Press Releases

    7 July 2004

    Arab Women to Launch Call for Peace at Beijing+10 Regional Conference in Beirut, 8-10 July

    BEIRUT, 6 July (United Nations Information Service) -- This coming Thursday more than 400 Arab women ministers, parliamentarians and non-governmental representatives will be launching a “call for peace” in a regional forum organized by the Beirut-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA).

    The importance of the “Arab Regional Forum Ten Years after Beijing:  a Call for Peace”, which will be held on 8-10 July 2004 at the United Nations House, lies in the great attention and support the world body is giving to the conferences organized by the five regional commissions, UNESCWA included, in preparation for the forty-ninth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women next March.

    During a meeting held today to follow up on the ongoing preparations for the Forum’s opening session, ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy said that the status of women became a priority on the world agenda ever since the United Nations promoted awareness of the role of women and their importance as a source of development and national wealth, “whether it be through the formation of special committees on women, or the drawing up of laws and legislation, or starting to implement these laws”.  Tallawy stipulated, however, that “implementation of these laws remains one of the biggest obstacles facing the progress of Arab women, their liberation and independence, and the obligations imposed on them by customs and traditions.”

    “Call for Peace”, she said to reporters discussing media arrangements with the ESCWA Information Services team, “will be the slogan of the conference because of the fact that, over the last three decades following the first world conference on women in Mexico City, interest in women’s issues in terms of equality and development superseded that of women’s issues and peace, at a time when the burden of war, armed conflict, ethnic cleansing and destructive violence was mounting. This led to an increased number of civilian victims, refugees and displaced persons -- the majority of whom were women and children.”

    Revealing that the status of Arab women is sometimes used to attack the region, Tallawy said the subject of the liberation and independence of the Arab woman must not be held up to that of her Western counterparts, because “what is required is for her not to be a duplicate of European or American women, but rather be liberated and independent within the context of her environment, culture and civilization.” 

    Tallawy praised the bold steps taken in some Arab countries towards enhancing the status of women, foremost among them the laws passed in Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and the Gulf States, as well as Saudi Arabia’s decision to reform. She also saw a need to boost efforts to reach these praiseworthy goals.

    On the status of Lebanese women, Tallawy said they enjoy distinctive features, be it in terms of education or activity on a multitude of levels in which they have, by far, excelled. However, she questioned why Lebanese women had not yet become decision-makers at the ministerial level.

    Scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Thursday 8 July 2004, the Forum, which will witness a message by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will review and assess what has been accomplished with respect to the progress of Arab women in the 10 years after Beijing. It includes three main functions:  The Second Session of the ESCWA Committee on Women; an Expert Group Meeting to Follow-Up on the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing +10); and the Second Meeting of the Consultative Committee for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) at ESCWA.

    In the space of four seminars, the Forum will turn to the role of different segments of women in work and call for peace through the political participation of women parliamentarians, ministers, executives, thinkers, scholars, media representatives, and activists in civil organizations within the following framework:

    -- A seminar for Arab women parliamentarians to examine the role of women in legislation and political life;

    -- A seminar for women ministers and executives to examine the role of women in public life;

    -- A seminar with women thinkers and media people to examine the role of women in education and the media;

    -- A seminar with civil organizations, including unions, leagues, and political parties, to discuss the role of women in civil society in all political, economic, and social life.

    The seminars are expected to culminate in a number of results, which will be referred to when drawing up the Beirut Declaration to come out of this event. There will be a focus on the role of women’s participation in peacemaking and in the ensuing stages at the official and civil society levels.

    Several events are scheduled on the sidelines of the Forum, including a meeting between international NGOs and representatives of governments or other State authorities involved with women. The meeting will focus on the issue of wartime violence against women. A documentary film prepared by ESCWA on women’s social movements in Arab states will be run, with a discussion to follow afterwards.  Books, paintings and other artwork by Arab women will be exhibited as well as a festival for Arab short films on women.

    Participants in the Forum will include women members of parliament; ministers; members of shura council; prominent Arab and international personalities who were invited in a personal capacity to enrich the dialogue, moderate the sessions, or give presentations or keynote addresses; government bodies and national committees concerned with women; activists in political parties, labour and professional unions; NGOs who are members of the ESCWA NGO consultative committee; United Nations bodies and funds related to women’s issues; donor parties; regional Arab and national NGOs; research centres; foundations, and experts involved in women’s issues.

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