UK lagging behind over gender equality plans, MPs warn

Updated: 

The UK is lagging behind other countries in setting out plans to achieve gender equality, MPs have warned.

An influential cross-party committee called on ministers to spell out how they will meet an international commitment to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls by 2030. 

The Women and Equalities Committee said 22 other countries had already published their plans for meeting the commitment.

The pledge is contained in Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5), one of the targets agreed by world leaders at the United Nations in 2015.

In a report, the committee said SDG 5 "is more than an international obligation that the UK must meet" as "it represents an opportunity to develop the most effective structures and policies to achieve gender equality in the UK".

The MPs said the Government should publicise its commitment to the SDGs in the UK and immediately commit to reporting on progress to the UN's high-level political forum on the issue in 2018. 

Minister for Women and Equalities Justine Greening should take responsibility for ensuring the achievement of SDG 5 across government, the report said.

The Government Equalities Office should develop plans for a partnership between Whitehall and civil society to meet the SDG 5 goal.

The committee's Tory chairwoman Maria Miller said: "The UK has led the world in developing the SDGs and we should be proud of the Government for championing the inclusion of a standalone gender goal.

"Achieving the SDG 5 commitment domestically is key to maintaining our position as a proponent of women's rights globally.

"The UK has strong policies in many areas included in SDG 5 but stretching goals need to be agreed to demonstrate commitment to gender equality at home as well as abroad.

"Other countries, including Germany, Norway and Finland have already set out clear plans for action and the UK appears to be lagging behind.

"We strongly welcome the Government's promise to include SDG 5 in its cross-departmental work, but the need for an overall strategy to ensure its successful delivery is clear. Leadership must come from the top."

A Government spokeswoman said: "No country can truly flourish if half of its population is left behind. This Government is committed to achieving gender equality at home and worldwide which is why we ensured there was a standalone Sustainable Development Goal on gender.

"Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals is firmly in our national interest and will benefit the British people. We take domestic implementation seriously and will fully respond to the select committee's recommendations in due course."