Your Excellency, Mr. Batbold, Prime Minister of Mongolia,
Vice Chair of the Mongolia National Committee on Gender Equality
Distinguished Members of Parliament from Asia and the Pacific
Representatives of Governments, of Civil Society, Academia and the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome. I feel privileged to address you at this very important conference.
At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister for his leadership in women’s issues and for his presence here today. I would like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation to the National Committee on Gender Equality for co-organizing this important forum. I would also like to thank the Global Programme for Electoral Cycle Support and especially the UNDP Asia-Pacific Regional Center in Bangkok for their very strong support in organizing this conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Globally, less than 16 percent of all ministers around the world are women. Only around 5 percent of all heads of state and of government are female. Although the global community agreed to achieve a Millennium Development Goals target of 30% percent women in decision making positions by the year 2015, no region in the world is on track to achieve that goal. Women still remain sidelined from the key governing bodies that determine political, economic and social priorities.
Some skeptics will ask:
“Does it really matter that women are poorly represented in politics?”
Yes it does. How can we talk about democracy and good governance, if half of the world’s population do not have a chance to voice their opinions? How can we talk about equality, if they do not have the opportunity to participate and influence political and economic decisions that shape their own lives? How can we talk about gender responsive policy making if there are no women among the policy makers?
It matters very much that women are better represented in politics. It matters to women. It should matter to anyone who values democracy and equal opportunities for all of humankind.
It also matters to all of us here today: women leaders, academics, activists, politicians and development partners who have gotten together from 18 different countries in this Conference to network and exchange thoughts and ideas on how to make a difference in women’s political participation.
The Conference offers us an opportunity to learn and debate:
• How men and women can support women candidates.
• Once elected, what parliaments can do to empower women members of parliament.
• How women have built political careers outside the traditional and formal systems of support.
• The very important role of political parties in promoting the empowerment of women.
This regional gathering also provides you the opportunity to share knowledge and draw on regional experiences to develop action plans and concrete steps for your own countries on how to increase women’s representation in elected bodies.
For Mongolia, this conference on women’s political participation is very timely. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June this year. Currently, with only 3 seats among 76 in its Khural occupied by women, Mongolia is way behind the global average of 20% women represented in parliament.
Strong steps have been taken to improve the situation. The recently approved election law includes a 20% quota for women candidates by political parties. This is very positive.
But, the real test is the actual election results. Political parties need to embrace women candidates and need to actively promote them. Women candidates need the means to access and pass their messages to their electorate. Ideally, finances should not be an obstacle. Nor should cultural norms. We sincerely hope that this conference will bring the much needed public awareness and political support that Mongolian women need to enter the Parliament this year and any other public office in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Without access to established networks of influence, limited resources, few role models and mentors, and in many cases limited family and community support, it is understandable that women’s participation in the political arena has remained woefully behind that of men. As the United Nations, we are keen to help reverse that.
While our conference is an important step towards charting a path for political equality in Asia, the real work begins in your home countries by encouraging women to step forward and take their rightful place in decision-making. We hope that this meeting will provide you the information and the networks that you will need in that next step. In moving forward, UNDP remains committed to working with all of you to empower women and increase their political participation.
In ending, on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme, I warmly welcome you to Mongolia and wish you all a pleasant stay and fruitful discussions over the next two days.