Events Ascame/ March 6, 2024/ Events, Featured

Multilateral cooperation is more necessary than ever to ensure gender equality in both the economic and social spheres, a challenge that affects not only the Mediterranean region but is extensible to any country in the world. This was the main conclusion of the BMULTILATERAL session held on March 5 at DFactory Barcelona, as part of the ‘Barcelona Woman Acceleration Week’ BWAW discussion forum organized by Consorci de la Zona Franca. This was one of the 10 sessions framed in the fourth edition of BWAW, a hybrid event designed to reflect on the visibility of women in key areas of the economy, including sectors such as industry and logistics.

ASCAME was represented at BMULTILATERAL through its General Coordinator, Anwar Zibaoui, who moderated the session and introduced the debate insisting on “the need for multilateral cooperation as the only option to mitigate the current global threats”. Zibaoui referred to the four transitions we are currently undergoing: “energy -from fossil to renewable-, technological -from physical to digital-, economic -from West to East- and demographic -from aging nations to young nations-“. To which he added “the multidimensional crisis that characterizes international relations and that is determined by a climate of growing nationalism, protectionism and competition between the great powers”. In his opinion, “this unfavorable global context is contributing to slow progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda and which outlines a path to achieve more equitable and peaceful societies, above all, to move towards gender equality and to empower women in any economic and social sphere”.

The General Coordinator of ASCAME emphasized the negative consequences of the gender gap: “A loss of wealth due to the gender gap is estimated at 10% of GDP in advanced economies and more than 30% in the Mediterranean and Africa”. As he pointed out, “encouraging female entrepreneurship is key not only to move towards more egalitarian and inclusive societies but also for growth, competitiveness and the future of economies and companies, reaching 47% of GDP in the next decade”. But beyond the issue of encouraging female entrepreneurship globally, Zibaoui highlighted the decisive role that businesses currently play in advancing gender equality: “The private sector is uniquely positioned to break down walls and restrictions based on gender and cultural differences. They must contribute to the achievement of the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda by encouraging a greater presence of women on management committees, promoting policies to retain female talent and promoting flexible working hours to facilitate women’s personal and professional reconciliation.”

Multilateralism adapted to the idiosyncrasies of each country

Rosa Cañadas, entrepreneur and President of the Tanja Foundation -which promotes relations between Morocco and Spain- agreed with Zibaoui that the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda are the best roadmap for achieving full equality but warned that “it is difficult to establish common objectives because there are still countries with discriminatory laws and restrictive rules”. She added: “More flexibility, more tailoring to each country, is needed when advancing multilateral agendas. Addressing gender equality and women’s empowerment means addressing restrictive social norms and rigid gender roles.” Cañadas spoke of “awareness-raising and cultural change, two issues that take time, especially in less developed countries, and require the involvement of everyone, including men, who are often excluded”.

The president of Fundación Tanja said that “discrimination against women persists in many countries, whether to access credit and create a business, to own property or to inherit an asset”. Cañadas warned that “only 15% of the SMEs presided by women export” and also that “only 10% of women in technology careers are women”. To reverse this situation, “it is necessary to involve companies and promote multilateral cooperation“. Proof ot this are the projects promoted by the Tanja Foundation to promote female entrepreneurship in Morocco, where there are few companies led by women: “The support and accompaniment provided by a local network for women is more effective in changing the trend”.

In this sense, Anwar Zibaoui pointed out that “cooperation between Spain and Morocco, although bilateral, can be extrapolated not only to the African continent but also to Europe, as an example of a bilateral relationship that can become multilateral”.

Challenges of current multilateralism

Amaia Celaya, Advisor on humanitarian practices at the UN and the EC, reflected on the type of multilateralism currently in place: “A more inclusive, dynamic and fragmented multilateralism, with its lights and shadows and short-lived alliances, is what is emerging at the moment. It remains to be seen whether it will be sustained or not, whether it will be able to face the return of nationalism, unilateralism, bilateral relations, civil and armed conflicts and an extractivist economic culture in the current global scenario”.

According to Celaya, “international cooperation can be a catalyst for achieving the goals of equality and the fulfillment of women’s rights, as it can give additional impetus to national efforts to achieve this goal”. She agreed with the other speakers that “the 2030 Agenda is the roadmap to follow to guarantee active female participation in any sphere, be it political, economic or public life”.

When it comes to reviewing and promoting new multilateral programs, Celaya insisted on the need to focus on two fundamental factors of discrimination against women, such as sexism and age discrimination”. The advisor to the UN and the EC provided several data that corroborate this fact: “Only four women have held the position of president of the UN General Assembly and there has never been a female Secretary General. Only 1.6% of heads of state and 21.6% of ambassadors worldwide are women. Twenty percent of young women are discouraged from participating in political activities because of their age and gender.”

Multilateralism: From the local to the global sphere

On the other hand, Mercè Conesa, General Director of Barcelona Global, contributed another very interesting point of view to the debate: the decisive role that cities currently play in achieving full gender equality in any field. In her opinion, “although there is a global regression in the fulfillment of climate and equality goals, cities must keep their finger on the pulse and play a key role in ensuring compliance with the SDGs of the 2030 Agenda”.

In the same vein, Teresa Pedrosa, Labor and Safety Inspector in A Coruña, said that “to advance towards gender equality it is necessary to involve the whole society, starting with the analysis and diagnosis of the main problems at the local and municipal level to extrapolate it to the global level”. As she said, “working from small spaces helps a lot to work later from larger spaces”. In this initial analysis and diagnosis, Pedrosa also involved companies: “We have to go with equality glasses, there cannot be Spanish companies established in other countries that act with a blindfold on their eyes. We need more awareness and training to move forward together towards this common challenge”.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *