25-27 September 2015 saw world leaders launch the United Nations (‘UN’) Sustainable Development Goals, setting the agenda for international development for the next 15 years. The Millennium Development Goals guided the UN’s development work since the year 2000, but the UN is now building on that success and providing a new wish list for international development.
The UN Global Development Goals are aimed at all nations, and have a more holistic and unified view of development across the globe; they apply to the UK as well as to all other members of the UN.
Justice for women and girls is an explicit goal in itself. Target 5.1 is to ‘end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere’. This is a tough challenge for the next 5 years, and is far more an expression of aspiration than a realistic task.
More specifically, Target 5.5 states that UN member states will ‘ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life’. Gender-balanced government and political representation is vital in achieving this goal, ensuring women’s participation in the formation of policy that governs our lives.
A commitment to women’s full and effective participation in political decision-making will hopefully give politicians the motivation to remove the barriers that prevent women sitting in Parliament. For example, the document states that we need ‘sound policies’ and ‘enforceable legislation’ to move towards this ideal. If the UK is to work towards this goal, we must create specific measures that will bring us closer to a 50:50 Parliament. This could be legislation governing party nominations, quotas, changes to the masculine culture of Parliament and inspiring women and girls to run for Parliament. As part of the UN’s agenda to get member countries to meaningfully work towards these goals, the UK is encouraged to produce a plan to get more women sitting in Parliament.
The goals are not legally binding on any state. However, the UN has demonstrated what is possible in how it encouraged member states to address and enforce the Millennium Development Goals; there’s no reason to expect that governments will not be galvanised by this new, updated standard. We should demand that our politicians debate and arrive at solutions to achieve a gender balanced Parliament. Even the UN thinks that it is crucial.
50:50 Parliament Campaign: In the UK 7 out 10 MPs are men. 50:50 Parliament is an inclusive cross-party campaign for better gender balance in Parliament. 50:50 dream of a Parliament where men & women legislate the laws of our land together in roughly equal numbers. People from across the country support this principle because better balance benefits everyone. We also have an Ambassador programme to inspire interest and participation in politics.
Sign our petition at change.org/5050Parliament
or email frances@5050Parliament for more information.