76th Session of the UN General Assembly: Address by Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand at the SDG Action Zone Opening Session, 23 September

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

E ngā mana, e ngā reo

To all peoples of the world, all speakers, and all the people here

Tēnā koutou katoa

Greetings to you all

I bring warm greetings in Te Reo Māori, language of the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

I am honoured to participate in this opening plenary session of the SDG Action Zone – and the theme of gender equality is close to my heart.

New Zealand is a long-standing champion for the rights of women and girls in all their diversity. We were the first country where women won the right to vote, and we have been fortunate to have many outstanding women leaders guiding our nation.

But we cannot rest while significant hurdles to gender equality remain both at home and abroad – and at a time when women’s leadership is more crucial than ever.

The world is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, natural disasters, conflict and fragility. Inequalities within and between countries have deepened. Our health systems, our economies, our livelihoods have been hit hard.

These global crises have exacerbated structural inequalities that impact our most vulnerable communities, including women and girls.

Hard won gains have been lost and more than 120 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty.

The rate of gender-based violence in all corners of the world has increased significantly. It is being called the ‘shadow’ pandemic.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights - which have long been under-prioritised and under-resourced, have suffered globally.

As the world has watched the escalating crisis unfold in Afghanistan, I am deeply worried about Afghan women and girls - their rights to education, work and freedom of movement. New Zealand urges people in positions of power and authority in Afghanistan to protect these rights, and prevent any form of discrimination and abuse.

These ongoing crises demand collective global action grounded in the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure no one is left behind in our response and recovery.

In times of crisis, conflict and fragility, women are often the first responders. Only by fully – and meaningfully – including women and girls in leadership and decision-making at all levels, can we ensure our responses to these events meet the needs of everyone.

We must also actively consider how our national responses to crises - including our actions to stimulate economic recovery, can increase social and economic inclusion and not exacerbate existing inequalities. It is fundamental to ensure cash payments and social protection services are weighted towards vulnerable groups including women and girls.

We must also do more to support women-led businesses, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, to be part of economic recovery, so they can more readily experience the benefits of trade. Trade can improve women’s lives, creating new jobs, enhancing consumer choice, and increasing women’s bargaining power in society.

This year New Zealand is hosting APEC 2021. One of our priorities is Increasing Inclusion and Sustainability for Recovery. Through this work New Zealand will continue to focus on strengthening women’s economic empowerment, as well as expanding this to highlight and progress indigenous economic inclusion.

New Zealand is a country with a vision of equality - that all people regardless of race, gender, disability, religion, identity or other characteristic, should have the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Peaceful societies must be inclusive societies where diversity is embraced and everyone has both the means and the opportunities to reach their potential. Where vulnerable groups, including women and girls in all their diversity, are able and encouraged to exercise their voice and agency.

Gender equality is at the heart of global economic and social progress. While we have made great strides – significant challenges remain.

Let us work together to redouble our efforts to achieve gender equality – to make the path easier for the women and girls who follow us, and to shape a more equal and inclusive future for generations to come.

Mā te mahi tahi, ka ora ai, whakapuāwaitia e tātou katoa

By working together great things can be achieved

Thank you.


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