Global commitments

The international community has made several landmark global commitments related to gender justice. These are important reference points not only for policy analysis and advocacy, but also for program design.

Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the international community adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals (to succeed the Millennium Development Goals) that articulated ambitious goals to be achieved by 2030. Each country is encouraged to produce a voluntary national review (VNR) annually to share progress against the SDGs at the national and sub-national level. This is an opportunity for civil society engagement and advocacy.

Key targets that relate to women economic empowerment (WEE), and can serve as important benchmarks for accountability include:

SDG2 aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. Three specific targets relate to food and nutrition security.

  • SDG Target 2.1  By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round
  • SDG Target 2.2  By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons
  • SDG Target 2.3  By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

Goal 3, which focuses on health and well-being includes:

  • SDG Target 3.1. By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births 
  • SDG Target 3.3 By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
  • SDG Target 3.5 Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
  • SDG Target 3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes
  • SDG Target 3.8 Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

Goal 5, which focuses on “achiev[ing] gender equality and empower[ing] all women and girls,”. Relevant targets include:

  • SDG Target 5.1  End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  • SDG Target 5.2  Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  • SDG Target 5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation 
  • SDG Target 5.4  Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  • SDG Target 5.5  Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life
  • SDG Target 5.a  Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws
  • SDG Target 5.c  Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

Goal 8: “Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all” is also critical for women’s economic empowerment. Pertinent targets are:

  • SDG Target 8.3  Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
  • SDG Target 8.5  By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
  • SDG Target 8.6  By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training
  • SDG Target 8.7  Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms
  • SDG Target 8.8  Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment
  • SDG Target 8.10  Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all
  • SDG Target 8.B  By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization

Goal 13, which focuses on climate change resilience and action, gendered targets include:

  • SDG Target 13.3 Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning 
  • SDG Target 13.B Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities 

Goal 16, which focuses on "peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development". Relevant targets include:

  • SDG Target 16.1 Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere
  • SDG Target 16.5 Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms
  • SDG Target 16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels 
  • SDG Target 16.7 Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels
  • SDG Target 16.10 Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements 
  • SDG Target 16.B Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

Linked to the SDGs, the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment within the UN published a call to action to ‘Leave No One Behind’. The Call to Action accompanied a report , which highlights seven ‘proven and promising drivers to expand women’s economic opportunities’. These involve:

  • Tackling adverse social norms and promoting positive role models;
  • Ensuring legal protection and reforming discriminatory laws and regulations Redistribution, recognition and reduction of unpaid care work;
  • Recognizing, reducing and redistributing unpaid work and care
  • Building assets - Digital, financial and property
  • Changing business culture and practice
  • Improving public sector practices in employment and procurement
  • Strengthening visibility, collective voice and representation
  • Improving outcomes for women in four areas of work (labor in the informal economy, labor in the formal sector, agriculture, and small/medium enterprises – especially women owned enterprises).

International law


The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly provides the basis for realizing equality between men and women through the protection of women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life. This includes in education, health, and employment across stable and emergency contexts. The countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. The integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment in humanitarian action protects these fundamental freedoms and rights.

The CEDAW general recommendation 19 (GR 19) adopted in 1992, clarifies that GBV against women is covered by the scope of CEDAW. This is defined as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.” GR 19 requests States parties to include the following in their periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): statistical data on the incidence of violence against women; information on the provision of services for survivors; and legislative and other measures taken to protect women against violence in their everyday lives, including against harassment at the workplace, abuse in the family and sexual violence. 189 countries have ratified CEDAW, and these governments are obliged to submit regular reports to a committee of independent experts who monitor how the rights of the Convention are implemented. The CEDAW committee also accepts shadow reports from civil society organizations, which they use to evaluate government actions and commitments under the convention. Because the Convention is primarily enforced through a reporting system, the shadow reporting mechanism is an important way to ensure government accountability on CEDAW commitments.

International Labour Organization Conventions for Gender Justice

The International Labour Organization articulates multiple Conventions and protocols pertinent for women’s economic empowerment and justice, which – when ratified by countries – can be used as an effective tool for advocacy and accountability:

  • C087  Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention (1948)
  • C098  Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention
  • C100  Equal Remuneration Convention (1951)
  • C102  Social Security (Minimum Standards)
  • C111  Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention (1958)
  • C156  Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention (1981)
  • C171  Night Work Convention (1990)
  • C175  Part-Time Work Convention (1994)
  • C177  Home Work Convention (1996)
  • C182  Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999)
  • C183  Maternity Protection Convention (2000)
  • C189  Domestic Workers Convention (2011)


Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993 calls on states to “condemn violence against women and… not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination.” Article 4 of this declaration specifies various policy measures that can be a useful reference point for advocacy with national governments.

Security Council Resolutions on Gender and Conflict

The adoption of the Women Peace and Security Framework (United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325) in October 2000 reaffirmed the role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and reconstruction. This resolution stresses the importance of women’s equal participation, and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security. It urges special measures to protect women and girls from GBV in situations of armed conflict, and the need to implement international humanitarian and human rights law that protects the rights of women and girls during and after conflict. The resolution specifically notes the need to take into account the particular needs of women and girls in refugee camps and settlements, including in their design.

Security Council Resolution 1820 was adopted in 2008 and condemns the use of sexual violence as a tool of war, and declares that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide”. 



Humanitarian accountability standards and commitments

Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS)

The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) outlines nine commitments to improve the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian response, facilitating greater accountability to crisis-affected communities. As a core standard, the CHS acknowledges the vital role of participation for an effective response, and pivotally, that this participation comes from a diverse range of the community, including those differing in sex, age and ability. Gender in emergencies work is particularly relevant to ensuring the fulfillment of CHS 1: Humanitarian response is appropriate and relevant.

The Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards

Along with the CHS, The Sphere Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards is the core set of guiding principles by which CARE are committed to undertake their humanitarian work. The humanitarian principles, amongst which is impartiality, enshrine the principle of humanitarian assistance without bias or discrimination according to age, gender, race, religion, or ethnicity. The Sphere handbook is currently under review and revision.

World Humanitarian Summit

The commitments generated during the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit included a prominent theme of improving gender outcomes. Women and girls, previously often seen as passive victims or beneficiaries of assistance, were recognised as often being amongst the first responders. Some of the specific outcomes included commitments to Catalyze action to achieve gender equality. These commitments include the effort to:

  • Fully comply with humanitarian policies, frameworks and legally binding documents related to gender equality, women’s empowerment, and women’s rights. 
  • Ensure that all humanitarian programming is gender responsive.
  • Implement a coordinated global approach to prevent and respond to gender-based violence in crisis contexts, including through the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies.
  • Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the Outcome documents of their review conferences for all women and adolescent girls in crisis settings.
  • Empower women and girls as change agents and leaders, including by increasing support for local women’s groups to participate meaningfully in humanitarian action.
  • The 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) was one of the first international agreements to address issues related to sexuality, sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights. Paragraph 7.3 clarifies that these are not a new set of rights, but reflect existing human rights instruments related to sexual and reproductive autonomy (freedoms) and the attainment of sexual and reproductive health (entitlements). The 1995 Beijing Platform for Action expands this definition by affirming in paragraph 96 the right to exercise control over and make decisions about one’s sexuality, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. Fulfillment of each state’s obligations under these global commitments is assessed every four years in a Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is essentially a peer review of each state’s human rights record.


Thematic global strategies and efforts for gender justice

Women’s economic empowerment

A set of Women’s Empowerment Principles developed by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, launched in 2010, set out guidance for how to empower women in the workplace and marketplace. These principles emphasize the business case for corporate action to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  • Principle 1  Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Principle 2  Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination
  • Principle 3  Ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of all women and men workers
  • Principle 4  Promote education, training and professional development for women
  • Principle 5  Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Principle 6  Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
  • Principle 7  Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality

Nutrition and food security

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, launched in 2011, brings together 58 countries with civil society, the United Nations, donors, the private sector and researchers in a collective effort to end malnutrition. SUN is founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition. SUN countries – who are at the heart of global efforts to improve nutrition – work to achieve the six World Health Assembly (WHA) Goals by 2025. SUN seeks to catalyze multi-stakeholder action and investments, particularly in line with national level nutrition plans.

Climate change and gender commitments and funds

The Paris Agreement (on climate change) has been ratified by more than 120 countries.

Its preamble acknowledges that climate change is a common concern of humankind, and that Parties should, when taking action on climate change, respect their obligations on human rights, the right to health, gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. In the context of adaptation to climate impacts and climate resilience (Article 7.5), Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and transparent approach.

  • The Paris Agreement is built around a set of national commitments and policy development processes, particularly the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in which all governments laid out their (voluntary) plans to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and to address climate change impacts (e.g. adaptation). Many refer to the impacts of climate change on agriculture. The NDCs are becoming the framework for national climate policies, investments and budgets in various ways. The gender and climate community has been highlighting the gender gap and opportunities to bring gender equality and justice to the table.
  • As countries develop National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), sectors will build plans and investments that CARE could influence. For example, the risks and opportunities in the health sector, and health and adaptation debate, could shape SRHR advocacy at the country level.

The Green Climate Fund is an increasingly relevant funding tool (currently $ 10 billion), and its Gender Policy has four key objectives:

  • To ensure that, by adopting a gender-sensitive approach, the Fund will achieve greater, more effective, sustainable and equitable climate change results, outcomes and impacts in an efficient and comprehensive manner.
  • To build equally women’s and men’s resilience to, and ability to address, climate change – and to ensure that women and men equally contribute to and benefit from activities supported by the Fund.
  • To address and mitigate against assessed potential project and program risks for women and men associated with adaptation and mitigation activities financed by the Fund.
  • To contribute to reducing the gender gap of climate change-exacerbated social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities.

Gender in Emergencies

Gender-based violence (GBV) violates international human rights law and the principles of gender equality. In 2013, DFID launched the Call to Action on Protecting Girls and Women in Emergencies, with the US assuming leadership in 2014. The Call to Action aims to transform the way in which GBV is addressed through collective action from government partners, international organizations, and NGOs, and works through three objectives:

  • Establish specialized GBV services and programs that are accessible to anyone affected by GBV and are available from the onset of an emergency.
  • Integrate and implement actions to reduce and mitigate GBV risk across all levels and sectors of humanitarian response from the earliest stages of emergencies and throughout the program cycle.
  • Mainstream gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls throughout humanitarian action.

Gender and health commitments

The Every Woman Every Child movement, launched in 2010 by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon aims to mobilize action to address the major health challenges facing women, children and adolescents, aiming to both protect their wellbeing, and end preventable deaths. The Global Strategy is built in alignment with the SDGs, with one of the key action areas to assess risks, human rights and gender needs in humanitarian and fragile settings.

The UN Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is a global multi-stakeholder process and roadmap that brings together UN, governments, donors and other stakeholders to accelerate momentum for women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health from 2016 to 2030.[1] The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health was originally launched in 2010 as the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. This strategy brought together 127 global stakeholders, including governments, NGOs and private sector to push forward momentum needed during the end of the MDGs to end preventable maternal and child deaths and also sought to close the estimated funding gap of US $88 billion for maternal, newborn and child health.[2] An updated Global Strategy, which was launched in 2016 to align with the 15–year span of the SDGs now also puts adolescents at the center of a movement to accelerate progress to a multi-sectoral and integrated approach to health and sustainable development[3]

In 2012, the London Summit on Family Planning brought together over 20 governments and NGOs, private and bilateral donors to committing to address the financial, service and policy gaps relating to women’s access to contraceptive services and information. Out of the London Summit, Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) was created to work with the global community to ensure that 120 million women and girls fulfill their right to access and use contraception. FP2020 is a global partnership working in 69 countries around the world, with 38 countries having made financial, policy or service commitments.

Ministerial Declaration on Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

In September 2013, the UN hosted the first Ministerial meeting on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The meeting articulated rights and commitments in relation to gender and sexual minorities, and abuses they face, and led to the Ministerial Declaration on Ending Violence and Discrimination against Individuals Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity was signed by 11 national governments.