On March 8, International Women’s Day, and as 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, there are many reasons to celebrate the global progress that has been made on gender equality. Regrettably, this hard-earned progress is being openly challenged. We, the Nordic prime ministers, wish to express our grave concern over the current pushback against women’s and girls’ rights. We have witnessed a surge in regressive policies around the world, often undermining universal human rights.
The Nordic countries’ success in promoting gender equality is a result of targeted government policies and strong civil societies, but it is also deeply rooted in international legal frameworks. We therefore wish to reiterate our joint commitment to the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls, and more generally of universal human rights.
For over 40 years, the Nordic countries have worked collectively to promote gender equality. This has resulted in stronger economies and happier and more prosperous societies. Key public policies include the provision of well-paid, shared parental leave, and universal, affordable, and high-quality childcare. When implemented properly, these policies enable women to participate in the labor market and public decision-making processes, while making space for men to share domestic responsibilities. This has positive impact on gender equality at work and at home, and also leads to greater gender equality in public decision-making and a better gender balance among leaders. The private sector must be a part of this. Increasing women's participation and ensuring more diverse leadership have proven not only to be the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.
However, despite the remarkable progress that has been made, gender-based structural inequalities are still evident across the region. As in other countries, the discrimination multiplies when gender intersects with other protected characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. As an example, unemployment among women born in countries outside the EU/EEA remains higher than among other groups.
Overall, gendered trends persist in the Nordic labor markets. The majority of teachers and care workers are women, and men are more likely to work in the transport, construction and manufacturing sectors. Men are also overrepresented in leadership positions.
We are deeply concerned that despite massive efforts, we have not managed to eliminate violence against women, which the #metoo movement so clearly exposed. In short: we have achieved a great deal, we are not done, and we are fully committed to continue.
At the international level, all the Nordic countries have put women’s rights at the core of their foreign and development policies.
We are active participants in all major international organizations that promote universal human rights and work to eliminate discrimination against women and girls. All Nordic countries have ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention).
We are strong advocates for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and we oppose any attempt to deny women the right to legal and safe abortion and other health services. Harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, should be consigned to history.
All the Nordic countries have drawn up plans to intensify their efforts to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. We are all actively supporting the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum Campaign, and we are deeply committed to realizing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Five years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, it is clear that goal number five, ensuring gender equality, is the goal most countries are furthest from reaching.
We will therefore continue to speak out internationally and to share our experience of moving towards gender equality and the benefits this has brought to our societies.
Today’s generation of young people is larger than ever before. They have a vital role to play in the realization of gender equality. We commit to engaging with young people to achieve gender equality by 2030. We strongly urge the global community to do the same.
World leaders need to intensify their efforts to build a sustainable future where women and girls from all social backgrounds and parts of the world have access to education and health services, have equal opportunities to work and to take part in public life, and are free from the threat of sexual and gender-based violence.
On International Women’s Day, we, the Nordic Prime Ministers, reaffirm our commitment to this vision.
Together, we can do it.
Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway
Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland
Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark
Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland
Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden
Published by the CNN on March 6, 2020