Balance and RESURJ Delivered Intervention During High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at UN

Oriana Lopez from Balance and RESURJ delivered an intervention during the 1st session of High Level Political (HLPF) on Sustainable Development at the United Nations in New York. She spoke on behalf of the Women’s Major Group (WMG) on the session of where we stand at year one since the adoption of the Sustainable Developments Goals (September 2015) and on the theme of ‘Ensuring that no one is left behind: Envisioning an Inclusive world in 2030.

Her statement highlights the WMG’s priorities and recommendations for addressing systemic drivers of inequalities that hindering sustainable development, gender equality and the fulfillment of human rights.


Thank you for giving me the floor. My Name is Oriana Lopez and I speak on behalf of the Women’s Major Group.

At year one we remain hopeful with the potential of the SDGs but concerned with the slow pace of identifying and responding to shortfalls in implementation of policies; addressing the systemic issues that negatively affect the lives and lived realities of all girls and women of all ages; and identifying and respond to new and emerging challenges related to governance of the all SDGs across all three dimensions.

Economic, Political and Social systemic barriers to sustainable development happens within systems of institutionalized patriarchy, racism, and oppression that maintain and reinforce intersecting structures of inequalities. Ideologies that rigidly limit opportunities, participation and autonomy for some members of the population cause whole groups of people to be ‘left behind.’

Systemic drivers of inequality play out in diverse ways in different context and always contribute to magnifying exploitation and exclusion. Let’s take Fundamentalisms as a systemic barrier – whether cultural, religious, political or economic – ascribe rigid beliefs about the roles and value of different groups of people. In doing so fundamentalist beliefs commonly focus on women’s bodies, sexuality and decisions. When these ideologies shape policies and laws, women, sexually and gender diverse groups, single or unmarried women, women human rights defenders are ‘left behind.”

Systemic drivers of inequality are also contributing to new and emerging trends and challenges that will have an impact on our ability to implement the 2030 Agenda and have specific effects on women and girls. These include the increasing feminisation of agriculture; evolving global public health emergencies and vector borne diseases; the impacts of climate and of development and infrastructure undertaken in the frame of “green economy/green growth” on land and resource distribution, particularly on small and subsistence farmers (many of whom are women), indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities and rural communities; the widening of inequalities as a result of economic, trade and investment rules that conflict with both Agenda 2030 and the UN Charter among others global agreements aimed at promote human rights and sustainable development.

One example for this is what is happening with the Zika virus in Latin America, and specially in Brazil, where it’s very clear that the greatest impact is on poor women living in neglected areas where safe water, sanitation, and access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights are not a reality for them. Another example of deepening inequalities, exploitation and exclusion is the digitisation of cities under the ‘smart city’ focus in rapidly growing economies like China, Nigeria, India, Brazil and South Africa brings risk of leaving behind newly arrived migrants; girls and women of all ages; indigenous peoples; people of color, youth and children; the elderly; the disabled; LGBT and gender non-conforming; and the historically subjugated and ‘invisible’ communities, who may not have access to appropriate technologies or the ability to participate on an equal basis with others.

The scope and scale of violence against women and girls is not captured adequately in most countries – and therefore not addressed. The severity and extent of injuries, and the different forms of violence women and girls experience, including instances of femicide, is often lacking. In addition, the data that is collected is often incomplete. For example, the Demographic Household Survey (DHS), collects data only among women of reproductive age, between 15 and 49. This means that no woman 50+ who suffers from domestic violence, or girl under the age of 15 who experiences abuse, for example, is counted. They remain invisible.

Qualitative and quantitative disaggregated data, including by gender, is required to identify the gender gaps in resourcing and move away from tokenistic implementation of strategies by governments towards gender inclusion, equality and well-being. Data is currently lacking and incomplete for many of the SDG Goals and targets and we have an incomplete picture of how women and girls are being impacted by the various issues the SDGs address. How do we make sure we address the data gap, especially in going beyond already existing data?

We really need to tackle the systemic barriers and challenge the current development paradigm that has such a strong corporate influence. As state sovereignty and policy making power has been diminished and increasingly handed to the private sector, no corresponding system to ensure regulation and accountability of the private sector has emerged. Leaving no one behind, calls for accountability mechanisms and reparations for human rights violations and environmental degradations caused by unsustainable development practices – such as the extractive industry.

Leaving no one behind is something that will not happen only by repeating the phrase over and over within these walls – we need to see inclusive policy and action at the local level that supports the participation of women and girls in all their diversity and women’s rights organizations.