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Commission on Status of Women Approves Seven Draft Texts, but Suspends Fifty-sixth Session Pending Approval of ‘Agreed Conclusions’ on Rural Women

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Commission on the Status of Women
Fifty-sixth Session
17th & 18th Meetings (AM & PM)

Draft Resolution Reaffirming Israeli Occupation Major Obstacle For Palestinian Women’s Advancement, Self-Reliance Requires Recorded Vote

The Commission on the Status of Women today sent a strong message to ensure that gender equality was woven tightly into a blanket of initiatives spanning armed conflict to natural disaster assistance, as it approved seven draft texts, one by recorded vote, to be sent to the Economic and Social Council for adoption.

The 45-member Commission had been scheduled to conclude its fifty-sixth session today, but due to ongoing negotiations on what it calls its “agreed conclusions”, it suspended its work. The Commission Secretary announced that the conclusion of the current session would occur at a short meeting once that text — this year, on empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges — was finalized and prepared in all six official languages.

During its day-long meeting, the Commission adopted the provisional agenda of its fifty-seventh session (document E/CN.6/2012/L.9). It also approved a draft resolution on the “situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document E/CN.6/2012/L.2), by a recorded vote of 29 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 10 abstentions (Belgium, Colombia, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden).

Deploring the dire economic and social conditions of Palestinian women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, the Council, by that text, would reaffirm that the Israeli occupation remained the major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in their society’s development.

Speaking after the vote, Israel’s representative said that while the situation of Palestinian women “may not be ideal”, by adopting the resolution, the Commission was sending a message that other women were “not as important”. The United States voted against the text, saying the diplomatic Quartet should be the mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Italy’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said he had abstained from voting, explaining that country-specific issues should be covered in the General Assembly.

“If this is not the right forum to address these issues, then where is?” asked the representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the United Nations, adding that many United Nations and human rights reports had already shown that the Israeli occupation remained the obstacle to empowering women.

Following lengthy informal consultations, the Commission approved an orally revised version of a draft resolution on women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS (L.7), which had originally contained 43 operative paragraphs. The revised version eliminated all but two operative paragraphs, which would have the Commission take note of the Secretary-General’s report and would request that the Secretary-General submit a report to the Commission at its fifty-eighth session.

By consensus, Commission members approved a draft decision on female genital mutilation (L.1), by which the Commission would recommend for approval by the Economic and Social Council and then adoption by the General Assembly a text recalling the Assembly’s relevant resolutions and the conclusions of the Women’s Commission and noting the Secretary-General’s report on ending the harmful practice and the recommendations contained therein. Also by the text, the Assembly would consider the issue at its sixty-seventh session.

Condemning all violent acts committed against the civilian population, in violation of international humanitarian law, the Commission approved a draft resolution on release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (L.3). The text would also have the Commission urge States that are parties to armed conflict to take all necessary measures to determine the identity, fate and whereabouts of women and children taken hostage.

While unanimously approving a draft resolution on eliminating maternal mortality and morbidity through empowerment of women (L.5), the Commission heard some delegates’ reservations. Abortion-related issues concerned several representatives, including those of Malta, Poland and of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See.

The Russian Federation’s representative said he was concerned that the term “harmful traditional practices” could inadvertently include non-harmful practices. In response, Mali’s representative said there were 16 harmful traditional practices, including cutting, that affected 85 per cent of her country’s population. “This is a public health concern,” she said. “These are our traditional practices that we would like to fight against.”

Turning to a draft resolution on gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disasters (L.4), the Commission would, by that text, urge Governments and, where appropriate, United Nations entities and civil society to design and implement gender-sensitive economic relief and recovery projects, and to ensure women’s and men’s equal access to natural-hazard early warning systems and promote disaster risk reduction planning.

Another approved resolution stressed the importance of recognizing the distinct and crucial contribution of indigenous women and their knowledge, and their vital roles in diverse local economies to poverty eradication, food security and sustainable development (L.6).

In other action, the Commission took note of a number of reports of the Secretary-General on rural women and related issues.

In closing, Commission Chair Marjon Kamara (Liberia) thanked all for their participation.

Making statements on the texts adopted today were the representatives of Jordan, Iran, Japan, Algeria (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Russian Federation, Malta, Mauritania, Cuba, Mali, Poland, Australia, Chile, and Norway (on behalf of itself, Iceland and New Zealand).

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene to conclude its fifty-sixth session at a time and date to be announced.