This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

Vicky Ford MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean)

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of Forced Marriage Girls' Education Russia's invasion of Ukraine UK at the UN

23rd March 2022

66th Commission on the Status of Women: my trip to the UN

Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, with Minister Ford.

Last week, I had the honour of attending the 66th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations, New York. CSW is the biggest annual forum for defending and promoting women and girls’ rights around the world. The UK was well represented at CSW, with a delegation of inspirational women including the Minister for Women, Baroness Stedman-Scott, HRH the Countess of Wessex and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy Helen Grant.

This year’s CSW plays out against a backdrop of attempts by regressive states such as Russia to disregard and rollback international consensus on gender equality. In my role as FCDO Minister, I was keen to make the most of my trip to highlight to our international partners the UK’s commitment in condemning Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the UK’s commitment in tackling climate change, defending the safety and rights of all women and girls, and the UK’s commitment to ensuring we collectively turn this into real action.

Condemning Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine

Meeting representatives to the Commission on the Status of Women from Ukraine.

The current situation in Ukraine and the acute impact that the women and children of Ukraine continue to face is at the top of my mind and it is something I echoed with partners at the UN. Collectively, we must use every opportunity to condemn Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and to underscore the UK’s ongoing support to the people of Ukraine.

Tackling climate change

After touching down in New York, I immediately headed to the United Nations to participate in a roundtable focused on gender responsive approaches to climate change at both a local and global level. Women, girls and marginalised people are disproportionately impacted by climate change, yet they play a vital role as critical leaders and agents of change.

As the theme for this year’s CSW is gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in climate change, environment and disaster risk reduction, I was eager to build on the success of our COP26 commitments. I called on other Member States to raise their ambition and implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Gender Action Plan that was agreed at COP25. The UK has a strong record of accomplishment on this, having announced £165 million of funding at COP26 to tackle gender inequality and climate change. I condemned Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and underscored the importance of building strong, home-grown renewables sectors and reducing our reliance on all fossil fuels.

Next up, it was back to the UK Mission to host a virtual event in partnership with COP27 Presidency, Egypt, focused on empowering women and girls through the transition to a green economy. This event brought together experts in business, private investment, girls’ education, trade unions and sparked discussion around the barriers and opportunities for women and girls participating in the green economy.

Defending women and girls’ safety

Speaking with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Permanent Representative to the UN.

My second day in New York began with a US-Denmark hosted virtual event to launch the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse. Here, I spoke alongside the US Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, ministers and representatives from Denmark, Sweden, Australia and South Korea, and underscored the UK’s efforts in making it safer for women and girls online.

The Global Partnership aims to help tackle online gender-based violence by bringing countries together to agree a common understanding of the prevalence and impact, and facilitate new activities to drive change on the ground.

I heard the shocking story of a young girl, only allowed one period in her parent’s house before she was forced to marry. This story was told during a virtual event – hosted by the Governments of Canada and Zambia – which focused on child, early and forced marriage and the worrying impact of COVID, climate change and conflict. One in five girls worldwide are married under the age of 18, and the UK is committed to ending this harmful practice so that no girls in the future have to face the same ordeal.

I engaged with the Executive Directors for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women to discuss how we defend the rights of women and girls against concerted attempts by some Member States to reverse these rights, and the UN’s response in Ukraine and Afghanistan. I also met with Kenya’s Gender Minister and spoke about our co-leadership of the Generation Equality Forum’s Action Coalition on Gender-based violence.

Africa and Small Island States

Meeting the A3 Permanent Representatives for Gabon, Kenya and Ghana, along with UK Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward.

During my visit I was also able to meet UN representatives from many other countries.  I discussed regional instability in Africa, including the situation in Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan and Mali with representatives from Kenya, Gabon and Ghana who all are currently members of the UN Security Council.  I spoke with representatives from Senegal, which currently chairs the African Union. I also met with the Minister for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities for South Africa, and discussed our shared commitment to the UK-SA programme which seeks to promotes gender equality, women’s empowerment and tackle gender-based violence as part of promoting an inclusive demographic dividend in Africa.

It was a delight to also meet with representatives of over 30 Small Island Developing States from all across the globe.  We discussed the challenges that many of these countries have due to the effect of climate change and the difficulties they have in accessing finance for critical infrastructure, as well as their steadfast support for the people of Ukraine.

My reflection of the trip

Although my trip was short, it gave me the opportunity to have rich discussions with multiple key voices across the UN on addressing critical global issues, such as preventing conflict-related sexual violence, tackling online gender-based violence, and promoting women peace and security. I look forward to the UN reaching international consensus on an ambitious and progressive outcome document that delivers on the safety and equality of all women and girls around the world.