AGF-VIII Gender Forum On Gender Equality, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa - Closing Remarks by Mr. Aurelien A. Agbenonci The United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative

02 Nov 2011

Check against Delivery

Minister For Gender and Family Promotion, Hon. Aloisea Inyumba,
Madam Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Practice Director, UNDP Democratic Governance Group;
Representatives of the African Union Commission
Representatives of the Regional Economic Communities
Officials of the Government of the Republic of Rwanda
My colleagues from the UN System
Resource persons and facilitators
Distinguished Experts
Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me a great pleasure to be with you this afternoon at the official closing of this important policy dialogue on “Gender Equality, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa”. Today marks the end of the two-day discussion on the relationship between democracy, elections and diversity management with special focus on gender equality in Africa with a view to informing institutional and policy reform at the regional and national levels.

First and foremost, I am particularly grateful to the Government of the Republic of Rwanda, through the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion for co-hosting this important forum.
As the Assistant Secretary General and the Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA) said in his keynote address yesterday, this Forum is both timely and pertinent to Africa’s governance agenda and UNDP/RBA’s regional programming in support of the consolidation of democratic and participatory governance on the continent. It forms part of the preparations for the Eighth African Governance Forum (AGF-VIII) scheduled to take place in 2012 under the theme “Democracy, Elections and the Management of Diversity in Africa”.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are a number of reasons why we support gender equality and in particular women’s increased political participation. First, because it is our collective mandate to support countries to achieve the MDGs. As you know, women’s political representation is one of the three indicators for tracking progress towards MDG 3. Equality of opportunity in politics is a human right. The Beijing Platform for Action commits world leaders to 30% target of seats for women in national parliaments. Despite progress in some countries, and a sterling record in Rwanda, the world has not yet reached the target.

Rwanda is leading the way as one of the few models for promoting gender equality in Africa and the world and all credit goes to the leadership of the country.

The second reason why we focus on increasing women’s political participation is to ensure that women’s interests are fairly represented in decision-making. In other words, increasing the numbers of women political leaders will assist us in achieving gender equality faster, and will also have positive development impacts.
While increasing numbers of women in decision making is essential, the significance of gender equality goes far beyond numbers as it has to manifest in the qualitative improvement of women’s lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, the third reason behind our collective focus on increasing women’s presence in legislatures is that women’s participation in political decision-making bodies has been shown to improve the quality of governance. There are studies that have found a positive correlation between women’s increased participation in public life and a reduction in the level of corruption.

It is also possible to use elections as a vehicle for promoting gender equality and Rwanda’s use of the Party-List Proportional Representation System combined with gender quotas is very instructive.

Over the last two days here in this beautiful city in the land of a thousand hills, we have been engaged in a constructive dialogue on how to assure and ensure gender equality from different perspectives. We have shared experiences and learned a great deal from each other. We have also proffered solutions for a way forward on how best to ensure that Africa achieves this noble goal. In my mind, one of the key highlights of this forum is the consensus that enhancing women’s participation in electoral processes would require mainstreaming gender throughout the electoral cycle.

Dear Colleagues,

Finally, on behalf of UNDP-Rwanda, I would like to acknowledge and congratulate the Government of Rwanda for their leadership role in support of gender equality and women’s empowerment. I would also like to acknowledge and commend the role played by all the partners and organizers of this forum. I am reliably informed that the objectives of this forum have been successfully achieved. It is our collective responsibility to continue to advocate and put into action the decisions and recommendations from this forum.