Ghulam Isaczai’s opening remarks at the conference on engagement of Parliaments in advancing women health and gender equality in Eastern Partnership countries

On behalf of the United Nations family in Azerbaijan, let me also join others and extend my warm greetings and welcome you all especially those coming from far away places to this beautiful city of Baku.

I would like to thank the Azerbaijani Parliament for hosting today’s event and partnering with the United Nations, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Committee and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population in the organization of this event aimed at exploring the available mechanisms for prioritizing the SDGs 3 and 5 in the context of national legislative agenda by ensuring accountability and engagement during the implementation process.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The SDGs with its universal and all encompassing agenda is the best hope and opportunity for us to rid human kind from the scourges of poverty, save our planet and ensure social and economical justice.

The 2030 Agenda places people at the centre of the development process.

It calls on governments, parliaments and other stakeholders to design and deliver laws and programmes that meet the needs of the people, break down policy silos, uphold human rights, and leave no one behind.

But for this journey to be truly transformational, gender equality must be placed at the center of it.

There is growing consensus that gender equality is a driver and accelerator of progress across all development goals.

SDGs present an ambitious agenda, but it is achievable if there is the political commitment, financial resources and appropriate oversight mechanism to monitor its progress behind.  And here the role of the parliament in budgetary allocation and oversight is paramount.

I would like to applaud the Government of Azerbaijan particularly President Aliyev in demonstrating its political commitment to the SGD agenda at the highest level by establishing the National Coordination Council for Sustainable Development under the Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov. Since its establishment the Coordination Council has been very busy in attempting to put in place mechanisms and coordination structure for nationalization of the SDGs.

The Council prepared and successfully presented its first National Voluntary Report to the High Level Political Forum in NY in July this year.

We are pleased to see that one of main messages of Azerbaijan’s Voluntary National Report emphasizes gender equality as part of the national SDGs agenda.

The UN system is  proud to be a partner of choice for the Coordination Council and providing it with high level technical assistance and helping it to develop a national strategy for the achievement of the 2030 agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Azerbaijan has made good progress towards gender equality and some of which has historical roots.

Azerbaijan was the first Muslim Country to enfranchise women when it introduced Universal suffrage in 1918.

The first secular girls’ school and the first of such kind in the Russian Empire opened in Baku in 1901.

The country has a well-developed legislative base for protection of women’s rights.

The Constitution of Azerbaijan guarantees its citizens gender equality and freedom from all kinds of discrimination in all spheres of life.

National legislation stipulates equal rights of men and women to engage in all types of economic activity, inherit, own and sell property, receive bank loans and travel in and out of the country.

Azerbaijan also joined major international conventions on women’s rights  such as the CEDAW Convention.

While this progress is commendable, more can be done to improve the environment for women empowerment and gender equality.

For instance more women should be represented in leadership positions and decision-making level both in Government and the private sector. More women can be employed in the formal sector high paid jobs.

More robust measures should be taken to address gender stereotypes and discrimination that often leads to, early marriage, gender biased sex selection and violence against women.

Finally, gender issues should be mainstream across policies and programmes to ensure equal access to education, decent work, good standard of health care, representation in political and economic decision-making.

We believe the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is an effective way to address all these issues that I just outlined.

The Goals urges that no one be left behind. This means leaving no woman behind – anywhere.

The UN family in Azerbaijan is proud to be a partner with the Government in improving the legal framework concerning gender equality and gender based violence and discrimination.

The UN has advocated for the laws on the provisions of gender equality, combating domestic violence, equalization of minimum legal age for marriage.

It is also of equal importance that the related legal reforms are accompanied by the establishment of effective prevention, protection and referral mechanisms for empowering the women so that they can seek justice when their rights are violated.

And the role of national parliaments in this regard cannot be overstated since you represent the political power that is expected to respond to the growing need for improved accountability and service delivery to the population.

Your leadership and support is indispensable for effectively addressing the development challenges the country faces thus achieving inclusive and sustainable growth throughout the region. And I’m confident that this conference is a major step forward in this direction.

Making use of this opportunity I would like to renew our commitment to continue the efforts in partnership with the Government of Azerbaijan, the Parliament, the civil society and all other stakeholders concerned to remove any barriers to gender equality.

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September 2020
28 September / Monday
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