Country Director’s remarks at the launch of Millenium Acceleration Framework Report

06 Dec 2013

Remarks for the Launch of Millenium Acceleration Framework (MAF) Report on Women’s Economic Empowerment

by Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme Cambodia

on 6 December 2013

at Phnom Penh Hotel, Phnom Penh

Excellency Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi;

Excellencies;

Colleagues;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be with you today to celebrate the launch of Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goal Acceleration Framework Report on Women’s Economic Empowerment. We come here together today from the various reaches of Cambodia’s broad development community, including line ministries, diplomatic missions, bilateral donors, UN agencies, development banks, non-government organizations and the private sector.  It is as a result of our partnering that we are able to celebrate this launch today.

Cambodia is one of the 37 countries implementing a MDGs Acceleration Framework. Cambodia’s Action Plan stands out however, for its focus on women’s economic empowerment as a breakthrough strategy for achieving all of Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals.

This launch exemplifies the strong leadership of Excellency the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi, and the determination of many of you here today who have contributed tirelessly to the work of the CMDGs. The MDG Acceleration Framework will play a significant role in helping us work together to overcome the barriers to improving women’s economic empowerment in Cambodia, and thereby improving our progress toward the achievement of all the CMDGs.

In Cambodia, the MAF process began in 2011 with a joint effort between the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the UNDP. The MAF is one of the first initiatives in the context of gender equality that breaks institutional boundaries and brings all actors on board under a single strategy.

The decision to focus on  women’s economic empowerment originated from a recognition that slow progress on CMDG3 obstructs the achievement of other CMDGs. Half of Cambodia’s economically active population has not received adequate support due to remaining bottlenecks that continue to exist, including the mismatch of skills-training to market demand; the lack of coordination between Women’s Development Centres and other relevant government and non-government actors; the poor attention paid to women’s needs in business, and; the limited income generation opportunities for poor rural households.

A recent report by the International Monetary Fund entitled Women, Work and the Economy highlights how this gender inequality in the labour market hurts economic growth. The report estimates that closing gender gaps in the labour market would raise the GDP in the United States by 5 percent, in the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent. The economic benefits of gender equality are particularly high in rapidly aging societies such as Switzerland and Japan, but also many countries in South East Asia, including Cambodia, that face the challenge and opportunity of the largest segment of the population entering the workforce in the coming decade.

Similarly, in its report, Investing in Women’s Employment, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) confirms that better employment opportunities for women can contribute not only to an increase in profitability, but also in productivity. Companies that invest in women’s employment enjoy improvements including staff retention, innovation, and access to new talent and markets. The International Finance Corporation also developed the first Gender Investment Index Series for financial markets with the ultimate goal of demonstrating that gender equality is an important indicator of financial health, and that companies that empower women and encourage gender diversity outperform others over the long term.

The MAF recommends some strategic interventions such as providing job-training for women that is consistent with market demands, promoting the enhancement of women-led small and medium enterprises, and improving the livelihoods of poor women in rural communities. These recommendations will help enhance not only women’s economic participation and influence, but also efforts to combat poverty in Cambodia. In addition to these interventions, UNDP is committed to supporting relevant ministries, including the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, with ensuring key messages of the MAF Action Plan are integrated into national planning processes. This is already underway in the National Strategic Development Plan for 2014-2018 and is currently being rendered for Neary Rattanak Four (2014-2018) and the Cambodia Gender Assessment (CGA). We are pleased that the Royal Government of Cambodia is making progress in these policy initiatives where gender equality and women’s empowerment feature prominently in strategic planning and policy development.

In this rapidly changing development environment with a fast-growing economy that is pushing Cambodia toward low middle-income country status, enhancing development effectiveness and improving our partnering is extremely important. In the context of gender equality, a community of development partners and practitioners have increasingly focused on gender-related issues, women and their economic potential in policy development, as well as concrete on-the-ground interventions in all areas, from macro-economic policies to climate change in order to overcome the entrenched barriers to the CMDGs. The MAF will accelerate these efforts and help improve harmonization.

The MDG Acceleration Framework does not replace existing nationally owned planning processes, but rather aims at focusing the fragmented efforts and resources of development partners, line ministries and other stakeholders, designed to work toward the achievement of a shared goal: the improvement women’s lives in Cambodia.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This Action Plan has the potential to serve as our shared planning tool and compass; let’s use it to its maximum potential. Let us commit renewed efforts to collaborate more, communicate often and share openly. By improving our cooperation, we will keep women’s economic empowerment at the heart and maximize the impact of our efforts. I would like to thank you again for your commitment, and reaffirm our commitment to partnering with you in the important work.

Thank you.

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