Commission on Status of Women
RESOURCE MOBILIZATION AND RESOLUTION OF DEBT
NEW YORK, 8 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on the Status of Women this morning continued its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century". It heard 20 statements from representatives of Member States and various organs of the United Nations system.
While many speakers concurred with theoretical approaches geared towards improving the status of women, making gender equality a viable reality and enhancing the role and the work of the Commission, others underscored more specifically why national efforts to implement the critical goals of Beijing were being impeded particularly in developing countries and States with economies in transition.
Aisha Ismail, Minister of Women’s Affairs of Nigeria said that an urgent and definitive resolution of the debt problem, including outright cancellation, would free resources in developing countries. That would in turn strengthen the capacity of developing countries to pursue development-oriented policies that would positively impinge on women. There was an urgent need to devise innovative approaches, including empowerment, through appropriate policies, programmes, education, skills training and increased awareness of rights.
Kazakhstan’s representative said there was a need for mobilization of adequate resources at all levels, particularly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, to successfully implement the objectives of the Platform and the twenty-third special session.
Iraq’s representative said the embargo on her country and its daily bombings by aircraft of the United Kingdom and the United States had had grave consequences on women and children. Death was striking thousands due to radioactive debris, which was also affecting children and pregnant women. The number of babies with abnormalities had increased very sharply because of malnutrition.
She said studies on Iraq by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had found complex and severe pathologies and had identified increases in the incidents of cancer, deformation, spontaneous abortion and unexplained cases of sterility. Iraqi women were having to wage a struggle that was caused by an embargo that was being presented as an international resolution.
Ethiopia’s representative said mainstreaming gender in the overall development programmes and projects was the most effective way and means to assist women. She was concerned however, that the name "mainstreaming", would dilute the gender issue causing a return to square one where assistance for stand-alone women’s programmes would be denied.
Marie Randriamamonjy, Chief, Women in Development Service, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said the FAO’s Medium-Term Plan (2002-2007) identified 16 Priority Areas for Interdisciplinary Action. Gender in food and agriculture was one of them. The Plan aimed at removing the obstacles to women’s and men’s equal and active participation in, and enjoyment of the benefits from, agricultural and rural development. It emphasized that a transformed partnership based on equality between women and men was an essential condition for people-centred sustainable and rural development.
She also said the FAO was also working on the interrelations between HIV/AIDS, gender and food security and sustainable rural development. The AIDS epidemic could cause a major agricultural labour shortage in the future with 7 million already lost and at least 16 million more who could die in Sub-Saharan Africa before 2020.
Also this morning, the Commission designated Bettina Cadenbach (Germany) to serve on the Working Group on Communication issues.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Mexico, Australia, Turkey, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Mongolia, Thailand, South Africa, Bangladesh, Mali and Botswana.
The Chair of Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Charlotte Abaka and the Director of International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Eleni Stamaris, also made statements.
The Committee will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to hold an expert panel discussion and dialogue on one its thematic issues: women, girls and HIV/AIDS.
The Commission on the Status of Women met this met this morning to continue its forty-fifth session and resume its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".
(For detailed background see Press Release WOM/1263 issued 2 March 2001.)
JORGE EDUARDO NAVARRETE (Mexico) said the high level of participation of Mexican women in the elections held in July 2000, was reliable proof of their participation in the country’s decision-making process. Mexico now had a decentralized, technically and financially autonomous body for the protection of the rights of women. Known as the National Institute for Women, it would shortly start work with a mandate to elaborate a national programme for equal opportunity for women and non-discrimination against them.
The Institute, he added, also had a mission to support the formulation of public policies to achieve gender equality; to promote the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in national development planning, programming and in the federal budget; and to act as a consulting and training institution for federal, state and municipal entities, as well as for the social and private sectors.
He shared the concern over the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and supported the strengthening of international cooperation and technical assistance for seriously affected countries and those with the least resources. Mexico had set up a programme to care for the sector of the population at the highest risk. The National Council for AIDS Prevention and Control emphasized the prevention of the disease through education.
He believed that the Commission’s work programme for the next five years should continue to focus on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the implementation of the recommendations adopted at the twenty-third special session, while contributing to other review processes and preparations of new conferences.
PENNY WENSLEY (Australia) said since June last year, her country had taken a number of significant steps to begin implementation of the Beijing +5 outcome document. This included the development of a strategy known as Australia’s Beijing +5 Action Plan which set priorities to tackle discrimination against women and to take forward the most innovative strategies of the outcome document. Priorities included eliminating domestic violence and sexual assault, promoting women’s economic self-sufficiency and addressing negative stereotypical attitudes and behaviours by men and boys.
She added that the Action Plan aimed to ensure that all strategies were appropriate to the diverse needs of different groups of women, including working in partnerships with Australia’s indigenous women. The Plan also acknowledged that all actors in society shared responsibility for the achievement of gender equality and identified partnerships between government and civil society as a key strategy for implementing the Platform of Action. Her Government believed that working together to achieve gender equality and sharing innovative best practices was vital to the task.
On the issues of HIV/AIDS and racism, she said that Australians were practical people and therefore felt that it was important that the Commission’s deliberations should lead to practical outcomes. It was also vital for the Commission to send a strong message about the priority of gender aspects to this the special session on HIV/AIDS and the conference on racism. Strategies and actions addressing the gender dimension on these issues should be considered.
In conclusion, she said that her country placed high priority on the Commission’s role as a catalyst to mainstream a gender perspective in the United Nations system. She hoped there would be opportunities at the session to explore practical ways in which it could accelerate the integration of gender issues into the United Nations system. As part of its own commitment to this issue, Australia was pleased to be associated with a Canadian/New Zealand resolution on gender mainstreaming. She hoped the resolution would be supported and would lead to practical measures to increase the gender focus of the Economic and Social Council and other United Nations bodies.
HALIMA LAWAN (Nigeria) said that notwithstanding positive developments in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action some obstacles still persisted. The impoverishment of women still continued primarily because the debt burden constrained the development efforts of many developing countries, with women bearing the brunt of hardships due to economic restructuring. Regrettably, efforts at debt relief through programmes such as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative had not yielded the desired results.
"We believe that an urgent and definitive resolution of the debt problem, including outright cancellation will free resources for development in developing countries", she said. That would in turn strengthen the capacity of developing countries to pursue development-oriented policies that would positively impinge on the lives of women. The combined effects of globalization and structural adjustment programmes had led to increased feminization of poverty and had undermined efforts to achieve gender equality. There was an urgent need to devise innovative approaches, including empowerment, through appropriate policies, programmes, education, skills training and increased awareness of rights.
She informed members that as a contribution to efforts to stem the spread of deadly diseases, Nigeria would host the World Conference on Roll Back Malaria –- a disease that killed millions of Africans every year. Her country would also host the African Summit on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Abuja from 24 to 27 April. Nigeria was the first country with a very large population to cross the 5 per cent prevalence rate for HIV/AIDS -- the threshold of an explosive epidemic. That frightening figure made it imperative for her country to explore all possible means to fight the further spread of the virus.
NEVIN SENOL (Turkey) said a new understanding of women’s human rights which emphasized the de facto rights as well as the de jure, and equality in the private and public spheres, had guided her country’s efforts towards gender equality. That understanding also emphasized the fact that factors such as age, disability and socio-economic position could create particular barriers to women. Turkey had bound itself to the relevant provisions laid down in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Action Plan and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
She said women’s unequal representation in political, economic and social decision-making along with their limited access to education, health care and resources, especially in some rural areas, were still major challenges in Turkey. Notwithstanding, there had been important developments in her country in the field of gender equality. One of the ground-breaking changes was compulsory basic education. That step would enable a rise in the enrolment levels of girls and would also raise the marriage age by keeping those girls in school.
She said another landmark was the enactment of the Family Protection Law through which the eradication of domestic violence was addressed comprehensively. Turkey had also withdrawn its reservations placed on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
SARAH PATERSON (New Zealand) said that like other countries, New Zealand had focussed on widespread education campaigns, including the promotion of safe sexual practices in its fight against HIV/AIDS. This was a sensible plan of action, but careful attention was necessary to ensure that the services provided, which included counselling and needle-exchange programmes, were equally available to all and that the human rights of people with the disease were fully respected.
New Zealand, she added, was also aware of the intersection between gender and race. Her country was currently analyzing the situation and status of Maori women and girls in relation to other groups to identify any disparities and measure the progress towards achieving New Zealand’s goals for women.
Noting the reference under the theme "related intolerance", she added that New Zealand was committed to human rights and was against discrimination based on marital status and sexual orientation. She looked forward to the United Nations recognizing that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and marital status was a human rights violation.
She said her country remained concerned about the gender imbalance in United Nations recruitment and employment which was particularly evident in the areas of peacekeeping and other specialized United Nations work.
ALFRED CARLOT (Vanuatu), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said that he was particularly proud that the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency from Papua New Guinea had been awarded the United Nations Millennium Peace Prize for Women. The prize recognized the outstanding achievements by the agency in resolving and preventing conflicts and building peace on the island of Bougainville. The women of the Bougainville Province had long been advocates of peace and had often worked under arduous and dangerous conditions. They had been instrumental in walking into hills and mountains to seek young combatants and persuade them to come to the negotiating table. The award was therefore well deserved.
Turning to issues before the Commission, he said his region recognized the value of gender equality in society and the benefits for all societies that came from the realization of women’s human rights. The Group therefore found merit in strengthening the Commission’s work to present effective and coordinated synergies between women’s concerns and other mainstream issues in the United Nations. He hoped that the Commission wold be able to draw from the successes of other United Nations processes.
ELMIRA S. IBRAIMOVA (Kyrgyzstan) said a National Council on Family, Women and Development had been set up in her country by Presidential decree. That Council was made up of heads of ministries and agencies as well as primary figures in the Republic. Kyrgyzstan had also developed a draft national plan of action to promote gender equality. In addition, it had begun to implement a programme of gender education for civil servants. Women’s health and violence against women were being addressed.
She said there were more than 150 women’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country and two active women’s political parties. A bill on gender equality had also been drafted and was being discussed by NGOs. It had been submitted to her parliament for consideration. Her Government was confident that the promotion of the status of women in the country would serve as its contribution to international efforts to achieve the goals of the Plan of Action.
MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan) said the development of the Commission’s new multi-year work programme would enhance the Commission’s effectiveness and strengthen its role in mainstreaming a gender perspective in the activities of the United Nations. The Organization’s system should promote active and visible policies through the maintenance of gender units and focal points so as to ensure the effective realization of the strategic objectives of the Beijing Action Plan. There was also a need for mobilizing adequate resources at all levels, particularly in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, in order to successfully implement the objectives of the Platform and the twenty-third special session.
She said the comprehensive assessment by the Economic and Social Council of the conference review processes would facilitate progress in implementing the goals of those conferences in a more integrated and coordinated manner at both national and international levels. She expressed support for the Council’s efforts to reinforce the cross-cutting nature of the recent reviews. That would ensure full incorporation of the conference outcomes and the follow-up activities. Her country was developing effective mechanisms to increase women’s integration in social and political life and expand their representation at decision-making levels.
MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said his country’s experience had shown that a large part of the problem of HIV/AIDS was the lack of education among women about the disease. Health and demographic surveys taken in 1997 indicated that only 51 per cent of newly married women knew about the disease, while recent reports had shown that only 62 per cent of mature women had heard of the virus. There were numerous problems faced by women concerning the virus, and they also had to deal with discrimination -- a lack of equality and proper education.
On the issue of gender and racism, he said there were particular concerns for the Asia and Pacific region relating to the number of migrant workers from the region. He believed the results of the Asia Pacific Seminar of Experts in Preparation for the World Conference against Racism, convened in Bangkok last September, and others would contribute to the upcoming World Conference.
He said that Indonesia was determined to contribute through its national policies and in international forums to eliminate racial discrimination and the dual threat of gender-based racial discrimination. It had adopted a policy of zero tolerance on violence against women and had launched a national plan to this end.
TSOGT NYAMSUREN (Mongolia) said that after the recommendations of the Beijing conference, her country had adopted and was implementing the National Plan of Action for Advancement of Women. It identified 10 critical areas of concern, including women and economic development, poverty, health, education, rural women, family and the environment. In addition, the Government had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to economically and politically empower women, and as a first step, it had carried out a study to identify the negative and positive impacts of the country’s transition to a market economy.
She further stated that over the past years, the Government had been consistent in its efforts to implement the provisions of the international human rights conventions. It had signed the Optional Protocol to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Elections held last July had proved that democracy and respect for human rights were irreversible for Mongolians. The Government was determined to closely cooperate with NGOs and other sections of civil society to enhance the rule of law.
KULKUMUT SINGHARA NA AYUDHAYA (Thailand) said it was important for gender to be viewed as a cross-cutting issue in the discussions on HIV/AIDS and in the formulation and implementation of comprehensive actions to prevent and control the virus. "We should ensure that women have equal and broader access to preventive technologies and treatment, including affordable drugs", he said.
At the same time, initiatives should be undertaken to mitigate the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on women, he said. In that regard, attention should be given to improving the welfare of women and girls who were either widowed or orphaned as a consequence of the disease, particularly those in rural areas who were often left behind without any adequate means of sustaining a livelihood for themselves or their families.
In Thailand, violence against women was one issue that was of grave concern, he said. Abuse of women constituted a social problem and a great impediment to the country’s development. His Government had therefore augmented policies and plans to promote collective efforts in better prevention, protection and rehabilitation for women. It was promoting the role of the family as a necessary and integral part of society, amending legislative provisions for greater recognition of the rights and status of women, and encouraging partnerships between governmental organizations, civil society actors and international organizations.
WAJEHA FADHIL (Iraq) said there were 20 million women in Iraq, and their marginalization would affect the entire development of the country. The Government had therefore taken various legislative measures to protect women in public life. Such legislation had also ensured women’s rights and addressed violence against them. Iraq had joined the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and its provisions were now mandatory for all Iraqi institutions. The Beijing Plan of Action was also being implemented through a national commission created to do just that.
She said Iraq was, however involved in a struggle brought about by the imposition of sanctions. It was also being subjected to military aggression in the form of daily bombings by aircraft belonging to the United Kingdom and the United States. Moreover, she added, the bombing targets had not always been military. Such actions had caused a lot of damage and had greatly harmed the civilian population. They constituted a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and weakened the development of the State.
She said Iraq’s population was now threatened by depleted resources and a deteriorating health and environmental situation due to the use of radiation weapons. The bombings had had grave consequences on women and children. Death was striking thousands due to radioactive debris, which was also affecting children and pregnant women. The number of babies with abnormalities had increased very sharply because of malnutrition.
She said studies on Iraq by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had found complex and severe pathologies. Those studies had identified increases in the incidents of cancer, deformation, spontaneous abortion and unexplained cases of sterility. Iraqi women were having to wage a struggle that was caused by an embargo that was being presented as an international resolution. She demanded an end to that embargo so that those women could reclaim their lives.
JEANETTE NDHLOVU (South Africa) said that for many years, the majority of women in her country had endured the brunt of poverty and hardship brought on by apartheid. Their lives were characterized by inequitable access to education, health, housing and employment. Many of them had experienced racial discrimination, violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment and infection by HIV/AIDS.
Despite these disadvantages, she added, women had much to with what South Africa is today. This was reflected in the make-up of the country’s parliament where women constituted 29.8 per cent of the membership. They were also now entrepreneurs, participated in rural development and were involved in the arts among other things.
On the issue of HIV/AIDS, she said her country’s efforts to obtain affordable drugs for its people had resulted in a lawsuit brought by 40 pharmaceutical companies. She was confident that justice would prevail and that not just South Africa but many other poor countries would be able to use generic drugs to save their populations. South Africa would also be implementing a pilot programme in all nine provinces to assess the effect of the anti-retroviral drugs and would also provide free breast milk substitutes in an attempt to reduce mother-to-child infections.
She concluded that her country was looking forward to hosting the World Conference on Racism in August this year and was very serious about the substantive outcome.
MUHAMMED ENAYET MOWLA (Bangladesh) said that this year’s International Women’s Day theme "Women and Peace" had been addressed more prominently in the last year. For women and girls affected by conflicts a mere recognition of their plight was not enough. He therefore welcomed the fact that the Security Council had realized the importance of not only paying special attention to women affected by war but also the positive role they played in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building.
He was happy that it was during his country’s Security Council presidency that the first-ever statement on women and peace was made on the occasion of the International Women’s Day last March. This had acted as a catalyst for an open debate of the Council last October and subsequently for the adoption by the Council of resolution 1325. Bangladesh attached great importance to the follow-up and implementation of the resolution and would continue its efforts in this regard.
TADELECH MICHAEL, Minister in Charge of Women’s Affairs of Ethiopia, said that while the time that had elapsed between the twenty-third special session and the current session of the Commission was not long enough to witness major achievements, her delegation believed that this session could be a forum to further discussions on ways and means to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Plan of Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session. The Commission had to be instrumental in mainstreaming gender into the United Nations system, not only at the Headquarters level but at the field office level.
She said mainstreaming gender in the overall development programmes and projects was the most effective way to assist women. She was concerned however, that the name "mainstreaming", would dilute the gender issue, causing a return to square one where assistance for stand-alone women’s programmes would be denied.
Another major obstacle to the full realization of women’s rights in Ethiopia and many developing countries was poverty, she stated. It was a major force driving thousands of Ethiopian women to flee their country in search of a better life. Many times, unaware of what their fates would be, they resorted to any means –- including illegal channels –- to go abroad in their desperate need to escape the scourge of poverty. The hopes of many of them, however, were in vain. They were subjected to torture, beatings, sexual harassment, killings and unpaid labour.
SISSOKO NAMITA DEMBELE (Mali) said her country had reinforced its commitments to implementing both the objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action and other goals established at the various follow-ups to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995). Her Government had therefore underscored addressing critical issues such as violence against women.
She said priority actions had to focus on areas such as education and training that included gender perspectives and the creation of infrastructures for education on issues such as women’s health. Efforts would also address the creation and expansion of centres dealing with reproduction, HIV/AIDS, and the enforcement of women’s rights. She stressed that institutional support was essential to achieve all those plans.
LEUTLWETSE MMUALEFE (Botswana) said that as education and gender were linked, his Government had continued to implement policies that guaranteed equal access to education, and that would eliminate gender disparities in the education system. This had resulted in a gradual increase in the presence of women in formerly male-dominated sectors like science and technology.
In response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, he continued, the Government had commissioned a report indicating that it was vital to empower women to take control of decisions relating to their sexual and reproductive health and to change men’s attitudes. Efforts were also being made to bring men into the mainstream of the health system as well as encourage them to participate in the fight against the virus.
He confirmed Botswana’s unwavering commitment to the implementation of the Platform for Action through consultation and collaboration with civil society and the private sector.
CHARLOTTE ABAKA, Chairperson of the Committee On The Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) said her Committee had been deeply conscious of its parallel role to that of the Commission and had therefore decided at its twenty-fourth session to develop closer links with the Commission. In this regard, it drew attention to the willingness of Committee members to serve as experts in expert group meetings and as panelists during the Commission's sessions.
On the issue of HIV/AIDS, she said that the Committee had adopted general recommendations on women and health at its twentieth session. It had also drawn attention to the fact that adolescent girls and women in many countries lacked adequate access to information and services necessary to ensure sexual health. Harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, polygamy and marital rape had exposed girls and women to the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
The Committee, she continued, had recommended that States should ensure the right to sexual health information, education and services for all women and girls including those who have been trafficked, even if they were not legal residents of the country. Further, the Committee recommended that States should also ensure the rights of male and female adolescents to sexual and reproductive health education by properly trained personnel in specially designed programmes.
She concluded that both CEDAW and the Commission were at an exciting stage in their development. While the Committee was embarking on the challenges presented by the Optional Protocol, the Commission was considering its working methods and deciding on a work programme. Both were essentially pursuing the same goals, and their work should be complementary and mutually reinforcing.
MS STAMIRIS, the representative of International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) said her organization was ready to take on the challenge of empowering women and bridging the digital divide with its Gender Awareness Information Networking System. The system was cost-effective and used a network of researchers and trainers who produced a database of gender resources which is disseminated to all regions.
To guarantee future sustainability, her organization was going to place greater emphasis on fundraising. A strategy had been developed which would focus on communication and information technology companies as well as other private sector donors. It was vital that the organization did not face the same financial crises in the future that plagued it in the past.
MARIE RANDRIAMAMONJY, Chief, Women in Development Service, Women and Population Division, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that seeds of gender mainstreaming were finally generating results in her organization. Increased attention was being paid by the FAO Member States to the importance of gender-equitable agricultural development and food security. Her organization was currently setting its course towards the sustained institutionalization of gender issues into all programmes and projects. Women’s contribution to food security must be documented and illustrated by means of enhanced collection, dissemination and the use of data disaggregated by sex.
She said the FAO’s Medium-Term Plan (2002-2007) identified 16 Priority Areas for Interdisciplinary Action. Gender in food and agriculture was one of them. In pursuit of her organization’s mission to help build a food-secure world, the Plan aimed at removing the obstacles to women’s and men’s equal and active participation in, and enjoyment of, the benefits from agricultural and rural development. It emphasized that a transformed partnership based on equality between women and men was an essential condition for people-centred sustainable and rural development.
She said the FAO was also working on the interrelations between HIV/AIDS, gender and food security, and sustainable rural development from a normative perspective as well as an operational one. The AIDS epidemic could cause a major agricultural labour shortage in the future, with 7 million people already lost and at least 16 million more who could die in Sub-Saharan Africa before 2020. To mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS on rural households, the FAO’s Women and Population Division was working closely with other divisions to elucidate the disease’s impact on food security and on rural development from a gender perspective and to integrate that knowledge into agricultural/rural development policy, emergency operations, extension work and other key interventions in the field.
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