28 October 1996

Press Release


Women's role in international, national and household economies was indispensable, but their employment status and work opportunities were seriously disadvantaged relative to men, according to a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO). She was addressing the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon as it continued its general debate on the advancement of women and the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995).

Some women had made inroads into previously male-dominated occupations and breached the so-called "glass ceiling", she said. However, women's employment had expanded because of continuing gender segregation within the labour market, and because women were going into atypical or non-standard forms of work, and accepting low-paid and low-skilled work, "women's jobs", or part-time work. The situation was exacerbated by the increasing numbers of female-headed households, she added.

Several representatives stressed the importance of challenging entrenched gender stereotypes. The representative of Slovenia said achieving equality between women and men required changes of mentality, behaviourial patterns and stereotypes prevalent in all societies. Public awareness about those issues must be improved through education and the media.

A number of other speakers spoke of the need for international cooperation and coordination to assist developing countries with the necessary resources and technology to implement domestic programmes and policies for gender equality.

Resolutions on crime prevention and criminal justice, international drug control, and the question of the elaboration of an international convention against transnational crime were also introduced this afternoon.

The representatives of Bulgaria, Kenya, Algeria, Jamaica, India, Romania, Slovenia, Guinea-Bissau, Ethiopia, Belarus and Sudan made statements. A representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also addressed the Committee.

The representative of Iraq spoke in exercise of right of reply.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 29 October, to continue its consideration of the advancement of women.

Committee Work Programme

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its discussions on the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995). (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3365 of 24 October.)

It was also scheduled to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.351/L.6), sponsored by Burundi on behalf of the African Group of States. By the terms of the text, the General Assembly would request the Secretary-General to provide the necessary financial and technical support to the Institute to enable it to effectively follow-up, monitor and evaluate the implementation of all operational aspects of the decisions of the Ninth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, as well as other relevant decisions of the General Assembly. It would also request the Secretary-General to make concrete proposals on strengthening the programmes and activities of the Institute and to report on those proposals at the Assembly's next session.

The Assembly would appeal to all Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental agencies, to adopt concrete, practical measures to support the Institute in the elaboration and implementation of programmes and activities aimed at strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice systems in Africa.

A draft resolution on strengthening the United Nations Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, particularly its technical cooperation capacity (document A/C.3/51/L.8), would request the Secretary-General to further strengthen the Programme by providing it with the resources to fully implement its mandates, including follow-up action to the Naples Political Declaration and the Global Action Plan against organized transnational crime and to the Ninth Crime Congress. It would also ask him to continue to strengthen cooperation between the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, particularly in the area of money laundering. Further, it would ask him to assist the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, as the principle policy-making body in the field, to perform its activities, including cooperation and coordination with other relevant bodies, such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women.

The Assembly would call upon States and United Nations funding agencies to make significant financial contributions for the Programme's operational activities and encourages them to make voluntary contributions to the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Trust Fund, taking into account the activities required for the implementation of the Naples Declaration and Action plan. It would also call on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and other international, regional and funding agencies to support technical operational activities and include them in their programmes, utilizing the expertise of the Crime Programme in such activities and cooperating closely on relevant technical assistance

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projects and advisory missions. It would call on the Commission to give full effect to its relevant resolutions on strategic management of the United Nations concerning reporting requirements, submission of proposals and resources mobilization.

It is sponsored by Austria, Belarus, Canada, Costa Rica, Cote D'Ivoire, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine.

By the terms of a draft resolution on international action to combat drug abuse and illicit production and trafficking (document A/C.3/51/L.9), the Assembly would decide to convene a special session for three days in June 1998, to consider the fight against the illicit production, sale, demand, traffic and distribution, of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances and related activities, and to propose new strategies, methods, practical activities and specific measures to strengthen international cooperation in addressing the problem. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs would act as the preparatory body for the special session which would be funded through the United Nations regular budget and Governments would be invited to make extrabudgetary contributions to meet the preparatory costs.

By the draft, the Assembly would decide the objective of the special session will be to: promote adherence to and full implementation by all States to the Single Convention on Narcotics of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs of 1988; adopt measures to increase international cooperation to contribute to the application of the law; adopt measures to avoid the diversion of chemicals used in illicit drug production and to strengthen control of the production of and traffic in stimulants and their precursors; adopt and promote drug abuse control programmes and policies and other measures to reduce the illicit drug demand; adopt measures to prevent and sanction money-laundering, in order to implement the 1988 Convention; encourage international cooperation to develop illicit crop eradiation programmes and promote alternative development programmes; adopt measures to strengthen coordination within the United Nations system in the fight against drug trafficking and related organized crime, against terrorist groups engaged in drug trafficking and against the illicit arms trade.

In addition, the Assembly would call upon States to intensify their actions to promote effective cooperation in the efforts to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking, including cooperation with the United Nations

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International Drug Control Programme and implementation of the Global Action Plan.

The text is sponsored by Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cote D'Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela.

By the terms of a draft resolution on the question of the elaboration of an international convention against organized transnational crime (document A/C.3/51/L.10), the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to invite Member States to submit their views on the elaboration of an international convention against organized transnational crime not later than two months before the start of the sixth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. It would ask the Commission, as a matter of priority to consider the question of the elaboration of a convention against organized transnational crime, taking into account the views of Member States, with a view to finalizing its work as soon as possible. The Commission would be asked to report through the Economic and Social Council to the Assembly's fifty-second session. The Assembly would decide to continue its consideration of the question at that session under the appropriate agenda item.

The text is sponsored by Argentina, Cambodia, Italy, Morocco, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions on Crime and Drugs

ALESSANDRO BUSACCA (Italy) introduced on behalf of the sponsors, the draft resolution entitled "Strengthening the United Nations Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, particularly its technical cooperation capacity.

MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) introducing the draft resolution on international action to combat drug abuse and illicit production and trafficking, said the resolution was proof of the international community's dedication to strengthening efforts to combat the scourge that threatened the well-being of young people. It was the result of considerable negotiation efforts and was a contribution to efforts at streamlining the Committee's work and greater consistency in the work of the General Assembly. It was a clear example of the spirit of international cooperation in the fight against drug production and trafficking.

HASSAN KASSEM NAJEM (Lebanon) introducing the draft resolution on the United Nations Declaration on Crime and Public Security, said his Government

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supported the contents of the Declaration. The international community should face the root causes of crime as well as its effects.

Statements on Advancement of Women

VALENTIN HADJIYSKI (Bulgaria) said his Government had adopted a national plan of action for the advancement of women along with a package of measures aimed at its implementation. The plan was drafted by an inter-agency commission with the participation of representatives from several non- governmental organizations. Priority objectives of the plan included: promotion and protection of the human rights of women; alleviation and elimination poverty; promotion of women's participation in decision-making at all levels and in all spheres of public and political life; improvement of women's health; and, elimination of violence against women.

The package of measures aimed to ensure the implementation of the strategic goals and objectives set forth in the plan, particularly at their proper funding levels, he said. Due to an austerity budget and the restrictive monetary and fiscal environment accompanying the structural adjustment of the Bulgarian economy, the Government relied on the extensive cooperation of international organizations and institutions and on financial contributions for the effective implementation of the plan. Nevertheless, Bulgaria remained firmly committed to the implementation of the principles and strategic goals of the Beijing Declaration and the Program for Action.

ESTHER M. TOLLE (Kenya) said women's empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, were fundamental for the advancement of equality, development and peace in the world. A successful and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action required strong political commitment on the part of Member States, international organizations, and institutions at all levels to mobilize substantial new and additional resources. At the national level, Governments should formulate and implement specific policies and measures to achieve equality between women and men, and mainstream a gender perspective in social, economic, civil, political and cultural rights.

The Government of Kenya had enacted laws giving equal rights to women and men to inherit land and property, she said. Concerted efforts were also being made to intensify programmes on voter education for women to increase their participatory percentage in parliament and in local government. Currently, there were over 100 registered non-governmental organizations who target women in development, in addition to their other development agendas. The Government continued to encourage non-governmental organizations to participate in order to raise the standard of living in rural areas where credit facilities were not easily available.

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AMINA Z. MESDOUA (Algeria) said that measures proposed in the platforms for action were used primarily as guidelines for ongoing situations. If the impetus of Beijing was to be retained and the commitments of the participants were to be honoured, now was the time to reassess the implementation process for the Beijing platform. It was up to Governments to create an atmosphere for the successful implementation, however, the United Nations had an important role to play because it was primarily responsible for worldwide follow-up to the Program for Action. Since its creation, the Commission on the Status of Women had been at the heart of ensuring the advancement of women, and it now had a leading role to play in the medium-term plan. The Economic and Social Council must play a key role in integrating the needs of women in achieving and solidifying the roles played by women in all conferences from Vienna to Istanbul. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) were primary actors in providing follow up measures and ensuring they were effective. The human and financial means must be adopted to further this mission, which was of the utmost importance.

The building of a democratic Algeria, focusing on modernization and progress, could not be accomplished without the participation of women in the development process, she said. The number of qualified women at higher levels in the work force was rising, but as long as women were not allowed to enjoy their rights, the struggle for the advancement of women must continued to be pursued.

CHERRYL GORDON (Jamaica) said progress had been made in the area of follow-up to the Beijing Conference, however, all States had made the humbling recognition that much more needed to be done in the area of women's development. The Jamaican Government supported and encouraged initiatives taken by United Nations agencies which focused on the advancement of women -- in light of Jamaica's particular concerns, which included poverty, education and training, violence against women and children and inequality in power- sharing and decision-making at all levels.

The Government commended the efforts of States within the United Nations system toward mainstreaming a gender perspective in follow-up programmes. While not wishing to detract from the need to focus on the advancement of women however, she drew attention to concern over the tendency to use "gender" interchangeably with "women" to mean matters pertaining specifically and solely to females. This was a misleading practice and should be discouraged, because situations involving women and men are always intertwined. Therefore, Jamaica welcomed the extensive clarification of the term "gender" in the Secretary-General's report on implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/51/322).

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RENUKA CHOWDHURY (India) said the distinctive feature of the Beijing Conference was a paradigmatic shift in viewing women's issues as intrinsic and central to society as a whole -- men and women -- and not merely as problems afflicting women. It marked a new international consensus in the advancement of women at the cognitive and policy-making levels, and led to greater recognition that the advancement of women was both a moral imperative and a liberating force for society. Now, the focus must shift to action and implementation. Greater gender sensitivity was imperative when following up to all recent United Nations-sponsored world conferences and in the integration of the gender perspective in analytical and operational activities. The presence of women in the Secretariat must also be strengthened, bearing in mind the principle of equitable geographical distribution.

The problem of women in poverty could not be addressed in isolation from the wider economic environment or the eradication of poverty as a whole, she said. The burden of poverty fell heavier on women, therefore poverty eradication strategies that addressed the crucial -- but frequently less visible -- role of women in the economy were more likely to succeed. For poverty eradication strategies to succeed, it was necessary to implement the efforts at the level of the individual in poverty in order to address the structural imbalances and causes at the widest level.

ANDREI MAGHERU (Romania) said in Beijing, a new perception had taken form in respect to the role and position of women and their essential contribution and value to their societies. Women's rights were a fundamental part of human rights. Those new visions took into account the need to include the gender perspective in all policies and programmes.

The Government organized a conference in Bucharest on 12-14 September 1996, to assist Central and Eastern European countries in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action he said. Taking into account the needs of countries with economies in transition and the diversity of the participants brought together -- Central and Eastern European delegates and 30 non- governmental organizations -- the Conference stressed the complex structure of women's problems and provided a framework for dialogue. Participants at the Conference also formulated specific recommendations to implement national plans, strengthen national structures and promote women at the national levels. The participants paid particular attention to cooperation with United Nations agencies, and asked UNIFEM to consider enlarging its sphere of activities to include Central and Eastern Europe.

EVA TOMIC (Slovenia) said an important element in the efforts to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was to develop appropriate methodologies to facilitate the application of a gender perspective in the reporting process under international human rights instruments and mechanisms. The Government was pleased that most of the

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intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations system, as well as most of the secretariats and programmes, had taken initial steps towards mainstreaming a gender perspective into policies and programmes, as stated in the Declaration and Platform for Action. However, further work was needed to incorporate a gender perspective in daily work of the United Nations staff throughout the system.

Both the Vienna Conference on Human Rights and the Beijing Conference reaffirmed that women's rights were an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights and fundamental freedoms. However, much work needed to be done in achieving equality between women and men, and it required changes of mentality, behaviourial patterns and of stereotypes that existed in society. It was important to raise public awareness about these issues through education and other means. The Government had printed copies of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and distributed them widely in schools and public institutions in September 1996.

While international support and cooperation for the improvement of the status of women was important, the primary responsibility for effective implementation of the Platform for Action was at the national level, she said. The Slovenia National Institution for the Advancement of Women was in the process of preparing a national implementation strategy that would provide strategic action on the basis of the relevant areas of concern. That strategy aimed at bringing gender perspectives into planning and implementation of national strategies of other sections of the society and was being prepared in cooperation with other sectors of the Government and with the active involvement of non-governmental organizations.

MARIA MANUELA LOPES DA ROSA (Guinea-Bissau) said that following the conclusion of the Beijing Conference, her Government immediately went to work to achieve the objectives set out in the Platform for Action. However, the status of women had not improved. Regarding the feminization of poverty, which was a high priority, the Platform recognized that in order to combat poverty it was the responsibility of the Government to mobilize new resources and cultivate international cooperation. When undertaking a plan of action, the States should consider a partnership approach with non-governmental and international organizations and bodies to overcome obstacles to the integration of women into activities aimed at their advancement.

Guinea-Bissau recognized the work accomplished by the United Nations system agencies, including INSTRAW and UNIFEM, and they must be supported financially so they can continue fulfilling their mandates, she said. The United Nations system must take the lead in promoting an environment that would lead to better cooperation and participation in the advancement of women, and Member States needed to ensure it had the necessary resources to promote the advancement of women.

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Violence in all its forms against women deserved particular attention, she said. Exploitation and trafficking of women had been integrated into all forms of organized crime, and this phenomenon called for preventive and strict enforcement measures. Information, education and legislation of laws and international coordination were essential.

FESSEHA ASGHEDOM TESSEMA (Ethiopia) said that Governments had primary responsibility for monitoring and implementing the Beijing Platform for Action. His country's new constitution guaranteed women equal rights and the promulgation of national policies and programmes were designed to promote women's education and health. The Beijing Conference had been a catalyst for promoting Ethiopian women's status and a chance to examine their position in society. Gender issues were an integral part of all of the country's development programmes. The spirit of Beijing had encouraged his Government to improve its action on women's issues and the new democratic process had given them a chance to take part in Government and take high office. The numbers of women in positions at the national and district level had increased, although the rates of participation in Government showed the political empowerment of women was still a challenge.

The new constitution also guaranteed women equal rights to land ownership, he continued. There had also been improvements in health services as well as in education, generally, and in rural education, in particular, to improve the enrolment of women and reduce the current high drop-out rate among girls. Ethiopia's implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action had been put on the right track. However it was also important for the international community to contribute resources and technical support to enable developing countries to ensure that the gender dimension of development could be fully implemented.

IGAR GUBAREVICH (Belarus) said basic economic changes in his country had been accompanied by a drop in production levels, rising inflation, a fall in real incomes -- all of which had been exacerbated by the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Undoubtedly, the greatest burden had fallen on the shoulders of women. They had suffered from stereotyping and limited access to positions of power. Economically significant efforts to improve women's conditions had been made by the adoption of legislation to protect mothers and children including single mothers. Beijing had provided the theoretical basis for laws to implement the Platform For Action.

He said the practical implementation of national legislation to enhance women's status was a goal of his Government. The Cabinet had confirmed a national plan of action from 1996 to the year 2000. It covered the implementation of State benefits to families with children, pregnant women, and for child care. His country could not resolve its serious financial problems alone. The Government was receiving help from a number of

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United Nations agencies, including the UNDP office in Minsk and the World Health Organization (WHO). Regarding the problem of violence against women, he favoured the establishment of an international data base to coordinate action on that problem.

SHAHIRA HASSAN WAHBI (Sudan) said women's main problems might vary from one nation to another. Women's poverty and illiteracy might be the main obstacles to their advancement in one society and violence and trafficking in women and girls might be the problem in other countries. So it would be difficult to have one standard for solving all the problems women faced. Her Government believed that the full enjoyment of the rights of women and girls came from the enjoyment of rights by all sectors of society. Ignoring moral values and religious beliefs and a "looking down on some cultures" affected the status of women and were a cause of the loss by some women of some of their acquired traditional rights.

She said Sudanese women enjoyed an equal right to work, equal pay, and they took part in all elections. In the recent national elections, 10 women had been elected to the Parliament. There were also female governors, federal and state judges, ambassadors and a dean of higher education. They had also reached high ranks in the police and armed forces. Rural women played an important role in the agricultural production process, which contributed to the Sudanese economy. Labour laws guaranteed pay and leave entitlements, including paid maternity leave. Islamic religion guaranteed women's economic independence. The 1986 banking rule guaranteed their access to credit and the land act guaranteed their right to own and acquire land. Women were 60 per cent of the total graduates from higher educational institutions. There was also a national health-care service to meet the needs of both men and women. Sudan did not suffer from the problem of violence against women.

PRADA DE MESA of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), said the Agency's specific response to Beijing would be a new international programme of technical cooperation titled, "More and Better Jobs for Women", which would aim to promote employment in conditions of equality. It would address the various social and economic factors which hindered women as they entered the labour force. The programme would take account of the many elements involved in promoting equal opportunities to the labour market, such as the need to create productive and enumerative employment opportunities that were equally accessible to men and women; the promotion of training and education for women and girls; and entrepreneurship development and improved access to productive resources, including credit, technology and marketing. The ILO would also address such issues as equal pay for work of equal value; improved occupational safety and health measures; family friendly workplaces; better employment, security and working conditions for part-time workers and atypical forms of employment; social protection for marginalized groups of women workers and doing away with job segregation.

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She said women were playing an increasingly indispensable role in international, national and household economies, but their employment status and working opportunities remained seriously disadvantaged relative to men, and they continued to face serious discrimination. Since the 1980s, women had been providing the bulk of the new labour supply around the world, while male rates had been falling. Some had made inroads into previously male-dominated occupations and breached the "glass ceiling". However, much of the employment expansion for women had occurred because of continuing gender segregation within the labour market, and because women were going into atypical or non- standard forms of work, and accepting low-paid and low-skilled work, "women's jobs" or part-time work. The situation was exacerbated by the increasing numbers of female-headed households.

BENJAMIN GURMAN, Senior Programme Adviser of the UNDP said the balance sheet one year after the Beijing Conference was positive, although much more needed to be done. Recent UNDP management decisions would significantly increase the Agency's commitment to the advancement of women and gender equality. At the country level, through the resident coordinator system, UNDP was facilitating a joint United Nations system response to the Conference's follow-up action plans. The just-concluded first meeting of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) Inter-agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality proposed to establish close linkages for the work and follow-up to the inter-agency task forces. The UNDP and UNIFEM were strategizing to support a better coordinated United Nations system response at the national level. The UNDP had targeted 10 countries to facilitate national consensus building on policies, programmes and coordination.

He said UNDP management had committed to significantly increasing financial resource allocations to women's advancement through the global programme and respective regional programmes. That would take place both through gender mainstreaming as a cross-cutting theme and programmes targeted to women. The programmes would facilitate the capacities of programme countries for the application of methodologies and tools for gender mainstreaming as well as support to develop models and good practices. At the country level, a high level of commitment by UNDP's resident representatives was essential to effective gender mainstreaming. The Administrator was challenging them, in consultation with Governments to increase UNDP country specific resource allocations to the advancement of women and to scrutinize programmes to ensure the gender dimensions were systematically addressed.

Right of Reply

The representative for Iraq, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he wanted to clarify the falsehoods espoused by the representative for Kuwait this morning, regarding the suffering of Kuwaiti women due the alleged detention of Kuwaiti prisoners by Iraq. This issue was mentioned by the Kuwaiti representative in the two items currently under

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discussion. These two items were in no way related to the issue of the missing persons. It must be reiterated however, that Iraq has not detained any prisoners of war, Kuwaiti or non-Kuwaiti. Those mentioned as being missing persons were individuals Iraq had been cooperating in the search for.

The representative for Kuwait would make a more dignified service to Kuwaiti women if she called upon her Government to cease preventing women from voting inside Kuwait. Ridding Kuwaiti women of this flagrant discrimination, which was perpetrated by the Kuwait constitution, would be far more constructive than levelling accusations against Iraq with the motivation of swaying international public opinion, he added.

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