Published 15 September 2023
On September 19 and 20, 2023, a SDG Summit will take place in New York, on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Leaders from States, governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector will be invited to discuss solutions and make commitments to accelerate implementation of the SDGs by 2030.
In order to decipher the stakes of this Summit, Focus 2030 has conducted a series of interviews with representatives from governments, international organizations, NGOs, and think tanks.
Discover our special edition on the SDG Summit and all the interviews with experts conducted ahead of the Summit.
Written interview received on September 5, 2023.
Focus 2030 : The mid-point moment of the Generation Equality Forum, of which you are Secretary General, will be held on September 17, 2023 on the sidelines of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. This could be a crucial step in assessing the commitments announced in 2021 around the six "Action Coalitions" launched at the conference, co-presided by France and Mexico. What are France’s ambitions for maintaining and accelerating the momentum created in favour of gender equality ? What do you think a successful mid-point moment would look like ?
Delphine O : The Generation Equality Forum is one of the emblems and success stories of French feminist foreign policy. In 2021, we have invested a lot, both humanly and financially, to ensure the success of this international conference that had been awaited for a quarter of a century ! But the work hasn’t stopped since. The GEF is intended to be a long-term project : it is both a catalyst for commitments from governments and all stakeholders, and a unique advocacy platform. The political and financial momentum must be maintained if the Forum is to become a reference framework for gender equality and multi-stakeholder work. For the mid-point moment, France and Mexico are passing the torch to Iceland and Tanzania, proving the appeal of the concept and its success both in the North and the South. For our part, we remain committed to carrying the " GEF brand " in all multilateral and bilateral forums, and to supporting accountability.
This mid-point moment is crucial : it allows us to come together and take stock of the progress made, but also of the challenges that lie ahead. A successful mid-point moment can take different forms : high-level political participation by various heads of state and private sector leaders, strong representation from the civil society sector and youth who contributed to the success of 2021, and of course new political, financial and programmatic commitments.
Focus 2030 : How does France plan to contribute to the mid-point moment ? What concrete achievements would France like to highlight, particularly in relation to its commitments under the Action Coalition on Bodily Autonomy and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (’SRHR’), for which France is overseeing the follow-up ?
Delphine O : We have of course reported on the commitments we have made in 2021, by contributing to the accountability exercise led by UN Women. This accountability report concerns the commitments made by the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs within the action coalition you mentioned (400M euros over 5 years), but also the initiatives and commitments made by other ministries (Industry, Culture, Gender Equality, Sports...).
Our commitments have been fully met : in 2021, 2022 and 2023, we have disbursed the amounts set out in the action coalition. The amounts indicated are not just figures : this funding represents as many projects, most of them led by feminist civil society, which are being implemented, enabling us to make concrete progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and particularly SDG 5.
To cite just one example, our financial commitments have enabled us to support civil society organizations within the framework of the Fonds de soutien aux organisations féministes (FSOF), to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of adolescents and young people, to end female genital mutilation, and to combat gynecological and obstetric violence in Senegal.
Focus 2030 : For many civil society organizations, the Generation Equality Forum represents an important step in putting gender equality issues on the agenda, both internationally and on a national level, as seen recently at the Women Deliver Conference in Kigali. Rarely have feminist movements been so audible and visible, and the United Nations has drawn up an alarming report on the achievement of SDG 5 by 2030, as revealed by the UN’s recent Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) 2023. In your opinion, to what extent is it possible to relaunch a common dynamic to advance equality and women’s rights ?
Delphine O : The momentum is there, and we need to keep it going ! We know that there is a real risk that the rights of women and girls will be profoundly undermined in international forums. Since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, which remain the reference documents, the balance of power has made it difficult to preserve the gains made in the texts adopted by the United Nations. At the United Nations General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Human Rights Council (HRC), France continues to defend the rights of women and girls, and in particular SRHR, which are the subject of major and repeated attacks.
Nevertheless, more and more countries are adopting feminist foreign policies, and we are working hand in hand with like-minded countries to counter attempts at regression at the multilateral level. We make our funding available to feminist civil society, notably through the Fonds de Soutien aux Organisations Féministes.
Unfortunately, the rise of anti-rights movements is being confirmed in all multilateral arenas, including on issues that were thought to be "spared" by reactionary attacks, such as food security. At the Women Deliver conference in Kigali, the French delegation took the floor, clearly and repeatedly, to reaffirm its defense of sexual and reproductive health and rights, abortion rights and LGBT+ rights - in short, fundamental rights.
We are part of the resistance to backlash : we are reacting to the rise of conservatism, by organizing with like-minded countries, by funding civil society organizations, and by developing a new strategy to guide our feminist foreign policy.