06/11/2001
Press Release
GA/EF/2976



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

25th Meeting (PM)


ECONOMIC COMMITTEE IS TOLD FAR MORE WOMEN IN LABOUR FORCE,


BUT STILL AT DISADVANTAGE IN PAY, CONDITIONS


ILO Official Describes Inequality; Debate on Sustainable

Development, International Economic Cooperation Is Concluded


Despite the rapid rise in women’s labour force participation over the past two decades, women continued to occupy the lower and middle ranks of organizations, the representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon, as it concluded its consideration of sustainable development and international economic cooperation.


Women, she continued, had unequal access to training and promotion, encountered difficulty entering male-dominated professions, and were paid less than men for equal work.  To address those obstacles, it was vital to recognize that organizational practices were usually not gender neutral, but had largely been designed by men, for men and with organizational cultures which enshrined male values, for instance imposing a choice between career and family life.


The representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said that roughly two-thirds of the Fund’s projects had a rural finance component, which had generated a number of lessons related to the gender perspective on micro-finance.  For rural women, for example, access to simple financial services was more important than the level of interest paid for such services.  Hence, it was important to focus on building rural finance institutions, while trying to maximize the outreach of those institutions towards the poor. 


Statements were also made by the representatives of Bahrain and Indonesia.


Also this afternoon, the representative of the United States introduced a draft resolution on business and development.  The representative of Iran, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced draft resolutions on International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and the further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. 


The next meeting of the Committee will be announced in the Journal


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this afternoon to continue its discussion of sustainable development and international economic cooperation.  (For background information see Press Release GA/EF/2975 of today’s date.)


The Committee was also expected to hear the introduction of the following draft resolutions:


A draft resolution on international strategy for disaster reduction (A/C.2/56/L.15) is sponsored by Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and Mexico.  It would have the Assembly decide that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Disaster Reduction should be modified in order to provide for the increased participation, on a permanent basis, of regional intergovernmental organizations as well as to ensure the continued membership of the key United Nations agencies.  The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to allocate adequate financial and administrative resources for the effective functioning of the Task Force.


Also, the Assembly would call upon Governments to establish national platforms or focal points for disaster reduction, and would urge the United Nations system to provide appropriate support for those mechanisms.  It would also invite the Secretary-General to strengthen the regional outreach of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction secretariat in order to ensure appropriate United Nations system support for those mechanisms.


By the draft, the Assembly would also urge the international community to increase financial contributions to the Trust Fund for the Strategy and to provide adequate scientific, technical, human and other resources to ensure adequate support for it.  It would also decide to maintain the annual observance of the International Day of Natural Disaster Reduction on the second Wednesday of October, as a vehicle to promote a global culture of natural disaster reduction, including prevention, mitigation and preparedness.


Also before the Committee was a draft resolution on the further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (A/C.2/56/L.16) sponsored by Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China.  By the draft, the Assembly would call upon donors, as well as all relevant organs and agencies of the United Nations and other regional international organizations, to support the interregional preparatory meeting of small island developing States to be held in preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development.


In addition, the Assembly would urge all relevant organizations, in particular the Committee for Development Policy, to finalize as a matter of urgency work on the development of a vulnerability index to assist affected developing countries, and small island developing States in particular, in bringing resolution to their concerns.  It would also call on the Secretary-General to consider further ways and means of increasing and improving the United Nations system-wide coordination and dissemination of information on activities in support of small island developing States and the Programme of Action, through the Small Island Developing States Unit, including an inter-agency task force to carry out those tasks.


The Committee also had before it a draft resolution on implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa (A/C.2/56/L.17) sponsored by Iran, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China.  By that draft the Assembly would invite the World Summit on Sustainable Development to take into account, in the course of its deliberations, during the preparatory process and the Summit itself, the challenges of and opportunities for combating desertification, controlling land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought in affected developing countries.


The Committee also had before it a draft on business and development (A/C.2/56/L.18), sponsored by the United States.  By it, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General, in cooperation with relevant United Nations organizations, to submit to it at its fifty-seventh session a follow-up report on the continuing implementation of resolution 54/204.  By that resolution, the Assembly decided to continue its debate on business and development, focusing on the areas of partnerships between governments and private sector, fostering an environment conducive to business, and socially responsible ways to conduct business.


Statements


VERA WEILL-HALLE, Director, North American Liaison Office, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that roughly two-thirds of IFAD’s projects had a rural finance component.  That experience had generated a number of lessons related to the gender perspective on micro-finance.  First, for poor rural women, sustainable access to simple financial services was more important than the level of interest paid for such services.  Hence, it was important to focus on building sustainable rural finance institutions, while trying to maximize the outreach of those institutions towards the poor. 


Secondly, decisions on the owner and user-composition of micro-finance institutions were best left to the people themselves, she said.  In addition, the challenge was to make such institutions more gender-sensitive in terms of the type of financial products and services they offered, as well as their modus operandi. Also, it was necessary to provide business development services specifically for women entrepreneurs. 


Lastly, she continued, in countries where a wealth of rural finance initiatives had been developed, it might be useful to elaborate national policies and strategies on financial services for the rural poor, both women and men.  Such strategies could help create an enabling environment for the provision of finance services for the poor. 


RHITU SIDDHARTH, International Labor Organization (ILO), said that one striking feature in the trend of micro and small enterprise development was the significant rise, especially in the past decade, in the number of women entrepreneurs.  In many countries, women entrepreneurs had to contend with policy, regulatory and institutional environments which were unfriendly and had a bias against small enterprises.  They also faced obstacles and barriers simply because they were women.  However, more and more women were owners or managers of small modern enterprises in less traditional sectors, which had a high potential for growth.


She added that women continued to occupy the lower and middle ranks of organizations, to have unequal access to training and promotion, to encounter difficulty entering male-dominated professions, and were to be paid less than men for equal work.  That continued, despite the rapid rise in the women’s labour force participation over the past two decades.  To address those obstacles, it was vital to recognize that organizational practices were usually not gender neutral, but had largely been designed by men and for men, with organizational cultures which enshrined male values, for instance imposing a choice between career and family life.  Achieving gender equity required a cultural shift to eliminate the bias and prejudice inherent in the system.


ALI AL-KHAL (Bahrain) said his country, over the past decades, had adopted legislation for the development of women in the areas of civil rights and job security.  Laws had also been focused on such issues as the possession of assets, the administration of those assets, and access to health care and social security services.  Women were also encouraged to take part effectively in the life of the society and play an important role in social and economic affairs as well as in strengthening the basic unit of society, which was the family.  Women participated in government -- as delegates, participants and members of various institutions.  Women also hold high positions in ministries. 


The world today was undergoing fundamental changes, he said.  That led to changes in the labor market and required greater attention to be placed on the development of human resources.  In that regard, there was a real need to change educational policies.  Bahrain had stepped up efforts to encourage national and foreign investment in human resources.  Such efforts were needed to accelerate development for a better future.


FAISHA SOEFTENDY (Indonesia) said it was now over two decades since the topic came under discussion in the Second Committee.  Those discussions had found that the mobilization of women was a critical means for developing society in general.  The issue was also addressed in the Beijing Platform of Action of 1995.  As a result of those efforts, the number of women-owned businesses had increased worldwide, contributing to the general well being of countries.  Constraints on women and development had been aggravated by the steep recent downturn in economic activity.  Women and children suffered the impact of such economic problems in a disproportionate manner.  To minimize negative impacts of such factors, women must be given access to vital services such as credit at macro and micro levels, education at all levels, and administrative and managerial positions.


The high level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation development was a useful exercise that should be continued, she said.  It should address the digital divide and other topics facing developing countries.  States should propose meaningful proposals and themes in a timely manner for discussion at the next dialogue.   


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The Committee then heard the introduction of the following draft resolutions.


HERBERT TRAUB (United States) introduced the draft resolution on business and development.


HOSSEIN MOEINI MEYBODI (Iran) on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, introduced the draft resolution on international strategy for disaster reduction.


He also introduced the draft resolution on implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in those countries experiencing serious drought and/or desertification, particularly in Africa, as orally amended.


Following that, he introduced the draft resolution on the further implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, as orally amended.


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