financial commitments.

Milford Morse says that gender equality has been “historically and dramatically underfunded for years.” And lack of funding, according to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, is a big reason why the world has struggled to implement the aims that were adopted in Beijing 26 years ago.

As of two weeks ago, stakeholders have made more than 1,000 substantive commitments, Mlambo-Ngcuka said at the media event, and organizers expect the financial pledges to exceed $1 billion.

Presentations and discussions at the Generation Equality Forum will also form a “blueprint” that lays out exactly how the world can achieve SDG 5 and the Platform for Action that was adopted at the Beijing conference. Those discussions will center on six “action coalitions,” addressing gender-based violence, economic justice and rights, feminist action for climate justice, feminist movements and leadership, bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights, and technology and innovation for gender equality.

Additionally, youth activists and voices will be prominently featured at the Generation Equality Forum.

“We called it Generation Equality, because we figured this is the generation that has to make the changes that need to happen. From the oldest person to the youngest person, we are all in this thing together,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “But we particularly need to position young people at the center of this, because they have the possibility to walk much faster and much further than all of us.”

The Forum will launch on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. with an in-person and livestreamed opening ceremony in Paris. Up to 250 guests will attend the ceremony, including heads of state, government and UN agencies, private sector representatives and civil society leaders. That will be followed by two and a half days of virtual programming, including nearly 100 events with around 800 speakers from all regions and sectors.

As of two weeks ago, 20,000 people were already registered for the event. The organizers are hoping for at least 50,000 registrants.

“[The Forum is] a once-in-a-decade opportunity to gather the world to finally push for progress that we need on gender equality, to revitalize the global women’s movement, and to set us on a course toward something fairer and better for all of humankind,” said Milford Morse.