Women and girls are major drivers of development, yet in India and elsewhere, they continue to be denied opportunities to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives, and those of their families and communities, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Thursday.
Giving the keynote address at the 14th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit here, Annan said despite progress, the challenges to eliminating discrimination and achieving gender equality remain significant.
There is also continuing gender gap in education – the greatest investment any country can make in its future.
“In too many countries, women face unacceptably high levels of violence, including sexual violence, which is an affront to our common humanity,” he said and added that people must dedicate themselves to transforming relations between men and women at all levels of society.
Annan said despite the progress in the world, hundreds of millions of people lack access to food, water and energy – the very basic necessities of life.
One in eight of our fellow human beings do not have enough food to eat. In the Asia-Pacific region, 1.7 billion people lack access to sanitation and 680 million are without electricity.
According to a recent Oxfam report, the richest 85 people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion, he said. “Here in India and across the world, we remain a long way from our goal of a decent life for all”.
“Each year 10 million people in India alone move to towns and cities as a result of population growth and urbanization. An expanding middle class is changing lifestyles and consumption patterns, increasing pressure on natural resources” he said, adding it is estimated that by 2030, “we will need 30 percent more water, 40 percent more energy, and 50 percent more food”.
“Looming above all these challenges, and exacerbating them, is climate change.”
Annan urged for a “fundamental shift to a more sustainable development pathway”.
“We need a robust, universal and legally binding agreement to limit temperature rises to less than 2 degrees Celsius – above which climate change may be irreversible,” he said and called on richer countries to lead in emission cuts and in providing financial support for adaptation, and diffusion of green technology.