Dr. Ashok Nigam UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Remarks on “International Women’s Day”

Mar 9, 2016

Dr. Ashok Nigam

Your Excellency, Dr. Abdel Mohessen Ben Faroq, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Culture and Information, Mrs. Amal Moallimi, Head of the Women Branch King AbdulAziz Center for National Dialogue.

Excellencies Ambassadors to the Kingdom, Distinguished panelists and guests,

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,


Al Salaam Alaikum

Good morning and a warm welcome to all of you on the International Women’s Day. Today we gather to commemorate this special day not only to acknowledge the achievements of women in development but also to highlight their important role in building peaceful and socially cohesive societies.  

I would like first of all to take this opportunity to thank you all for your presence and to thank the panelists for being with us to share their knowledge and experience on the role of Saudi women in social cohesion. 

I would also like to thank Mr. Faisal A. Bin Muaammar, Secretary General of the King AbdulAziz Center for National Dialogue who took an active interest in designing the agenda for this day but unfortunately could not be with us due to other engagements.  Our thanks also to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their support in organizing this event.

Excellencies and distinguished guests,


In recent years, we have witnessed the rise of ideologies that fuel intolerance, terrorism, hatred, extremism, sectarianism and violence. Such ideologies are a threat to our societies, and to the sense of decency and peaceful co-existence that is enshrined in Islam and the United Nations Charter.


Countering and preventing extremism involves promoting respect and inclusiveness in communities, societies and states in which there is security for everyday life and trust in the social order. Building this trust may include engagement, reducing vulnerabilities and strengthening justice, human rights and development.

Saudi Arabia has been working towards the well-being of all its people, maintaining peace and minimizing disparities in order to achieve the prosperity for all its people. However, the question remains: How can we promote greater societal cohesion in our societies?

Islamic teaching emphasizes the process of creating the strongest bond possible in order for people to live in harmony. The concepts of community, unity, family and social relationships are at the roots of Islamic teachings.

Women are at the core for building harmony and social cohesion as they are often described as having abilities that naturally support and promote peace, especially in educating the next generation of children and passing on important values. The children and youth of today and tomorrow will learn much from their mothers and they have to take forward the mutual understanding and respect that mothers can impart to their children.

Education plays a significant role in supporting social cohesion and is a core component of building peaceful sustainable societies. I would like to applaud Saudi Arabia on its high percentage of women in higher education. Also, Saudi Arabia is maintaining its place in the Human Development Index for 2015 with a very high human development rank of 39.  

Excellencies and distinguished guests,


The Security Council Resolution 1325 on the role of women in peace and security reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian responses, in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

Resolution 1325 urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations development, peace and security efforts.

With the support to Member States, the United Nations is committed to doing its part to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, which will improve the lives of people everywhere, in particular women.  The SDGs cannot be achieved without an inclusive approach and without social cohesion. To achieve social cohesion women play a central role.

Distinguished guests,

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. 

The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number five -Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls- and Goal number 4 –Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Some key targets of the 2030 Agenda:

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

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.

Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Distinguished guests,

Addressing some of the SDGs, The United Nations Secretary General’s message on the occasion of the International Women’s Day 2016 stated that we can only address these problems by empowering women as agents of change.  Noting the many actions that he has taken to promote women in the UN the Secretary General has noted, and I quote from sections of his message:

“We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards. Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers. When I arrived at the United Nations, there were no women leading our peace missions in the field. Now, nearly a quarter of all UN missions are headed by women – far from enough but still a vast improvement.  

Where once gender equality was seen as a laudable idea, now it is a firm policy. Before, gender sensitivity training was optional; now it is mandatory for ever-greater numbers of UN staff. In the past, only a handful of UN budgets tracked resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment; now this is standard for nearly one in three, and counting.

Confucius taught that to put the world in order, we must begin in our own circles.

I am echoing the calls of many who know women can drive success in achieving our bold 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and advancing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

On this International Women’s Day, I remain outraged by the denial of rights to women and girls – but I take heart from the people everywhere who act on the secure knowledge that women’s empowerment leads to society’s advancement. Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.” [End of quote]

Saudi Arabia has made major strides in empowering women in 2015 with the participation of women in the municipal elections both as candidates and as voters.  Increasing number of women are entering the workforce and it is notable that more women are in higher education than men, thus providing a reservoir of human capacity that the country can benefit from greatly.  Such positive steps need to applauded, encouraged and given more visibility.  Listening to the views of women across the range of challenges that a nation faces will only help in finding the ‘right’ solution and in creating an inclusive society.

As a father of three daughters, I appreciate the importance of hearing their views and want to see them thrive in a world in which gender equality is a reality and not an aspiration.  Let’s all work together for a better sustainable world – which can only be achieved through social cohesion in which women play a leading role.


UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Saudi Arabia 
Go to UNDP Global