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Setting the standards for women’s inclusion

Businesspeople Having Meeting In Modern Office

Meeting the goals of the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and overcoming the challenges of sluggish economic growth, social exclusion and environmental degradation requires the contribution of both men and women. More-over, many sustainable development challenges affect women more strongly than men. As part of Agenda 2030, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 calls to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Standards, including national and international standards in the fields of product safety or environmental aspects, can play a key role in the world’s transformation towards sustainable development. Thus, also the process of developing such standards must be responsive to gender considerations.

This is also recognized in target 5.5, aiming to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life. Improving gender representation in standards development activities clearly responds to this call for action. It can result in increasingly effective, relevant standards; namely, standards that adequately reflect the needs of women and girls. Among others, this can be achieved through the active recruitment and retention of women on technical committees.

The UNECE Working Party on Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies (WP.6) is ideally suited to tackle the twin challenges of lack of awareness of standards by policymakers and insufficient representation of women’s needs in existing standards. Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, WP.6 has given fresh impetus to this work, orienting it more explicitly towards demonstrating the utility of standards as instruments of sustainable development.

These efforts have been reinforced during the 124th Session of the UNECE Executive Committee, 30 September 2022, when UNECE’s 56 member States agreed to the a launch of a new Team of Specialists on Gender-Responsive Standards under WP.6. This new Team of Specialists (ToS) will build on the work of  WP.6, notably  Recommendation U on Gender-Responsive Standards  and the Declaration on Gender-Responsive Standards and Standards Development, so far signed by more than 80 standards development organizations.

Together with the new ToS, UNECE will work to further expand signatories, particularly in UNECE’s 17 programme countries with economies in transition in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe. In addition to awareness raising throughout the pan-European region, UNECE will work to foster the development and implementation of standards-related gender action plans.  While the new Team of Specialists will be cost-neutral, UNECE will seek extra-budgetary funds for specific technical assistance projects.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment can help create exponential growth and set a path towards gender equality and economic independence. Fostering gender-responsive standards can make a key contribution to this objective. Learn more about the real-world implications of standards not meeting the needs of women and girls through our animation video on the topic.  See also the wide range of WP.6 instruments, including training manuals, e-learning course and guideline documents, which strengthen understanding of gender-responsive standards.

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