CWGL Faculty Director Presents to Joint Meeting of UN Agency Executive Boards on Inequality

Written by MaryBeth Bognar (Program Coordinator)

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Radhika Balakrishnan, Ph.D., Faculty Director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), spoke at the Joint Meeting of the Executive Boards of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UNICEF, UN Women, and WFP. Balakrishnan presented during a panel that focused on overcoming inequalities among and within countries, including gender inequality, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The panel presented an opportunity to discuss how United Nations agencies can position themselves to address inequalities effectively, including by ensuring their reach to those most vulnerable. Balakrishnan provided insight on macro-economic inequalities between countries and this link with discriminatory social norms. In doing so, it’s necessary to look at how economic policy is constructed. “If we took human rights as the overarching framework, how do we use this to assess economic policy?” said Balakrishnan. She went on to emphasize that, “instead of talking about people being left behind, we need to be talking about how they’re being pushed behind.”

It is also crucial to note that macro-economic policies have gendered effects. Looking specifically at the role of unpaid care work in this context, one can see the disproportionate negative consequences that austerity measures have on women. “Macro-economic policies aren’t gender blind, they’re male biased,” said Dr. Balakrishnan. To begin addressing unpaid care work and the inequalities it perpetuates, the “three Rs” should be considered:

  1. Recognize unpaid care work and measure its impact and value on the economy.
  2. Reduce unpaid care work’s disproportionate burden on women by adequately investing in infrastructure.
  3. Redistribute unpaid care work both within the household and by having it taken up by the state.

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Further framing the discussion, Balakrishnan demonstrated the link between economic policy’s role in the use of resources, and how these resources are necessary to achieve human rights. “If we took human rights seriously and we were to assess economic policy using fulfillment of human rights as the main criterion, we would have a very different kind of economic policy regime,” said Balakrishnan. In relation to this point, it was suggested that United Nations agencies have the opportunity to come together and think through what this kind of framework could be. The full presentation and panel event can be accessed here.