Gender equality and the UN General Assembly: Facts and history to know

2021 (UNGA 76)

UNGA 76 will center around the theme, “Building resilience through hope — to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainability, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalize the United Nations”. Because the impacts of crises are never gender-neutral, and COVID-19 is no exception, Member States must act deliberately to counter the disproportionate effects of the pandemic for women as they consider how to recover and build resilience from COVID-19.

2020 (UNGA 75)

In 2020, for the first time ever, the UNGA was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With emerging data and reports on the increase of all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, the Secretary-General called for commitment and resources from governments to end this “hidden war on women”.

2019 (UNGA 74)

Photo: @NorwayUN on Twitter

2018 (UNGA 73)

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (right), President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly, holds the gavel after the handover from Miroslav Lajcák (centre), President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly. At left is Secretary-General António Guterres. Photo: UN Photo: Manuel Elias
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, carries her daughter Neve between meetings on the third day of the General Assembly’s seventy-third general debate. Photo: UN Photo/Laura Jarriel
UN Secretary-General António Guterres poses with women who comprise part of the UN Senior Management Group after achieving gender balance within the the leadership team. Photo: UN Photo/Mark Garten

2017 (UNGA 72)

The European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

2016 (UNGA 71)

UN Women launched its flagship programme initiative, Making Every Woman and Girl Count, which seeks to bring about a radical shift in how gender statistics are used, created and promoted.

2015 (UNGA 70)

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.

2010 (UNGA 65)

For many years, the United Nations faced serious challenges in its efforts to promote gender equality globally, including inadequate funding and no single recognized driver to direct UN activities on gender equality issues.

2006 (UNGA 61)

President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa at a concert in the general assembly hall, in May 2007. Photo: UN Photo/Ryan Brown
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, addresses the general debate of the 61st session of the General Assembly, at UN Headquarters in New York. Photo: UN Photo/Marco Castro

1979 (UNGA 34)

The General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is often described as an international bill of rights for women. In its 30 articles, the Convention explicitly defines discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

1975 (UNGA 30)

The World Conference of the International Women’s Year opened at the Juan de la Barrera Gymnasium in Mexico City on 19 June 1975 with 110 delegations represented at the opening session, with women delegates outnumbering the men by about six to one. Photo: UN Photo/B Lane

1969 (UNGA 24)

Angie E. Brooks, Assistant Secretary of State of Liberia. Photo: UN Photo

1963 (UNGA 18)

Efforts to consolidate standards on women’s rights led the 18th General Assembly to request the Commission to draft a Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which the Assembly ultimately adopted in 1967.

1958 (UNGA 13)

(From left) Ambassador Sivert A. Nielsen, (Norway), Ambassador Agda Rossel (Sweden), and Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld speak informally. Photo: UN Photo/MB

1953 (UNGA 8)

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, of India, President of the 8th UN General Assembly with UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld in the Security Council chamber before the meeting of Steering Committee). Photo: UN Photo/AF

1948 (UNGA 3)

Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States holding a poster of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lake Success, NY, November 1949. UN Photo

1946 (The first session of the UN General Assembly)

Seated on the podium are (from left to right): M. Verwey (Netherlands); E. Wilkinson (speaking); Eleanor Roosevelt (United States); Minerva Bernardino; M. Midwinter (United Kingdom); and Miss Rolfe (United Kingdom). UN Photo
Frieda Dalen, Alternate Delegate of Norway and Rapporteuse of the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee, addresses the first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Photo: UN Photo/VH

1945

Following the devastation of World War II, the United Nations formed in 1945 to foster international co-operation. Its charter enshrines gender equality:

Minerva Bernardino, President, Inter-American Commission of Women, member of the Delegation from the Dominican Republic, signing the United Nations Charter at a ceremony held at the Veterans’ War Memorial Building in San Francisco, California on 26 June 1945. Photo: UN Photo

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