For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:  UNIS/GA/1639
Release Date:   6 June  2000
General Assembly Opens Five-day “Women 2000" Special Session,
With Focus on Gender Equality, Development, Peace

Secretary-General Says "Future of This Planet Depends on Women"

 NEW YORK, 5 June (UN Headquarters) -- As the General Assembly began its five-day special session, entitled  "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century" this morning, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the session should put the world on notice “that the future of this planet depends on women”.

 The twenty-third special session of the Assembly will review implementation of the Platform for Action adopted at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, and consider further actions and initiatives for achieving its purposes.  It will focus on examples of good practices, positive actions, lessons learned, as well as the obstacles and key challenges remaining.  At the end of the special session -- also known as Beijing +5 -- governments are expected to issue a political declaration calling for a recommitment to the Beijing Platform.

 In his opening statement the Secretary-General focused on education, stressing that it was both the entry point into the global economy and the best defence against its pitfalls.  Once they were educated and integrated into the workforce, women could choose when to marry and how many children to have.  They and their children could also have better nutrition, health care and education.

 Indeed, there was no development strategy more beneficial to the society as a whole -- women and men alike -- than one involving women as central players, he continued.  For that reason, in his Millennium Report, and again at the World Education Forum, he had challenged governments to make girls' education their priority.  Implementing the Beijing Platform would be crucial to achieving all the Millennium goals that the world's leaders had been asked to adopt on behalf of all the world's peoples.  

 The President of the General Assembly, Theo Ben-Gurirab (Namibia), said that women were instrumental in bringing their unique concerns to the attention of their governments and were insisting that all human issues were relevant to them.  They were also demanding a legitimate role in the quest for solutions.  The Assembly had an ideal opportunity to assess the achievements of Member States in fulfilling their promises, address shortcomings and face new challenges in reaffirming their commitments.  Women could count on allies and partners, both in the public and private sectors, in their struggle for equality.  Furthermore, the non-governmental organizations had played an indispensable, constructive and creative role. 

 Continuing, he stressed that the policies of governments on gender equality and the implementation of the Platform for Action could not be an afterthought or remain simply at the level of political pronouncements or election ploys.  Resources for gender equality goals must be mobilized and utilized.  They must also be visible in international development cooperation.

 Also speaking at this morning’s opening session were the Vice-Presidents of Gambia and Gabon; the Prime Minister of Namibia; State Councillor of China; Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan; and Ministers from South Africa, Chile, Portugal (speaking on behalf of the European Union), United Republic of Tanzania, Ukraine and Tunisia.

 The Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women acting as the Preparatory Committee for the special session, Christine Kapalata (United Republic of Tanzania), introduced the report of that body.

 Also this morning, President of the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly Theo Ben-Gurirab (Namibia) was elected, by acclamation, as President of the special session.  The Assembly also constituted its Credentials Committee and decided that Vice-Presidents of the special session would be the same as those of the fifty-fourth regular session.  Thus, the Vice-Presidents of the special session would be the representatives of Algeria, Bolivia, China, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, France, Grenada, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Lithuania, Monaco, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Seychelles, Tajikistan, Thailand, United Kingdom and the United States.  

 Chairpersons of the Main Committees of the fifty-fourth session would serve in the same capacity at the special session.  Christine Kapalata (United Republic of Tanzania) was elected by acclamation as Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole. 

 The Assembly allowed the Cook Islands, the Holy See, Niue, Switzerland and Tuvalu to participate in the work of the special session as observers.  Associate members of the regional economic commissions were allowed to participate in the same capacity of observers that applied to their participation in the Fourth World Conference on Women.  They are:  American Samoa, Anguilla, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Guam, Hong Kong China, Macau China, Montserrat, the Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, Niue, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.  The observer for Palestine was also allowed to participate in the work of the special session.

 Without creating a precedent for other special sessions, the General Assembly decided that heads of United Nations programmes, specialized agencies and other entities in the United Nations system may make statements in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole. 
 In other action, the Assembly took note that 38 States were in arrears in the payment of their financial contributions to the United Nations within the terms of Article 19 of the Charter.  [Under that article, “A member of the United Nations which is in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds the amount of the contributions due from it for the preceding two full years”.]

 The Assembly also adopted its provisional agenda and took a decision regarding the allocation of items on its agenda.

 The special session will continue its work at 3 p.m. today. 

Assembly Work Programme

 The twenty-third special session of the General Assembly -- “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century” -- began this morning.


THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), President of the General Assembly:  Since the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, a large number of Member States and other concerned sectors in society have been applying the conclusions and experiences by formulating national programmes and progressive legislation.  Women are bringing their unique concerns to the attention of their governments and are insisting that all human issues are relevant to them.  They are also demanding that they play a legitimate role in the quest for solutions.  Therefore, the Assembly has an ideal opportunity to assess the achievements of Member States in fulfilling their promises and to address shortcomings and face new challenges in reaffirming their commitments.  

Since Beijing, some governments have taken measures to counterbalance the effects of structural adjustment and globalization on vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in society by promoting employment and income-generating activities for women.  Some countries are now achieving higher literacy gains for women than men and more countries are using a maternal and child health approach in providing reproductive health services.  Also, the Statute of the International Criminal Court includes gender-based international crimes and the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia have issued indictments relating to sexual violence.  Several governments have also followed suit to address gender-based violence. 

Today, the world is faced with endless wars and armed conflicts and in those situations women, along with children, are the main targets of abuse.  That cruelty takes various forms, such as the abduction of girls into sexual slavery, or use of rape as a weapon of war.  Trafficking in women and girls and their exploitation through prostitution and pornography has become one of the most serious challenges facing the international community.  We must condemn and stop these heinous crimes.

Moreover, discriminatory laws persist on marriage, the administration of marital property, as well as on land and inheritance rights.  This deprives women of their rights to equal status and robs them of their economic rights and opportunities.  The curtailing of women’s health rights causes an unacceptably high maternal and infant mortality rate in many countries.  There are also too few effective programmes to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic among women in many parts of the world, particularly in Africa.  Family planning and work-related rights also remain issues to be addressed.  In addition, women’s representation remains low in political and economic life and they are very poorly represented at higher levels of decision-making.  However, there is now a deeper awareness of the retarding economic consequences of discrimination due to disadvantages that women face.  And the negative social impact on families and nations when women are held back from developing their full potential and denied the unfettered enjoyment of their human, civil, economic and political rights is obvious.

It must be stressed that the policies of governments on gender equality and the implementation of the Platform for Action cannot be an afterthought or remain simply at the level of political pronouncements or election ploy.  Resources for gender equality goals must be mobilized and utilized.  Resources for gender equality must be visible in international development cooperation.  A number of factors are present for a positive outcome of the special session.  There has been ample preparation by women and men, governments, parliaments and non-governmental organizations.  Also, the Secretary-General has, in his report, offered a clear vision for the future and bold ideas that will help ensure that brighter, kinder peaceful and prosperous future for all.

KOFI ANNAN, Secretary-General of the United Nations:  Five years ago, delegates and non-governmental organizations went to Beijing to right wrongs and promote rights.  The Conference was a success:  the result was the Beijing Platform for Action.  Five years later, the delegates have come to New York to review the progress made and to press for further results.  Undoubtedly, there has been progress:  violence against women has been outlawed almost everywhere; there has been worldwide mobilization against such harmful traditional practices as so-called "honour killings"; new health strategies have saved thousands of women's lives; more couples now use family planning than ever before; a record number of women have become leaders and decision makers; and above all, more countries have understood that women's equality is a prerequisite for development.

At the same time, much remains to be done.  In economic terms, the gender divide is still widening, and the fact that women have productive, as well as reproductive roles is still all too rarely recognized.  Most countries have yet to legislate in favour of women's rights to own land and other property.  Also, even though most countries have legislated against it, violence against women is still increasing.  Of 110 million children not in school, two thirds are girls.  New challenges include the spread of AIDS and trafficking of women and children, which has now become a worldwide plague.  In that connection, I have asked Member States to adopt specific goals for halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS at the Millennium Summit in September, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for a concerted international campaign against trafficking.

All these challenges, old and new, can be met only if we enable women to build on the best our new world has to offer.  That means, above all, that women must be educated and enabled to play their part in the global economy.  Education is both the entry point into the global economy and the best defence against its pitfalls.  Globalization involves technological changes, which favour higher skilled workers over less skilled ones.  This is widening even further the gap between men's and women's earnings.  Only education will enable women to close the gap.

Already, large numbers of women are engaged in global production, but most of them work in appalling conditions, for near-starvation wages.  This will only change when women are making economic decisions as managers, entrepreneurs, employers, labour leaders and employment lawyers -- and when they are making social and political decisions as community leaders, negotiators, judges or cabinet ministers.  Already, women form the main agricultural labour force, in Africa and many other parts of the world.  Yet most of them are still denied the right to credit, land ownership and inheritance.  Their labour goes unrecognized and unrewarded.  Once they are educated and integrated into the workforce, women can choose when to marry and how many children to have.  They and their children can have better nutrition, health care and education.  And their example will inspire others, as parents get the message that educated girls will bring more money into the family.   

Indeed, study after study has confirmed that there is no development strategy more beneficial to the society as a whole -- women and men alike -- than one which involves women as central players.   I hope that in the course of this century, we will also prove that the best strategy of conflict prevention is to expand the role of women as peacemakers.  And that is why, in my Millennium Report, and again at the World Education Forum, I challenged governments to make girls' education their priority.  Indeed, I believe that implementing the Beijing Platform will be crucial to achieving all the Millennium goals I have asked the world's leaders to adopt on behalf of all the world's peoples.  I hope this session will put the world on notice that not only do women belong to this planet, but that the future of this planet depends on women.

CHRISTINE KAPALATA (United Republic of Tanzania) Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women acting as the Preparatory Committee for the special session, introduced the Committee’s report (A/S-23/2 and Add.1 and 2 (Parts I-IV)), which contains a proposed outcome document of the session that is still under negotiation:  The Commission has been working diligently to ensure that the special session will in fact contribute towards moving forward the agenda for the advancement of women and gender equality.  The preparations for the five-year review started immediately after the Beijing Conference, and its work has resulted in the adoption of resolutions and agreed conclusions containing recommendations for accelerated implementation.  The agreed conclusions of the Commission provided invaluable guidance to the work of the Preparatory Committee in designing and discussing the outcome document on further actions and initiatives.

Although difficult at times, the preparatory process has been transparent and participatory.  The consultations were intensive and challenging.  With the commitment and concerted effort of the delegations, the Preparatory Committee successfully adopted the political declaration, which itself is a testimony of the determination and political will of the Member States to fully implement the strategic objectives of the Platform.  Despite all the efforts of the Committee, many paragraphs in the document remain outstanding.  Therefore, we will continue with our deliberations in the ad hoc committee of the session.  I am confident that consensus will be reached on the remaining paragraphs of the text.

ISATOU NJIE-SAIDY, Vice President and Secretary of State for Women’s Affairs of the Gambia:  Gambia’s national policy goals are two-fold, namely to further all possible courses of action necessary for the elimination of all forms of inequality between women and men and to create an enabling environment for the promotion of women’s participation and for equal opportunities and access to existing initiatives aimed at promoting the advancement of women and the girl child.  The policy is timely and relevant in the context of the country’s development objective.  It is also based on the concept that security and economic empowerment for women can only be achieved by eradicating poverty itself and promoting sustainable livelihoods.  The policy is a critical requirement for Gambian women to participate fully without marginalization in the socio-economic development of the country.  

The Gambian Government, with the collaboration of local and international non-governmental organizations and other agencies, has outlined and embarked upon the implementation of a comprehensive National Poverty Alleviation Programme to ensure that the scourge of poverty is eradicated and women are empowered both economically and socially.  The Programme draws its strength and direction from the Strategy for Poverty Alleviation, which was formulated in 1992 and is currently being revisited.  Emphasis is placed on developing the rural areas of the country.  Violence in any form perpetrated against women is recognized in the Gambia as a violation of human rights.  Under the law, violence against women is covered under assault.  This indicates that there is no separate provision set aside for the maltreatment of women.  However, despite shortcomings, law enforcement bodies and human rights groups have contributed significantly in trying to end violence against women.  

Women with disabilities form almost half of the disabled community in the Gambia.  The establishment of women’s wings within the structure of the disabled organizations is one way of eradicating problems unique to women with disabilities.  Education initiatives have now made education, at the primary level, both free and compulsory.  The 1998-2003 National Education Policy aims to ensure quality, relevance and access in the education sector and has been put in place, which also places much emphasis on the education of the girl child.  The Government has also recognized the important role that women play in the economy, particularly at the micro level.  Approximately 75 per cent of the agricultural labour force is provided by women, who form about 51 per cent of the total population.  Since agriculture contributes to about 30 to 40 per cent of gross domestic product, the role of women at the macroeconomic level is of great importance.  Present policies focus on empowering women in terms of resource opportunities, such as land, credit and technology.  

The way forward can be found in the following proposals:  genuine political will at all levels for the successful implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action; macro and sectoral policies that are sensitive to gender and poverty issues; increased advocacy; the availability of resources; government and donor commitment and assistance in the provision of health care; and the setting up of an assembly of women for the management of the environment, as a means of increasing their participation.  Much has been discussed on gender issues over the years, but little concrete steps have been made by the world community in implementing policies and proclamations.  The world must realize that addressing the strategic gender needs of women and girls, and ensuring equality, equity and the empowerment of females is a prerequisite for the empowerment of society as a whole.  Development for women means development for all.

DIDJOB DIVUNGI DI NDINGE, Vice-President of Gabon: For the first time at this level, Member States have an opportunity to give an assessment of the achievements of the Beijing Platform for Action.  This is an important step in the just and noble fight for the liberation of women and the improvement of their status.  History shows that the status of women depends on the image that men had attributed to them.  

We cannot promote development and peace if women do not take their proper place in the development of the world.  Women are to a play a major societal role, and that role must be promoted and organized.  The Gabon constitution explicitly guarantees the equality of its citizens before the law without distinction in origin, race, sex or religion.  Several laws to protect women have been adopted, such as elimination of dowry, interdiction of marriage of minors, and the right to education and work.  There is a specific Ministry for the promotion of the rights of women.  

In order to transform the 12 areas of the Beijing Platform into a national programme, Gabon organized a seminar in 1996.  That seminar emphasized the fact that equality of women has not been achieved because of social prejudices, in part because of a lack of confidence on the part of women, and a lack of education.  A national plan of action based on social mobilization of women focused on various programmes outlined in the Beijing Platform.

Particularly in Africa, civil conflicts and armed conflicts have affected people and people had to move in search of peace.  Peace and stability are important conditions to ensure any possible program of action.  Women are a keystone of society.  Women and children are the main victims of conflict.  Women must react to it and prevent it.  In 1999 the National Committee of Women for Peace was established, which issued a call for peace in the Central African region.  We must consolidate our undertaking to break up old ideas to ensure that our female citizens have an opportunity to work together with our men to create a global village of peace and justice.

HAGE G. GEINGOB Prime Minister of Namibia:  His country adopted a national gender policy in 1999 which addressed women’s rights in the areas of poverty, education and training, health, violence, human rights, the economy, in power and decision-making, the environment and in armed conflict, among others.  In addressing poverty eradication measures, a community-based rehabilitation strategy has been adopted to deal with imbalances between urban and rural women through promoting employment and income-generating activities for women.  Education is an essential tool for eradicating poverty and in achieving the goals of equality, development and peace.  Namibia has made significant progress in educating women and girls and special efforts are being made to curb school dropout rates among girls.  However, those were being frustrated by factors such as teenage pregnancy and inherited social deficiencies.  Also, gender segregated occupational stereotyping in educational institutions is still prevalent in Namibia.

Through a primary health care strategy, Namibia has adopted a holistic approach to health care for women and girls, but a shortage of financial and human resources has resulted in inadequate infrastructure and service delivery.  In spite of the positive results gained through this strategy, the scourge of HIV/AIDS has exacted a significant toll on the national health system, through cultural practices and behavioural attitudes towards sexuality and socio-economic issues.  The Government has instituted a five-year national strategic plan to respond to the phenomenon and unless adequate resources are applied in the fight against the pandemic, the increasing rates of infection could spell economic disaster for Namibia, in particular, and the sub-Saharan Africa in general.  

The State has also initiated policy reforms and appropriate legislation to protect women from various forms of violence, such as a bill to fight the crime of rape and through the provision of services for abused women.  Despite modest efforts at legal reforms to ensure the human rights of women, legislative and regulatory gaps remain, which perpetuate de jure, as well as de facto inequality and discrimination.  

Women are increasingly taking advantage of the positive economic climate and the Namibian Women Empowerment Group provides investment opportunities.  Also, efforts are continuing to transform the political landscape by increasing women’s representation and they are fairly represented in several constitutional positions, boards and commissions, as well as in Parliament and at the legislative levels.  Other advances have been made in addressing the needs of the girl child and in applying institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, among others.  However, Namibia still needs to ensure equal constitutional protection of fundamental human rights for both men and women and to implement affirmative action policies to provide for equal opportunities

WU YI, State Councillor of China:  Five years ago we successfully hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.  In the five years between then and now, the world situation has continued to move towards multi-polarity and the call of people of all countries for peace, stability and development has become louder and louder.  To improve women’s status and ensure gender equality has become a common understanding of the international community, which had made unremitting efforts for the implementation of the follow-up actions of the Beijing Conference.

Women have played an important role in creating human civilization and promoting social development.  To raise women’s status and promote gender equality bears not only on the vital interest of women, but also on whether human talents can be fully exploited and whether social productive forces can be liberated completely.  The Chinese Government appeals to the international community to create a peaceful environment for the advancement of women, to make earnest efforts to eliminate women’s poverty, to ensure women’s full participation in the process of economic globalization and to actively promote the role of the United Nations system. 

Thanks to efforts in the past five years, women’s participation in the policy-making process in China has been further enhanced, both in breadth and depth.  Due to the constraints of China’s economic and social development and the lingering impact of some outdated ideas and mentalities, the development of Chinese women is still faced with many difficulties.  Poverty remains the biggest constraining factor.  We are confident that, with the joint efforts of people of all countries, the twenty-first century will truly become one of “gender equality, development and peace”.

DILBAR GULYAMOVA, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan:  The Government of Uzbekistan has developed and carried out its own strategic activities at the national level aimed at the implementation of the basic provisions of the Platform for Action.  The elaboration of a national mechanism for the protection of women’s rights and implementation of programmes for the improvement of status of women is one of the main achievements in promoting gender equality and progress in the sphere of women’s development.  According to Uzbekistan’s constitution, women have equal rights with men.  The most important measure Uzbekistan has taken towards improving women’s status is providing women with as many jobs as possible.  Women presently occupy some 40 per cent of Uzbekistan’s 300,000 jobs.  Dynamic structural changes allowed fast development of the social and industrial infrastructure, especially in rural areas and small towns.  
Female entrepreneurship, especially in the industrial sector, has been rapidly developing, as has been opportunities for education and increased skills training.  As a result of the recent parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan, 18 women were elected as deputies in the Parliament.  Taking into account the fact that the institution of the family is the basis of society, economic, social and spiritual protection of the family, and maternal and child health care are at the level of national policy.  A unique system for the social protection of families with children has also been created.  Social support is currently given in the framework of families with children and poor families.  

An important stage in the development of women was the establishment of female non-governmental organizations.  They have become a noticeable force and testimony to the fact that interaction between governmental and non-governmental sectors increases efficiency in solving the different women's issues.  Moreover, finding solutions to women’s issues and democratization are interconnected processes.  The realization of women’s interests is a first step for transforming women from objects of social protection to active persons.  Uzbekistan will continue its work aimed at fulfilling each of the areas of the Beijing Platform for Action. 

GERALDINE FRASIER-MOLKETI, Minster for Public Service and Administration of South Africa:  It has been a long march from Beijing to New York.  But, what has this long march meant for the women of the world?  What has the impact been on gender programmes?  As we stand at the threshold of a new century, we are confronted with a world that is still faced with many old challenges.  One major old problem has been the resurgence of racism in most parts of the developed world.  To that end, South Africa will host the United Nations World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001. 

The globalization process, which has resulted in both opportunity and despair, has highlighted many new challenges, such as the unsustainable debt levels of many developing countries.  There is also the major challenge of the widening gap between the rich and the poor; the levels of poverty throughout the world are now unacceptable.  Half the world's population lives on less than $2 a day.  The Commonwealth Heads of Government, meeting in South Africa in 1999, stated that poverty makes global peace and security fragile.  They accepted that poverty “constitutes a deep and fundamental structural flaw in the world economy”.  In all of this, women, who head more than half of the world's households, are the most marginalized.  Poverty has a feminine face.  Illiteracy has a feminine face.  Economic disempowerment has a feminine face.  

Poverty, including its female and racial dimension, remains one of our biggest challenges.  This challenge transcends our country and requires collective effort, at a global level, particularly in the face of globalization and its unintended social destabilizing consequences.  In the face of such challenges, how do we as women respond?  Do we believe that the elimination of poverty is achievable?  Should the debate on sexual and reproductive rights not be approached from the point of view of choice?  Can we honestly evaluate the progress on the commitments we made in the Beijing Platform for Action, or are we expecting the women of the world to wait while we debate language on these issues?  Our challenge as an international community is to come up with strategies that will minimize these destabilizing factors and ensure that the benefits of globalization are shared by all.

In view of these and other challenges, we also recommend that developing countries, especially women in these countries, must participate in the rule-making process and the restructuring of the international governance institutions such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and The World Bank.  We must capitalize on the benefits of globalization to help eradicate poverty, and lead the developing world, and in particular the women and children of the South, to share in those benefits on equal footing with the developed countries.  To ensure results, it is essential that we have measurable programmes with clearly defined performance indicators that guide outcomes directly related to women's reality.  

ADRIANA DELPIANO, Minister for Women’s Affairs of Chile:  The special session is a step forward in the quest for the new relations between men and women based on greater understanding and respect.  During the five years since the Beijing Conference, Chile has achieved significant progress in the implementation of the Platform for Action.  The country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and elaborated a plan for creating opportunities for women, among other public policies for the promotion of gender equality.  It has also made great efforts in the legal sphere, implementing a constitutional reform, which stresses the equality of women.  In education, Chile has high levels of female literacy.  It is implementing measures in the sphere of an educational reform, advancing elimination of cultural inequalities and improving the level of education for all.  

Regarding violence against women, the country is creating family tribunals and undertaking efforts to improve the situation.  Reform of the health system is under way, stressing women’s health issues.  Abortion remains a great problem, but Chile remains committed to life.  It is introducing policies to prevent abortion.  As for women’s participation in decision-making, five women have been appointed to the Cabinet.  Representation of women in the government is improving.  At the medium level, however, the participation of women is still scarce.  

We are convinced that for the full development of women, international cooperation remains indispensable.  The Government has undertaken a commitment to advance the full rights of women.  The issue of women’s rights, civil participation and the quality of life are high on the agenda.  The immense potential of women should be brought to bear on the development of the country.  One of the objectives is the incorporation of the gender perspective in the budget of various State agencies for the achievement of greater gender equality in the country. 

MARIA DE BELEM ROSEIRA, Minister for Equality of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union:  Gender equality, sustainable development and peace are fundamental and interlinked objectives that can be achieved in the twenty-first century.  More than ever, men and women must be full and equal partners in this process.  To that end, the Beijing Platform is ambitious and we must commit ourselves to its full implementation, as a requirement of justice, of democracy and of full realization of human rights. 

When we speak of the feminization of poverty, violence against women and the exclusion of women from political power and the peace process, we are speaking of human rights issues.  States must shoulder their obligations to end violations of women's human rights and to ensure their full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It must be clear, therefore, that States have an obligation to fully respect the principles of good governance, and take legal, administrative and other measures to protect and promote the human rights of all, women and men.  Unless and until States act on this obligation, we will not be able to progress.  Full implementation of the Platform for Action requires the political will to carry forward this comprehensive vision of human rights as a basis for all actions.

We are living in a rapidly changing world.  Globalization, as we all know, is an essential factor in this.  The world is now connected more closely than ever through trade, the information revolution, communication and by the growth of a set of shared global values.  Women have often been most profoundly affected by globalization; systematic discrimination still prevails at many levels.  Nevertheless, along with challenges, globalization also opens new perspectives and opportunities for positive developments.  It is our common responsibility to minimize possible negative effects and to empower women in their efforts to participate in the globalization process.

Roles and responsibilities have, for too long, been assigned in mutually exclusive ways, which lead to inequality and oppression.  Equal rights and sharing tasks and responsibilities in all areas of life, including decision-making, must be our focus in the twenty-first century.  It is most important to fight against specific forms of discrimination in employment and economic life.  It is also important that an integrated approach be adopted, so that our total environment may be conducive to gender equality and to the full enjoyment of human rights for all.  Setting clear goals and targets and getting better measures of progress are invaluable tools in helping speed up the process of change.  In this context, the Platform for Action remains the fundamental instrument that leads the way, and the further actions and initiatives adopted at this special session will give us new signposts to point our way forward.

MARY NAGU, Minister for Community Development, Women Affairs and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania:  This conference affords us the opportunity to open up doors for a cross-fertilization of ideas, experiences and aspirations in our collective efforts to better the lives of women.  At the Beijing Conference, Tanzania committed itself to fully implement the 12 critical areas of concern.  Let me take this opportunity to reaffirm that commitment.  Out of the 12 critical areas, my Government made a commitment to implement four priority areas to pave the way to a conducive environment that would allow other actors to address the other areas effectively.

The Government established the necessary infrastructure in term of policies, strategies, programmes and mechanisms for women’s advancement, gender equality and protection of women’s rights.  It has also launched gender sensitization campaigns aimed at educating the masses on issues of women’s basic human rights.  Special attention was paid to the elimination of harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation.  Efforts were made to fight poverty by promoting community based organizations, establishing credit facilities for women, facilitating women’s access to means of production and training of women in legal, technical, managerial and entrepreneurial skills.  The Government is committed to increasing women’s and girls’ participation in education.

Despite all these efforts, there are some setbacks to full implementation to the Beijing Platform for Action.  One critical obstacle is the diminishing financial capability of the Government since 1995 because of debt servicing.  Another serious problem is the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  The persistent cyclical influx of refugees from neighbouring countries poses a challenge to the Government in terms of resources and infrastructure.  In that area, the international community can intervene to enhance efforts to cope with the situation as well as to prevent and resolve armed conflicts.

At this juncture, I would like to reiterate my Government’s call on the United Nations to give priority to development programmes, in particular poverty eradication programmes addressing the feminization of poverty.  If we are serious about poverty eradication, then macroeconomic policies must be translated at the micro levels and at the community levels, targeting women.  “This special session of the United Nations General Assembly will hopefully come up with consensus on modalities to increase resources to enable our governments, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders to fulfil the obligations in their endeavours to advance women for the good of our society as agreed in Beijing.”

SUZANNA STANIK, Minister of Justice of Ukraine:  We are entering the century of humanism and rule of law.  Military measures for solving human problems have been fully exhausted.  There is a rising need for modernization of the world by addressing the global social and political changes on the basis of generally recognized moral and ethical, as well as legal principles:  democracy, human rights, equality, justice, freedom and humanism.  Five years have passed since the Beijing Conference, and gender issues have undergone fundamental changes.

With democratic reforms under way, Ukraine believes that equality is the basis for democracy, social justice as well as for appropriate safeguarding of human rights.  Women’s participation in public life, their experience and intelligence, ability and willingness to work for the well-being of their nation are guarantees for the formation of democratic civil society.  Guided by the provisions of the final documents of the Beijing Conference, Ukraine has elaborated a national action plan for 1997-2000.  The present status of women is fully conditioned, however, by the changes being experienced by the Ukrainian State in the process of developing a market economy and radical changes in its economic and social structure.

Ukraine has great expectations for this forum, which will comprehensively and thoroughly analyse the situation of women in the world, focus on the problems that require urgent solutions and elaborate the strategy for further actions at the national and international levels.  We believe in consolidation of the women’s movement in the world.  Without the invigoration of international cooperation and without creation of the appropriate international environment, we cannot achieve noteworthy successes in the sphere of ensuring rights of women.

 Stabilization of the political, social and economic situation in the countries, ensuring peace and security in the world depend to a large extent on the posture of women in public life, on their self-consciousness, their world outlook and attitude to public and state affairs.  “We have one common wonderful home -- our planet, the Earth.  For the sake of future generations, for the sake of our children we should and we can consolidate our efforts.  We should be wise and strong keepers of our families, our nations, and our planet.”

NEZIHA ZARROUK, Minister for Women’s and Family Affairs of Tunisia:  The promotion of all aspects relating to the status of women has been given undivided attention in the State, a process characterized by the recognition that women’s rights is an integral part of human rights and by improving women’s conditions in a strategic vision based on gender planning.  The integration of a woman-specific strategy into the eighth plan of the Commission on Women and Development enabled Tunisia to be the pioneers of the gender-based approach, which subsequently figured among the most important recommendations of the Beijing Conference.  

Since 1992, Tunisia had established a centre for studies, research, documentation and information on women and created a governmental structure for women’s and family affairs.  Further, it has firmly established the principle of equality and partnership in personal, as well as in social and civil transactions.  Those processes have become more effective during the second national plan in favour of women (1997-2001), drawn up by the Commission in partnership with the Government and several organizations.  Efforts have been focused on strengthening the legislative code and purging it of all forms of discrimination against women; further developing female human resources; and improving programmes geared to women’s empowerment.  

For example, a national plan for the benefit of rural women has been approved and is presently being implemented.  As an affirmative action plan, it is aimed at promoting the productive capacities of women in rural areas and protecting girls in that environment from all forms of marginalization and from falling prey to poverty and destitution.  Also, improved statistics in the areas of education, life expectancy of women and in their participation in public life and decision-making positions reflect the comprehensive nature of the Tunisian approach.

The fulfillment of women’s aspirations to equality, well-being and progress lies in the achievement of peace and security, as well as on global and interdependent development.  Therefore, all forms of international cooperation must be strengthened, as should programmes to reinforce equal partnerships between the countries of the North and South.  While the call made by the Secretary-General for developed countries to allocate 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product for official development assistance to developing countries, with a view to investing in development projects for women, must be applauded, those States should promote effective cooperation among themselves to that end.

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