ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

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Inclusive governance and women’s leadership top EJS Center’s agenda during UNGA 78 side events

The recent 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) brought into focus the slow progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda. Held against a backdrop of mounting global challenges, the high-level meetings of this year’s session gathered leaders from around the globe to explore ways of advancing solutions that matter for people and the planet, including how to accelerate implementation of the SDGs.

With its own distinctive Goal – SDG5 – which cuts across the majority of the 17 SDGs, gender equality is central to the 2030 Agenda and creating a sustainable and equitable future. Gender equality is, as stated by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, at the General Assembly, “not a favor to women; it is fundamental to ensuring a better future for all.”

In public governance and leadership, gender equality is crucial for securing peace, prosperity, and the health of our planet. When women participate and lead in decision-making processes, they are able to develop inclusive and equitable policies that cater to the economic, social, and overall well-being of all members of society – as overwhelming evidence has shown.

The importance of inclusive governance for the Sustainable Development Agenda took center stage at UNGA 78. World leaders, activists, and a wide range of stakeholders stressed the transformative impact that gender equality can have on progress toward achieving the SDGs by the 2030 deadline, and highlighted the need to create an ecosystem of support for women in public leadership. 

The first UNGA side event, co-hosted by the EJS Center alongside partners the Ford Foundation, IDinsight, UNDP, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, delved into the circumstances of women’s participation in decision-making, both in Africa and across the globe, and explored ways to bridge the gender gap in public governance. They also reflected on how the EJS Center is working to create a movement of support for women in positions of power as they endeavor to promote democratic principles and advance sustainable solutions for their communities and nations. 

Looking at effective evidence-based strategies and investments to propel women’s public leadership forward, the ‘Achieving #GapZero: evidence-driven inclusive governance in Africa’ event explored the wider impact of parity in public governance on the local, national, and global level.

The event included a panel discussion that explored pathways toward evidence-driven inclusive governance in Africa. Setting the tone for the panel discussion, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stressed the importance of #GapZero as an urgent development priority for the continent in a fireside chat with UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Africa Director, Ahunna Eziakonwa. 

The discussion then explored practical solutions for attaining #GapZero in public governance, and how meaningful investment in capacity-building of women leaders can drive inclusive governance forward. Also taking part in the discussion were Amujae Leader and CEO of the Rwanda Development Board, Clare Akamanzi; Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Abdoulie Janneh; Interim Co-CEO & Co-Founder of IDinsight, Esther Hsu Wang; and Secretary to Malawi’s President and Cabinet, Colleen Zamba.

The second event co-hosted by the EJS Center engaged senior political and philanthropic leaders in conversation around how to support and advance women’s public leadership. The participants in the ‘Intimate Fireside Dialogue on the Advance of a Future Feminist Democracy’ event looked at how delivering mentoring programs, engaging male allies to support women-led policies, and using reliable data for evidence-based inclusive strategies are crucial for women to thrive as decision-makers and leaders in the public sphere.

The event – held in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – was attended by Amujae Leaders Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Dagmawit Moges Bekele, Emma Theofelus, and Dr. Yakama Manty Jones, as well as Colorado State Representative Naquetta Ricks, and Executive Director of HCD+ Finda Koroma.

With this year’s UNGA session now concluded, it is important to keep conversations open on how best to advance evidence-driven inclusive governance and create an ecosystem that truly supports women in public leadership.

Watch the full-length clip of the ‘Achieving #GapZero’ fireside chat here, and the full panel discussion here.

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