Economic and Social Council Concludes Annual Ministerial Review, Hears Nearly 50 Delegates as General Debate Begins

Report
from UN Economic and Social Council
Published on 01 Jul 2010 View Original
ECOSOC/6434

Economic and Social Council
2010 Substantive Session
17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)

In parallel meetings today, the Economic and Social Council wrapped up its Annual Ministerial Review, spotlighting actions and progress aimed at achieving the global agenda on women's issues, as it also began its general debate, which heard nearly 50 Government delegations outline their efforts to promote higher standards of living, full employment and socio-economic progress - particularly for women and girls - at home and abroad.

On a busy penultimate day of the high-level segment of its 2010 substantive session, the Council's Annual Ministerial Review - which this year featured a record 13 countries making voluntary presentations on actions to mainstream a gender perspective into all sectors and achieve international targets relating to gender equality and women's empowerment - concluded with detailed presentations by ministers, other senior officials and civil society representatives from Portugal, Republic of Korea, Norway, Australia, Congo and Mongolia.

While all the country presentations focused on progress and challenges in ensuring gender equality 15 years after world leaders adopted the landmark Beijing Platform for Action, each featured a unique highlight. Portugal, for example, noted the appointment of a Secretary of State for Equality in its new Government, as well as its willingness to tackle sensitive issues such as sexual and reproductive health rights, and its gender-related development cooperation efforts within the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries. The Republic of Korea spotlighted the role that women had played in transforming it from a "poverty stricken" nation into an active donor of aid to developing countries.

Norway's presenter announced that, for the first time, the Norwegian Cabinet was made up of an equal number of men and women, acknowledging, however, that "we are still not there" in achieving real gender equity, and that no progress could be attained without strong political will and input from a vocal civil society. Australia's report focused on that country's "Development for All" strategy and highlighted its development cooperation with Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

As for the other national reports, Congo's presenter noted Government efforts to tackle "invisible but omnipresent" violence against women and girls, while Mongolia's report flagged the key lesson learned - promoting women's rights required integrated actions, strong cooperation and broad consultation among all branches of Government, as well as civil society and international development partners.

Summing up the Annual Ministerial Review, Council President Hamidon Ali (Malaysia) thanked all participating delegations, including the six that had shared their national experiences today, as well as those of Brazil, Netherlands, Guatemala, Republic of Moldova, Namibia, France and the United States, which had made presentations earlier in the week. He said the discussions had been "rich and highly informative", with valuable lessons that could be helpful to all States.

He said it had been heartening to learn that all countries were making progress to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women, in accordance with their own circumstances and within their own means. At the same time, it was clear that much remained to be done, and that integrated and coordinated gender mainstreaming strategies must target both women and, especially, men.

Many of those same issues were raised in the Council's parallel high-level general debate, where ministers and other senior Government officials stressed that women constituted the majority of the world's poor, lacking access to the basic education, health care, financial resources and rights that would otherwise help them out of the vicious poverty trap.

"Women's human rights must be put on a par with all other rights," Council Vice-President Somduth Soborun (Mauritius), declared in opening remarks. While progress had been made since the ground-breaking 1995 Beijing Declaration - which outlined measures to achieve greater equality for women - more must be done to overcome the gender-based discrimination that inhibited women and girls from leading lives of their own choosing.

In the ensuing debate, several speakers emphasized that women disproportionately felt the negative impacts of the global food, climate and finance crises. "As a woman, I can feel in my skin our disproportionate suffering in times of crisis or hardship," said Mozambique's Minister for the Coordination of Environmental Affairs. The role of women in eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development deserved pragmatic and action-oriented attention.

Others pointed out that the Millennium Development Goals could only be achieved by respecting women as rights-holders and key agents of change, empowered to contribute to development. In that context, they hailed the consensus reached yesterday on creating a new United Nations gender entity, with Belgium's delegate, speaking for the European Union, reiterating the regional bloc's commitment to gender equality as a human right, a matter of social justice and a driver of peace.

Still other speakers highlighted the links between gender inequality and poverty, and further, between poverty and violence against women. Kenya's delegate called for a breaking of that cycle, saying that any serious effort to eliminate bias against women must include a change in societal attitudes. Against that backdrop, some speakers described measures to integrate the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action into national policies, and to include a gender perspective in initiatives aimed at realizing the Millennium Goals.

Lead presenters in the Annual Ministerial Review were Elsa Pais, Secretary of State for Gender Equality, and João Gomes Cravinho, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, of Portugal; Paik Hee-Young, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea; Ingrid Fiskaa, State Secretary for International Development of Norway; Robert McMullan, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development of Australia; Jeanne-Françoise Leckomba Loumeto-Pombo, Minister for the Promotion and Integration of Women of Congo; and Tugsjargal Gandi, Minister for Social Welfare and Labour of Mongolia.

Also participating in the general debate were ministers, other senior Government officials and representatives from Yemen (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), Nepal (on behalf of the Least Developed Countries), Morocco, Pakistan, Brazil, Estonia, Italy, Poland, Namibia, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Iran, Czech Republic, Australia, Latvia, Austria, Israel, Bolivia, Switzerland, Rwanda, Liechtenstein, China, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Belarus, Honduras, Bahamas, Peru, Lithuania (on behalf of the Community of Democracies), Argentina, Gambia, Uruguay, Ukraine, Ghana, Mexico, Turkey, Ethiopia, Croatia, Cuba, El Salvador, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea.

A representative of the Observer Mission of the Holy See also addressed the meeting.

Also speaking was a representative of the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund.

The Economic and Social Council will reconvene in parallel sessions at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 2 July, to continue its general debate and hold a high-level policy dialogue with international financial and trade institutions on current developments in the world economy.

Background

The Economic and Social Council met today to begin the general debate of its high-level segment, and in parallel meetings, continue its Annual Ministerial Review, with presentations by Portugal, Republic of Korea, Norway, Australia, Congo and Mongolia.