14 October 2005

Social Committee Approves Draft Resolutions on Cooperatives, Volunteers; Concludes Discussion of Women's Issues

Draft Texts Introduced on UN Criminal Justice Programme, African Institute for Crime Prevention, Eleventh UN Crime Congress

NEW YORK, 13 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today adopted without a vote draft resolutions on cooperatives in social development and on follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers.

The first draft focused on the need to strengthen and sustain cooperatives; broaden and deepen their outreach to the poor, particularly in rural and agricultural areas; and promote the participation of women and vulnerable groups.  By its terms, the General Assembly would stress the important contribution cooperatives made in implementing the outcomes of major United Nations conferences on social advancement issues, by helping to achieve the millennium targets, particularly poverty eradication, job creation and social integration and through effective partnerships with governments.

The draft on follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers highlighted the merits of volunteerism, its benefits for all sectors of society and role as a strategic tool to enhance socio-economic development and achieve the millennium targets.  In adopting the draft, the Committee requested that the General Assembly call on the United Nations system and other international organizations to integrate volunteerism into their programmes and strategies, and call on Governments to partner with civil society to strengthen national volunteerism's potential, create a knowledge base on its economic aspects, disseminate volunteer data, and expand research.

The Committee then heard the introduction of three drafts:  on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity; on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders; and on follow-up to the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

After the introduction of the draft, the Committee concluded its general discussion of the advancement of women with several speakers, stressing the need to honour the commitments made in the Beijing Programme of Action and at other conferences in order to promote women's rights and achieve gender equality.  Some speakers said that the time for negotiation was over, and that States must deliver more tangible benefits for women.  Many others highlighted the work that had been done in their particular countries on women's advancement.

Those making statement today included the representatives of Chile, United States, Bangladesh, Libya, Uganda, Bahamas, San Marino, Cameroon, Nepal, Iraq, Singapore, Monaco, Burkina Faso, Iran, Qatar, Ukraine, Venezuela, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Jordan, Fiji, Belarus, Croatia, Myanmar, Mali, India, Malaysia, New Zealand (also on behalf of Canada and Australia), Mongolia and Colombia.

The observers of Palestine and of the Holy See also made statements.

Representatives of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the World Bank also spoke.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on 14 October, Friday, to begin its debate of promotion and protection of the rights of children.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion of advancement of women, hear the introduction of three draft resolutions and take action on two draft resolutions.

The Committee is expected to hear the introduction of a draft on strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/60/L.8), a draft on United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/60/L.10), and a draft on follow-up to the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/C.3/60/L.11).

Action today is expected on draft resolutions on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4) and on follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers (document A/C.3/60/L.7).

For more background information, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3818 of 10 October, GA/SHC/3819 of 11 October and GA/SHC/3820 of 12 October.


ALFREDO LABBÉ (Chile) said that 10 years after the fourth Conference on Women, his delegation had reasserted fully the Beijing Platform of Action, and recognized the importance of the progress and changes that had come from the commitment countries had shown to implement gender equality, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.  It was important to note the final documents of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and the International Conference on Population and Development, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Summit Outcome Document, particularly the commitment to include a gender perspective in the evaluation and design of policy programmes in all spheres, and also to ensure capacity-building in the United Nations within that area.

Collaboration at the regional level also has been critical for the implementation of Chile's policies and had allowed the country to share experiences and move forward with the commitments adopted at Beijing, he said.  His delegation fully supported the considerable work being carried out by the United Nations agencies, particularly the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).  It was essential to support with the necessary resources the many creative initiatives that had been taken by those organizations, also to support the work undertaken by the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The programme set out 10 years ago had provided a fundamental guide for the social, cultural and political changes that had taken place in Chile, he continued.  Women were represented in Chile today in the many areas of the life of the country.  The implementation of policies had been given to the national service for women, which had taken the lead, and which had brought about considerable transformations.  Chilean women were taking a greater role in the labour market, and there was a total rate of participation by women of 37 per cent in the workplace, giving them the possibility to have access to decent employment in line with what was promoted by the International Labour Organization (ILO).  The fact that women were moving out of the home had been a major trend and had helped reduce poverty.

He added that education was fundamental to incorporating women in the dynamics of global markets, education became a fundamental basis for that process, and its expansion and coverage was essential.  His country had achieved continuous growth in that area, and had also reached satisfactory levels in child and mother care.

ELLEN SAUERBREY (United States) said the need for greater Government responses to human trafficking led the United States Congress to pass the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which protects and assists victims in the United States and abroad, enhances federal criminal laws and measures to prevent trafficking, and mandates the United States Department of State to report annually on Government actions to combat human trafficking.  Since 2001, the United States had provided about $280 million to support anti-trafficking efforts in more than 120 countries.  In 2003, President Bush announced his $50 million anti-trafficking initiative.  The 2003 Protect Act on child sex tourism strengthened national law enforcement's ability to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish violent crimes against children, and impose severe penalties for Americans who prey on sexually exploited and trafficked children overseas.  During the 2005 Commission on the Status of Women, the United States' resolution on Eliminating Demand for Trafficked Women and Girls for All Forms of Exploitation, adopted by consensus, was the first United Nations resolution focusing on how demand, particularly for sexual exploitation, fuelled human trafficking.

The United States had also recently launched the $55 million, three-year Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative for Africa, which assisted Benin, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia to improve legal rights for women, she continued.  The Initiative strengthened the capacities of legal systems to protect women and punish violators by training police, prosecutors and judges to handle cases of sexual violence and abuse, and improve shelters and counselling programmes.  It also used high-level engagement, public awareness campaigns and education to emphasize the need for women's justice and empowerment.

HEMAYET HEMAYETUDDIN (Bangladesh) said his country's constitution guaranteed equal rights for men and women, and also had provisions to adopt special measures in favour of the advancement of women and children.  His Government believed that the majority of the world's absolute poor were women, and no development goal was really achievable without mainstreaming gender and empowering women.  Poverty eradication was thus intertwined with gender justice, and equal access to credit and opportunities for men and women was essential to eliminate the scourge of poverty.  To that end, the gender dimension had been sufficiently reflected in the Government's poverty reduction strategy papers.  The budget was also "gender-sensitive", with the largest percentage allocated to education, particularly to expand women's education.  Child mortality had been substantially reduced in the country, and there was improved maternal health.  In addition, innovative ideas such as microcredit and non-formal education had been coupled with active governmental support to empower women in Bangladesh, and the Government was adopting appropriate legislation at the national level to protect women from violence.

At the international level, Bangladesh had always been at the forefront of all debates on the rights and empowerment of women, and was a State party to almost all the major international instruments.  The shared goals of Member States could only be achieved through partnerships across the broadest possible spectrum.  Clear and visible linkages should be established between the Millennium Development Goals and national priorities in implementing the Beijing objectives and provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Assistance to build the capacity of those who were resource-strapped should also be rendered, and the commitments that had been made needed to be fully implemented.

SUAD ABDULLAHALJOUIKI (Libya) said the international community would not achieve the millennium targets if it didn't realize both the Beijing and the millennium platforms.  She stressed the need in particular to focus on human rights and education for women who had been marginalized.  Women worldwide still lived in poverty; were victims of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases; and faced discrimination in society.  Violence against women knew no geographical boundaries.  It was necessary to create stable and secure environments for women that respected cultural differences.  All girls needed access to education.

Greater attention, she continued, must be paid to African women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, suffering from abject poverty and disease, namely HIV/AIDS.  Many Palestinian women living under Israeli occupation had no access to food and medicine.  Pregnant Palestinian women had no access to hospitals and as a result often died during delivery and/or lost their babies.  This odious crime continued while the world community remained silent about it.

Traffickers in rich countries of young girls from poor countries had gone unpunished.  That situation must change, she said, stressing the need to ratify all conventions to protect women.  Libya was committed to the Beijing Platform of Action and was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol, as well as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said the third goal of the Millennium Development Goals advocated the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Empowerment was about putting people in a position to take control over their own future, and to influence decisions about forms of growth and strategies for development.  The ministry of her Government had developed a social development sector investment plan to promote social protection, gender equality, equity, and human rights for the poor and vulnerable.  Women's work, especially in rural areas, was rarely recognized as being valuable, whether it was by law or custom.  Women were usually restricted to unskilled, low-paying, repetitive and labour intensive jobs.  Her Government was therefore undertaking measures to ensure that women had access to productive resources and improved access to labour markets, including regional and international ones.

Uganda was predominantly dependent on an agro-based economy, she continued.  The agricultural extension programme of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries had therefore concentrated on rural women by mobilizing and organizing them for the purpose of training in all aspects of agricultural production, fish farming and records keeping.  The Government had also domesticated the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women by outlawing discrimination on the basis of sex.

Despite such strides, challenges included the fact that the information highway was still predominantly male-oriented and dominated, as well as the fact that resources had not reached sufficient levels to ensure that the coverage of programmes, interventions and delivery services was adequate, she said.  It was also generally difficult to review the employment status of all Ugandans, particularly women.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic also continued to negatively affect households and communities, particularly their productive capacity.

PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said the Bahamas had recognized the importance of equal access for women concerning decision-making at all levels.  The country was making steady progress towards reaching the targets set for participation in decision-making, with women making up 20 per cent of the House of Assembly, 37.5 per cent of the Senate and 25 per cent of the Cabinet.  That figure included the Bahamas' first female Governor General and first female Deputy Prime Minister.  Women filled most top executive posts in Government agencies and had reached the highest levels of the judicial system.  They would continue to press towards not only meeting, but also surpassing, the quotas advocated by the Beijing Platform of Action.

Such levels of women's participation would not be possible without meeting internationally agreed commitment in other areas affecting women's empowerment, she continued.  The Bahamas was committed to the goal of universal primary and secondary education, and its female students consistently performed as well as, and in some cases better than, its male students.  The country was also committed to maintaining a healthy populace.  The Caribbean region continued to be devastated by HIV/AIDS, with disproportionate effects on women and girls.  The Bahamas had embarked on an intensive and widespread awareness-raising campaign and concentrated on prevention, care and treatment programmes.  It had provided free anti-retroviral therapy to pregnant HIV-positive women, and had reduced the mother-to-child transmission rate of HIV/AIDS to less than 2 per cent.

ELENA MOLARONI (San Marino) said that on a civil and institutional level, her country in 2004 had commemorated the fortieth anniversary of the active vote by women, which had allowed the female population to take part in and contribute fully to political choices.  As far as access to education was concerned, there was absolute equality in the country.  That was a basic requirement to allow women to increasingly access all phases of the decision-making process in society.  The female presence in the professional world had been increasing in the last decade as a result of specific measures introduced in the body of laws, which were aimed at supporting maternity for working women and at encouraging the access of women to the professional world through tax reduction for companies hiring more women in the textile sector, for example.  A new law in favour of young women entrepreneurs also helped the process.  In the legal field, women were represented at high levels such as chief of justice of the civil and criminal tribunal of San Marino.

Progress had been more difficult in the field of politics, she continued.  There had always been few women in parliament, and only 15 per cent of the 60 parliamentarians were women.  In local administrations, only one of nine mayors was a woman.  Over the past few years, San Marino had recognized the role of women in its international relations, and had nominated many as head of diplomatic and consular representations.  In order to favour the participation of women to the different sectors of public life, several non-governmental organizations were established with aims including political education, juridical equality and civil rights of women, cultural issues, and humanitarian and social activities.  There was still a long way to go for full and comprehensive equality, but her country had been taking little steps.

IYA TIDJANI (Cameroon) supported the Beijing Platform of Action, saying its implementation was necessary if the international community was to achieve the millennium targets.  Despite greater focus on the plight of women, as noted in the Secretary-General's reports on women's issues, in many developing countries, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, real progress had not been made.  Violence against women and the spread of HIV/AIDS among women persisted.  The empowerment of rural women was imperative, he said, supporting the United Nations efforts in that regard.  Women in rural Africa were essential to family subsistence and environmental preservation.

Cameroon had made real progress to implement and monitor the Beijing action plan, with emphasis on improving women's living conditions, education, health and economic situation, he continued.  With the help of donors such as Germany, Canada, African Development Bank, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Cameroon had developed capacity-building programmes for women, with policy guidelines for girls' school enrolment and promotion of women entrepreneurs.

Women had been given a greater role in decision-making, as there were now eight female cabinet ministers, 33 female parliamentarians and five female Directors-General of State-run companies.  Further, Cameroon's new penal code criminalized violence against women, including rape, sexual trafficking and forced marriages.  The Ministry for the Promotion of Women and the Family enjoyed support of traditional organizations and church-based groups.  Still women remained the primary victims of poverty due in part to the small budget for promoting women's activities and the absence of gender specialists.

SHARADA SINGH (Nepal) said her Government attached great importance to the work of the United Nations for the promotion of women's rights and gender equality, and for the economic, social and political empowerment of women.  It subscribed to the conviction of the recently held Summit of the General Assembly that progress for women was progress for all.  Women played a vital role in achieving sustainable development at national, regional and international levels.  Her delegation believed that international cooperation should be further strengthened to promote gender equality and eliminate gender discrimination through a comprehensive strategy with concerted and coordinated efforts by all stakeholders.  The Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action, as well as the outcome document of the twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly would be important tools for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The female population in Nepal constituted more than half of the population, she said.  Poverty, illiteracy, lack of women's access to economic resources, maternal health, trafficking of women and girls, gender discrimination and domestic violence against women were among the issues that were of particular importance to her Government.  The lack of education and awareness of women's rights, as well as socio-cultural superstition and traditions also caused the suffering of women, particularly in rural areas.  The Government, however, was fully committed to the development of women through legislative and administrative measures, and development policies and programmes.  The current five-year development plan accorded high priority to poverty alleviation, girl's education, health, women's access to economic resources, trafficking in women and girls, political and social empowerment, and the elimination of gender discrimination.  The international community should extend its support to enhance national capacity, particularly in least developed countries, to advance peace, security and development for all, she added.

JWAN H. TAWFIQ (Iraq) said Iraqi women played an active and effective role in society, and made a significant contribution to daily life, particularly in the political process.  However, they had borne the heaviest burden and also much suffering over past decades.  The consequence was evident today in Iraqi society and particularly in the life of women and Iraqi families, and made them heroines.  Women in Iraq were now reassuming their place in society, and they were making an effective contribution to the electoral process for the upcoming elections.  Women occupied 31 per cent of the seats in the national legislature and administrative posts in the current Government, and also held six ministerial positions.  They occupied senior positions in the State administration and in diplomatic missions abroad and within the United Nations.  At the same time, they had penetrated every area of activity, such as in management and within the police force and other organizations.  Within civil society, women were very active in the discussions and dialogues that were taking place today within Iraqi society, and were also contributing to the activities of civil society organizations and working in Iraqi political parties.

The draft Iraqi constitution -- which would be submitted to a referendum -- had many provisions that dealt with the rights and freedoms of women.  The preamble called for particular attention to be given to the fundamental rights of women.  Article 20 of the draft constitution guaranteed to both men and women the right to participate in public affairs, and the right to vote and be candidates in elections.  The State guaranteed the protection of the mother and child, and provided for young people.  It also guaranteed to the individual and family social security and health services, as well as conditions for a decent living.  The constitution banned forced work, slavery, trafficking of women, and prostitution.  The advancement of women would have a positive impact on all of society, she said, adding that the Government was now examining all laws and legislation affecting women in order to reform and adapt them to the changes taking place in the world and to increase the participation of women.

CHNG TZE CHIA (Singapore) said Singapore had made great strides in women's advancement.  Last year, it had amended the Singaporean Constitution to allow children born overseas to Singaporean mothers to acquire Singaporean citizenship.  In August 2004, the Prime Minister had appointed three women to key positions in Finance and Transport, Community Development and Youth and Sports.  The number of female parliamentarian had doubled, with women representing 10 of the 84 elected members of Parliament and three of the nine nominated members of parliament.

Singapore had recognized the need for equal pay for equal work, and had called on unions and employers to incorporate an appropriate equal remuneration clause in their collective agreements, based on the Tripartite Declaration on Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Performing Work of Equal Value, when the agreements were due for renewal.  Female Government workers received equal medical benefits as their male counterparts.  In August 2004, Singapore announced measures to boost the total fertility rate and support parenthood, he continued.  That included longer maternity leave, childcare leave for both parents, infant care subsidies and financial support for families.

VALÉRIE BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco) said her country adhered to the commitments made regarding women, and had been promoting their rights for a long time.  In Monaco, women benefited from protection in order to reconcile their roles as professionals and mothers.  In addition, handicapped young girls had special homes, and the principality also worked to assist elderly women.  Such measures were taken in order to realize the full development of women, who occupied increasingly high positions in society.  There was also an increased part played by women in economic activities and in important sectors, such as in financial activity, trade and education, and women occupied the majority of positions in those fields.  In order to help women in rural areas, the principality had also developed action in favour of those women in the framework of its policy of aiding development.

Monaco had also contributed to the emancipation of women within society, by building schools, and by providing high-quality teaching and exemplary conditions.  However, efforts still needed to be made in many areas concerning the follow-up of the fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly.  The Summit last month had clearly indicated the correlation between the development of women and the development of peace.  Monaco rejected violence against women, and supported the preparation of a study on the subject.  She also recognized the importance of the State's responsibility to attack all forms of violence as violations of human rights, and to resort to, if necessary, investigations and sentencing.

JACQUELINE OUBIDA (Burkina Faso) said socio-economic development was not possible without women's advancement.  Burkina Faso had created a full ministry for the socio-economic development of women to forward that agenda.  The ministry focused on issues pertaining to poverty eradication, education, training of young girls, health, fundamental rights of women, women's advancement, ending violence against women, women in decision-making, and women and the environment and the media.  National legislation and policies had been enacted or supported to end discrimination against women, incorporating provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol and the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples as they affect the Rights of Women.  The national penal code criminalized violence against women, forced marriages and female genital mutilation.  The National Commission to Combat Discrimination against Women had stepped up efforts.

In 2000, the Government had designed a strategic framework to combat poverty, with particular emphasis on gender, she continued.  It had launched literary campaigns for women and children not enrolled in school, setting up permanent literacy and training centres, resulting in an increase in the literacy rate from 36.8 per cent in 2000 to 72.1 per cent in 2004.  Concerning formal education it set up satellite school projects and established affirmative action programmes for all girls that passed the entrance exam for secondary schools.  Access to primary health care had been made a major priority as had family planning through a subsidized programme for contraceptives.  Despite those efforts, HIV/AIDS infection rates, which were 4.2 per cent in 2000, remained high at 2.7 per cent in 2004.  Maternal mortality rates were among the highest in the world, with 484 deaths for every 100,000 live births.

MOSTAFA ALAEI (Iran) said that despite progress, many barriers and problems still hampered the successful promotion of women's empowerment programmes.  Many of those challenges resulted from the phenomenon of globalization, which had multiple impacts on the capacity of developing countries to create employment and achieve poverty eradication goals.  Access to new forms of technology and trade opportunities had contributed to women's economic and social advancement.  While women had enjoyed those benefits, most of them still suffered from increased poverty, deterioration of working conditions, and job insecurity.  Women who left their countries in search of work and a better life were often at grave risk of extreme abuse by traffickers.  Migrant domestic workers were frequently ignored by their country of origin and considered unimportant by their country of residence.

Enhancing the empowerment of women and reaching the goals outlined by the Beijing Platform of Action and its follow-up processes required a comprehensive, balanced approach by all stakeholders and the different components of the system.  Relevant mechanisms and institutions designed to provide policy guidance and undertake the implementation processes should analyse, with equal force and effectiveness, all areas of concern in an integrated and interactive manner.  Should the General Assembly and other bodies embark on initiating studies and preparing analytical reports in order to find ways to empower women, such work should be holistic, and all areas of concern should be considered as various inter-related components with decisive impacts on each other.  He also expressed hope that the Secretary-General and the mechanisms involved in the in-depth study on all forms of violence against women would pay adequate attention to the urgent need for the study to be comprehensive and multifaceted in its approach.

MANAL YOUSEIF AL-MAHMOUD (Qatar) said Qatar was committed to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The High Council for Family Affairs had put forth policies for women's advancement, with emphasis on the strong link between education and development.  Such measures had led to improvement in education and creating equal opportunity for both sexes.  The success of women's participation in the national economy had led to qualitative improvements, and the country aimed to increase the number of women in the work force through training programmes.  Women had reached high levels of decision-making, and had been appointed to the posts of Minister of Education and Chairman of the Health Care Authority, as well as to leadership positions in many other institutions.  The Permanent Committee for Elections was preparing for the first parliamentary elections under Qatar's Constitution with a focus on women's political rights.

The Qatar Institution for the Protection of Children further focused on women's advancement, she said, adding that the High Council for Foreign Affairs had launched a national strategy for women's empowerment.  While the Beijing Platform of Action was a step in the right direction, the international community still faced huge difficulties in eradicating poverty and stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS and violence against women.  More international cooperation was needed in order to achieve the Beijing objectives, as well as greater resources for development campaigns.

VOLODYMYR PEKARCHUK (Ukraine) said 2005 was an important year, as it marked the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the fifth anniversary of the adoption by the Security Council of resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.  Another milestone event had taken place during the forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, when the political declaration was adopted.  Such events testified to the fact that many countries had made significant efforts to improve the situation of women over the past decade, and had made changes to their laws and constitutions.  While the advancement of women had transformed the agenda internationally, women continued to encounter obstacles to their advancement, including the continuing threat of violence and human trafficking, the transmission of HIV/AIDS, and sexual exploitation and trafficking in persons, which all represented serious threats.

He said the multi-dimensional problem of trafficking needed an integrated approach, and his Government welcomed measures by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Security Council.  Human trafficking and other forms of violence against women were spreading, particularly as a result of armed conflicts.  Women and children were the majority of refugees or internally displaced persons, and women also became combatants and played a role in armed conflicts.  Women also suffered from violence and discrimination in the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction, and States must step up efforts to deal with such a brutal phenomenon.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol continued to play a main role in ensuring that women enjoyed their full rights.  For its part, Ukraine was doing everything it could to fulfil its commitments by reporting to Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  His Government considered that the advancement of gender equality was a national priority, and it was not only an important objective but a means to ensure that States achieved the Millennium Development Goals.  He also reasserted the Government's commitment to the Beijing Platform of Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly, which represented a policy framework for action for gender equality.  The Government had adopted a proactive approach, with particular attention being paid to issues such as human trafficking.  It was also gradually putting into place a national plan to implement the Platform of Action.

IMERIA NUNEZ DE ODREMAN (Venezuela) said the National Plan for Equal Opportunity for Women aimed to improve the socio-economic well-being of women and put a gender perspective on national development strategies and programmes.  Funds allocated for women's advancement and women's rights had risen 500 per cent during the last five years.  In 2001, the Women's Development Bank had worked to extend women's access to credit, particularly for small businesses and technical assistance purposes.  Credit programmes for indigenous women had benefited 70 Pemon women and microenterprises involved career development, self-esteem building, sexual and reproductive rights.

Eliminating violence against women was a top Government priority, she said, pointing to the passage of the 1998 law governing violence against women and the family.  The 2000-2005 National Action Plan to Combat Violence against Women and the Family aimed to coordinate institutional action to prevent and penalize violence against family.  The plan provided a free national telephone helpline and safe houses for women victims of domestic and physical violence.  The number of women in high-level Government posts had increased significantly.

SHAHID HUSAIN, representing the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that under Islamic teachings, men and women were created equal and were God's deputies on earth.  In Islam, a woman was an individual person, and a responsible human being.  Accordingly, the attainment of equality before the law, and in all aspects of social and economic life, combined with the interdependence of family situations, remained a principle aim of the national policies and development efforts of the organization's member States.  It was gratifying to note in the Secretary-General's report on violence against women that, in terms of national legislations and standards, the needs of women were being addressed.  The challenge now was to ensure that the laws and standards were effectively implemented.  Islam had zero tolerance for any kind of violence against anyone, and women were no exception.  Thus, the measures being advanced to outlaw and criminalize violence against women were fully consistent with the teachings of Islam.

It was evident from current experience that under globalization, the increasing mobility of women -- particularly from developing countries -- exposed them to the dangers of exploitation, abuse, violence and many other injustices.  That aspect needed to be taken seriously into account in the economic planning processes at national, regional and global levels, so that the interests of women and their families were safeguarded and not jeopardized.  The organization strongly supported the principle of advancement of women to enable them to discharge their pivotal role in the family and society, and in its development, consistent with relevant precepts of Islamic Law.  Counting on its partnership with the United Nations, the aim of the organization was to continue to move closer to the natural family oriented, harmonious and progressive environment of the global village, which the Millennium Development Goals had envisioned.

ALESSANDRO MOTTER, Liaison Officer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said the IPU's resolution adopted on the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Conference underpinned the fundamental role of parliaments in the fight for gender equality.  Strong parliaments and sustained parliamentary action was needed to ensure respect for women's rights.  That meant addressing the very low presence of women in decision-making --  only 16 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide were women -- and enhancing the capacity of parliaments to address gender issues.  Affirmative action quotas were not a panacea.  Other measures were necessary, such as changing mentalities, enhancing women's capacities, and providing financial support to women candidates.

Improving women's participation in politics entailed improving a far larger framework of rights and of combating poverty, HIV/AIDS and violence.  She stressed the importance of setting up parliamentary committees on gender equality and supportive environments for women in parliament, with gender-sensitive standing orders, rules and codes of conduct, and family-friendly working hours.  Although women parliamentarians remained a small minority in the Arab region, there were encouraging signs of a gradual shift toward greater inclusion.  A record 8 per cent of Ministers of Parliament in the Arab world were now women.

NICOLE KEKEH, representing the World Bank, said the Bank was committed to helping member countries fulfil the Beijing Platform for Action, which it believed was crucial to attaining the Millennium Development Goals.  Even though it was Goal 3 that specifically referred to gender equality, achieving such equality was integral to achieving all the other goals, including reducing poverty and combating HIV/AIDS.  Since the Millennium Development Goals were mutually reinforcing, attempts to attain all of the Goals would have significant impacts on efforts to achieve gender equality.  While progress since Beijing had been notable, it had also been highly variable.  Women continued to face multiple barriers to achieving equal access to rights, resources, and voice in both middle- and low-income countries.

The World Bank recognized that gender equality was critical to development, and knew that ignoring gender disparities came at great cost to people's well-being, to a country's ability to grow and govern, to the effectiveness of development assistance, and to sustainable poverty reduction and development.  Also, the link between economic growth and poverty on the one hand, and gender inequality on the other, went both ways.  Just as gender inequalities undermined poverty reduction, poverty and the lack of growth exacerbated gender disparities.  A future challenge for the World Bank would be to assist countries to increase women's access to economic opportunities, so that women could more effectively contribute to and profit from shared economic growth.  She added that with just 10 short years left to reach the Millennium Development Goals, States must act together now to rebalance the world and give everyone -- women and men alike -- the right to build lives of dignity, free from want.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee then adopted without a vote a draft resolution, as orally revised, on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4) and a draft on follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers (document A/C.3/60/L.7).

Introduction of draft resolutions

At the outset the Committee's afternoon meeting, ANDREA CAVALLARI (Italy) introduced, on behalf of the sponsors listed, the draft resolution on "Strengthening the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity" (document A/C.3/60/L.8).  He said updates to and new elements of the draft resolution incorporated the status of international legal instruments dealing with transnational organized crime, as well as some important regional developments.  Expressing appreciation for the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and others, he said the resolution also intended to urge Member States to ratify or accede to the universal conventions against terrorism and corruption.  It also reaffirmed the priority of the United Nations Criminal Justice Programme.  He invited Member States to make or increase contributions to the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund, and added that a revised draft based on ongoing negotiations would soon be distributed.

MORINA MUUONDJO (Namibia) introduced, on behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that were members of the Group of African States, a draft resolution on the "United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders" (document A/C.3/60/L.10).  She said the annual African resolution had always enjoyed the support and consensus of the General Assembly.  She expressed appreciation for the support of the Assembly, and for the assistance of development partners, the private sector and civil society.  Such support enabled the Institute to undertake its mandate, she said.

KHUNYING LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand) introduced the draft resolution on "Follow-up to the eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice" (document A/C.3/60/L.11), which he said intended to bring to the attention of the Assembly the successful outcomes of the eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and to ask the Assembly to endorse the Bangkok Declaration.  The Assembly would also invite Governments to take into consideration the Bangkok Declaration and the recommendations adopted by the eleventh Congress, and to make all efforts to implement their principles.

Statements on Women's Issues

GERMÁN ORTEGA (Ecuador) said the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women had created legal obligations for Member States, which should respect, protect, promote and implement the rights of women.  The document, which was legally compulsory, recognized the rights of women on the one hand and, on the other, the obligations for those States that had ratified it.  The Declaration of Beijing reaffirmed the rights and intrinsic human dignity of women and men, and made a reality of the Platform for Action.  It was the widest and most complete instrument in the defence of women's rights, and therefore opened the way for gender equality.  In Ecuador, important steps had been taken since 1995 in the field of women's rights and equal rights.

Gender equality was essential to combat poverty, hunger and disease, he continued.  Yet, despite the rights having been expressed repeatedly, discrimination against women existed in many countries around the world.  Ecuador had reached important steps in terms of the rights of Ecuadorian women and in pursuing gender equality.  The Government had published several laws in that regard, and had made progress in the field.  He added that the Government was firmly convinced of the need to strengthen the role of women, which was in turn necessary to meet the political and social objectives of the country.

ZHANAR KULZHANOVA (Kazakhstan) said Kazakhstan's gender equality strategy for 2005-2015 had been developed and was supported by non-governmental organizations and international organizations.  Maternal and child health care constituted a priority objective in the national development strategy.  Kazakhstan's goal was to integrate a gender perspective into budget planning and its strategy for obtaining the millennium targets.  Microcredit was an effective tool to eliminate poverty.  Two thirds of the recipients of microcredit loans and programmes in Kazakhstan were women.  The federal Government had budgeted $2 million to create jobs for women.

Despite progress made in women's empowerment in Kazakhstan, there were still some serious challenges, she continued.  Maternal mortality had decreased, but overall it remained high.  The same held true for results in other areas.  Gender equality was a Millennium Development Goal that required greater efforts and cooperation of the international community if that goal was to be realized.  Women's economic, political and social capacity was enormous, and more efforts must be made to develop it.

FREDERICO DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said his Government enthusiastically reaffirmed the platforms for action of Beijing and Cairo.  Those instruments, along with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol, as well as other relevant human rights instruments such as the Durban platform for action, had provided invaluable guidance to the Brazilian Government for promoting the advancement of women.  The Brazilian National Plan of Policies for Women, adopted in December 2004, was to a large extent the result of a long process of discussion and internalization by Brazilian society of the norms and guidelines set forth in those instruments.  The country's national plan had grown out of a long process of consultations with civil society, carried out in local, regional and State conferences and culminating in the first national conference on policies for women.

The national plan was based on the realistic assessment of the need to involve and commit States and municipalities, under the coordination of the federal Government and its secretariat on women's policy.  It was in turn responsible for coordinating and mainstreaming gender policies in the full range of the work undertaken by the federal Government.  Furthermore, he said that Brazil was among those countries that would have liked to see much stronger language in the Outcome Document of the World Summit, with reference to gender equality and, specifically, sexual and reproductive health rights.  His Government recognized, however, that the Outcome Document provided a minimum platform for the subject, and pledged to continue to dedicate its energy toward promoting the cause of gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights at the national and international levels.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine said that while significant progress had been made in advancing equality, development and peace for women in many parts of the world, millions of women still lived in conditions that deprived them of their fundamental human rights, limited their opportunities and impeded the development of their societies.  Palestinian women lived in difficult and unique conditions.  Every year, their situation worsened, particularly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, over the past five years.  Israel had deliberately violated international law, including human rights law, bringing untold misery to the Palestinian population.  It could not be overemphasized how severely Palestinian women had been affected by these human rights violations and the grave and long-term consequences, which had compounded the pressures and constraints that already existed regarding women's advancement.  Palestinian women faced two systems of subordination:  occupation and patriarchy.

Palestinian women were subjected to some of the occupying Power's cruellest practices, she continued, with their homes bulldozed, innumerable indignities and harassment, construction of the separation wall and destruction of their property, livelihoods and peace prospects.  Restrictions on Palestinians' movement meant that many women were forced to give birth at military checkpoints.  As noted in the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 61 Palestinian women gave birth at checkpoints between September 2000 and December 2004, resulting in the death of 36 newborns.  Countless testimonies had been documented in that regard.  The situation, she said, was at an important juncture. While there were many unresolved issues, the end of the colonial settlement in the Gaza Strip, although on 6 per cent of the occupied area, was an important development.  Only through real peace and the reversal of colonization of the entire Occupied Palestinian Territory could genuine progress be made in Palestinian women's advancement.

RAOUD JOUHARGY (Saudi Arabia) said the rights of women were consecrated in Muslim law, and included, among others, the right to health care, dignity, equal opportunity and security.  They also included the protection of goods, inheritance, education, participation and trade, property, and the right to the ownership of goods.  The Government of Saudi Arabia was committed to promoting education, which constituted one of the fundamental pillars of the nation.  A large number of women students had Bachelor of Arts and Master's degrees in different areas, and women participated actively in the economic and commercial life of the country.  Women owned close to 30 per cent of the liquid assets deposited in banks or invested in various business sectors.  They were also employed in a large number of public institutions, administrations, banks, media, schools, universities, and service organizations.

The Government of Saudi Arabia had implemented wide-scale development plans, which allowed women to participate in all spheres of activities in the framework of a national plan for the advancement of women and social development, she said.  Aware of the rights of women, her Government had signed the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  It had also implemented a plan of action to counter all forms of violence against women.

EWALD LIMON (Suriname) said the policy of his Government on the issue of gender equity and gender equality was increasingly geared toward creating opportunities for women in all sectors of life.  One of the specific actions taken in pursuit of such policy was the formulation of an integral gender action plan, based on the Beijing Platform for Action and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Program of Action.  That action plan was drafted in collaboration with national non-governmental organizations, and was pivotal for the drafting of policy that was gender-balanced and gender equitable.

He said his Government had, in collaboration with gender-oriented non-governmental organizations, undertaken several initiatives to enhance the participation of women in all sectors of society.  A successful campaign referred to as the 50/50 campaign had been launched, aimed at increasing the number of women in policy and decision-making positions.  Although women were still relatively under-represented in top-ranking, decision-making and executive positions, notable strides had been made.  Currently, two female ministers served in the new cabinet of the Government, and a number of women were members of Parliament.

The protection and promotion of human rights was central to the policy of his Government, he continued.  In an effort to upgrade the national legislative framework for the promotion and protection of women, the National Commission on Gender legislation had been established.  That commission had submitted proposals for amendments to legislation that was discriminatory against women, and had introduced new legislation aimed at promoting gender equality.  The Government was also currently being confronted with what was called "feminization" of poverty.  As a means to eradicate poverty, especially among women, specific actions were taken in order to enhance their employment possibilities.  Suriname also faced an increased prevalence of HIV/AIDS infections, especially in women and girls, which greatly affected their opportunities.  In that respect, a draft proposal had been submitted with respect to HIV/AIDS in order to update the legal framework.

MU'TAZ HYASSAT (Jordan) said implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action was necessary to achieve the millennium targets.  Jordan believed in capitalizing on the current momentum to achieve those targets and the importance of women's rights and women's advancement in that process.  Jordan was revising its laws and programmes to eliminate discrimination against women, and facilitate women's development and progress within all levels of society.  It had set up media campaigns to fight stereotypes that had a negative impact on women's role in society.  For example, the 26-day campaign sought to raise awareness about domestic violence.  An educational framework on gender questions was being drafted, and the criminal code had been revised.

Jordan was also working on the text of a memorandum of understanding that would encourage women's participation in public and political office, including expanding their presence in parliament and regional councils, he said.  The National Jordanian Commission for Women was introducing gender perspectives into all its policies and programmes to ensure greater gender equality in Jordanian institutions.  Women's advancement required real partnership among all stakeholders.  Jordan was cooperating with various bodies of the United Nations system, including United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), for women's advancement in all its forms.

ISIKIA R. SAVUA (Fiji) said women had great potential and capacity to contribute to nation-building if given the opportunity and the resources to be allowed to work in an environment conducive to the attainment of a sustainable livelihood.  That would enable them not only to improve their living standards, but to contribute to the national economy.  While many countries had taken the lead in that area, others would need resources and technical expertise to assist them in the implementation of the internationally agreed conventions and national plans of actions.  His Government was encouraged by the growing international awareness concerning the female dimensions of migration.  With remittances becoming a prominent feature of the economy, Fiji had an economic, as well as a social stake in making sure that women remained safe wherever they went.

Supporting the call for further studies by the United Nations at the national, regional and international levels to better understand the dynamics of women in international migration, he said that was necessary to better protect their rights and defend their persons in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  His Government also welcomed the proposal to improve development financing trends through the reduction of transaction costs.  Fiji attached great importance to curbing and eradicating HIV/AIDS, and had made the problem one of its two priority advocacy issues for the coming five years.  He added that improving education and access to reproductive health services remained key in redressing rural women's issues.

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer for the Holy See said violence against women in all its forms, including domestic violence and harmful traditional practices, was a grave violation of women's dignity and human rights.  In some countries, female foeticide and infanticide continued.  Violence against women often resulted from the belief that women were not human beings with rights but objects to be exploited.  In that context, there was an increase of prostitution and trafficking of women and girls.  The Holy See was collaborating with all those of goodwill to give priority to social policies aimed at eliminating the causes of such violence.  For example, in June, the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People organized an International Meeting of Pastoral Care for the Liberation of Street Women.

According to the recent ILO statistics, women represented 60 per cent of the world's 550 million working poor, he continued.  In order to reverse the process of feminization of poverty, more must be done to increase women's access to and control over productive resources and capital.  Several Catholic organizations were helping women in Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Latin America and the Caribbean to form self-managed microcredit programmes for women.

ANDREI TARANDA (Belarus) said practice had shown that gender equality and the advancement of women were increasingly mainstreamed and showcased in various strategies at the national and international levels.  The trend toward advancing the rights of women had become steady, and his Government was pleased to note the adoption of relevant declarations.  Despite some success in implementing the Bangkok Declaration and Program of Action, there were still many problems that impeded the full implementation of women's rights.  The most serious problems included violence and discrimination, trafficking in women and girls, gender inequality, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the violation of women's rights, particularly their reproductive rights.  In order to resolve the problems, it was not enough to have determination, but results-oriented decisions must be taken to see to it that in practice gender problems were taken into account, and to expand the rights and opportunities for women.  His Government agreed with the approaches of the Secretary-General, set forth in his report, to supplement documents and decisions on the problem by specific recommendations about further action.

His delegation commended the steps being taken by the agencies of the United Nations system to sharpen attention to the problem of trafficking in people, in particular women and girls, which had long since become a global problem.  It required a proper response and action by the United Nations and its members.  Furthermore, it was not just a developing country problem, but an industrialized country problem as well.  Belarus was aware of the seriousness of the problem, and was taking steps at national and international levels.  It also sought to improve and expand education and outreach work, and to develop a network of agencies providing social services.  A national strategy was also being implemented to combat trafficking and prostitution.  Lastly, he proposed that all countries concerned pool their efforts and unite under the aegis of the United Nations in a global partnership against slavery and trafficking of human beings.

MIRJANA MLADINEO (Croatia) said her country was party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol.  Full implementation of the Convention, the Beijing Platform of Action, and the Millennium Development Goals would be included in Croatia's 2006-2010 National Policy for the Promotion of Gender Equality.  In the past few years, Croatia had adopted several laws in that field, including constitutional amendments that recognized the principle of gender equality.  The 2003 Gender Equality Law followed the provisions of the United Nations Convention.  That law protected women against discrimination, set a policy of equal opportunity for men and women, and had led to the appointment of the country's first Ombudsperson for Gender Equality, the creation of the Governmental Office for Gender Equality and Gender Equality Commissions at the local level.

The Government had adopted the 2005-2007 National Strategy for Protection from Domestic Violence, she continued.  Last month, it had also adopted a Protocol on Procedure in Cases of Domestic Violence, aimed at ensuring conditions for effective and comprehensive functioning of authorities to help domestic violence victims and perpetrators, and to promote non-violent conflict resolution and respect for gender equality.

DAW KHIN THANDAR (Myanmar) said her Government was heartened to see that since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, women worldwide were not only more aware of their rights, but were more in a position to exercise those rights.  There had been tangible progress on many fronts, and new challenges had also emerged.  However, an old problem persisted, and most of the new challenges also stemmed from that problem, which was poverty.  In Myanmar, where 70 per cent of the population lived in rural areas, women played a crucial role working on farms, tending to fields, and engaging in off-farm activities.  Access to credit enabled women to initiate, sustain and increase productivity.  Her Government believed that education was a primary solution to poverty alleviation.  Furthermore, women's access to reproductive health care was crucial to ensure gender equality and better lives for women.

Trafficking of humans, particularly women and children, was a form of modern slavery, and the international community needed to fight that scourge through close collaboration and cooperation, she continued.  Nationwide preventive and supportive activities, such as awareness-raising among the community and its leaders; capacity-building of its volunteers, including educational talks on trafficking and violence against women; and supportive services were conducted extensively by national non-governmental organizations.

She added that her delegation took exception to the fact that the Secretary-General's report on steps taken by the General Assembly and its committees to promote the achievement of gender equality through a gender mainstreaming strategy chose to reproduce, without any direct relevance, elements concerning her country on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.  Her delegation failed to see any connection between that reference to Myanmar and the main purpose of the report, which was to promote the achievement of gender equality through gender-mainstreaming strategies.

ALASSANE DIALLO (Mali) said many women in Mali suffered from lack of food security, high maternal mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, genital mutilation and other forms of violence.  Poverty was widespread, with more than half the population living on less than $1 dollar a day.  Seventy-eight per cent of women in Mali lived in rural areas and played an important role in the informal sector.  To encourage true women's advancement, Mali had adopted the 2002-2006 national strategy, based on the Beijing Platform of Action, to improve health and education and eradicate poverty among women and girls.  Women's advancement was an important component of Mali's Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Efforts to reduce poverty and improve the lot of women were paying off, he continued.  For example, girls' school enrolment had increased from 33.4 per cent in 1995-1996 to 53.6 per cent 2005-2006.  Women's participation had increased in all decision-making forums.  Women had greater access to microcredit, and free Caesarean delivery services in public hospitals.  But much more needed to be done to reduce maternal and child mortality rates and poverty, and enable Mali to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

M. S. GILL (India) said that 60 years after the Charter of the United Nations had reaffirmed the collective faith of Member States in the equal rights of men and women, much had been achieved, but much more clearly needed to be done.  Today, there was wider recognition of the need for a fundamental equality between women and men, and to end all forms of discrimination against women, but translating that into reality remained a major challenge, particularly for developing countries.  That called for greater empowerment of women socially, economically and politically.  In India, the empowerment of women had consistently received all possible attention.  As the prime minister of India had said, no society could claim to be a part of the modern civilized world unless it treated its women on par with men, and the time for genuine and full empowerment of women was here and now.  The Common Minimum Programme of the Government recognized the political, legal, educational and economic empowerment of women as one of the top priorities.  It also considered the empowerment of women as one of the key principles of good governance.

His Government had taken a number of institutional and legal measures, including affirmative actions to strengthen women's ability to participate at all political levels, particularly by reserving 33 per cent of local Government seats for women.  A national effort was now under way towards a similar reservation of seats for women in the Indian Parliament as well.  His Government's strategy for empowering women included a target to reduce the female poverty ratio by 5 per cent by 2007, and by 15 per cent by 2012.  It had also initiated gender responsive legislation, and had passed an act on the protection of women from domestic violence earlier in the year.  In addition, 21 of India's states had appointed focal points to ensure attention to trafficking, as part of the human rights agenda.  He added that the responsibility for the unhindered functioning of the INSTRAW, by way of improved financial support, rested with Member States.

HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia) said that since his country's independence in 1957, Malaysian women had actively participated and contributed towards the social and economic development of the country.  That was made possible by the Government's position that women were an important resource that could be mobilized to achieve the national development agenda.  His Government regarded the Beijing Platform of Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Millennium Development Goals as inextricably linked.  Their principles and goals were compatible with the country's national agenda towards ensuring the promotion and fulfilment of women's rights and fundamental freedoms.  The national action plan for the advancement of women, formulated in 1997, outlined several measures to enhance the status of women in all areas of concern.

Changes had been made in the legal and institutional framework to protect, preserve and safeguard the rights of women, and to improve their status.  The Government continued to ensure that women were not left out of the national development process.  As the country progressed towards achieving greater gender equality, the role of the Government had been supportive, pre-eminent and continuous.  Women in Malaysia had greatly benefited from the Government's poverty reduction policies and strategies, including improvement in health and education services, basic infrastructure, access to economic resources and access to markets.  He added that special emphasis was given to programmes to improve the economic well-being of women, particularly in rural areas.

NICOLA HILL (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of her country, as well as Canada and Australia, said the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women was fundamental to the implementation of the Beijing action plan and to the promotion and protection of the rights of women around the world.  Stressing that the support for the Convention must, however, translate into support for the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, she called on States to honour the commitment made and to ensure that the Committee was resourced to do the job required of it.

Her group also believed that the Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was of fundamental importance to achieving sustainable peace and development.  The group was committed to enhancing consideration of the rights of women and gender equality in United Nations forums.  All too many negotiations saw States going over old ground, but on many issues, the time for negotiation was over.  Debate in some cases had become stale and repetitive, with no tangible benefits for women.  She called on all States to consider whether initiatives added value to international debate before putting them forward for negotiation, and to consider initiatives that promoted implementation.

Ms. ENLCHTSETSEG (Mongolia) said persistent gender inequalities were at the core of poverty eradication.  Women should not have to bear the brunt of globalization's negative impact.  Women worldwide still suffered from infectious diseases, lack of education, insufficient income, inadequate health care, under-representation in decision-making and gender inequality in the household.  Without women's advancement, the international community would not be able to meet the target of halving extreme poverty by 2015, particularly in Africa and Asia, where it was very high.

She stressed the need to promote vibrant rural communities through effective food production, access to essential services such as education and health care, better infrastructure, local control over productive resources, and greater participation of women in decision-making.  As evidenced in the Secretary-General's reports, consistent efforts had been made in past years to promote gender mainstreaming.  Mongolia was doing its part in that regard.  But despite progress achieved in the 1996-2002 national programme of action, there was still a long way to go to ensure full gender equality in Mongolia, where poverty and unemployment remained a major challenge.  Mongolia's parliament had adopted a state policy on the promotion and protection of the family and the right to education.  Last year, a new law was passed to combat domestic violence.  Also last year was declared the Year in Support of the Family, and Mongolia had adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocols.

MARÍA ÁNGELA HOLGUÍN CUÉLLAR (Colombia) said her country had made significant achievements on the advancement of women, but still faced challenges ahead.  Women in Colombia benefited from an even access to basic middle and high school education, and showed a lower rate of school drop-out and better performance compared to men.  Women had massively entered the labour market, and had increased their participation in the decision-making processes of the nation from many of the most important posts within the public administration.  They were heads of five out of 13 ministries, as well as president of Congress and vice-president of the House of Representatives.

Her Government's global public policy on gender equality had focused on four main areas of intervention:  employment and entrepreneurial development; political participation; violence against women; and institutional strengthening.  Each area included the promotion and coordination of programmes and strategies oriented towards income generation and employment for women; strengthening of their enterprises through access to small loans; training and broadening of marketing options for their products; and the promotion of political participation and the prevention of violence against women.  The national legislation guaranteed equal opportunities for women in society.  She added that a priority of the Government was the recovery of the rural sector of Colombia.  The Government had carried out a plan of action to ensure equal opportunities for rural women in order to contribute to the reduction of barriers that kept them from their full participation in the economy, social development, and the complete exercise of their rights.

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