For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/DSG/29
Release Date:  6 March 2000
 'No Turning Back' from Milestone of 1995 Beijing Women's Conference
Deputy Secretary-General Tells Preparatory Committee

 NEW YORK, 3 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following are the remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette at the third session of the Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly Special Session entitled "Women 2000 : Gender, Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century":

 C'est un plaisir pour moi de me joindre à vous aujourd'hui, et un honneur de prendre la parole à cette troisième session de votre comité préparatoire.  Laissez-moi vous dire d'emblée combien j'attache d'importance aux travaux que vous allez conduire au cours des deux semaines à venir, ainsi qu'à l'ensemble du processus de suivi de la Quatrième Conférence mondiale sur les femmes.

 J'ai eu l'occasion, ces derniers mois, de m'entretenir avec différentes délégations au sujet des préparatifs de la session extraordinaire qui se tiendra en juin prochain.  Plusieurs m'ont fait part de leurs préoccupations face aux progrès relativement limités accomplis dans la mise en œuvre du Programme d'Action.  Je comprends et partage ces préoccupations.  Tous et toutes, nous aurions voulu que les choses changent plus vite, et plus en profondeur.  C'est précisément la raison d'être de la session extraordinaire : elle devrait nous aider à déterminer comment aller plus avant sur la voie que nous nous sommes tracée, celle qui doit mener à une égalité véritable entre les hommes et les femmes dans les sociétés du monde entier.

 La détermination et la volonté politique avec lesquelles les gouvernements abordent le suivi de la Conférence de Beijing sont encourageantes.  Sous les auspices des commissions régionales, les cinq régions ont tenu des réunions préparatoires pour évaluer les progrès accomplis par les Etats Membres et formuler de nouvelles propositions dans les domaines prioritaires.  Chaque région a pu ainsi se pencher de nouveau sur les obstacles particuliers qu'il lui faut surmonter, et réaffirmer la validité des objectifs du Programme d'Action.

 These meetings also allowed for remarkable participation by the non-governmental organizations and civil society groups, which were such an invaluable source of inspiration and energy in Beijing.  Today, they are playing a vital part in the follow-up process, at many different levels.

 I was, therefore, happy to learn that Member States were able to devise a formula allowing new non-governmental organizations that have come into being since Beijing to be included in the Beijing +5 process.  I understand you will take action on this issue today.  I wish to assure you that the Secretariat and other United Nations organizations will do their utmost to make this participation as fruitful as possible for all involved.

 The challenge ahead of this committee is twofold.  First, you are entrusted with reiterating and strengthening the commitments made in Beijing, and looking into ways of moving forward in the implementation of the Platform for Action. Beijing was a milestone, and there can be no turning back.  There is a lot more we can and must do to successfully address all the concerns raised at the Conference, as well as new ones that have appeared since 1995.

 Your second challenge is to ensure that Beijing +5 is not a watertight process, but one that permeates other areas of discussion and action.  Gender is perhaps the most quintessentially cross-cutting issue.  Indeed, all our actions affect both women and men, and they usually affect them differently.

 The intergovernmental calendar for 2000 includes another five-year review: that of the Copenhagen World Summit on Social Development.  Is also includes the Tenth United Nations Congress on Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders.  At its July session, the Economic and Social Council will assess the integrated and coordinated follow-up to all major United Nations conferences and summits.  Preparations for the Millennium Assembly are under way.   Through its preparatory work for Beijing +5, this Committee must be an advocate for gender equality issues in all these processes.

 As you embark on the task of preparing the document that the special session will ultimately adopt, there is one more element you must constantly keep in mind: the achievement of equality between women and men is the responsibility of all of us, whether we represent governments, non-govermental organizations or the United Nations system.  All of us here share the responsibility for change and progress.  Whether it is the elimination of discriminatory domestic legislation, the strengthening of provisions that protect women against sexual violence, the adoption of measures to increase women's participation in public life and decision-making or the establishment of programmes that support women in achieving sustainable livelihoods and economic independence for themselves and their families, we have to initiate such change and see it through to a successful completion.

 The task will not always be easy.  It will require political will, commitment and, on occasion, pragmatic compromise.  Above all, it will require a strong sense of what our ultimate goal is.  This goal is to make a real difference in the lives of women and girls everywhere; to finally overcome the discrimination and disadvantages they continue to face in all societies, so they can enjoy the dignity and equality they deserve.

 Let me assure you once again of my personal support for your work in the next two weeks.  I am confident that on 17 March, you will be able to close this session with a sense of satisfaction:  the satisfaction of having taken yet another step forward in our common task, which is to bring about true equality between men and women.

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