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Women, who make up half of the world’s population, have benefited more than men from the progress in economic and social development in the last three decades. Nevertheless they continue to be overrepresented among the world’s most vulnerable groups, as access to resources and power remains highly skewed towards men. Gender equality is a goal in its own right but also a key factor for sustainable economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability. By providing the same opportunities to women and men, including in decision-making in all kinds of activities, a sustainable path of development can be achieved to ensure that women’s and men’s interests are both taken into account in the allocation of resources.
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) made important provisions for the recognition of women’s contributions and their full participation in sustainable development. Principle 20 of the Rio Declaration (quoted at the outset of this paper) and Chapter 24 entitled “Global Action for Women towards Sustainable and Equitable Development” of Agenda 212 make commitments to strengthening the position of women.
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