‘Human rights as important as GDP’


Published: Monday 27th April 2015 by The News Editor

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Success should be measured in terms of a country’s record on human rights rather than by the “old metrics of GDP growth”, the co-author of a UN report on the progress of the world’s women has said.

Laura Turquet called for the work involved in caring for people to be be incorporated into GDP and taken into account during economic policy-making.

She said that in the US, the total value of unpaid childcare services each year is $3.2 trillion – 20% of the total value of its GDP.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women, added that while legislation is clearly vital, it is not enough on its own to improve women’s rights.

She also highlighted the need to ensure large corporations are “good global citizens”, which would “change the game”.

The pair were speaking at the launch of a new UN Women report – ‘Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights’ – which examines in detail what the economy would look like if it truly worked for women, for the benefit of all.

It makes the case that the alternative economic agenda outlined would create fairer societies and new sectors of employment, such as within the care economy.

Ms Turquet, report manager, said: “The work involved in caring for people is essential for reproducing the labour force and generates real economic value, but it’s not incorporated into the calculation of GDP or taken into account in economic policy making.

“Ultimately … upholding women’s rights will not only make the economy work for women, it will also benefit societies at large by creating a fairer and more sustainable future for all.

“We need to go beyond the old metrics of GDP growth, instead measuring success in terms of the realisation of human rights.”

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka added: “From Wall Street to the sugar cane fields, the gender norms that work against women are strong. A woman on Wall Street is paid less just because she is a woman.”

She called for strong leadership to change cultural attitudes and for leaders to be held more accountable.

Asked about the UK’s role, Ms Turquet stressed the report’s relevance, saying: “The report looks at both developing and developed countries. Gender equality hasn’t been achieved anywhere in the world.”

But the UK should also be using its influence on the world’s stage to create a “conducive global environment”, she said, and had a role to play as an aid donor.

Asked whether motherhood risked being devalued as more women are enabled to go out to work, she insisted the aim was to ensure it is “properly recognised”.

She added: ” We have seen women becoming more like men, we need to see men becoming more like women.”

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka added: “We want fatherhood and parenthood to be valued as well.”

Also on the panel at the launch in central London – the first of seven globally – was Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers’ Solidarity, who started out in a factory aged just 12 after her father became disabled.

She quickly became involved in organising her co-workers, which lead to her being fired, blacklisted and imprisoned.

Ms Akter said she was optimistic that positive change could emerge from the ashes of the Rana Plaza collapse two years ago.

She said she hoped for a world in which workers are listened to rather than silenced, where they have jobs with dignity and are at the centre of the decision-making that affects them.

The report makes 10 recommendations – creating more and better jobs for women; reducing occupational segregation and gender pay gaps; strengthening women’s income security; recognising and redistributing unpaid care and domestic work; investing in gender-responsive social services; maximising resources to achieve equality; supporting women’s organisations to claim rights and shape policy agendas; creating an enabling global environment; using human rights standards to shape policies and generating evidence to assess progress on women’s economic and social rights.

Published: Monday 27th April 2015 by The News Editor

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