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The Minister for Development Cooperation's Welcome Speech at the MDG3 Conference

Welcome Speech by Mr. Søren Pind, Minister for Development Cooperation, at the MDG3 conference in Copenhagen on 25 March 2010.

Women’s Empowerment  and Employment

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is pleasure for me to extend a warm welcome to this conference and also a great privilege.

It gives me the opportunity to underline the importance of economic growth as a precondition for reducing poverty and the key role of women in achieving sustainable growth.

Furthermore, I would like to make it crystal clear that for me freedom in itself is a value and an independent means for combating poverty. Without personal and economic freedom, there will be no economic progress for the individual, woman or man.

Do I repeat something you already know? Maybe. Probably. And yet the notion of freedom is often neglected and even forgotten.

A draft of a new strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation has just been presented for public hearing. It states that our development policy is based on the fundamental concept that all human beings are born free and equal with inalienable rights. Without political and economic freedom people are kept in poverty.

There is no doubt in my mind that only by ensuring the rights and the opportunities for everybody to participate in economic growth can we help the poor people to cross the barriers of poverty.

The new strategy comprises five specific focus areas for Danish development cooperation. One of these focus areas is gender equality, comprising special efforts to empower women.

The priority given to gender equality is embedded in the freedom and rights concept. It is accordingly based on our conviction that we need to empower women in order for them to claim their rights and equal opportunities – without which we will see neither economic growth nor sustainable development.

The MDG3 Global Call to Action and the torch campaign is the latest and most spectacular proof that gender equality and women’s empowerment is not a new priority in Denmark’s development cooperation. But it is reconfirmed and strengthened in the new strategy.

There is a moral as well as an economic side to our priority on gender equality and empowerment of women, and this leads me directly to this conference on women’s employment.

Employment is one of the key elements in economic growth and women’s potential need to be utilized. It is the right of women to choose if they want employment, and we have an obligation to ensure that right.

We are also committed to enable the environment necessary for increasing women’s employment opportunities. This includes encouraging and engaging the private sector to invest in women. Official development assistance alone will not do the trick, whether we are aiming at promoting women’s opportunities as economic agents or more specifically women’s employment opportunities.

In many countries women face a number of constrains, barring them for utilizing their economic potential and providing essential contribution to economic growth.

This conference will discuss how to overcome three barriers – legal, social and cultural, and health – and I am looking forward to hearing your views on the challenges we face in this context and the recommendations, which we will feed into the process towards the MDG High-level Meeting in New York.

Thank you