Gender issues could no longer be marginalized as special interest concerns of women and men, girls and boys, but must be addressed systematically and consistently, as an integral part of all policy-making, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told this afternoon, as it began consideration of issues related to the advancement of women and implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.
Addressing the Committee, the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Angela King, said all actors, nationally and internationally, had to take full responsibility for progress in reducing gender-based inequality and discrimination, and for increasing women's equal access to opportunities as well as goods and services. All ministries at the national level had that responsibility. Delegates in all the Assembly's Main Committees, not just the Third Committee, also had a responsibility to consider the impact of their policy decisions on women and men, and how those polices contributed to the goals of gender equality. Also stressing the role of the United Nations system, she called on the current Assembly session to ensure that "deeds of shared responsibility follow its words".
The representative of Luxembourg, speaking for the European Union, said responsibility for introducing equality between men and women was a joint responsibility to be shared between the sexes. Implementation of the Beijing Programme of Action required political and economic commitment to make available human and financial resources at national and international levels. National governments should introduce mechanisms for the advancement of women and make existing mechanisms more effective. Advancing the rights of women was a first priority for the European Union. Non-governmental organizations in all countries had to raise awareness with regard to the advancement of women, she said.
The United Republic of Tanzania, speaking for the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, said it was difficult for that Group to implement the Platform of Action, even though 70 per cent of the 1 billion
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poor people in the world were women and their empowerment would be an important contribution towards eradication of poverty in the world. The debt burden, coupled with the adverse effects of structural adjustment programmes, limited capacity to provide basic needs such as education, nutrition and health -- all areas where women and children were affected the most. The decline in resources from external sources added to the difficulties in implementing the Programme of Action. The twin processes of liberalization and globalization of the world economy were not benefiting the Group of 77 countries as envisaged, and women bore the brunt of the negative impact.
Speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the representative of Zambia said the majority of women living in poverty were in rural areas of the developing world. Citing the condition of women in Africa, he said they were disadvantaged by land tenure laws, cultural practices and conditions of life. If the United Nations was embarking on an ambitious programme of reform, the purpose of which was to make it more relevant, it should facilitate the advancement of women by concentrating its activities in the actual situation of women in the home and work environments.
Statements were also made by Paraguay (on behalf of the Rio Group), Norway, Mexico, Netherlands, Japan, Cote d'Ivoire, China, Algeria and Bulgaria.
The Deputy Director of United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Maxine Olson; the Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Yakin Erturk; and the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Kerstin Trone; also made statements. A representative of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
The Committee meets again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 21 October, to continue its consideration of issues related to the advancement of women and the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women.
Committee Work Programme
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to hear the introduction of reports on issues related to the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and begin its general discussion on the two agenda items.
The Committee has before it the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as well as seven reports by the Secretary-General on: the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW); the situation of women in rural areas; violence against women migrant workers; traffic in women and girls; the status of women in the Secretariat; and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women.
In addition, a note by the Secretary-General transmits the report on the activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Relevant sections of the report of the Economic and Social Council (to be issued) are also before the Committee.
Also before the Committee are two letters: one, dated 19 July, from the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, draws attention to documents issued at the Microcredit Summit held in Washington, D.C., from 2 to 4 February; and the other, dated 14 April, from the Permanent Representative of Georgia, transmits a copy of a report on the policy of ethnic cleansing/genocide conducted in the territory of Abkhazia, Georgia.
The report of the sixteenth session of The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/52/38, Part I) which meets twice each year to monitor implementation of the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, recommends that States parties consult national non-governmental organizations in the preparation of their reports and that representatives of those organizations should be encouraged to attend the Committee sessions. It also recommends that, as from the seventeenth session, the Secretariat should facilitate an informal meeting with non-governmental organizations, which would include, among other things, country-specific information during the first and second days of its session. To address the backlog of outstanding reports, the Committee decided, on an exceptional basis and as a temporary measure, to invite States parties to combine a maximum of two of the reports required by the Convention.
In two other proposals, the Committee suggests that the budget of the Centre for Human Rights of the United Nations Secretariat for technical and advisory services be made available to promote the Convention and the Committee's work and to facilitate seminars on such issues as reservations on
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the Convention. It also proposes that, starting from its seventeenth session next year, its pre-session working group should be convened at the end of that session, in order to provide States parties presenting periodic reports with the Committee's questions well in advance.
The report states that during the sixteenth session, which was held at Headquarters from 13 to 31 January, the Committee considered reports submitted by eight States parties -- Morocco, Slovenia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Turkey, Venezuela, Denmark, Philippines and Canada. It also heard an oral report presented on an exceptional basis by representatives of the former Zaire. Because of breakdown in communications between New York and Kinshasa, that country's initial report had not been included in the Committee's agenda and its regular report would be rescheduled.
At its seventeenth session, which was scheduled to be held from 7 to 25 July in New York the Committee was to consider 10 reports of States parties -- initial reports from Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Israel, Namibia, Luxembourg; second periodic reports from the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Italy; and third periodic reports from Australia and Bangladesh. (The report of the seventeenth session will be issued as A/52/38, Part II.)
The report provides details on the Committee's initiatives towards strengthening cooperation among the human rights treaty bodies, including cooperative activities with such United Nations agencies as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Committee called for further collaboration with other treaty bodies and specialized agencies and for the strengthening of links with specialized agencies and other entities of the United Nations.
Addressing ways and means of expediting its work, the Committee decided to maintain its practice of designating a main country rapporteur and back-up rapporteur for each State party report. It also decided that the factors and difficulties section of States' reports would describe major areas of the Convention that had not been implemented by States parties. The reports would also address whether the Convention was self-executing and whether legislation had been put in place to give effect to it, as well as the impact of overarching social factors, such as tradition and cultural and behaviourial patterns.
The 23-member Committee is charged with considering progress in implementing the Convention, including considering reports submitted by States parties. Article 17 provides for the establishment of the Committee whose members are selected to the Committee by the States parties. As at 31 January, there were 155 ratifications and accessions to the Convention, which entered into force in September 1981.
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According to the report on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/52/337), as at 1 August, 160 States parties had ratified or acceded to the Convention, which was adopted in December 1979. That number included 60 States that had acceded and 6 which had succeeded to the Convention. In addition, four States parties signed the Convention. Since the last status report, the following States parties have ratified, acceded or succeeded to the Convention: Botswana, Andorra, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland, Mozambique, Lebanon and Turkmenistan. Annexed to the report is a complete list of States parties that have signed, ratified, acceded or succeeded to the Convention as at 1 August, as well as the dates of signature and receipt of the instruments of ratification, accession or succession.
(A State succeeds to a treaty when it becomes independent and becomes a State party to a treaty to which the predecessor State, of which it was a part, was also a party. A State accedes to a treaty by indicating its interest in becoming a party. A treaty is ratified when it is signed by a State.)
As at 1 August, 14 States parties had deposited with the Secretary-General instruments of their acceptance of the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention, which changes the Committee meeting schedule, including the following 8 States parties that did so from 1 August 1996 to 1 August 1997: Brazil, Liechtenstein, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. During the same period reservations were made upon ratification of the Convention by Lebanon. Objections were received from Austria, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and Norway to reservations to the Convention by Pakistan, Malaysia, Libya, Lesotho, Fiji and Singapore. Withdrawals of reservations and declarations were received from Bangladesh, Liechtenstein and Romania.
The Secretary-General's report on activities of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (document A/52/352) describes steps taken by INSTRAW over the past two years for strengthening a dual approach to its work: one, as an agent for sensitization on the role of women in the sustainable development process and mainstreaming of gender evaluation; and the other as a research, training and advocacy centre for advancing women's empowerment and inclusion as equal partners in development.
The report describes a work programme prepared taking into consideration a threefold process: first, the changes of global scope at both economic and social levels; second, policy decisions, mandates and plans of action of different United Nations Conferences; and third, concrete issues related to implementation of the Institutes work programme. The activities described aim to correct societal obstacles constraining women's participation and to
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mobilize women's dynamic involvement in the development process. The INSTRAW's four priority programmes for the next year are: research, studies and papers on economic and political empowerment; improvement and development of new statistical concepts and indicators on gender issues; training and interagency activities on environment and sustainable development; and programmes for developing media and communications resources.
The report indicates that during the period under review, in the important area of women, environment and sustainable development, INSTRAW finalized and distributed a multimedia training package. That package aims to contribute to an integrated approach towards organizing and managing environmental policies and programmes by integrating women's needs. The training package is intended for: senior officials of ministries in such fields as environment, planning and women's affairs; development planners and local authorities; and representatives of non-governmental and women's organizations involved in environmental projects.
The report states that INSTRAW relies on international networking to carry out its work, based largely on cooperative arrangements with mainstream United Nations organizations and bodies, as well as other bodies. Funded solely by voluntary contributions, INSTRAW has received pledges from 72 Member States, with over $1.5 million received during the reporting period and more expected, based on pledges, before the end of the biennium.
In concluding, the report says that, as the only entity within the United Nations system devoted exclusively to research and training for the integration of women into development, INSTRAW is at the forefront of establishing new understanding about the specific situation of women in the development process as equal actors, not as a vulnerable group. Its activities indicate that the current developmental context requires more in-depth and innovative research to understand the complexities affecting women throughout their life cycle. A reinforced commitment to research, training and information in this area is fundamental both to progress towards sustainable development and to the advancement of women, the report states.
The Secretary General's report on improvement in the situation of women in rural areas (document A/52/326), based on a survey of the present status of those women, recommends actions on four issues of growing concern for rural women: agriculture and food security; access to productive resources; female heads of household and migration; and decision-making.
The report underlines the critical importance of reconciling and strengthening the productive and reproductive roles of women farmers and entrepreneurs in improving their situation. Although much of their contribution is unrecognized and unpaid, rural women play critical roles in household and national food security. They produce and prepare food, generate
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income to facilitate access to food, ensure meeting of nutritional requirements and, in that way, protect the health of families. Therefore, strategies to facilitate their access to productive resources need to be comprehensive, taking into account their disadvantaged position, enormous contributions and potential.
Those strategies include development of legal measures, as well as political and administrative regulations, to guarantee rural women equal and secure rights of access to land. Developing and implementing such regulations, in turn, depends on adequate data collection and processing, in addition to increasing rural women's awareness of their rights through information programmes. Also, national machineries for cooperation must involve an increasing number of those women in decision-making positions, and both policy makers and staff need training in gender sensitivity and gender mainstreaming.
Finally, the report outlines avenues for maximizing rural women's contributions by guaranteeing them access to productive resources through cooperation among governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and other actors in civil society. Those avenues include measures for: legislative reforms; eliminating discriminatory practices; making technologies and resources available, including credit; and establishing linkages at the provincial, district and local levels among civil society organizations and governmental institutions.
The Secretary-General's report on violence against women migrant workers (document A/52/356) is based on reports from Member States, United Nations bodies and intergovernmental organizations regarding the emerging issue of violence against women migrant workers. Affirming pronouncements of recent world conferences and a 1996 expert group meeting on violence against women migrant workers held at Manila, the report also conveys comments on the issue of indicators for addressing the situation of women migrant workers.
The report suggests that while Member States have addressed discrimination against women and introduced measures to confront violence against women generally, few States have measures to combat the specific issue of violence against women migrant workers. Likewise, although States have adopted measures to ameliorate the situation of migrant workers generally, few are specifically directed at women migrant workers. Yet, women migrant workers face numerous vulnerability conditions, such as in migrating for marriage or through "employment agencies" that promise domestic employment, but place women in prostitution.
Conveying the findings of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the report states that double marginalization -- as women and migrants -- makes women migrant workers easily vulnerable to violence and abuse,
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especially since they dominate the unregulated, informal labour market of most countries, working as domestic, industrial or agricultural labourers or within the service industry. Furthermore, some conditions stimulating migration lead also to women becoming victims of trafficking. Thus, trafficked and voluntary women migrants find themselves in comparable situations of exploitation, violence and abuse, in part because support mechanisms are inaccessible to migrants with limited mobility, language and local knowledge.
With regard to elaborating indicators for studying violence against women migrant workers, views of Member States range from strongly supportive to objecting on such grounds as the issue being too broad, imprecise, immeasurable or restrictive to foreign labour flows. One State suggested that the Assembly establish an open-ended working group to study the question of indicators, reviewing the recommendations of the Manila expert group meeting.
Based on actions taken within the United Nations system, including resolutions by the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Human Rights, the report calls for more extensive information and data on the situation of women migrant workers, so that concrete strategies can be introduced. Future actions will include an analysis of national action plans by the Commission on the Status of Women and a review of the question of violence against women, including against migrant workers, during 1998 as part of a system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of women 1996-2001.
The Secretary-General's report on traffic in women and girls (document A/52/355) describes activities undertaken to implement the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, which called on governments to criminalize all forms of trafficking in women and girls. The platform points out that an increasing number of women and girl children from developing countries or with economies in transition are being victimized by traffickers. It further calls for a condemning of the practice and the penalizing of offenders, while ensuring that victims are not penalized. The report is based on information from 30 States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as from bodies of the United Nations system and intergovernmental organizations.
The report states that significant trafficking activity is evident and that further data is required before effective strategies can be designed and implemented. Present strategies are predominantly legal measures and bilateral agreements. Those do not confront the problem of strategies being affected by the international nature of the activity and by the reluctance of the victims to complain or be involved in measures to address it.
Nevertheless, the report documents significant steps that have been taken to implement the Platform at all levels since adoption in 1996. Some
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governments have set up interministerial working groups to elaborate national policies and others are sharing information on aspects of trafficking, such as strengthening preventive measures, providing advisory and rehabilitation services to victims, or establishing machinery for implementation of international conventions.
Within the United Nations system, the Commission on the Status of Women is facilitating the study of root factors, including external forces, for all forms of sexual exploitation. In the Commission on Human Rights and its subsidiaries, including the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, the working group on contemporary forms of slavery and the special rapporteurs on violence against women and on the sale of children, are focusing on aspects of standardizing both protection and limitation of offenses. The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is considering the issue as it relates to the smuggling of illegal migrants.
The Secretary-General's report on the improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat (document A/52/408) states that the full implementation of the mandated goal of 50/50 gender balance in the Secretariat by the year 2000 will require stronger monitoring and accountability devices. More must be done to achieve the targets set for the year 2000 and to build the foundation of a policy of sustainability with respect to gender balance in the Organization. In the meantime, strategies to ensure that the gains in preserving and strengthening gender balance throughout the Secretariat continue to be implemented. However, institutional policies and mechanisms to translate commitments into practice need further refinement.
The report goes on to say that a policy that will ensure the achievement of gender balance requires the strengthening of three main areas: recruitment and promotion; monitoring and accountability; and the retention of women. Each of the areas requires a special focus and initiatives. Success in one area is dependent on the other two and requires the participation and commitment of not only the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM), but also senior management and Member States.
The report states that strategies are in place to ensure that departments and offices that have an overall percentage of women of under 25 per cent reach 35 per cent in the next year and that each department and/or office below 35 per cent has an increased increment of 5 per cent overall in the number of women in posts subject to geography in the next year. Over the next 10 years, some 4,500 staff will retire, thus increasing opportunities for achieving and sustaining the target of 50 per cent by the year 2000.
According to the report, recommendations for action by the United Nations include: at least 50 per cent of all recruitment in the Professional
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category should be women in posts subject to geographical distribution and all other categories of posts, irrespective of the type or duration of the appointment; where there is no viable pool of internal women candidates, executive searches should be undertaken for all posts at the D-1 and D-2 levels and the names of the qualified candidates who are not selected should be kept on a roster for consideration for future vacancies; and the OHRM should build a pool of women candidates for senior-level promotions and review the stock of potential candidates with each department and office accountable for its diversity progress and reviews.
Among the recommendations on monitoring and accountability are that: heads of departments and offices should have primary responsibility for ensuring gender balance in their respective departments and offices and should account for the manner in which they have carried out their responsibilities in an annual report submitted to the Secretary-General in April of each year; and department heads should inform the OHRM of every vacancy foreseen six months before the post becomes vacant and of all other vacancies as soon as they occur in order to ensure a timely search for female candidates.
Regarding retention of women, the report recommends that: gender sensitivity training needs be incorporated as a component of all existing training programmes; in recognition of the changes in family lives and the need for a supportive working environment for professional women, the United Nations should accelerate its initiatives, including a family/personal leave programme for women and men staff that would function within existing entitlements; Member States should be encouraged to review existing national legislation together with the Secretariat in order to allow United Nations spouses to work, so that conditions will be favourable to attracting and retaining the brightest and most competent staff members; and all gender-related grievances should be dealt with in a timely and effective manner. Women who have taken action to redress such issues as harassment, including sexual harassment, should not be negatively affected.
A note by the Secretary-General (document A/52/300) transmits a report on the activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women. The report describes initiatives of the Fund during 1996 and highlights UNIFEM's response to recommendations of external evaluation, including an overview of a new strategy and business plan. It also outlines follow-up activities on the Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women.
The report states that the Platform for Action gave UNIFEM new energy and direction. During 1996, UNIFEM shifted from a traditional, broad-based "grant" awarding organization into one providing strategic and technical know-how for gender-responsive development within the United Nations system, as well as with governments and women's organizations. The UNIFEM's new approach concentrates on strengthening women's economic capacity as
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entrepreneurs and producers, and engendering leadership to increase women's participation in decision-making, both in the home and in society. The approach also promotes recognition of women's rights and their ability to exercise those rights, particularly through elimination of violence against women. The overall approach is to facilitate women's full participation in their societies.
The report details strategies used by UNIFEM in promoting women's economic and political empowerment. The strategies centre on building network structures for bringing women's empowerment into the mainstream through economic and political support, and on documenting and disseminating information about best practices and lessons learned. In response to the 1996 external evaluation, the organization developed a strategy and business plan for 1997-2000 that focuses on increasing effectiveness in mainstreaming efforts to empower women globally.
Regarding UNIFEM's role in eliminating violence against women, a fund set up to be administered by UNIFEM had, by June, received $1.2 million in Government contributions from Australia, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mauritius and the Republic of Korea. The fund had disbursed money for 23 projects, such as educational campaigns, action-oriented research and violence against women migrant workers in countries across Africa, Asia and South America.
The Secretary-General's progress report on implementing the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/52/281) describes measures taken and progress made in the implementation of the Platform for Action at the international level. A major focus was on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system and on efforts to enhance the Organization's capacity to support the ongoing follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women.
According to the report, significant progress has been made in implementing the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, particularly in terms of mainstreaming a gender perspective by the three-tiered intergovernmental mechanisms and by the Secretariat and other entities of the United Nations system. The adoption by the Economic and Social Council of agreed conclusions 1997/1, on gender mainstreaming, stands out as the most comprehensive intergovernmental action to date on gender mainstreaming, the report states. It constitutes a firm basis from which to proceed expeditiously with concrete steps to achieve measurable progress in gender mainstreaming at all levels and in all areas. The Assembly may wish to take action on the recommendations submitted to it by the Council in the agreed conclusions.
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The Council's agreed conclusions encouraged the Assembly to direct all of its committees and bodies and draw the attention of other United Nations organizations to the need to mainstream a gender perspective systematically into all areas of their work, according to the report. The Council emphasized such areas as macroeconomic questions, operational activities for development, poverty eradication, human rights, humanitarian assistance, budgeting, disarmament, peace and security, and legal and political matters.
In addition, the Council recommended that all bodies dealing with programme and budgetary matters are called upon to ensure that all programmes visibly mainstream a gender perspective, the report states. The Secretariat is requested to present issues and approaches in a gender-sensitive manner when preparing reports, so as to provide the intergovernmental machinery with an analytical basis for gender-responsive policy formulation. The Secretary-General is encouraged to demand accountability from senior managers to realize gender mainstreaming. In addition, the agreed conclusions underline that the gender perspective should be systematically integrated in the ongoing United Nations reform process, including in the work of the executive committees.
Furthermore, the report states that the consideration by the Commission on the Status of Women of a synthesized report on national action plans in 1998 will provide a comprehensive assessment with regard to action at the national level. The synthesized report will also be a stepping stone for initiating the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Platform for Action, scheduled for 1999. The mid-term review of the system-wide medium-term plan on the advancement of women, 1996-2001, by the Commission and the Council in 1998, should accomplish the same purpose with regard to action within the United Nations system.
However, the report states that a broader assessment of and recommendations for further action at the national level remain to be made. Progress at the national level will be at the core of the Commission's discussion in 1999, on a priority basis, during the consideration of a critical area of concern -- institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women.
In another resolution, 1997/61, on integrated and coordinated implementation and follow-up of the major United Nations conferences and summits, the Economic and Social Council reaffirmed that system-wide gender mainstreaming must form an integral part in implementing decisions of recent United Nations conferences and summits. In a session planned for 1998, the Council is expected to build upon its agreed conclusions on gender mainstreaming, which would include efforts to enhance the dialogue between the Council, and its subsidiary bodies, and the funds, programmes and organizations of the United Nations system.
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The letter from the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, dated 19 March (document A/52/113), draws attention to documents issued at the Microcredit Summit held in Washington, D.C., from 2 to 4 February. Annexed to the letter are: the Declaration and Plan of Action; the Summit Communique; and the text of the message for the Summit from the Chairman of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China. The Preamble to the Declaration states that the purpose of the Summit was to launch a global movement to reach 100 million of the world's poorest families, especially the women of those families, with credit for self-employment and other financial and business services, by the year 2005.
A letter from Georgia to the Secretary-General on the policy of ethnic cleansing/genocide in Abkhazia (document A/52/116), requests international assistance in bringing to justice actions falling under the jurisdiction of an international court. The letter states that both international bodies and the Georgian State's Prosecutor's Office have concluded that genocide is being carried out by Abkhaz separatist forces against other ethic groups in Abkhazia, particularly the former Georgian majority. The Georgian population of Abkhazia has been reduced from over 45 per cent in 1992 to less than 30 per cent in 1997, the letter states, and it goes on to provide evidence for the genocide being planned for women, children and the elderly through such atrocities as massive and public rapes. The atrocities have continued despite condemnation, the letter concludes, and the Georgian Government thus requests assistance from the international community in two ways: first, an assessment mission in separatist-controlled Abhkazia; second, bringing to trial those guilty in accordance with international principles of due process.
ANGELA KING, Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, introduced the two agenda items on the advancement of women and the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women. She said that overall it had been a positive year for women and gender issues. The momentum created by the Beijing Conference had shown no sign of slowing down or "running out of steam".
The cost to society as a whole of neglecting women and girls was recognized by a growing number of States as too high to be paid, and as a violation of fundamental rights which was too blatant to be ignored. The international community must ensure an equal role for women in shaping the course of globalization. Women's equality contributed to economic growth, reduced fertility, lowered maternal mortality, increased child health and survival, and slowed population growth. Investing in women and girls was essential for reducing poverty and promoting growth, productivity and well- being for society as a whole.
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The achievement of gender equality was increasingly being pursued as an integral dimension of policy and decision-making in all areas, she said. The synergistic relationship between women's full enjoyment of all their human rights and the achievement of sustainable human development was being demonstrated through best practices and governmental experiences, the international community, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies.
She referred to massive human rights violations committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and said a recent round table had been organized as a "building block" to ensure that sexual violence would be given the same attention in future indictments in the case of the Rwanda Tribunal as had been the case in the Yugoslav Tribunal. On Afghanistan, she told the Committee that she was chairing an inter-agency task force on gender issues in that country, with the participation of all relevant United Nations entities. A gender mission was expected to go to Afghanistan as soon as the results of a strategic framework mission had been assessed.
Gender issues, she continued, could no longer be marginalized as special interest concerns of women and men, girls and boys, but must be addressed systematically and consistently, as an integral part of all policy-making. All actors, nationally and internationally, had to bear full responsibility for progress in reducing gender-based inequality and discrimination, and for increasing women's equal access to opportunities as well as goods and services. All ministries at the national level had that responsibility. Delegates in all the Assembly's Main Committees also had a responsibility to consider the impact of their policy decisions on women and men, and how those polices contributed to the goals of gender equality.
She said the United Nations system also had its responsibility, and she called on the current Assembly session to ensure that "deeds of shared responsibility follow its words". The Economic and Social Council had presented specific proposals for action on gender mainstreaming.
YAKIN ERTURK, Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), presented the report of the Institute, emphasizing that its research and training programmes were directly linked to major concerns of the international community as expressed in the plans and action programmes of United Nations conferences, particularly the Fourth World Conference on Women. For the period under review during 1996/1997, other conferences with whose aims the Institute had coordinated its own activities included the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the World Conference on Human Rights and the United Nations Inter-Agency meetings. The Institute's programme was developed under the guidance of its Board of Trustees in line with the system-wide medium-term plan for advancement of women 1996-2001. The INSTRAW's Board of Trustees
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attached particular importance to the expansion of the Institute's networking endeavours, and to cooperation initiatives within and outside the United Nations system, she said.
MAXINE OLSON, Deputy Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), introduced the report of the Fund's activities for the year. She said that the Fund had fulfilled the recommendations of the Fourth World Conference on Women within three thematic areas: strengthening women's economic capacity, engendering governance and leadership; and promoting women's rights while eliminating violence against them. Thus, in the last year, UNIFEM had assisted women in developing countries according to principles embodied in the Beijing Platform of Action. That had involved facilitating and supporting dialogue between governments, women's organizations and other groups in developing strategies, policies, legislation and plans for action at the national and regional levels.
She said a critical initiative at the global level had been the establishment of a world wide web site to strengthen advocacy around implementing the Platform of Action between UNIFEM, INSTRAW and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women was an acknowledgement of UNIFEM's unique contribution to the principle that violence against women was a universal obstacle to development and to the empowerment of women.
She said that as a result of the Beijing mandate, which recognized the Elimination of Discrimination against Women Convention as the "bill of rights" for women, UNIFEM had developed a new programmatic initiative to support efforts for ratifying the Convention, strengthening awareness in its use in advocacy work and collaborating with partners in the United Nations system to support its work and strengthen the Convention.
While progress had been made, much remained to be done. The UNIFEM would strengthen its work in the next period by working especially at the country level, so that the concept of empowerment moved from commitment to reality and where women controlled resources and influenced decision-making structures.
SYLVIE SCHOSSELER (Luxembourg), for the European Union, said full emancipation of women was far from achieved. The European Union welcomed numerous steps taken during the past year within the United Nations system for the advancement of women, such as efforts to mainstream a gender perspective into programmes and activities, and the additional meeting time accorded by the Committee on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women so that it could, for the first time, hold a second meeting in July. The European Union also urged States to drop reservations against the Convention and to integrate a gender perspective into
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the proceedings of the human rights treaty-monitoring bodies, as well as to attain equality between men and women in the various United Nations bodies.
She said responsibility for introducing equality between men and women was a joint responsibility to be shared between the sexes. Implementation of the Beijing Programme of Action required a major political commitment and involved a responsibility at the highest level. An effective follow-up to the action programme needed political and economic commitment to make available the human and financial resources at national and international levels. The responsibility lay mainly with national governments at all levels to introduce mechanisms for advancement of women and make existing mechanisms more effective.
Advancing the rights of women was a first priority for the European Union, she added. Non-governmental organizations in all countries had to play a vital role in raising awareness with regard to the advancement of women.
MAHMOUD H. JABIR (United Republic of Tanzania), for the Group of 77 and China, said that in the two years since the World Conference on Women it had been difficult for the Group of 77 countries to embark on full implementation, despite plans in place, and despite the fact that 70 per cent of the 1 billion poor people in the world were women. Their empowerment would be an important contribution towards eradication of poverty in the world, but the debt burden, coupled with the adverse effects of structural adjustment programmes prescribed for some countries, limited the capacity to provide basic needs such as education, nutrition and health, all areas where women and children were affected most.
He said another bottleneck facing the Group of 77 countries in implementing the Beijing Programme was the decline in resources from external sources. Official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries was on the decline and the agreed target of 0.7 percent of Gross national product (GNP) had been fulfilled by only a few nations. The twin processes of liberalization and globalization of the world economy were not benefiting the Group of 77 countries as envisaged, and women bore the brunt of the negative impact. There was an urgent need to redress the trend. The World Trade Organization (WTO) and related international organizations should take specific measures, such as long-term financial and technical support, transfer of technology and equitable trade regimes with developing countries, to mitigate adverse effects of the Uruguay Round Agreements.
Development could be achieved only through collective efforts, he concluded. If the international community was committed to promoting and protecting women's rights, efforts should not be spared to create an enabling economic environment to allow countries to meet their responsibility in advancing empowerment of women.
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PETER KASANDA (Zambia), for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that out of 1 billion people who lived in poverty, more than 60 per cent were women and 80 per cent of those women lived in rural areas of the developing world. Conditions were stacked against such women, whose illiteracy rose between 1970 and 1996 and who worked 13 hours a week more than men, with women being mostly unpaid. Women in Africa were disadvantaged by land tenure laws, cultural practices and conditions of life. If the United Nations was embarking on an ambitious programme of reform, the purpose of which was to make it more relevant, it should facilitate the advancement of women by concentrating its activities in the actual situation of women in the field.
The Secretary-General's reports were excellent, but they needed more details in terms of activities, human resources, finances and structural changes being made. Commending such steps as establishment of a Trust Fund by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for follow-up to major global conferences, he said it was obvious the United Nations entities were doing their fair share to empower women but challenges were formidable and much more needed to be done in basic areas. The United Nations should promote an intensified international effort to ensure the advancement of women, in which the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against women was a critical component.
MARTHA MORENO (Paraguay), speaking for the Rio Group, said the governments of those South American nations were developing strategies and plans of action to achieve the goals of the Beijing Platform of Action. The Commission on the Status of Women must have a catalyzing role in the integration of a gender perspective in international policies and programmes. It was important to stress the role of culture and education on the women in bringing up families in countries in the Rio Group.
She said issues related to traffic in women and girls, and violence against women migrant workers were on the Rio Group's public agenda. "The whip of violence, on top of being a violation of human rights, has a social ... and economic cost." The specific case of women migrant workers was of great concern to the States of the Rio Group. In August this year, the Summit meeting of those countries had emphasized the responsibility of the States of origin and the destiny of the migrant workers, as far as strengthening cooperation on migratory issues.
The leaders of the Group had also exhorted the international financial institutions to reinforce their support in the fight against poverty, by providing resources as well as technical assistance to national programmes. On the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she called on those countries that had not yet ratified it to do so,
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and reaffirmed her Government's commitment to the swift conclusion of negotiations on elaborating an optional protocol of the Convention.
Noting that government efforts alone could not accomplish all the goals of the Beijing Platform of Action, she said there was need for a joint effort of government as well as other sectors of the community, including local government and non-governmental organizations. She said the Group encouraged the appointment of women in high-level positions in the United Nations Secretariat and efforts to involve women in the vital areas of the Organization.
EVA HILDRUM (Norway) said there was a need to intensify a gender perspective within the area of human rights. Violence against women was a serious problem all over the world. The work of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women was welcomed. Her efforts had been valuable and had increased awareness of the problem in the United Nations as well as general international awareness. The Rapporteur's call for the international community to put pressure on national governments to eradicate violence against women was critical. She said the responsibility to improve the situation of women rested with the authorities. Data showed that 80 per cent of men receiving treatment for violence against women had not resorted to violence after therapy. She cited action taken in Norway for addressing domestic violence.
On the issue of trafficking of women, she said Norway supported the idea of a new European Convention on forced prostitution and trafficking in women. Such a legal instrument should encompass children and men. Trafficking and prostitution were often part of international organized crime and often connected to drug trafficking. Norway was co-sponsoring the draft resolution on traffic in women and girls. She called on all States with reservation to the Women's Anti-Discrimination Convention to reconsider those reservations and grant women their human rights.
ANTONIETA MONROY (Mexico) said timely follow-up to the measures adopted at Beijing was important, and her Government reiterated its commitment to the Beijing Platform of action. Its national plan for 1995 to 2000 contained a range of actions, including the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in national education, health and agricultural programmes. The central objective was the struggle against poverty, with special attention to the needs of women and girls. The improvement of the image of women in the media was also being pursued, to ensure that the messages on the role of women reflected women's value in the society. Indicators relating to the improvement of women's lives had also received attention.
She said the Mexican Government had also given special attention to eradicating violence against women. Training workshops for judges on
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elimination of violence and discrimination against women had been organized. It was important to incorporate a gender perspective in all activities of the United Nations system. It was important to strengthen programmes, training projects and consciousness-raising projects to ensure the mainstreaming of the gender perspective. Greater efforts should be made to ensure that the Assembly's assessment in the year 2000 was successful.
BEATRIX VAN KUILENBURG-LODDER (Netherlands) said the time had come to translate women's right to equal treatment -- which had been recognized on paper all over the world -- into active equal treatment. That could be done by looking more closely at three themes of the Commission on the Status of Women that required constant attention: women in power and decision-making; education and training; and women and the economy.
On women's influence on decision-making, she commended the United Nations for setting its own target of 50 per cent by the year 2000 in terms of equality for men and women. She said education, training and equal rights were linked. If the labour market were to function properly, it was essential to not neglect vocational education and lifelong learning, especially since an increasing number of women had become family breadwinners.
She said the influence of women in international organizations of economic significance, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and International Labour Organization (ILO) should be enhanced, and the recommendations of the Commission on the Status of Women should be implemented as soon as possible, to improve the position of women in the labour market.
In 1998, when the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was commemorated, a successful conclusion of negotiations on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was hoped for, with as many Member States as possible ratifying the Protocol, so that women all over the world could claim respect for their human rights in the new millennium.
NAGAKO SUGIMORI (Japan) said one of her country's most important achievements in the past year was the adoption of a national strategy for gender equality by the year 2000. The plan of action called for integrating the gender perspective in all policy areas; and it had numerous concrete measures and basic objectives, such as reviewing social systems and practices from the gender perspective, or promoting respect for human rights in media.
She said Japan was committed to strengthening cooperation with international and regional organizations, as well as national machineries of other countries and non-governmental organizations around the world. Modern issues, such as the unremunerated work of caregiving, had to be considered by the Commission on the Status of Women at its next meeting. Such issues had
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negative impacts on women in economic and social terms, such as women giving up education or career, or receiving insufficient social securities.
Violence against women was a major obstacle to the achievement of gender equality and full respect for the human rights of women, she added. She commended the work of UNIFEM in that area.
KABA CAMARA (Cote d'Ivoire) said she supported the statement of the United Republic of Tanzania. Activities undertaken by the United Nations for advancement of women were impressive, especially in terms of mainstreaming a gender perspective. However, the advancement of women had to be undertaken in a more concrete way, not by more studies.
It was important to give impetus to developing countries, most of which were in Africa, through concrete aid for such basic needs as health and education. Africa was lagging in resources and the United Nations had to face the issue of finances with regard to follow-up on global conferences.
The INSTRAW had carried out many important, interesting studies, she said, citing a study on the environment that had helped women to reduce their domestic tasks by teaching them, for example, about firewood. The ways and means for strengthening development bodies had to be studied, and programmes that helped women control their destinies had to be implemented. There was the political will in Africa for women to be on an equal footing with men, but the United Nations had to become more involved in making it possible though investments.
LI SANGU (China) said the Beijing Conference had been a success, since it established a milestone for the advancement of women throughout the world through the Platform of Action and the Beijing Declaration. During the last two years governments had made great efforts to implement the outcomes of the Conference. The United Nations agencies had also adopted relevant resolutions with specific measures and medium-term targets. The work of gender mainstreaming of all policies and programmes in the United Nations system was gradually getting on the right track. All those measures were contributing to the advancement of women worldwide.
However, there had been some setbacks, she said. The eradication of poverty had been one of the Conference's goals. Due to a serious shortage of funds, developing countries found it difficult to eliminate poverty through their own efforts. Only through the enhancement of international cooperation and the fulfilment of the 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in ODA would it be possible to achieve certain objectives to improve the lives of women in developing countries, especially in their fight against poverty, so that women would be empowered. The key to implementation of all follow-up work to the Conference was resources. The United Nations budget had run into
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difficulty. However, she hoped that sufficient human and financial resources would be allocated to ensure the implementation of the Platform of Action.
She said the Chinese Government had always attached great importance to the development of women, making equality between men and women a basic national policy for social development. High priority had been accorded to the follow-up to the outcomes of the Beijing Conference. Numerous measures were being promoted. Action had been taken to protect curb violence against women. In addition, China would cooperate internationally to ensure the advancement of women throughout the world.
AMINA Z. MESDOUA (Algeria) said the Beijing Conference had marked a turning point in the pursuit of development and equality for women. It was the culmination of a long process and established the importance of equality of men and women for improving all areas of life. It was important to ensure that essential changes were achieved by the year 2000, including the advancement of women; the eradication of poverty; an end to violence against women; the education of girls; and the financial independence of women.
She said it was important to act quickly to get results. Governments, as well as the United Nations, must play their part to improve the status of women worldwide. The mainstreaming of the gender perspective in all programmes and polices was necessary to improve international cooperation on issues related to women. United Nations bodies should have the resources to fulfil their roles. Resources were also required at the national level to ensure that efforts did not slow down.
She said Algeria intended to fulfil its obligations towards improving women's lives. A standing committee of concerned ministries and non- governmental organizations had been established, and also a national council of women. However, the efforts of Algerian women to achieve equality had been hampered by terrorism. In the past, they had shown their determination for freedom and independence and continued to do so. They had shown the will to resist terrorism which was a negation of the right to life. They would continue to do so. They needed solidarity on behalf of the principles and objectives of Beijing. Their struggle against terrorism and extremism was a struggle of women the world over. Therefore, all women must be united in such a struggle.
VLADIMIR SOTIROV (Bulgaria) said his Government had developed a plan of action in 1996 to implement the Beijing Platform of Action. The following priority areas were presently being implemented by Government agencies, with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations: promotion and protection of the human rights of women; improving the social and economic status of women; alleviation of poverty among women; promotion of women in decision-
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making at all levels and in all spheres of public and political life; and the elimination of all forms of violence against women.
The new Bulgarian Government, which took office in May, had invigorated the process of empowerment of women, he said. At present, at the executive level, 19 per cent of all cabinet ministers and 18 per cent of deputy ministers were women. In the judiciary, 24 per cent of the members of the Supreme Judicial Council and 53 per cent of the professional staff of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor were women. The complicated process of structural adjustment of the economy in his country relied to a significant extent on extensive cooperation with international organizations and on contributions for the effective implementation of the national plan of action.
KERSTIN TRONE, of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said a commitment to reproductive rights, gender equality and male responsibility underlay all UNFPA-assisted programmes, at all levels, whether in carrying out country-wide programmes or in collaborative arrangements. The focus was on four main areas; the promotion of reproductive rights and sexual health within the human rights framework; enhancement of adolescent reproductive health; promotion of gender equality, including empowerment of women; and strengthening the gender perspective in policies and programmes.
She gave details and examples of cooperative undertakings and follow-up activities, from increasing access to health care and improving education to providing protection from gender based violence. She noted the 1997 State of the World Population report devoted to the right to choose in both reproductive rights and reproductive health, a series of actions on issues related to female genital mutilation and a study undertaken with support from the Government of Denmark on sexual and reproductive behaviour in boys and men.
She said gender perspectives, concerns and issues were being incorporated into the Fund. A new conceptual framework and preliminary indicators on gender mainstreaming had been formulated, along with other innovations.
JULIET BOUVERIE, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that in relation to women in development, the Federation was strengthening support for projects in four main areas: sustainable income generation; training programmes in disaster preparedness; educational programmes on both literacy and rights; and health programmes. Citing programmes in those areas at both national and regional levels, she said the gender perspective introduced into all aspects of United Nations policies and programmes was important to the Federation programme.
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She said the Federation recognized that men and women had different needs and capacities, particularly in times of emergency. There was an increasing need for programmes to be gender-sensitive, especially in disaster relief operations. A global policy on gender integration needed to be developed, indicating what gender would mean to the Federation as a whole.
Such a global plan would require development of additional action plans and training modules to raise awareness of gender mainstreaming and accelerate the pace of change. More women had to be encouraged into positions of responsibility and more case studies had to be explored on how to incorporate a gender perspective into all types of Red Cross/Red Crescent operations, including those for women and girl refugees and women migrant workers, all benefiting from United Nations action in those areas.
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