Third Committee delegates encourage speedy implementation of proposal for new, composite UN body to oversee gender equality, women's empowerment
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)
Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Gender Hopes for 'Swift Decision'; Committee Hears from 35 Speakers, as Debate on Advancement of Women Begins
Embarking on a two-day discussion on the advancement of women, members of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today encouraged speedy completion of proposals for a new United Nations body to oversee gender equality and women's empowerment, in a process overseen by the Secretary-General with involvement from the Deputy Secretary-General, which was expected to conclude at year's end.
The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja, in her annual address to the Committee, said the Secretary-General was solidly behind a strengthened system, adding he had moved quickly to respond to a resolution on the subject, passed by the General Assembly last month, at the tail end of its sixty-third session.
[The resolution on system-wide coherence (resolution 63/311) had the Assembly expressing strong support for uniting the four United Nations gender-specific entities ‑‑ the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the Division for the Advancement of Women and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). Intergovernmental consultations are expected to continue during the current General Assembly session on the entity's mandate, organizational structure and source of funding.]
Ms. Mayanja said she looked forward to the Committee making a "swift decision" for a composite gender entity that would be better resourced, have stronger field presence and a greater capacity to serve Member States. The outcome should foster a more integrated, holistic approach to the advancement of women, she said, as part of a paradigm shift in thinking on gender equality and women's issues.
"The achievement of this on the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action would indeed be a fulfilling achievement," she said, referring to the planned commemoration, in March 2010, of the influential 1995 World Conference on Women. "[It would be] a reaffirmation that the ideals for which women's organizations, Member States, the United Nations system and the international community have toiled over the past decade and a half have indeed been worthwhile."
Ms. Mayanja's address touched on multiple challenges that still impede the advancement of women ‑‑ unemployment, poverty, lack of access to health services, poor education rates and violence against women.
Rape and sexual violence had become a weapon of war, she said, despite the Security Council's resolve to intensify its actions against such violence. Warring factions blatantly disregarded human rights law, with nations lacking the kind of legislation to hold violators accountable. Violence against women persisted across all societies, resulting in women and girls who were traumatized, maimed and killed. "Such violence appears to be rooted in cultures that ignore it, condone it or even promote it," she said.
Joanne Sandler, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women said 56 countries had received support from UNIFEM as part of its work on ending violence against women. Some solutions included strengthening formal and informal justice systems, or supporting partners to secure provisions in national development and poverty reduction campaigns for ending violence against women. But, success was overshadowed by a response that was still much too weak.
"Violence against women is a worldwide pandemic, only recently emerging from the shadows," she said. "There is no global fund, no preparations, no global partnership that has the high-level support and resources to even being to chip away at the causes and consequences of this egregious abuse of women's dignity and human rights."
The representative of Australia, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, denounced as "intolerable" the characterization by some Governments and military that sexual violence was just a by-product of war. At a Forum meeting in August, she said members had strengthened their resolve to end permissive community attitudes to sexual violence, and to firmly establish the issue of sexual and gender-based violence on the political agenda.
She stressed that, to eradicate sexual violence, more awareness must be raised on the link between women's economic empowerment and peace and security. She noted that violence against women and the fear of violence severely limited the social, political and economic participation of women in their communities. That placed significant strain on national economies, undermining efforts to end poverty.
Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs ‑‑ who this morning presented summaries of several reports by the Secretary-General on the advancement of women ‑‑ noted that several intergovernmental events were being slated for next year. They include the 15-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The Security Council was also scheduled to review progress made in the 10 years since its adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.
In a question-and-answer session with Secretariat officials, some Member States asked what value the numerous events next year would add to the discussion. Ms. Hannan replied that those events provided an opportunity to strengthen the global policy agenda on the advancement of women, and on national-level implementation. Once in place, the composite gender entity would ensure increased United Nations support for national action.
In the ensuing discussion, some Member States described initiatives being pursued in their countries to promote the advancement of women, which could be used as a basis for international action. The representative of the Netherlands suggested bringing the power of sports to women, citing examples from her country where women from minority groups formed sports associations that had proven popular as a place for developing interpersonal networks and combating isolation.
Also speaking were the representatives of Sweden (on behalf of the European Union), Sudan (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, and separately in its national capacity), Malawi (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Japan, Mexico (on behalf of the Rio Group), Pakistan, Iraq, Chile, China, Zimbabwe, Norway, United States, Egypt, Viet Nam, Brazil, Malta, Myanmar, Turkey, Cuba, Qatar, Malaysia, Algeria and Iceland.
Jessica Neuwirth, Director, New York Office, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented the Secretary-General's reports regarding advancement of women. Naéla Gabr, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, reported on activities of the Committee in the past five months.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 13 October, to continue its discussion on the advancement of women. It is also expected to hear the introduction of resolutions under the items "social development" and "crime prevention".
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
It had before it the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its forty-second and forty-third sessions (document A/64/38). According to the report, the Committee adopted two decisions at its forty-second session. Decision 42/I, entitled "General recommendation No. 26, on women migrant workers", aims to elaborate on the circumstances that contribute to the specific vulnerability of many women migrant workers and their experiences of sex- and gender-based discrimination as a cause and consequence of the violations of their human rights. Decision 42/II is a statement by the Committee on the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
At its forty-third session, the Committee adopted three decisions. Decision 43/I concerned the election of its Chairperson for the period 2009-2010 from the African Group. By Decision 43/II, the Committee expresses its concern at the effects of the current international financial and economic crisis on the full realization of the human rights of women and girls worldwide. By Decision 43/III, the Committee expresses its deep concern about the recent military engagement (January 2009) in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/64/342), which covers the period from 15 August 2007 to 24 August 2009. The report notes that, as of 24 August 2009, 186 States had ratified, acceded to or succeeded to the Convention, and 98 States parties had ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol.
The report further says that the Committee had made significant efforts to reduce the delay between the submission of reports and their consideration. It had also enhanced its interaction with stakeholders in the Convention's implementation, particularly with national human rights institutions, and had actively contributed to the common efforts of all treaty bodies to harmonize the human rights treaty body system. Nevertheless, it should make greater efforts to disseminate the Convention more widely. In this, particular efforts are required with respect to the Optional Protocol.
The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/64/151). According to it, the pervasive violation of women's human rights has become, particularly through the leadership of the Secretary-General, a highly visible priority issue among the entities of the United Nations system. The umbrella of the Secretary-General's "UNiTE to End Violence against Women" campaign provides a new opportunity for the United Nations system to intensify its support for national efforts to achieve the campaign's five key goals by 2015. But, while the United Nations Trust Fund had increased the volume of grants it awarded, demand for support still greatly exceeded available funds and, to meet the rising demand, the Trust Fund has set an annual target of $100 million by 2015.
The report further highlights the Secretary-General's database on violence against women as a unique tool for capturing all measures taken by Member States to address violence against women. It says the efforts of United Nations entities to increase their own specialized capacity in the area of violence against women in support of Member States should also continue and expand, as mandated by the General Assembly in its resolutions 61/143, 62/133, and 63/155. While work on indicators to measure violence against women had advanced significantly, other issues and areas, such as the impact of measures taken and results achieved, required increased attention.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's report on violence against women migrant workers (document A/64/152), which surveys action taken at the national, regional and international levels to combat violence against women migrant workers and to protect their human rights. National legal and policy frameworks had been strengthened, and bilateral and multilateral cooperation enhanced. But, much of those efforts related to the development of laws and policies on gender equality, violence against women and/or workers' rights in general, rather than specific measures to address violence against women migrant workers.
According to the report, violence against women migrant workers, particularly the undocumented, persists and their rights violated throughout every stage of the migration cycle. States should continue to ratify and implement international instruments and review and revise national legal frameworks to ensure compliance with their international obligations. They should also ensure that migration policies are gender-sensitive, rights-based and promote safe migration, and that all relevant policies and strategies ensure the protection of the human rights of all women migrant workers and comprehensively address violence against women migrant workers, including measures to prevent violence, prosecute perpetrators and protect and support victims.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/64/190), which says that, despite measures taken by Member States and United Nations entities to improve the situation of rural women, the needs, priorities and contributions of rural women continue to be insufficiently addressed. Rural women's knowledge, experience and contributions should be taken into consideration in research, data collection, policy development, resource allocation and programmes in all areas of sustainable development. The inequalities and discrimination faced by these women pose significant challenges to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals. It further says that the improvement of the situation of rural women requires the promotion of non-agricultural employment and full access to productive resources. It also outlines several specific interventions to strengthen gender equality and rural women's empowerment.
It also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (document A/64/164). The report provides a review and update on the progress of the programme and activities of UNIFEM as laid out in its strategic plan, 2008-2011. It tracks overall progress and highlights concrete results of the support provided to countries in 2008. The report concludes with a set of recommendations on the ways in which the development and organizational effectiveness of UNIFEM can be further strengthened.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/64/218). The report provides information on the extent to which intergovernmental bodies paid attention to gender perspectives. It also contains an assessment of the impact of the input of the Commission on the Status of Women on discussions within the United Nations system.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the future operation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/64/79-E/2009/74).
In addition, the Chair drew attention to resolution A/C.3/64/L.3, on commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for action, which was also before the Committee.
Statement by Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues
RACHEL MAYANJA, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that, at her last appearance before the Committee, their discussion on the advancement of women had taken place in the shadow of outbreaks of conflict, an economic slowdown, the food and energy crisis, likely increases in unemployment, natural disasters and climate change. Those challenges were real today and carried many implications on the well-being of women and girls.
On unemployment, she cited International Labour Organization (ILO) statistics that said joblessness could reach 6.1 to 7 per cent for men and 6.5 to 7.4 per cent for women. In rural areas, the majority of the poor were women. The financial crisis also threatened gains made in women's health and survival, including maternal and reproductive health. At the annual ministerial review of the Economic and Social Council on implementing international goals on public health, it was evident that, despite years of commitment and investment, progress was mixed. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), every minute a woman died of complications related to pregnancy from mostly preventable and treatable medical problems. That added up to more than 500,000 women each year -- "a great sacrifice by women on sustaining the human species".
Since the 1990s, most developing countries had seen major reductions in donor funding for family planning on a per woman basis. "This is unacceptable", she said. "Efforts to reach women within their communities must be intensified. Interventions must go beyond simply providing services to providing education for prevention and early detection of possible obstetric complications. It is important to remove financial and other barriers to access."
She noted that the Millennium Development Goal to eliminate disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005 was missed, and that to ensure that the opportunity was not lost again in 2015 would require renewed commitment. HIV/AIDS remained a major health challenge to women in the developing world, with women accounting for half the people living with the disease. Nearly 60 per cent were in sub-Saharan Africa. Gender inequities often underlay women's risk-taking behaviour and vulnerability to HIV infection. Often the vulnerability was beyond a woman's control, with adolescent girls at a particular disadvantage.
She remarked that rape and sexual violence had become a weapon of war. Despite the Security Council's resolve to intensify its actions against such violence against women, and other efforts by Member States, the United Nations system and civil society, it still persisted in situations of armed conflict. Warring factions blatantly disregarded human rights law, and the development and implementation of legislation to hold violators accountable remained poor. Other forms of violence against women also persisted across all societies, traumatizing, maiming and killing women and girls. "Such violence appears to be rooted in cultures that ignore it, condone it or even promote it", she said.
She said there was notable progress in women's political empowerment and their role in decision-making, Millennium Development Goals No. 3. In the last decade, the number of women parliamentarians at the national level had increased by 8 per cent to a global average of 18.4 per cent. Those were important achievements. In Liberia and Rwanda, two post-conflict countries, women had greater say in government and were using that opportunity to promote the engagement of women in all sectors of public life.
On equal sharing and responsibilities between women and men in caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS, she said women around the world continued to bear a disproportionate share of work. The value and cost of such work remained largely unmeasured, and its contribution to economic and social development had not been adequately recognized and valued. The impact of gender imbalance in caregiving work had also not been adequately measured. The unequal sharing of responsibilities between men and women reflected stereotypical assumptions about the roles of both sexes in society, with adverse impacts on both women and men. It had implications for equal opportunity in education, the labour market and public life, as well as quality of family relationships and caregiving.
In addition, in addressing the care burden on women, society must give attention to protecting the environment and climate change, to ensure that women's chores did not become outright dangerous, she said. In many communities around the world, women were the primary collectors of fuelwood and water, which, as supplies decreased, meant that more time had to be spent on those activities.
She said that, as the world approached the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Member States, the United Nations system, civil society and the private sector needed to devote greater attention on breaking down "silos" and replacing them with a more integrated, holistic approach that involved all stakeholders and beneficiaries. Assembly resolution 63/311 had confirmed the view that the current system for the implementation of policies on gender equality and empowerment of women was weak and inadequate. Adoption of that resolution was also an indication of nations' willingness to ensure a paradigm shift. For his part, the Secretary-General had been solidly behind a strengthened system, emphasizing that he would move expeditiously to respond to the resolution.
To the Committee, she said she looked forward to its support as her Office worked to prepare the design of a new composite entity that would be better resourced, have stronger field presence and a greater capacity to serve Member States and the women of the world. "We look to you for a swift decision", she said. "The achievement of this on the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action would indeed be a fulfilling achievement and a reaffirmation that the ideals for which women's organizations, Member States, the United Nations system and the international community have toiled over the past decade and a half have indeed been worthwhile."
CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the momentum for action on violence against women had continued to accelerate. The General Assembly's adoption of action-oriented resolutions on violence against women and the Secretary-General's "UNiTE to End Violence against women" campaign had been critical.
Turning to the Secretary-General's reports on the advancement of women, she said this year's report on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/64/151) highlighted progress in several key inter-agency initiatives that resulted in increased communication, coordination and collaboration. Among them were the Secretary-General's global campaign, the joint programming initiative of the Task Force on violence against women of the Inter-Agency Network against Sexual Violence in Conflict, and the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women. It further summarized the range of activities undertaken by entities within the United Nations system to support national efforts and draw attention to the work of intergovernmental bodies. It concluded that, through the Secretary-General's leadership, the issue had become a priority in the Organization. Yet, there were many areas that required increased attention, including increasing knowledge on the impact of measures taken and the results achieved.
She noted that an update on United Nations System activities on violence against women was available on the Division's website and a further update would be prepared in March 2010 for the Commission on the Status of Women.
Turning to the report on violence against women migrant workers (document A/64/152), she said the biennial report provided information on action by Member States to combat such violence and protect the human rights of those workers. It also reviewed attention given to migrant women workers within the framework of intergovernmental and expert bodies of the United Nations and presented initiatives by those entities to support national efforts. It emphasized the need for: continued ratification and implementation of international instruments relevant to combating such violence; strengthened legal frameworks and gender-sensitive and rights-based migration policies; continued awareness raising, capacity building and other preventive efforts; provision of support and protection for victims; and accelerated data collection and analysis.
She went on to say that the Division for the Advancement of Women had continued to expand its work on violence against women. A coordinated database on that violence had been created, as called for by General Assembly resolution 61/143. On 5 March 2009, the Deputy-Secretary-General launched the Secretary-General's database on violence against women, which provide the first global "one-stop site" for information on measures being taken by Member States to combat that violence. The primary source of information for that database was Member State responses to a comprehensive questionnaire. To date, 81 responses had been entered. She encouraged the continued provision of information by the States that had responded, as well as the provision of responses from Member States who had not yet responded.
She said the Division had also developed a handbook for legislation on violence against women, which provided detailed guidance to support the adoption and effective implementation of legislation to address violence against women. The fifth issue of the Division's newsletter on violence against women "Words to Action" had also been issued. That quarterly electronic publication disseminated information on measures taken by Member States and the United Nations entities to address that violence. All of those steps had been taken, she added, as part of the Secretary-General's global campaign.
Turning to the report on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/64/190), she said it reviewed activities to improve rural women's participation in public life, economic empowerment, and access to health services, as well as to eliminate violence against them. It recognized that the current global environment posed significant challenges to the situation of rural women and noted that, while there was a growing recognition that those women could be critical agents in responding to the crises, little had been done to mobilize and empower them to contribute effectively. They continued to have limited voice in public decision-making, and their access to health care also remained inadequate. The report also called for systematic consultation with, and full participation of, rural women in developing, implementing and monitoring of rural development policies. Among other things, it called for further measures to promote the rights of women and girls with disabilities in rural areas.
She then turned to the Secretary-General's report on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/64/218). That report outlined progress made by intergovernmental bodies in advancing the global policy agenda on gender equality and empowerment of women and examines the work of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council in that regard. It shows that intergovernmental bodies addressed a number of important issues in that area. Yet, concerns remained that women continued to be disproportionately affected by poverty, hunger, food insecurity, disasters and crises. It also showed that coverage of gender equality issues in intergovernmental processes was not systematic and content varied significantly in terms of depth of attention across agenda items and committees in the General Assembly.
She said the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (document A/64/93), which had as its theme "Women's control over economic resources and access to financial resources, including microfinance", was particularly timely. It was also relevant to the Third Committee, because it demonstrated the interdependency between economic and social development and illustrated the importance of examining women's access to economic and financial resources. The Survey would be officially launched at an expert panel presentation on Monday, 26 October 2009.
She concluded by drawing attention to several intergovernmental events in 2010, including: the 15-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in March by the Commission on the Status of Women; the Economic and Social Council's annual Ministerial Review, which was themed "implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women"; a high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in September 2010; and the Security Council's review of progress made in the 10 years since its adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.
JOANNE SANDLER, Deputy Executive Director, UNIFEM, introduced the note by the Secretary-General on the activities of UNIFEM (document A/64/164). She explained that, last month, the Assembly adopted a resolution on system-wide coherence expressing strong support for uniting the four United Nations gender-specific entities -- UNIFEM, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the Division for the Advancement of Women and INSTRAW. In addition, the Security Council adopted two resolutions requesting the Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on sexual violence and armed conflict, and to submit a set of indicators to monitor the impact of conflict on women and women's role in peace processes.
She said demand by countries for assistance to advance gender equality and women's empowerment continued to increase exponentially. The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, managed by UNIFEM, received nearly $900 million in requests, but there was only $12 million available. On strengthening women's economic security and rights, UNIFEM had reached 71 countries in 2008, helping efforts to "engender" national budgets, revise national development strategies and track aid allocations, among other things. In Rosario, Argentina, there was a four-fold increase in allocations to women's empowerment programmes in 2008. And, in 14 countries, Government and civil society had produced monitoring mechanisms to track more effective use of resources.
She said UNIFEM had supported legal and policy reform in Afghanistan, China, and the Republic of Moldova to address the needs of women who were excluded from economic benefits and policy-making. It continued to support networks of home-based workers to strengthen social protection in Asia, and, with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to strengthen women's contributions to food security in West Africa and Central Asia.
She said UNIFEM's partnership with the Government, private sector, non-governmental organizations and the World Bank in Egypt offered, in its Gender Equality Model, concrete lessons for directly advancing women's' economic security. That model set up a voluntary certification scheme for private firms to meet standards for hiring, training and promoting women. Already based on a similar model in Latin America, it held significant potential for replication in the country, the region and globally.
She went on to say that, while both the number of countries UNIFEM reached and the number of partnerships it formed were increasing, other numbers were less positive. Specifically, the ILO estimated that 22 million more women would become unemployed due to the economic and financial crisis. Women were denied land, property and inheritance rights in too many countries, and stimulus packages were too often based on a male breadwinner model of the household.
As a result of various General Assembly resolutions passed over the last three years and the Secretary-General's global campaign, a 300 per cent increase had been tracked by United Nations country teams reporting joint initiatives to support national efforts to end violence against women. Contributions to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women had also increased fivefold, although the decrease from 2008 to 2009 had been disappointing. The UNIFEM had also collected more than 5 million signatures inspired to "Say No to Violence against Women".
UNIFEM's support to end violence against women, which reached 56 countries in 2008, prioritized the implementation of laws and policies and strengthening formal and formal justice systems, as well as the security sector, to respond to women's rights. Prevention was a key focus. Efforts at the policy level had focused on supporting partners in securing provisions in national development and poverty reduction campaigns for ending violence against women, which resulted in 15 countries including provisions against female genital mutilation.
Nevertheless, those successes were overshadowed by numbers that added up to a pandemic of staggering proportion and a response that was still much too weak, she said. An estimated 150 million girls under 18 suffered some form of sexual violence in 2002 alone. From 100 million to 140 million girls and women had experienced female genital mutilation. Over 60 million girls worldwide were child brides, and 80 per cent of the 800,000 people trafficked annually were women and girls.
"Violence against women is a worldwide pandemic, only recently emerging from the shadows", she said. "There is no global fund, no preparations, no global partnership that has the high level support and resources to even being to chip away at the causes and consequences of this egregious abuse of women's dignity and human rights. How much longer will we wait for serious, concerted responses?"
Turning to gender justice in democratic governance, she said UNIFEM supported wide-ranging partnerships in over 70 countries as a prerequisite for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sustainable development, and peace and security. In 23 countries, UNIFEM tracked the use of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women as the basis for legal change and supported in four countries national strategies for implementing the monitoring Committee concluding comments.
She said that the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 had been inadequate. Through United Nations action against sexual violence in conflict, increased technical expertise was available to United Nations country teams and integrated missions. Field-based pilot projects were being undertaken to ensure that national action plans to implement resolution 1325 could be monitored effectively. Those would assist the development of a consolidated set of indicators that could be monitored globally.
She said UNIFEM was also working with UNAIDS and other United Nations partners, national AIDS councils and civil society organizations to secure gender-responsive policies. It had contributed to the integration of gender quality and women's rights into national plans on HIV/AIDS in 19 countries. In other countries, it was working to build linkages between national women's machineries and national AIDS coordinating authorities, among other efforts. Together, this was building a more conducive environment for addressing the gender dimensions of the pandemic. Still, however, just 11 per cent of 2 million pregnant women living with HIV had access to treatment. And women had full participation in developing national strategies in fewer than 10 per cent of the 79 counties surveyed by UNAIDS.
She said coordinated action was required "to make the numbers count". The gaps and challenges identified in the Secretary-General's report, in support of the General Assembly's debate on strengthening the gender architecture, pertained to efforts to advance gender equality across the United Nations and at regional, country and local levels. Without significantly changing the positioning, authority, coordination and resources available to those driving the gender equality agenda, those gaps would continue to impede progress. Women were watching as the countdown to the 2015 target progressed, she stressed in closing. Demand for expertise and support to gender equality and women's empowerment was increasing. The UNIFEM looked forward to continuing to work together with Member States to implement commitments made on those fronts and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
JESSICA NEUWIRTH, Director, New York Office, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/64/342). Section B of that report contained the evaluation of progress as requested by General Assembly resolution 62/218. It noted that, in addition to alleviating a backlog of reports under review, the Committee had developed strategies to encourage reporting, resulting in the submission of outstanding reports by a number of States parties. It also contained three communications; one general recommendation; and four statements, including on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 60, Gaza, the international crisis and its consequence for the human rights women and girls, and gender and climate change.
She further drew the Committee's attention to the annual report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/64/38), which covered the period from October 2008 to February 2009. During that period, the Committee held two sessions, one of which was in parallel chambers. That Committee's Chairperson, Naela Gabr, would present an oral report on the work over that time period.
The representative of Egypt said that this year and the next were very important for the advancement of women, in light of numerous commemorative events that were due. Yet, UNIFEM's budget had been drastically reduced in 2009. She asked the speakers why they thought that was the case.
The delegate of Australia said her country rated well against others in terms of women's advancement, but equality had not yet been won. Women from minority communities -- be they race, caste, religion or others -- suffered greater than other women. What were the Special Adviser's views of cumulative discrimination and what should countries do to fight it? To improve women's safety, which parts of their national legislation should States review?
The representative of Malaysia asked what value-added the speakers thought could be derived from all the upcoming events related to the advancement of women –- the various commemorative events, anniversary celebrations, as well as impetus to create a new gender architecture. How could Member States support the Secretariat, in light of those important events, in particular its efforts to channel the output of those events to produce one outcome?
Sweden's representative asked about the composite gender entity, saying the European Union looked forward to its speedy establishment. She asked that the report on that issue be submitted before the end of the year, and asked whether the speakers have anything to share at this point ahead of that report.
The representative of Syria reiterated the importance of advancing the rights of women living under occupation. Syria had submitted its national report on the advancement of women for the period 2005-2009, which included information on the suffering of Syrian women in the occupied Golan. The report of the Secretary-General did not refer to any of the points raised by Syria. Foreign occupation constituted a "sustained reality" and "grave obstacles" to the enjoyment of human rights, through military suppression. The international community was urged to expose and condemn those practices, including pogroms perpetrated by occupiers. She asked why the plights of women in occupied Palestine, and occupied parts of Syria and Lebanon, were not reflected in the Secretariat's reports. While much mention had been made on sexual violence in situations of war, not much was discussed on other forms of discrimination.
Chile's representative expressed support for Sweden's comments regarding the composite entity. Turning to the Trust Fund devoted to combating violence against women, she asked the representative of UNIFEM whether the goal of raising $100 million was feasible. She asked to know more about the database that UNIFEM had been developing. On the Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee, she asked whether the backlog had been overcome, and whether that Committee's work with other treaty bodies would benefit from having meetings in New York.
The United States representative expressed support for the Anti-Discrimination Committee's advocacy on issues of marriage and divorce, female genital mutilation, migrant women, and women with disabilities. He endorsed Sweden's comment on moving forward swiftly on a composite gender entity. The United States supported the creation of an expert mechanism within the Human Rights Council, but noted that the Council had not yet established a formal mechanism to that end. Independent experts would work with Governments, human rights institutions and civil society on discriminatory legislation and practices. How should the United Nations system, including the General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Human Rights Council, work together to support the Committee's efforts?
Iran's representative noted that, in 2010, the world would celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Platform. But, some items were missing from that event: a discussion on women and migration, human trafficking, the role of motherhood and mothers; and Security Council resolution 1325 on peace, women and security.
New Zealand's delegate asked how the Convention on rights of people with disabilities was affecting the work of the speakers.
The representative of India asked for more details on how the Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee would deal with its backlog. What was the nature of the resource constraints faced by UNIFEM, the Division for the Advancement of Women, and so on? The answer was important in the context of the gender architect reform. He asked about the status of women at the United Nations, particularly on achieving a gender balance at P-3 level and above, and asked what steps had been taken in that regard.
Responding on system-wide coherence, Ms. MAYANJA said the Secretary-General had asked the Deputy Secretary-General to respond immediately to the resolution and its five parts. In turn, the Deputy Secretary-General had convened a meeting resulting in the creation of a road map. The General Assembly could expect a proposal on future action by the end of the year. In response to the Australian delegate, she said it was time for the Third Committee to produce a paradigm shift in thinking that was based on a holistic approach to the advancement of women. Such initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals and the Secretary-General's campaign on violence against women each tried, in their own way, to address the issue's multiple aspects. She said gender mainstreaming strategies was one way in which to address discrimination against women in all areas.
Ms. HANNAN agreed on the importance of intersectionality, which the Division for the Advancement of Women had tried to discuss in its reports, namely by identifying constraints and to find ways to address them, which could be done through legislation and concrete action plans. She noted that several Member States had reported that they had incorporated women's issues into existing actions plans not directly related to women, such as the issue of migrant women workers in their migration or labour policies, but most did not explain how they planned to monitor the outcomes.
In response to the question by Malaysia and others on the value-added of upcoming commemorative events, she said it was important to develop clear, strong messages at those events. Such events provided an opportunity to strengthen the global policy agenda on the advancement of women and on national-level implementation. The composite gender entity would make sure there was increased United Nations support for national action.
In response to Syria, she said the Department welcomed that country's inputs, which would be used in regional reports and global report to be presented to the Commission on the Status of Women in March next year. However, the reports on violence against women were strictly based on inputs received from United Nations entities.
Responding to Chile, she said it would be useful for the Convention's monitory body to meet in New York, so that her Department could address them directly and to be present at some of its country presentations. The Division for the Advancement of Women was looking at ways to support work of the Committee on violence against women, such as by convening expert group meetings and developing a handbook on the issue. It was also supporting countries in preparing their reports to the Committee and helping them to implement the concluding observations of the Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee. The Division for the Advancement of Women had always advocated the use of the Committee as an instrument to promote gender equality and empowerment of women.
On Iran's question on migration, she noted that a report had been produced on the issue. On implementation of Security Council resolution 1325, she said that topic would be addressed at the 10-year review of that resolution in 2010. On New Zealand's question on the rights of disabled persons, she said the Division for the Advancement of Women often provided input on the gender aspect of that issue to the intergovernmental process.
Addressing UNIFEM's resource needs, Ms. SANDLER said the Fund's resources had grown steadily over the past four years. Its core resources had risen from 2007-2008 by 15 per cent, non-core resources by 20 per cent. In 2009, there were some cuts in donations, due to the financial crisis, but those were offset by increases in support from certain Member States. The number of nations contributing had increased from approximately 40 in 2007 to more than 80 in 2008. However, resource needs of nations remained inadequate, because requests were increasing, probably due to the General Assembly's added emphasis on ending violence against women.
She added that the value of the Trust Fund had decreased from $18 million to $20 million in 2007, to $12 million in 2009. Raising $100 million annually by 2015 was "ambitiously realistic". The UNIFEM was working to raise the visibility of successful projects, and was reaching out to the private sector for help, such as from Avon, Johnson and Johnson, and the Clinton Initiative. It was also enjoying a strong partnership with Member States. However, it was true that violence against women was not receiving resources on par with other "pandemics".
She said more robust funding was needed not only for the four gender entities, but for all the United Nations' work on gender equality. In addition, she called on official development assistance (ODA) targets to be met to support the advancement of women within nations. But, countries had to make their cost requirements clearer; this was where change had to happen. She added that UNIFEM needed to strengthen its work on supporting women with disabilities. There were many more joint initiatives within the United Nations system, which she thought was encouraging.
Ms. NEUWIRTH responded to the question of the backlog of the Convention's monitory body. There were 31 reports pending at the end of 2008, compared to 34 in 2007, and 55 at the end of 2005, indicating some progress in addressing that backlog. An Assembly resolution had authorized additional meetings for the Committee in 2009, but it was hard to predict the numbers, because more States were submitting reports than in the past. On Chile's question on the Committee's work in New York, she said that arrangement was productive, helping the Committee strengthen its links with other committees. In Geneva, the Committee had stronger links with the Human Rights Council. She hoped the Committee would develop strong relations with the proposed new gender entity.
Ms. MAYANJA returned to the issue of representation of women at the United Nations Secretariat, noting that the report on that issue would be published next year. It was a biennial report. On why the Secretariat had difficulty recruiting women, she said it was easy to recruit women for entry-level positions, since women did well on the entrance exam. However, their retention rate was not very good. Many staff left, due to a desire to gain experience outside the United Nations, and because many people lacked the motivation to develop a lifetime career at the United Nations. Also, the Organization's work-life policies were not supportive of two spouses working; often, spouses of female staff were unable to find jobs at the duty station where the staff members were located. That, and other family concerns, led to loss of staff. Efforts in seeking women candidates were not realistic; the United Nations had to compete with the private sector, especially at the higher levels. The composition of the United Nations Secretariat was not very different from the composition of the civil service of its Member States. There was better performance at UNFPA and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in terms of recruiting women, which should be emulated throughout the system.
Syria's representative thanked Ms. Hannan for her response, but noted she remained unconvinced. She had asked the same question last year, and this year the answer was different. She said nothing had been included in the report on intensification to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/64/151) regarding Syria's efforts on this. Further, paragraph 7 of that report listed five key outcomes of the Secretary-General's "UNiTE to End Violence against Women" campaign. Noting that the last one regarded "systematic efforts to address sexual violence in conflict situations", she asked why it was only sexual violence. This was the General Assembly, not just a Security Council resolution, and the campaigns should be comprehensive.
She also asked Ms. Mayanja about the "new entity", and if it would specifically address the situation of women in occupied territories. She noted that those efforts should seek to engage the international community beyond any national Government in addressing the situation of women in those areas.
Ms. HANNAN said that the content of the Secretary-General's report on intensification to eliminate all forms of violence against women had focused only on United Nations entities this year. It had not looked at Member States, which was addressed in the report presented to the sixty-third session of the General Assembly, as per the biennial reporting strategy.
She said that paragraph 7 of that report was developed to guide Member States' efforts in implementing the Secretary-General's global campaign, which was aimed at ending all violence, not just sexual violence. The fifth key outcome, however, did take a specific focus on sexual violence in conflict zones, in response to the overwhelming environment of impunity that surrounded that type of violation.
Ms. MAYANJA said the new entity would leave no women out and she assured the Syrian delegation that women under occupation would be covered, as well.
Statement by Chairperson
NAÉLA GABR, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, began by expressing the importance of good relations with the new gender entity. The Committee's work in New York was very useful in fostering a good working relationship between it and other gender entities at the United Nations.
She said the Committee -- which oversees implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by 186 States Parties and the Convention's Optional Protocol -- said 98 States parties had accepted the Optional Protocol mandating the Committee to receive and consider petitions and inquire into allegations of grave or systematic violations of the Convention, most recently Turkmenistan and Guinea-Bissau.
She said there were 55 acceptances of the amendment concerning the Committee's meeting time, but because a two-thirds majority (123 States parties) was required for amendments to enter into force, she encouraged States not yet a party to the Convention, its Optional Protocol, or who have not accepted the amendment to do so as soon as possible. She thanked the General Assembly for granting an extension to the Committee's meeting time, which had allowed it to alleviate the backlog of States parties' reports awaiting review. To encourage States parties to comply with their reporting obligations, the Committee had requested 20 States parties with long-overdue initial reports to submit these by a specified date, referring them to the Human Rights Commissioner, the Division for the Advancement of Women and other entities of the United Nations for technical assistance. Six of the States concerned have submitted their reports. Failing receipt of the reports, the Committee had decided it would proceed with a country review even in the report's absence. As a result, for the first time, at its forty-third session the Committee considered the implementation of the Convention in a State party in the absence of a report, but in the presence of a delegation.
She said the Committee had introduced a follow-up procedure in which States parties are requested to provide information on steps taken to implement a small number of specific recommendations contained in those concluding observations within one or two years. This procedure will be evaluated in 2011. The Committee has also decided to appoint a rapporteur for follow-up and will adopt a methodology for the assessment of follow-up reports submitted by States parties at its forty-fifth session in January 2010.
She explained that, after 25 years, servicing of the Committee was transferred from the Division for the Advancement of Women to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights starting in January 2008. The collaboration between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Division for the Advancement of Women ensured a smooth transition. Congratulating the Assembly on its recent decision to create a new gender entity, she said the Committee would discuss ways to ensure good interaction with the new entity. The Committee had met the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, in New York, who also discussed this question with Committee experts. Briefings have also been provided by the Executive Director of UNIFEM and the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women.
The Committee has taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by OHCHR, interacting regularly with the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Deputy and other senior staff, and welcoming opportunities for discussion with special rapporteurs and independent experts of the Human Rights Council on issues of mutual concern. At its forty-third session, the Committee met with the Special Rapporteurs on violence against women, its causes and consequences and on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. At its forty-fourth session, it met with the Independent Expert on minority issues. The Committee also received a briefing from the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti at its forty-third session, during which it considered the combined initial to sixth reports of Haiti. A representative of the Committee attended the first session of the Forum on Minority Issues. As Chairperson of the Committee, Ms. Gabr represented the Committee at the Durban Review Conference, in April.
The Committee continued to contribute actively to the work of the human rights treaty bodies, especially within the framework of the annual meetings of chairpersons of treaty bodies, and the inter-committee meeting. A representative of the Committee also participated in a panel event during the eleventh and twelfth sessions of the Human Rights Council in June and September. Close relationships have also been forged with individual treaty bodies. Of particular note is the establishment of a joint Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women/Committee on the Rights of the Child working group. The rapporteur on follow-up of the Committee against Torture also provided a comprehensive briefing to the Committee at its forty-fourth session, which served as background in the development of its follow-up procedure.
The Committee continued its interaction with the specialized agencies and other bodies of the United Nations system, she said, including by participating in a seminar on women of concern to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), co-organized by the OHCHR and the UNHCR. It continued to benefit from joint information submitted on countries by United Nations country teams, and encouraged the entities of the United Nations system to expand this practice and to make such information available to the Committee's pre-session working group. She also encouraged them to undertake follow-up activities on the basis of the Committee's concluding observations at the country level. The participation of non-governmental organizations in the work of the Committee remained of high importance and that of national human rights institutions continued to increase significantly.
She said the Committee adopted statements in conjunction with events at the United Nations. It did so on the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on the international financial crisis and its consequences on the human rights of women and girls, on the serious violations of women's rights in Gaza in January, and on gender and climate change. In addition, the Committee adopted a general recommendation on migrant women. While following a discussion on its long-term programme of work on general recommendations at its forty-second session, working groups were established for general recommendations on the human rights of older women and the economic consequences of marriage and its dissolution. The Committee convened informal discussions on both topics, with the participation of United Nations system entities and civil society at its forty-fourth session.
She said, despite progress, there remained challenges, and those were particularly relevant in the context of national-level implementation. Prime among those were discrimination and violence against women, based on patriarchal attitudes. The Committee frequently saw that played out in the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices in States parties all over the world, which remained obvious from reporting round to reporting round. Although the Convention and its implementation procedures had encouraged significant changes in laws, policies and programmes, the potential of the Convention system to bring about change at the national level has not been exploited to the full. That was because of its lack of visibility and accessibility, and resource constraints.
Violence against women in the context of armed conflicts remained widespread and largely unpunished. In that regard, the Committee welcomed the adoption of Security Council resolution 1888, in which the Council affirmed that it would consider the prevalence of rape and other forms of sexual violence when imposing or renewing targeted sanctions in situations of armed conflict, and requested that the United Nations Secretary-General appoint a Special Representative to provide coherent and strategic leadership, to work effectively to strengthen existing United Nations coordination mechanisms, and to engage in advocacy efforts, in order to address all forms of violence against women in armed conflict, including sexual violence.
As the commemoration approached for the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which reinforced the provisions of the Convention and constituted a complementary monitoring tool for the Committee, it was of utmost importance that all stakeholders pursue their efforts to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention at the national level. In conclusion, let me say that this year, as the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention was commemorated and tenth of the Optional Protocol, all should work to raise their visibility and their impact on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The ultimate goal should be an increase of ratifications of both instruments, and the withdrawal of reservations. "We should strive to make this anniversary one of commitments", she said.
ANDERS LIDEN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the 30 years since the creation and adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had yielded crucial progress on national and global levels. Among other things, women were now heads of Governments, judges and successful business entrepreneurs. With 186 ratifications, the Convention clearly enjoyed the common commitment of Member States to eliminating violence against women. He congratulated the monitoring Committee that oversaw the Convention's implementation, while also recognizing the continuing existence of discriminatory laws and practices against women throughout the world. There was still a long way to go before the Convention's Optional Protocol gained universal status, and, to this end, he urged all Member States that have not yet ratified, acceded or succeeded to the Convention and its Optional Protocol to do so. All States parities were also urged to review their reservations and withdraw any which were contrary to the Convention's object and purpose.
Among the remaining challenges, he said eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls was of the highest priority for the European Union. Violence against women was rightly termed the most common, but least punished crime in the world. One out of two women suffered at the hand of their intimate partner, according to a 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) study. All States should review their laws, or pass new ones, to ensure that this violence was criminalized. They should also ensure that those laws were implemented, so that perpetrators were brought to justice and further crimes were prevented. States that had not yet done so should sign and ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court that classified this violation of women's rights in wartime as a crime against humanity. All efforts should also be taken to intensify the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820. All branches of the United Nations should also come together to support the latter resolution, while gaps were identified and addressed, as well as accountability established.
Emphasizing that healthy women with the freedom to participate fully in society were a prerequisite for any country to achieve its full potential for economic and social development, he said there was a lack of improvement in maternal health that was a cause of some concern. The latest United Nations report on the Millennium Development Goals noted that, globally, maternal mortality had decreased by less than 1 per cent from 1990 to 2005. Urgent action was needed. The European Union believed that early marriages, female genital mutilation and cutting, as well as honour violence and killings, were incompatible with the rights set out in the Convention. Further, gender equality could not be achieved without guaranteeing women's sexual and reproductive health and rights and, to this end, access to health information and services should be expanded. The European Union also recognized the importance of a strengthened United Nations gender architecture in advancing women's rights and welcomed efforts to establish a "composite gender entity" within the Organization.
NAJLA ABDELRAHMAN (Sudan), speaking on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, reaffirmed the Group's support for the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly as the guiding framework for gender equality and the empowerment of women. The international community should spare no effort in fulfilling its Millennium Development Goals on the empowerment of women, including by ending all forms of violence against them, guaranteeing their well-being and development, expanding the quality of affordable public health-care services, enhancing their capacities, increasing access to full employment and decent work, and access to water and other indispensable resources. But, she noted that a lack of resources was an obstacle to the achievement of those aims.
On ending violence against women, she called on the international community to give its full support to the Secretary-General's framework for action to end such violence. The Group drew attention to the rights of women living under foreign occupation, to ensure that their inalienable rights were guaranteed and that the perpetrators were prosecuted and punished.
She said women's participation was critical to economic and social development of all societies. But, the financial and economic crisis, and the challenges of climate change and the food and energy crisis, were likely to deepen the gap between donor Governments' commitments to development and the implementation of development commitments on the ground. It was likely to increase gender inequality. In that regard, the Group stressed the importance of implementing the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development to review implementation of the Monterrey Consensus 2008, so as to allow progress in incorporating gender perspectives in areas such as water, sanitation, human settlements and good governance, and to enhance the access of poor rural women and men to productive assets.
Eliminating illiteracy among women was one way to support the efforts of developing countries, she said. The Group stressed the importance of international cooperation to strengthen empowerment of rural women and expand their contribution to decision-making and to the global economy. The Group appreciated the contribution of INSTRAW, which was a central focal point of research and training on the advancement of women. It was deeply concerned about the persisting delay in the appointment of a new Director.
She also touched on the absence of health services in poor and rural areas, with the highest rates of maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, and stressed the importance of implementing the ministerial declaration of the 2009 high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council on global public health. He commended the UNFPA for it efforts in that area, and commended UNIFEM for its efforts to end violence against women and trying to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls. In addition, the Group acknowledged the importance of adopting appropriate measures to address the negative effects of the food and energy crisis, climate change, and the financial and economic crisis on women and girls. Stimulation packages should respond to their needs, and there should be more gender-responsive budgeting initiatives. The Group of 77 also called on an increased gender balance in the United Nations system, along with a well-balanced geographic representation. He called on the developed world to honour the ODA commitments.
STEVE D. MATENJE (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and aligning his statement with the one made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed SADC's commitment to the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. It was committed to translating its Protocol on Gender and Development into concrete and measurable progress for women and girls, and had been working hard to popularize it.
He agreed with the Secretary-General that violence against women and girls was an issue that could not wait and applauded progress made in the global "UNiTE to End Violence against Women" campaign towards its 2015 goals. The pervasive violation of women's human rights had gained an increased visibility. He particularly commended the creation of a network of men leaders to spearhead advocacy and action. For the SADC, the campaign provided an added driving force and renewed momentum for its 1998 Declaration on Gender and Development and its 1998 addendum on Violence against Women. The launch of the database on violence against women would also respond to the long heard outcry for information indicating the problem's extent. It would also allow all stakeholders to access best practices in one place. All concerned should provide information to make the database more meaningful.
He further stressed that trafficking in persons was quickly becoming a new, sophisticated and aggressive form of slavery and remained a form of violence against women and girls. Clear, comprehensive legislation was required to prevent and combat it. With the support of a variety of stakeholders, a Strategic Plan of Action on Combating Trafficking in Persons in the SADC region was developed in 2009. It laid out methods and areas of cooperation and addressed trafficking from a comprehensive perspective.
He said it was critically important that the United Nations Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women be supported with adequate resources. To that end, he called on the international community to ensure that the Fund was well resourced. He also acknowledged the commendable work of UNIFEM. He was encouraged by the General Assembly's adoption of a resolution that would enable the creation of a new gender entity. It stood ready to address all the outstanding issues required for the entity to begin operating. He emphasized, in particular, that predictable resources were needed to support the entity's proposed strong field operations. For its part, the SADC would intensify efforts to implement projects in policy development and to harmonize regional gender policies with national ones. Those efforts would particularly focus on finalizing the SADC Gender Work Place Policy and implementing the Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit.
DONNETTE CRITCHLOW ( Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that, for many Caribbean nations, the adverse impacts of the economic and financial crisis were still unfolding. But, despite that, they continued to stand committed to promoting gender equality and women's empowerment, including the objectives of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Platform and the Millennium Goals. Among CARICOM States, there was incremental progress in education and healthcare, although those developments had limited impact on overall empowerment. At the regional level, women outnumbered men in education at the secondary and tertiary levels, but men continued to dominate positions of power. Inequalities persisted between men and women in the non-agricultural sector of the labour market. Culture, lifestyle and gender roles continued to influence the spread of HIV/AIDS in the region.
She said the fifth CARICOM's women's affairs ministers meeting in 1997 had established the target of 30 per cent as the minimum level of women in decision-making in the political, public and private sectors by 2005. To date, only one State had attained that goal. There were instances where the participation of women had fallen in the region, and there was now one State with no women in Parliament. That was partly because CARICOM States did not have quota laws on the representative of women in Parliament. Ongoing efforts to improve that situation include the creation of the Caribbean Institute for Women in Leadership -- a collaborative effort by the Organization of American States (OAS), UNIFEM and the Commonwealth Secretariat -- aimed at providing research and training to advance women's leadership.
She said violence against women was of concern, and under the CARICOM/Spain cooperation agreement, the region had received funding for an improved framework for research, advocacy, education and policy development for the prevention of gender-based violence. Several States had also collaborated with United Nations agencies, such as UNIFEM, to improve State accountability and to improve the dissemination of statistical information through the Gender Equality Observatory. The CARICOM also appreciated the Secretary-General's campaign to end violence against women, and urged that United Nations Member States capable of doing so to contribute to the United Nations Trust Fund to end Violence against Women.
Touching on the Assembly resolution on system-wide coherence, including its provision of a mandate for the creation of a single entity within the United Nations devoted to gender equality and women's empowerment, she said CARICOM looked forward to proposals from the Secretary-General relating to the mission statement, structure and functioning of that entity. Such a proposal would allow for the prompt resumption of negotiations and possible early operationalization of that entity. At the same time, CARICOM reiterated its call for the end of unfair competition and agricultural trade distortions, in light of the significant role played by women in agriculture and food production. It urged that greater effort be made to ensure the rights of women to land and access to credit, technology and information to enhance poverty eradication and contribute to food security. She expressed hope that the upcoming World Summit on Food Security in November would address issues pertinent to rural women, as the world charted a course for the future of agriculture and food security.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said her country had been actively engaged in the work of creating a gender-equal society and promoting women's empowerment, based on such internationally agreed principles and instruments as the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Japan strongly believed it was crucial to promote gender mainstreaming in every phase of United Nations activities. To that end, it had participated in adopting the consensus resolution for a new gender entity. To ensure duplication and fragmentation were avoided, Japan would actively engage in upcoming discussion on the issue. It further welcomed the recent adoption of Security Council resolution 1888, which requested the appointment of a Special Representative on sexual violence in armed conflict. Moreover, it was critical to enhance women's participation in the peacebuilding process, as the "Northern Uganda Early Recovery Project", which was funded by the United Nations Fund for Human Security, had done.
She said Japan's sixth report had been examined by the monitoring Committee for the Anti-Discrimination Convention in July. During the ensuing constructive dialogue, the Committee had welcomed Japan's positive steps, but pointed out areas where more progress was needed, including the increased participation of women in decision-making processes. As a result of the August general elections, 54 women were now members of the House of Representatives, accounting for 11.3 per cent of total seats, which was the highest in Japanese history. She further noted that Japan had, with UNDP, held a symposium in Tokyo in June to discuss unpaid care work, as part of the focus of the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women on the care-giving burden carried by women.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, particularly welcomed the Secretary-General's global campaign on ending violence against women, which had raised the issue's visibility and would allow the United Nations system to intensify its efforts in that area. Underlining the deep commitment of the countries of the Rio Group to gender equality and the respect of all women's human rights and fundamental freedoms, he reaffirmed the need for full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as the outcomes of the General Assembly's twenty-third special session. The full compliance of all States party to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol was also important.
He said it was essential to continue efforts to promote and strengthen gender equality and women's empowerment as key factors towards social development and the Millennium Development Goals. Women should fully participate in Government decisions and should have an expanded presence in all public offices. The countries of the Rio Group had undertaken measures to improve their legal and regulatory frameworks by enacting gender equality laws. Those national initiatives are designed to include the participation of international and regional organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and local communities.
Continuing, he said the situation of women was of increasing importance to the Rio Group, especially in the areas of eradicating violence against women, as well as trafficking in them. Also important was, among other things, the feminization of poverty and HIV/AIDS, the situation of migrant, rural and indigenous women, and women's access to health services, including health and reproductive services. Concrete actions at all levels were needed to end violence against women. In this, Latin-American and Caribbean countries had been pioneers at the regional and international level in developing instruments and mechanisms.
The Rio Group was particularly satisfied at the launch of the Observatory for Gender Equality established by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), he said. Other regional developments included a subregional mechanism for women, like the Council of Ministers for Women of Central America, and the Network of Andean Women, among others. The eleventh Regional Conference on Women for Latin America and the Caribbean would be held in Brazil in July 2010. Noting that the International Day for Rural Women would be celebrated on 15 October, he urged the international community to intensify efforts to promote their empowerment.
Expressing support for the work of agencies and organizations such as the UNFPA, the monitoring Committee for the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention and UNIFEM, he particularly recognized the field activities of the latter. The Rio Group believed that any methodology to be adopted for the allocation of resources on gender issues should include indicators that were specific for the advancement and empowerment of women worldwide. Its members further hoped that negotiations on General Assembly resolution 63/311 on "System-wide coherence" include the definition of all relevant details regarding the new gender architecture.
ANNETTE ELLIS, Member of Parliament of Australia and Parliamentary Adviser to the Australian delegation, spoke also on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum. The Forum's regional security committee had recently discussed sexual and gender-based violence. Violence against women and the fear of violence caused trauma to women, their families and communities, and severely limited their social, political and economic participation. It placed significant strain on national economies, undermining efforts to end poverty. Raising awareness of the link between women's economic empowerment and peace and security was a necessary step in the eradication sexual violence, not only in the Pacific community, but in all parts of the world.
She said, at a meeting in August, the Forum had strengthened its resolve to end permissive community attitudes to sexual violence and to firmly establish the issue of sexual and gender-based violence on the political agenda. But, there was still a long way to go and, to that end, the Forum supported international efforts to increase the attention given to sexual and gender-based violence. It called on the United Nations system to strengthen its resolve in collecting evidence-based data to support accounts of sexual and gender-based violence. The creation of a new United Nations gender entity was to be welcomed, as were efforts to strengthen Security Council resolutions to include women in peacebuilding and to address sexual violence in conflict situations. The characterization by some Governments and military of sexual violence being a by-product of war was intolerable. All States were called on to build effective judicial and security situations, in order to prevent and prosecute sexual and gender-based violence in times of conflict.
AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL (Pakistan), aligning his remarks with those made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that women, who formed more than half of the world's population, continued to suffer discrimination and exclusion. They were discriminated against in jobs, access to finance, credit, capital markets and basic services. Their work, particularly in developing countries, remained restricted to informal sectors, unmeasured and unpaid. Beyond equity considerations, their abilities were vastly under-utilized. Nevertheless, women were vital contributors to the economic survival of poor households and overall economic output. To that end, the international community should continue to pursue efforts, through the United Nations, to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The United Nations process should also duly consider the establishment of a new gender entity and develop more synergies between proposals for it and the intergovernmental process on system-wide coherence.
He said Pakistan's Constitution guaranteed the equality of all its citizens, and women had today shed all barriers of tradition and custom. Participating in every walk of life, they were performing to the maximum in teaching, care-giving, engineering, law and the military, among other areas. Pakistan had elected the first woman prime minister in the Muslim world and, in addition to having 17 women senators and 76 women parliamentarians, it had South Asia's first woman speaker of a national assembly. The Government was also taking administrative and legal steps, including, among others, the adoption of the Protection of Women Act in 2006, which had been hailed as a milestone. Other measures included the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme, which sought the social and financial uplift of women; a comprehensive Gender Reform Action Plan; the Benazir Bhutto Youth Development Programme; zero-tolerance policies for violence against women; and a bill protecting women from workplace harassment.
MARWAN BASHIR ( Iraq) described the various institutions set up by his Government to raise women's awareness of their rights. It had a national centre for the protection of women against violence, under the Prime Minister's Office. It had also established assistance and rehabilitation centres for women. It was currently working to discourage circumcision among girls. It had strengthened its laws on marriage and trafficking in women. It had adopted the Anti-discrimination Convention and the Beijing Platform for Action, and supported Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Iraq's treatment of women was based on the principle of equality of rights and responsibilities. Women in Iraq displayed great courage against violence and terrorism, by becoming involved in elections, updating the Constitution, and moving themselves towards freedom and democracy. The award given by the United States Secretary of State to an Iraqi woman, chosen from eight women across the world who campaigned for human rights, demonstrated the tenacity of Iraqi women.
He said the Iraqi Constitution placed all Iraqis on equal footing before the law, with no discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or faith. Women held 30 per cent of the seats in Parliament, and held ministerial posts. The law guaranteed their welfare and right to health. The national council for the advancement of women, created in line with the Beijing Platform for Action, oversaw the advancement of women's rights. Iraq's Constitution was one of the most advanced in the region in the area of human rights. In Iraq, women were able to travel without the company of men, and the number of women serving in the foreign service had risen. Women had won medals at sporting events. The Iraqi Government provided support to poor and migrant families, in particular women-headed households, and had recently adopted a large number of agreements on gender equality in the labour market. But, Iraq needed support from the international community in its quest to build a safer society.
BELEN SAPAG MUÑOZ DE LA PEÑA (Chile), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said gender equality and women's independence had been a major focus of the Government of President Michelle Bachelet, the first woman president of her country. As the end of her term in office neared, Chile reiterated its strong commitment to the rights of women and the full implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention of Belem do Para, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, among other international instruments. It also welcomed the reports of the Secretary-General before the Third Committee today.
She said the adoption of Security Council resolutions 1820 (2008) and 1888 (2009), on sexual violence in situations of armed conflict, demonstrated a strong commitment by States, the United Nations system and civil society to eradicating a scourge that had once been seen as intractable. Chile supported all efforts to implement 1325, in conjunction with other resolutions, including resolution 1882 (2009), which extended the Council's scope to include sexual violence against children. To that end, it had launched in August a National Action Plan to implement 1325, which sought to protect women and encourage their presence at peace process negotiating tables.
Noting that the Millennium Development Goal on maternal mortality had seen the least progress, she urged all States to fulfil the commitments and initiatives announced at the 2008 High-level Event on the Millennium Development Goals. Chile's own indicators were good, in that regard, and it was implementing a programme aimed at promoting reductions in maternal and child mortality in vulnerable groups through horizontal cooperation. While Chile appreciated UNIFEM's contributions in Latin America and the Caribbean, it was concerned that changes to the UNIFEM methodology for allocating resources to its regional offices would result in a reduction of resources to that region. The Chilean delegation hoped Member States would soon receive a comprehensive report on "system-wide coherence", as called for in General Assembly resolution 63/311. Finally, she emphasized the goals of Chile's Gender Equity Agenda.
ZHANG DAN ( China) noted that 2010 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the tenth anniversary of the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on women. The international community should take the opportunity to further international cooperation, based on respect for each country's specific situation and path of development. It should fully recognize the impact of the financial crisis on women, and Governments should formulate policies and programmes that incorporated the gender perspective. The Chinese Government supported the United Nations in playing a greater role in adequately responding to the crisis and promoting gender equality. It commended the in-depth discussions on gender equality held by the Economic and Social Council, and seminars to analyse the impact of the crisis by the Commission on the Status of Women.
She noted the Assembly's consensus resolution on system-wide coherence, in which it decided to consolidate existing gender bodies of the United Nations into a new composite entity. Her Government had participated constructively on gender architecture reform, and she expressed hope that the parties concerned would adhere to the principle of openness, transparency and comprehensiveness, and continue intergovernmental consultations during the current General Assembly session on the mandate, organizational structure and source of funding of the new entity. In China, she said the Government had worked actively to improve rules and regulations in the areas of deterring domestic violence, trafficking in women and children and promoting human rights, in general. It had intensified support to rural women, in terms of improving their political participation, as well as access to education, training and health services. It had set up thousands of domestic violence complaint centres and hundreds of shelters, and had 350 injury examination centres.
SARAH BHOROMA (Zimbabwe), associating herself with the statement made on behalf of the SADC, said aligning comprehensive measures to secure gender equality and the protection of their human rights with national and international frameworks was of paramount importance. Zimbabwe, thus, supported the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Outcome Document from the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. It was also fully aware that the Millennium Development Goals would not be reached unless gender equality strategies were incorporated into ongoing work at national and international levels. It particularly prioritized Millennium Development Goal 3, in that respect, and had put in place policies and programmes to support initiatives to support women and girls. It had also adopted a National Gender Policy in 2000 to promote gender mainstreaming. Zimbabwe had also recently submitted its combined report on implementing the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention.
She went on to say that several gender responsive laws had been enacted to promote the legal status of women, giving them property protections, criminalizing the wilful transmission of HIV and AIDS and marital rape, and expanding maternal rights and equal employment opportunities, among others. The 2007 Domestic Violence Act provided protection and relief for survivors of domestic violence. Her country still faced obstacles, however, in capturing data and establishing an effective and efficient statistical office to track domestic violence. Thus, she called on the United Nations and donors to provide the necessary resources and training to strengthen data collection and analysis.
Turning to other areas where women were particularly vulnerable, she said Zimbabwe was leading a consultative process to come up with comprehensive national law to prevent the trafficking of women and girls. She called on the United Nations and other relevant institutions to raise awareness and forge new partnerships and cooperation in that area. Women, particularly those living in rural areas, felt the effects of the various world crises more acutely. In Zimbabwe, women were also grappling with the effects of the illegal unilateral coercive sanctions that had caused the meltdown of the country's economy. That environment exacerbated gender tensions. She called on the international community to lift the sanctions, which hurt the economically disadvantaged. She further noted that Zimbabwe land reform programme had reserved a special quota for women, and other initiatives funded economic empowerment projects for women. Her country also supported the composite gender entity, provided that its field offices, not just those at Headquarters, were supported.
FREDRIK ARTHUR ( Norway) noted that women and girls were still regarded as second class citizens, despite decades of conferences, conventions and United Nations resolutions. Conservative and archaic attitudes, often with cultural and religious connotations, left women and girls at the margins of society. Such deeply rooted impediments deprived women and girls of their human rights -- to health, education, formal ownership of land, inheritance and other economic assets. As a result, women were made vulnerable, exposed to violence and abuse, with the price paid "by all of us" in economic and development terms. One glance at the human development reports indicated a strong correlation between the level of gender equality within nations and their prosperity.
He noted that gender equality led to development, as much as it was a product of development. His Government's appeal to all political leaders was clear: put fairness, social justice and gender equality first, and countries would prosper. Two indicators were particularly telling when it came to women's position in the world: school enrolment rates and demographics. Fewer girls than boys went to school, and fewer girls grew up at all -- 100 million girls and women were simply missing. They had died because they were not wanted; not fed or not given the care they needed. In addition, there was violence and death during pregnancy and childbirth. That occurred because girls and women were not regarded as highly as boys and men. While many nations had gender-sensitive laws and policies in place, the entrenched attitudes of men and their networks were a serious impediment.
He noted that basic health services could prevent half a million women from dying from birth-related complications. Millennium Development Goal No. 5, on the reduction of maternal mortality, was under-funded and under-supported. Norway planned to sustain its level of development assistance at 1 per cent of gross national income. Policies to advance women made up one third of its bilateral aid. He also touched on the need to protect the rights of women migrants and rural women, and on the need to combat violence against women. He said "gender mainstreaming" was a chain of words that must be made clear to non-experts: it meant that girls needed special protection and attention, since being born a girl was a kind of handicap. Boys must be sensitized to gender equality. But, few nations were willing to follow up words with sufficient funding, as shown by the United Nations Trust Fund to end violence against women, which had only $12 million and $900 million in requests for funding.
WELLINGTON WEBB ( United States) said that, during the past two months, the United Nations had taken significant steps to improve the lives of women, their families and communities. In particular, Security Council resolution 1888 (2009) condemned violence against women in wartime, while resolution 1889 (2009) recognized the need for women to participate in peacemaking processes. The fact that those resolutions were needed demonstrated that women were often victims of armed conflict and excluded from peace processes. Their adoption was a positive sign that the international community recognized the link between maintaining peace and ending the use of sexual violence as a means of waging war.
He said the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing had recognized that women's rights were human rights. At the time, some had thought that women should tackle the links between poverty, violence and the suppression of their human rights themselves. But, there was a growing awareness since then that the status of women was a global issue that could not be ignored. It was also acknowledged that peace and security, as well as economic development, were unachievable without women's participation. Indeed, studies showed that barriers to employment for women were costly, as were gender gaps in education, indicating that poverty reduction goals were impossible without investing in gender equality.
He underlined the role of the private sector and non-traditional allies in furthering women's advancement. Indeed, private sector actors had embarked on a number of partnerships to enrich the lives of women and girls. Among them were initiatives aimed at increasing women' access to health service and at promoting their leadership roles in entrepreneurial endeavours. Moreover, individual men, as well as religious leaders, had engaged in ending violence against women, largely on the basis of its moral imperative.
He said that, for its part, the United States Government had established the President's Council on Women and Girls to provide a coordinated federal response on issues that affected their lives. Women's issues were also being integrated into the country's foreign policy. It supported efforts to strengthen United Nations infrastructure on gender equality, particularly the recent adoption of a General Assembly resolution that called for a new gender entity. Planning should get under way immediately to build up that entity, and the United States looked forward to upcoming intergovernmental negotiations to that end. Concluding, he stressed that gender had to be mainstreamed and should stay on the agenda of the Security Council.
SOHA GENDI (Egypt), aligning her statement with the one made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite the achievements accomplished towards the implementation of the outcome of the World Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the international community still had to renew all the commitments it undertook in 1994 and 1995. Further pledges should also be made to build up the capabilities of developing countries, particularly to help them face the impacts of the consecutive, interlinked global crises. In fact, support should be doubled, so that developing countries could fulfil both old and new commitments.
She said the adoption of General Assembly resolution 63/311, which called for the Secretary-General to propose a framework for consolidating all United Nations entities dealing with gender issues into one composite entity, would further enhance the approach of the United Nations system to women's issues. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was considered a core player in the field of gender issues, and he called on all concerned parties to make resources available of the Convention's implementation. In this, she particularly stressed support for developing and least developed countries. She further underlined the work of the UNFPA and INSTRAW, as well as the launch of the Secretary-General's campaign to end violence against women. Also notable were Security Council resolutions 1888 and 1889.
She went to say that Egypt had made a number of accomplishments in advancing women's and related gender issues. Attention was paid to gender education through girls-friendly schools. Fifty-six seats in the Egyptian Parliament had been specified for women. A nationwide campaign to end violence against women that was launched in 2008 was considered a success story across Africa, particularly in ending female genital mutilation. It had also established a complaint mechanism, as well as gender focal points for complaints of workplace harassment. On a regional level, Egypt used her position as President of the Non-Aligned Movement in 2009 to host a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Centre for the Advancement of Women. It was also hosting the new women's agency of the countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Egypt's First Lady had also established a number of programmes related to the gender equality of Arab women. She was also building on the international campaign "End Human Trafficking Now", which she had founded.
HOANG THI THANH NGA ( Viet Nam), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said gender mainstreaming should be further promoted in all United Nations strategies and programmes, particularly development programmes. In addition, Member States must make further efforts to incorporate the gender perspective in their legal systems, development strategies and all other socio-economic policies. In Viet Nam, public awareness about gender equality and the role of women in socio-economic life had improved greatly after the introduction of a law on gender equality in 2007, and law on prevention of domestic violence in 2008.
She said improved women's participation was predicated on their capacity to contribute to the decision-making process. For that reason, the Government had also made great efforts to ensure equal access to education for women and girls and to reduce their drop-out rate, so as to enhance their education and training. Their economic empowerment also played a critical role in achieving gender equality. Over the last five years, income and employment opportunities for women had improved significantly, where women accounted for 48 per cent of jobs created annually. As much as 45 per cent of bank loans were made to women, and they were the major beneficiaries of microcredit programmes. She expressed hope that Viet Nam's efforts would be further facilitated by the United Nations system. She commended the United Nations initiative to develop the gender marker system pioneered by UNDP, which allowed decision-makers to track funds allocated to women-centred projects.
TATIANA GOMES BUSTAMANTE ( Brazil) thanked the Secretary-General for his leadership in ending violence against women, through the "UNiTE" campaign. Initiatives such as those provided a platform for mobilizing Member States and United Nations agencies to eliminate all forms of violence against women. Last year, Brazil launched the second national plan of policies for women. Such action plans provided a framework for mainstreaming the gender perspective in governmental actions. Another plan, the national pact to curb violence against women, was the result of a broad participatory process involving all relevant stakeholders. It addressed, among other things: sexual exploitation of women; trafficking in women and girls; the rights of women in prison; protecting women's sexual, reproductive and maternity rights; and reform of women's correctional facilities.
She said a major breakthrough in curbing violence against women was the enactment of the Maria da Penha law, named after a Brazilian woman who suffered from domestic violence and succeeded in bringing the offender to justice. Since 2006, over 125,000 women had received support through the law. A national plan to combat trafficking in persons focused on prevention, and on bringing perpetrators to justice. But, the main victims of traffickers were young women and girls from the poorest regions. Developed countries -- which were the main destination of women victims -- also had an important role to play in ending the problem. Finally, the Government was deeply concerned by the feminization of HIV/AIDS and had measures and specific programmes to reduce the vulnerability of women and teenagers to HIV. That programme provided treatment to all those requiring it, including free and universal access to drugs.
NAJLA ABDELRAHMAN (Sudan), associating herself with the statement her delegation had already made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said she was taking the floor to highlight the growing status of women in the Sudan, as an "exchange of experiences". Women's political participation had risen significantly in the Sudan, with women holding 25 per cent of the seats in the legislative assembly, in line with election laws that were adopted in the context of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. Women also had 11 per cent of the jobs in public authorities and held 8 per cent of the positions in State ministries. In the private sector, they had, among other things, full property rights. Based on their key role in building Sudanese society, women represented 87.8 per cent of production in rural areas. National policies had been set up to improve women's health care, to promote marriage and to secure families, particularly those undergoing divorces. There were also initiatives that aimed to increase girls' assimilation into vocational training and to facilities exports from the rural sectors, particularly those of women producers.
She said laws to end violence against women had also been consolidated. In eastern Sudan, women had been involved in pushing forward the peace process, and a centre had been set up to coordinate those efforts. Women were also working with men to conclude peace agreements in Darfur. Moreover, Sudan's interim constitution guaranteed the social and economic rights of women. She applauded the work of the UNFPA in the Sudan, as well as other United Nations work to combat HIV/AIDS on the African continent. Donor countries should respect their commitments to support developing countries, particularly in their efforts to help women in rural areas.
SAVIOUR F. BORG (Malta), aligning himself with the statement by the European Union, stated that his Government did not view the terms "sexual reproductive health and rights", "reproductive rights" and "reproductive health services" as signifying abortion, or the imposition of that practice on Malta or its Constitution. Abortion was illegal in Malta. The Government did not recognize it as a family planning tool. It had consistently expressed its reservation on the use of those terms in the context of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention. While expressing support for those programmes and instruments, it reiterated and upheld reservations it had made at the time of their adoption. It continued to maintain that any position taken or recommendations made regarding women's empowerment and gender equality in relation to sexual reproductive health and rights should not in any way create an obligation on any party to consider abortion as a legitimate form of reproductive health rights, service or commodity.
He said Malta practised gender mainstreaming in its national agenda. It was promoting women's advancement by empowering them to participate in the labour market, addressing the situation of persons at risk of poverty, and helping both women and men suffering from violence. It did so by "making work pay", by promoting greater availability of adequate and affordable housing, and by combating "the intergenerational transmission of poverty and social exclusion". The Maltese Constitution guaranteed the equality of women and men in the enjoyment of all economic, cultural, civil and political rights. A number of laws had been enacted to protect the rights of women and give support to articles in the Convention, including on employment and on equality between men and women. Family law was amended to grant both spouses equal rights and responsibilities towards children and the administration of property acquired during marriage.
He said, in the context of the world economic slowdown, his Government had adopted gender-inclusive measures to stimulate the economy. It was providing incentives to encourage female workers and inactive women to participate in the labour market, such as mothers who were currently working, had been absent for five years or who had just returned to work. It was providing child-care services that were Government-regulated and introducing flexible working arrangements, with special leave provisions for public employees. The Government was currently carrying out a study on female participation in the job market, in decision-making and in entrepreneurship, which was designed to feed into future policies.
DAW KHIN OO HLAING (Myanmar), associating her delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said steps had been taken in her country to empower women. Traditional law and successive State constitutions guaranteed women equal rights with men, and the welfare and advancement of women were never overlooked. The Government aimed to ensure women enjoyed their rights unhindered. The United Nations and local and international non-governmental organizations were working with the Government to sustain that momentum. The Myanmar National Committee for Women Affairs was working to carry out activities based on the 12 areas of concern articulated in the Beijing Platform for Action. The Myanmar Women's Affairs Federation, which drew from the grass-roots level and had a membership that exceeded 4.9 million, had been assisting in implementation of those activities. Among its activities was a microcredit scheme for needy women and microfinancing for women affected by Cyclone Nargis. A number of other organizations were also working to promote women's all-around development.
She said Myanmar's traditions and culture provided for the protection of women and girls, including from sexual and gender-based violence. Legislation to prevent the violence and protect its victims had been enacted. Those found guilty of rape were incarcerated and shunned by society. Gang rape was, therefore, an outrage that was unimaginable in Myanmar and allegations that such cases were being carried out with impunity could not be further from the truth. Myanmar also supported the zero-tolerance policy regarding violence against women and girls and it was also working to ensure the socio-economic needs and priorities of women were met. It welcomed the Secretary-General's global campaign to end violence against women.
Myanmar was seriously tackling trafficking in persons by developing a comprehensive framework that included strengthening legislation, a national action plan and increasing cooperation at all levels, she said. It was a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on human trafficking. It was also participating in the regional anti-trafficking process known as the Bali process. It had already signed a memorandum of understanding with Thailand and was working on signing one with China.
FAZLI ÇORMAN (Turkey) observed that there was greater awareness on the rights and needs of women, due to legal instruments, such as the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention, and various Security Council resolutions underlining the importance of women's empowerment. But, much remained to be done. Turkey had recently made great strides to mainstream gender equality through collaborations between national institutions, such as the General Directorate for the Status of Women, and civil society. Bearing in mind the importance of monitoring outcomes related to the advancement of women, special committees had been established in the areas of health, education, the economy, the environment, poverty and human rights. The Government had established a parliamentary commission on equal opportunities for women and men in March. It had prepared an action plan on combating domestic violence against women. Awareness-raising campaigns were being conducted with the participation of the mass media, universities, local administrations and civil society organizations. He said Turkey planned to hold an international conference on 13 to 16 October, the International Multidisciplinary Women's Congress, to which he invited other Member States to attend.
CLAUDIA PEREZ ALVAREZ (Cuba), associating her country with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the increase in the feminization of poverty worldwide remained a cause of serious concern. The main obstacles in achieving the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals included: the reduction of official development assistance; the negative consequences of the structural adjustment programmes; foreign debt; and the stagnation of international trade negotiations in the Doha Round. Without sustainable development, and a just and equitable international order aimed at eradicating poverty, women would never achieve full gender equality and empowerment. Moreover, the elimination of violence against women required the elimination of unilateral coercive measures. Cuba affirmed that the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed unilaterally by the United States Government for over half a century against Cuba constituted an act of genocide and was the major form of violence suffered by Cuban women and girls.
She denounced the suffering of the mothers, wives, sons and daughter of five brave Cubans who had been in United States prisons for 10 years for denouncing the criminal acts of terrorist groups that operated from United States soil against Cuba. She also denounced the injustice committed by the United States Department of State, which denied a visa to a spouse of one of those five for the tenth time on their twenty-first wedding anniversary. She, thus, demanded that the United States Government immediately issue a humanitarian visa to Adriana Perez to visit her husband.
She stressed that Cuba had been working for gender equality and women's empowerment before the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, among other international instruments. It had been the first to sign and ratify the Convention, and currently women held 43.32 per cent of the seats in Cuba's Parliament. Cuba would continue to work to actively engage the issue of system-wide coherence in the United Nations. But, rich countries should understand that the effects of the current economic and financial crises went well beyond the underdeveloped South. Immediate solutions were called for, and more than ever, the right to development was critical in advancing the situation of women in the South.
ALYA AHMED BIN SAIF AL THANI ( Qatar), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country approached women's issues in a comprehensive way. Its general strategy on the family, considered the basic unit of society, contained several aspects on the advancement of women. Qatar commended international efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, and called on the United Nations to coordinate its efforts to provide system-wide coherence on the issue. In Qatar, the Supreme Council for Family Affairs conducted a comprehensive review of relevant national laws in relation to domestic violence. The Supreme Council had submitted information on measures taken by the State to address violence against women to the database launched by the Secretary-General on violence against women. Hotlines provided by the Qatari Foundation for Child and Women Protection had been successful in providing follow-up in conjunction with national agencies in charge of health, crime and the judiciary. The Foundation provided legal advice to victims and legal aid in courts.
She said an international seminar on violence against women and its impact on the family was held in Doha, organized by the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development, in collaboration with the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in November 2008 and United Nations agencies. To address violence against women migrant workers, Qatar had provided information for the report of the Secretary-General on national actions taken in that field, including in terms of human trafficking. Several national agencies were focused on providing training for those working with victims. In addition, Qatar was engaged in bilateral cooperation on employment, and continued to provide information to relevant United Nations organizations. Qatar acceded to the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention in April 2008, and would continue its efforts to highlight the issue of women's empowerment as a strategic objective nationally and internationally.
ZAHID RASTAM (Malaysia) said women played an important role in all spheres of society, from the family level to the larger community structures of the economy and Government. All countries had a responsibility to ensure that women could fulfil their potential in whatever field. Instituting a gender perspective remained the favoured approach in the international context. Although there was agreement among States on the need to implement the Beijing Declaration and other internationally agreed instruments, doing so remained difficult. The international community needed to overcome the institutional, traditional or other constraints that prevented the realization of the Beijing Declaration. It was difficult for policymakers and others to discuss the gender stereotypes that continued to pose real barriers to the overall advancement of women, but the outcome of such disaster was worthwhile and the international community should not shrink from such conversations.
Malaysia fully supported efforts towards creating a gender balance within the United Nations system, he said. It also supported the Secretary-General's campaign to end violence against women. Indeed, it took a zero-tolerance policy towards this violence and undertook a holistic approach that included removing impunity and prosecuting those who committed the violence, as well as protecting and rehabilitating victims. Since 2003, it had been implementing gender equality programmes and projects and it recognized the role that non-governmental organizations played in complementing governmental efforts.
He said that, ahead of the 2010 review of the Millennium Development Goals, Malaysia had enrolled 97 per cent of its girls in primary education, and female enrolment in higher education had risen to 60 per cent. Currently, women comprised 22.8 per cent of the heads of Government ministries. In 2007, more than 27 per cent of registered professionals were women. Maternal mortality rates had fallen to .3 per 1,000 live births in 2007, from 2.8 in 1957. Nevertheless, combating HIV/AIDS remained a challenge, especially when facing the feminization of the disease. Concluding, he said a strong unified political message by all countries was needed at the numerous events aimed at women's advancement scheduled for next year.
MARIAN TER HAAR, Women's Representative of the Netherlands, spoke on bringing the power of sports to women. Quoting Nelson Mandela, she said sport had the power to change the world. Participating in sport allowed women to develop mental and physical strength, self-confidence and new leadership skills. It brought joy to their lives, and was empowering because working towards mutual goals with others brought satisfaction and higher self-esteem. It enabled women and girls to develop new interpersonal networks and a sense of identity. It was healthy and healing, and fun, giving people "time to forget". Sport was also low-cost and high-impact. It could be quickly implemented. Around 62 million girls did not attend primary school. If properly supervised by committed coaches, sport increased school participation.
She said sport was a way of empowering women in a multicultural society. The Dutch Government encouraged young girls from migrant backgrounds to participate in sports through targeted financial incentives. One women set up a sports association that had 700 members, mostly Muslim. Sport was also a way of giving peace chance. Another woman, from Rwanda, founded the Kigali Women Footballers, which helped traumatized female Hutu and Tutsi survivors of the 1994 genocide to leave the past behind. In Africa, where young girls often had to care for family members living with HIV, they were largely excluded from education and the support and companionship of their friends. Sport was an easy way to prevent further isolation. Similarly, playing cricket after work gave low-caste girls in India a moment of joy and companionship.
She proposed that nations recognize the cycle of insecurity in women's lives and the need to enhance participation through sport; to recognize women's vulnerability to violence and the positive influence of sport; and to work towards practical solutions to such problems using sports. She recalled article 13 (c) of the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention on the right to participate in recreational activities, sports and all aspects of cultural life, and Assembly resolution 63/135 on sports as a means to promote education, health and peace. She welcomed the initiatives of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, and his cooperation with the Special Representative on Women and Peace and Development.
ABDELGHANI MERABET (Algeria), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said it was important to move forward in ensuring the coherence of the United Nations system, as well as its gender architecture. The ambitious commitments entered into by the international community through the Beijing Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, among other international agreements, had made progress in the advancement of women possible. But, the remarkable improvement in the situation of women was threatened by the economic crisis. This was particularly true for rural women, who were closer to sliding into the informal economy, where they were often more exposed to violence and discrimination. A gender perspective was needed in all stimulus packages and Government efforts to combat the crises. The Doha Declaration for Financing for Development was welcome, in this context.
He went on to stress that the precarious situation resulting from the financial and economic crises posed a double burden for developing countries. This was particularly true for those in Africa and special attention should be paid to Africa through support to the African Union. For its part, Algeria was making tremendous achievements towards its pursuit of gender equality. Among other things, he highlighted successes resulting from the Algerian Code. He also welcomed the determination of women in achieving equality. As they entered worlds that had been reserved for men, they were demanding more equal distribution of opportunities. In that respect, Algeria's President would continue to appoint women to key positions in his Administration.
ANNA HJARTARDOTTIR (Iceland) said that women played a central role in economic and social development and strong links existed between their empowerment and poverty reduction. Thus, the advancement of women should be central to the work of the United Nations. Noting the impact of the economic and financial crisis on women and children, she said it was the responsibility of Governments to ensure that they were not discriminated against in times of economic crisis. Moreover, since the recession threatened to exacerbate human rights violations, like trafficking in women and girls, concerted international cooperation was clearly called for to combat that trade. Iceland had recently adopted a national plan against such trafficking, which included, among other things, measures to protect victims. It was undeniable that women and girls remained subject to grave violations of their human rights and to all forms of violence. In particular, they were targets of sexual violence in armed conflicts, which was a clear violation of their human rights. Violence against women was never tolerable and should never be justified.
She said that, instead of regarding women as vulnerable groups, they should be seen as equal-rights holders. Moreover, their participation should be ensured in all policy and decision-making processes, not just in peacemaking efforts. She said that Security Council resolution 1888 (2009) had taken important steps to build on 1820 (2008) with its establishment of a Special Representative. Similarly, resolution 1889 (2009) built on 1325 (2000) by advocating women's inclusion in peacemaking processes. Iceland stood ready to work towards the full implementation of these resolutions, as well as the implementation of the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention. All States that had not done so should sign and ratify that Convention. The United Nations played a central role in closing gaps towards the advancement of women and Iceland supported all its efforts in that regard, particularly through the appointment of an Under-Secretary-General.
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