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Global leaders and companies pledge to reduce the gender pay gap by 2030

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Global leaders from governments, private sector companies, trade unions and civil society pledged to take concrete action towards closing the gender pay gap by 2030. The global commitments – to ensure women in every sector of the workforce are paid equally to men for doing work of equal value – were made at the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) Pledging event held during the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Globally, and in every sector of the workforce, women are paid less than men for doing work of equal value. Unequal pay is one of the most persistent barriers to women’s success at work and to economic growth, and is a critical problem that has been prioritized in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular SDG 8.5 and 5. Equal pay, in addition to empowering women, can have a significant impact on achieving other key goals, such as promoting inclusive societies, reducing poverty, and creating conditions for decent work and gender equality.

As Principals of the EPIC Secretariat, the Secretary General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder; and the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, pledged to accelerate progress on reducing the gender pay gap by convening global leaders to share experiences, documenting and disseminating good practices, and drawing global political attention to the issue of gender pay inequality.

Secretary-General of the OECD, Angel Gurría, said, “Gender pay gaps are not only unfair for those who suffer them, but they are also detrimental to our economies. If you do not have equal pay productivity suffers, competitiveness suffers and the economy at large suffers.” He asserts that “it is in our power to make an immediate improvement in the quality of life of hundreds of millions of women and their families if we succeed in delivering equal pay for men and women.”

The Director General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, said, “The fact that women across the globe are still being paid less than men for work of equal value is one of the most visible, tangible and pervasive manifestations of discrimination. It is a matter of urgency to make sure the message is finally heard and things start to change.”

Global leaders will be in attendance including President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, and Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Panama Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado. Governments from Peru to Jordan to Switzerland to Canada demonstrated their shared vision to accelerate progress to achieve equal pay by pledging to:

  • implement legislation that prohibits unequal remuneration in the public and private sectors
  • establish National Commissions that monitor the compliance of equal remuneration laws
  • and launch national awareness campaigns on the importance of equal pay

The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said, “A strong social protection system is critical to reducing the gender pay gap – where women have access to paid maternity leave, to affordable child and elderly care services, and to sustainable infrastructure, we see an increase in women engaging in paid work. This will be the theme of next year’s Commission on the Status of Women, and I count on support from the EPIC to accelerate progress on improving social protection systems.”

Notable pledges made at the event include:

  • The President of Iceland, H.E. Guoni Th. Johannesson, committed to implement its Law on the Equal Pay Certification. The law prohibits discriminatory practices based on gender and requires that women and men working for the same employer shall be paid equal wages and enjoy equal terms of employment.
  • The International Trade Union Confederation has pledged to raise awareness of initiatives that aim to achieve equal pay through advocacy campaigns on investment of childcare, establishing minimum living levels, and guaranteeing social protection to care workers.
  • The International Organisation of Employers has pledged to strengthen its actions to promote gender equality and non-discrimination good practices as part of its commitment to preserve and defend Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, while paying special attention to gender-based discrimination in pay.
  • Civil Society organisations including Save the Children and CIVICUS pledged to support its members to reduce the wage gap and to conduct internal reviews of its pay policies to ensure internal equity between men and women.

Global companies also participated, including IKEA, Deloitte, Pepsi Co, Nestle and Novartis AG, who expressed their allegiance to EPIC’s mission by committing to, for example:

  • reviewing hiring and promotional practices to reduce unconscious bias and structural barriers
  • identify and promote best practices that ensure fairness for all workers
  • and to implement policies prohibiting discrimination based on gender

EPIC, an initiative launched in 2017 to work towards closing the gender pay gap, has brought together key actors from across the world to raise momentum and help ensure that equal pay for work of equal value is fully realized. EPIC is led by the OECD, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and UN. The EPIC secretariat will support global leaders to ensure these commitments are fully implemented and realized.

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Human Rights

Gender equality, justice in law and practice: Essential for sustainable development

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Young girls in Gumam primary school, Kassala state, Sudan. Photo: UNICEF/Sari Omer

Fundamentally linked to human development, gender justice requires ending inequality and redressing existing disparities between women and men, according to a high-level United Nations forum on the situation in Arab States.

Laws that promote gender equality “will help the Arab region move forward on the issue of justice and equality for women”, Jordan Ambassador to the UN Sima Bahous, told UN News after chairing the forum centered around the study with the same name: Gender and Law Justice, Evaluation of Laws Affecting Gender Equality in the Arab States.

Gender equality is achieved when both sexes enjoy the same rights and opportunities across society, including access to justice and to economic and social gains. The study stressed that sustainable development goals cannot be achieved without ensuring gender equality in law and practice.

On 14 March, on the margins of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA), Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Women’s Fund (UNIFEM) organized the conference, which discussed discrimination and criminal, personal status and labour laws across 18 Arab countries.  

“Human development means expanding opportunities for women and men to improve their lives and education, and create better opportunities”, Ms. Bahous explained.  

Room in Arab region for women’s equality

Gender justice relies on accountability and equality.  

Salma Al-Nemes, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Committee for Women, spoke about the forum’s importance, saying that it aims to “emphasize that there is still room in the Arab region to achieve women’s equality.”  

She stressed that problems can only be solved if they are recognized, and that countries can benefit “from the experiences of the Arab and Islamic countries that have achieved equality and build on this by adapting it to national reality.”  

Because national and local contexts differ, Ms. Al-Nemes acknowledged that “we must examine how to meet these challenges in an appropriate context so that we can achieve equality not only in legislation, but in practice as well”. 

For her part, Naziha el Obaidi, Minister of Women, Family, Childhood and the Elderly of Tunisia, told UN News about her Government’s decree that “when considering the appointment of a senior official in the country, four biographies of candidates, two for women and one for men, should be submitted.” 

Also in Tunisia, the law of ‘horizontal equinoxes and vertical equinoxes’ states that if an electoral list is headed by a woman, a man must hold the second position, and vice versa. Ms. el Obaidi credited this with women’s participation nearly 48 per cent of municipalities, noting that this law will also be implemented in the legislative elections. 

Honour crimes

Because gender-based violence is a major barrier to gender justice, Gender justice and the law closely examines its various forms, including sexual, physical and psychological and economic violence, assessing laws and policies that affect gender equality and protect against gender-based violence.

For example, the penalties for committing so-called honour crimes – which include murder, wounding and beating – vary, depending on the country.

In Algeria, Bahrain, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and Yemen a sentence can be reduced if a “spouse” is caught in an act of adultery.

Whereas in Djibouti and Sudan there are no specific provisions identified in the Penal Code to reduce penalties for these crimes.

Leniency for perpetrators of honour crimes against women in Saudi Arabia is not codified in the law, so men are sentenced at the court’s discretion.

Meanwhile, the Penal Code in Egypt spells out that if a husband kills his wife committing adultery, he and the man with whom she was with would receive reduced penalty not to exceed three years in prison.

Should “a person” kill a wife, daughter or sister, or her sexual partner, in the sudden heat of rage after finding her in a sexual act in Somalia, the penal code requires a reduced sentence.

If a man kills his wife or one of his female relatives while engaging in the act of adultery in Iraq, he would be incarcerated for no more than three years. In Libya the sentence would not exceed eight years.

At the same time, some countries repealed reduced sentences for honour crimes, such as Lebanon in 2011, Oman in 2001 and Tunisia in 1993.

While the penal code in Jordan was amended in 2017 to prevent reduced penalties for honour crimes, the original mitigated penalties for murdering a spouse caught in the act of adultery has yet to be removed. Similarly, mitigation of penalties for honour crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories were repealed in 2011 in the West Bank and 2018 in Gaza, however, the Government there has not applied the reforms. 

Honour crimes are just one of the topics addressed in the study. Violence manifest itself in many ways, including rape, sexual harassment, child and forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting and other harmful traditional practices – all of which the study covers.  

It is worth mentioning that the UN Commission on the Status of Women is responsible for developing global policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The annual session, which drew to a close on 22 March, provides an opportunity to review progress and identify difficulties, challenges and policy formulation. 

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Environment

Hands-on e-waste management training

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photo: UNIDO

Over 30 representatives of 13 Latin American countries and international experts have gathered to learn and share experiences on e-waste management, from system design to health impacts.

The second Expert Meeting on the Effective Management and Disposal of E-waste in Latin America under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was convened by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica and with co-financing from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The UNIDO-GEF project assists 13 countries with tackling the e-waste challenges in the region, with annual expert meetings providing an opportunity for the participating countries and institutions to get together and share knowledge and experiences.

Following the project launch in Quito in March 2018, this year’s Expert Meeting kicked off on 18 March with Project Steering and Technical Committees meetings and a series of presentations by local recycling companies and UN partner organizations.

The E-waste Academy for Managers (EWAM) on 19 March saw a series of panel discussions and group sessions on topics ranging from legal aspects of e-waste management to logistical issues such as collection and transport of e-waste. The Academy is the first of four that will be co-ordinated by the United Nations University (UNU).

The EWAM-Managers Edition is a global forum and training event for stakeholders involved in the practical design and implementation of e-waste management solutions, offering a platform to exchange best practices, discuss existing challenges among practitioners and support better-informed decision-making. It is just one of the examples of capacity-building activities that form part of the project alongside awareness-raising, e-waste policy and regulation advice and financial advice, among other activities.

With presentations from renowned international e-waste experts on plastics, financing and more, the Academy also featured a number of practical sessions with participants learning how to dismantle electrical equipment, including a visit to the Global Electric Electronic Processing plant.

“As the issue of e-waste continues to represent a threat to both the global environment and human health, activities like this are essential for harmonizing and strengthening regional cooperation and knowledge exchange,” affirms UNIDO project manager, Alfredo Cueva.

Currently, the world produces approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste a year – the equivalent of the total weight of all the commercial airliners ever made. This figure is predicted to rise to 120m tonnes by 2050.

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on the project, including national governments other organzsations and local e-waste recyclers, SC and BC regional centres, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as various other partners, such as Dell, RELAC and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

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Energy News

ADB Supports 275 MW Power Plant to Boost Energy Access in Sumatra, Indonesia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a private sector financing package to support the construction of a 275-megawatt combined-cycle gas turbine power plant in Riau province in central Sumatra, Indonesia, to help secure the country’s energy future and provide communities with more affordable and reliable electricity.

The financing consists of a $70 million A loan from ADB’s ordinary capital resources and $82 million B loan from Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and MUFG Bank, with ADB providing a partial risk guarantee (PRG) to the participating commercial banks. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will provide $50 million for the Riau Natural Gas Power Project in the first-ever cofinancing of an infrastructure project by ADB and IFC in Indonesia.

ADB will also administer a $20 million loan from the Leading Asia’s Private Sector Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Established in March 2016, LEAP’s mandate is to help fill financing gaps and increase access to finance for ADB-supported infrastructure projects in Asia and the Pacific.

“ADB’s involvement in the project has helped secure long-term commercial bank financing necessary for any large-scale infrastructure investment, which has remained a challenge in Indonesia,” said Infrastructure Finance Division Director for Southeast Asia, East Asia, and the Pacific at ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Mr. Jackie B. Surtani. “ADB’s role as a lender and provider of PRG to the project’s B loan lenders will enable the project to mobilize a significant amount of long-term debt.”

The project is being implemented through PT. Medco Ratch Power Riau, a special purpose vehicle partially owned by PT. Medco Power Indonesia, a leading developer and operator of small and medium-sized independent power producers (IPP) in the country, and Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company Limited, Thailand’s largest IPP.

“ADB’s role was key in getting this transaction closed from the negotiation stage of the power purchase agreement to the structuring of the financing package,” said PT. Medco Power Indonesia Chief Executive Officer Mr. Eka Satria.

The plant is expected to provide stable and reliable power to the domestic grid, amounting to about 1,445 gigawatt-hour annually. The use of combined-cycle gas-fired power generation will improve the environmental sustainability of the current energy mix in Sumatra by displacing diesel and coal as fuels for electricity generation.

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