09/10/2002
Press Release
GA/SHC/3696



Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

12th and 13th Meetings (AM & PM)


WOMEN’S VOICES, PERSPECTIVES MUST BE AT HEART OF EFFORTS TO CRAFT VISION


OF HUMAN SECURITY, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE ON WOMEN OPENS


As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) opened its annual debate on matters related to the advancement of women, the Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) underscored that women's voices, perspectives and contributions must be at the heart of efforts to craft a vision of human security, build a global dialogue for peace and generate alternatives to war and violence.


Noeleen Heyzer said in an increasingly interconnected world, permeated now with so much fear and violence, "the common values and ethics we develop to guide our interactions with each other are the best and perhaps only guarantors of human security."  In times of global crisis, the United Nations was one of the few spaces where the world community could use dialogue and negotiation to build understanding and hold each other to commitments.  So, if more was not done to improve accountability and action to implement commitments for the real empowerment of women, “the last decade could become the lost decade.”


Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, led a three-part introduction of the relevant reports before the Committee.  She said the reports highlighted work done by governments, the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations to draw attention to the links between gender and development as a major force in the outcomes of the recent international conferences.  Promotion of gender equality must be undertaken not only as a targeted activity, but as an integral part of all efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Commitments to gender mainstreaming were a critical basis and an essential entry point for enhanced attention to the gender perspectives in sectoral areas.


Ms. Hannan also expressed concern about the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), which was reiterated when the Institute's Interim Manager/Director addressed the Committee.  Saviri Butchey said despite the difficult situation in which the Institute had found itself, it had been able to develop, test and make functional networking and information dissemination aspects of its new working methodology based on the Gender Awareness Information and Networking System (GAINS).  But the scope and impact of its work were contingent on institutional stability, including sufficient staffing and financial resources.


Also this morning, Charlotte Abaka, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), updated the Committee on the


current status of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  There were 170 States parties -- the most recent ratification being Bahrain.  Forty-four States were parties to the Optional Protocol, and     75 had signed it.  Only one State had opted out of the inquiry procedure.  She added that several members of the monitoring body had participated in technical assistance activities on the Convention in Albania, Kosovo, Tajikistan, South-East Asia and in the North Pacific during recent months.


In the general debate on the advancement of women, several speakers over two meetings today stressed that gender equality was an essential element, and a prerequisite, for the realization of social and people-centred sustainable development.  Other speakers agreed that the empowering of women or lack thereof was directly linked to poverty.  However, they stressed that the persistence of poverty contributed to the failure of some governments to address the problems of women. 


In addition to discrimination and widening disparities in employment, education and health services, it was also felt that women suffered from the effects of armed conflict, foreign occupation and terrorism.  Without the elimination of poverty and the containment of conflicts, it would be difficult to significantly improve their status, they said.  Several delegations also expressed concern for the situation of women and girls in the occupied Palestinian territories, while others highlighted the limited but welcome progress in social conditions for women in Afghanistan. 


Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Venezuela and Spain along with the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Interim Manager/Director of INSTRAW.


Representatives of the following countries addressed the Committee on the advancement of women:  Denmark (on behalf of the European Union); Costa Rica (on behalf of the Rio Group); China; Japan; Brazil; Egypt; Cuba; Norway; United States; Iran; United Arab Emirates; Ukraine; Sudan; Israel; Djibouti; Venezuela (on behalf of the Group of 77 and China); Dominican Republic; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Malawi (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community); Qatar; Yemen; Malaysia; Congo; Lebanon; and Afghanistan.


The Committee will reconvene 10 October at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of matters related to the advancement of women. 


Background


Having thus far considered items on crime prevention and international drug control, as well as matters related to social development, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its 2002 substantive session this morning by taking up issues related to the advancement of women.  It was also expected to hold a dialogue with top officials from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Division for the Advancement of Women.


The Committee will have before it a number of documents, including on the situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), the reports of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and on the activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).


The Committee will consider the Secretary-General's note on the situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/57/129-E/2002/77), which updates information on the implementation of the Institute's work programme and on managerial and financial matters.  It also describes the current status of the working group to be formed in accordance with Assembly resolution 56/125.  That group would be composed of two governmental representatives from each of the five regional groups and one representative of the host country.  It aims to make recommendations to the Assembly, for consideration by the end of 2002, on the full operation of the Institute.


The report notes that during the past year, the Institute has been working on the implementation of phases III and IV of its Gender Awareness Information and Networking System (GAINS).  The basic structure and the navigation of the GAINS Web site are nearing finalization.  After pilot testing, the project on men's roles in ending gender-based violence was completed, resulting in a new INSTRAW publication, Partnerships for Change in Ending Gender-Based Violence.  According to the report, the Institute has also initiated a collaborative research project on gender and information communication technologies, which will be concluded in the third quarter of 2002.


Further to the report, two more research projects currently in the pipeline for implementation in the third and fourth quarters of 2002 deal with the gender dimensions of environment and sustainable development and men's roles in reproductive health care.  In August 2001, the Office of Integral Oversights Services conducted an audit of the operations and financial management of the Institute, and, in view of the pressing need to correct the anomalies that review brought to light, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs sent an internal evaluation mission to INSTRAW in September 2001, which confirmed those findings.  The report notes that despite the Institute’s efforts to implement its modest but relevant work programme, financial and institutional difficulties persist. 


Before the Committee there is a note by the Secretary-General on Activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (document A/57/125).  The report provides a review and update of the programme and activities of UNIFEM for the year 2001.  The 2001 UNIFEM activities report demonstrates that UNIFEM is bringing its years of experience in advocacy, building partnerships, capacity-building, piloting innovative projects and increasing knowledge about women's leadership and rights to the support of positive change in women's lives.  The report also makes recommendation on how UNIFEM programmes can be further strengthened.


In the recommendations, the UNIFEM Consultative Committee, comprising five Member States representing regional groups, noted the growing gap between an  ever-increasing volume of grant requests submitted to the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women each year and the Trust Fund's relatively constant annual resource base.  In this regard, the Committee encouraged UNIFEM to strengthen fund-raising strategies for the Trust Fund, in particular to designate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women as the day for making specific appeals to Member States and other contributors to increase their pledges.


The Consultative Committee encouraged close collaboration between UNIFEM and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in working towards the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring the achievement of gender equality as a goal in its own right.  The Consultative Committee further encouraged UNIFEM to build on the Gender Adviser assessment by undertaking a more comprehensive assessment to map the role of Gender Advisers, inter-agency thematic groups and other mechanisms, and identify staffing requirements to maximize the gender expertise that is available to the resident coordinator system.


There is also report of the Secretary-General on working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour (document A/57/169) which provides information on measures taken by Member States and activities within the United Nations system on working towards the elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour.  The measures reported by Member States and regional organizations include:  legal provisions and related occurrences; programmes, policy and awareness-raising; relevant resolution; and comments from the Council of Europe.  Action taken within the United Nations system includes initiatives of the General Assembly, human rights treaty bodies and the Commission on Human Rights.


The report concludes that attention has been drawn, particularly in recent years, to the issue of crimes against women committed in the name of honour at the international and national levels, however, the elimination of those acts requires greater and concerted efforts.  All forms of violence against women and girls committed in the name of honour should be criminalized, and those deliberately participating in, facilitating, encouraging or threatening violence against women and girls in the name of honour should be penalized.  All reports of violence against women committed in the name of honour should be promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated, documented and effectively prosecuted.


In countries with immigrant communities, protection should be given to victims and potential victims in connection with asylum and immigration procedures.  Special training and resources should be provided to law enforcement and other relevant personnel, including judges and legal personnel, in order to impartially and effectively address complaints of violence against women.  It is added that awareness-raising, information and education campaigns are crucial to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls committed in the name of honour.


Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on trafficking in women and girls (document A/57/170) based on replies to a request of the Secretary-General for information circulated to Member States, United Nations system organizations and other organizations on measures to combat trafficking in women and girls.  The report provides information on measures taken at the national level and within the United Nations system, as well as activities of entities within the United Nations system and other international bodies and makes recommendations for future action.


The report concludes that despite the action taken at the national, regional and international levels on the issue of trafficking in persons, particularly in women and girls, and on sexual exploitation of women and girls, there is still much to be done by governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, civil society and academic institutions.  A comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach towards prevention is required.


Preventive measures, particularly legal provisions, and measures to ensure adequate protection, support and assistance to the victims of trafficking are necessary.  Programmes and policies aimed at assisting the victims of traffickers should include training for police officers, government officials and customs and border police.  International, regional, subregional and bilateral agreements should be elaborated so as to ensure and facilitate the prosecution of offenders, irrespective of nationality and location.  States should also consider measures to facilitate the prosecution of traffickers who may operate from abroad.


The Committee will also consider the report of the Secretary-General on the elimination of all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000:  gender-equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century” (document A/57/171) which provides information on the legal, policy and programmatic measures introduced by Member States and activities within the United Nations system to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the outcome document of the twenty-third session of the General Assembly.


The report concludes that the evaluation of existing legislation from a gender-sensitive perspective and its impact need priority attention.  Also policies, programmes and research activities need to be assessed, and the establishment or strengthening of monitoring and implementation mechanisms continue to require priority attention and dedicated action.  Measurable action plans for the short, medium and long term are crucial.  Information and coordinated analysis of all aspects of the issue, including the positive developments and remaining obstacles, are needed.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to and progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/57/286).  The report reviews steps taken by the General Assembly and its main committees during its fifty-sixth session to promote the achievement of gender equality through the gender mainstreaming strategy.  Particular focus is placed on actions taken in relation to the follow-up to the United Nations Millennium Declaration and at major events during the past year, namely the International Conference on Financing for Development, the special session of the General Assembly on children and the Second World Assembly on Ageing. 


An assessment of the work of the Economic and Social Council is also provided.  Finally the report discussed the catalytic role of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women of the United Nations Secretariat in support of mainstreaming gender perspectives into all policies and programmes of the United Nations.  The report suggests that the General Assembly may also wish to request the Secretary-General to ensure that annual and quinquennial follow-up reports to the Millennium Declaration assess progress in promoting gender equality in relation to other development goals of the Declaration.  To that end, the measurement and coverage of indicators should be improved so that progress can be monitored over time.


The report also suggests that the General Assembly call for increased attention to gender perspectives in the follow-up to and reporting on the Monterrey Consensus, as well as in the work of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial).  It may also wish to encourage systematic attention to gender perspectives in the preparatory process for and outcome of the World Summit on the Information Society.  In light of the emphasis on gender perspectives contained in the Millennium Declaration and in order to support gender-sensitive policy formulation, the Assembly could call on the Secretary-General to integrate gender perspectives in reporting to the Assembly.


There is a report of the Working Group on the future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (document A/57/330) which covers assessments, options for the future operation of the Institute, main issues regarding the future of the Institute and recommendations.  The Working Group recommends the linking of INSTRAW to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, under the direct authority of the Under-Secretary-General.


In this connection, the following measures are encouraged:  allocating an amount of U.S. $500,000 from the regular budget of the United Nations to finance the core activities of the Institute, so as to give it the same status as other United Nations institutes; maintaining the Institute's location in the Dominican Republic; examining the feasibility of establishing an advisory board composed of Member States to replace the Board of Trustees; and creating the post of Deputy Director with specific fund-raising responsibilities.  The Working Group also requests the Secretary-General to appoint a Director to be based at INSTRAW headquarters in the Dominican Republic.  Finally, the Group calls upon INSTRAW to take concrete measures to revitalize its activities and to work closely and in a coordinate manner with other United Nations bodies working in the field of the advancement of women and gender equality.


Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/57/406) which also provides information of the Status of the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  The report covers the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, specifically its capacity to fulfil its mandate and its working methods.  The report covers the efforts made to encourage universal ratification of the Convention and its Optional Protocol, as well as technical assistance provided to States parties.  The dissemination of the Convention, its Optional Protocol and information on the work of the Committee are also covered in the report of the Secretary-General.


The Committee will also have before it the first of a series of reports on the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/57/38 Part I) which highlights the work of that Committee and lists its findings on the periodic reports it reviewed on compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.


According to the report, the Committee, in the first half of the year, examined:  the initial periodic report of Fiji; the combined initial, second and third reports of Estonia and Trinidad and Tobago; the combined second and third reports of Uruguay; the combined third and fourth reports of Iceland and Sri Lanka; the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Portugal; and the fifth report of the Russian Federation.


Introductory Statements


CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the advancement of women on behalf of Angela King, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.  Over the past year, a number of international conferences, special sessions and summits had provided the opportunity for significant attention to the concerns of women and the promotion of gender equality.  Governments, representative of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations had mobilized during the preparatory processes to highlight relevant gender perspectives and to link the achievement of gender-equality with the achievement of the goals of conferences, summits and special sessions.


Those advances were important in relation to the achievement of the Millennium Development goals, she said.  Promotion of gender equality must be undertaken not only as a targeted activity, but also as an integral part of all efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Intergovernmental commitments to gender mainstreaming were a critical basis and an essential entry point for enhanced attention to the gender perspectives in sectoral areas.  These commitments must facilitate effective integration of gender-perspectives in all follow-up activities at national, regional and global levels. 


Concerning various aspects of violence against women, crimes committed in the name of honour, and trafficking against women and girls, she stressed the need for the involvement of a whole range of institutions.  The criminal justice system, human rights institutions and mechanisms, social service providers, the legislature and other bodies were called upon to respond to the threats faced by women.  A focus on violence against women as a particular concern of women could provide an important entry point and key learning experience for such institutions to expand attention to gender perspectives into all areas of their work.


Finally, she said the critical situation of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) had been a matter of the Committee's concern for some time.  Based on a decision of the General Assembly last year, a working group on the future operation of the Institute had been constituted and had met in July and August.  She expressed appreciation to the members of the working group for their thorough consideration of all aspects and possible options for the future operation of the Institute and for their recommendations.  She stressed that an effectively revitalized Institute, provided with the enough financial and human resources, could potentially make a valuable and substantive contribution to the advancement of women.

SAVIRI BUTCHEY, Interim Manager/Director of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said despite the difficult situation in which the Institute had found itself over the past few years, it had been able to develop, test and make functional networking and information dissemination aspects of its new working methodology based on the Gender Awareness Information and Networking System (GAINS).  Through that system, the Institute was positioning itself as a global clearinghouse through which the gender research and training community was channeling knowledge, concerns and experience to the United Nations system as well as the wider international community.  The Institute's restructured Web site, now available in English, as well as French and Spanish, attested to that achievement. 


Highlighting the work of the Institute throughout the year, she said it had been able to address a number of priority issues and produce timely research outputs in several areas, including on the situation of older women, and strategies to combat violence against women.  It had also organized a discussion Forum on an Overview Paper on problems and issues related to violence against older women.  In anticipation of the future themes of the of the Committee on the Status of Women, as well as the forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society, the Institute's 2002 work programme addressed gender aspects of access and use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and its impact on women's empowerment.


She said the Institute was solidly committed to continuing its research and training on the critical issues that impinged on the advancement of women and on the attainment of gender equality.  Therefore, pending the availability of resources, the Institute would continue to build upon the strategic thematic focus of this and past years.  Despite the Institute's commitment to work for the advancement of women, the scope and impact of that work were contingent on institutional stability, including sufficient staffing and financial resources.  She hoped that the current session of the General Assembly would come up with innovative solutions to the existing problems affecting the Institute's optimal functioning. 


Interactive Dialogue


In a subsequent segment of interactive dialogue, the representative of Venezuela said with regard to the recommendations of the Working Group on the future of INSTRAW that the problem was not only a lack of financial stability.  That view could be understood; however, that was not the spirit in which the Working Group had made its recommendation.  INSTRAW suffered both form financial and institutional instability.  


The representative of Spain echoed the view of Venezuela on the recommendation and the work of the working group.  Spain, as Chair of the working group, respected the view of the Secretariat.  However, Member States would ultimately be deciding on the future of INSTRAW.


Ms. Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, again expressed appreciation of the work of the Working Group.  The issue of resources remained critical.  But, in essence, there was no contradiction between the view of the Secretariat and the view of the Working Group.


Ms. Butchey (INSTRAW) added that she understood and took the recommendations of the working group seriously.  However, the programmatic planning for next year must be based on the availability of resources.


CHARLOTTE ABAKA, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, gave delegations an overview of the Committee's work throughout the year.  She said the 23-member expert body, charged with monitoring compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, had made significant progress on its heavy workload last year.  Updating the Committee on the current status of the Convention, she said there were 170 States parties to that instrument, and the most recent ratification had been that of Bahrain last June.  Forty-four of those States were parties to the Optional Protocol, with another 75 States having signed it.  Of those, only one had opted out of the inquiry procedure established under that Protocol's article 8.


She said the Committee had held three sessions in 2002 -- its two regular sessions in January and June, and an exceptional session in August.  That exceptional session had been convened solely for the consideration of the Committee's backlog of reports.  In holding those three sessions, the Committee had been able to consider 31 reports submitted by 26 States parties and, as a result, its backlog had almost been cleared.  In addition to reviewing reports and adopting concluding comments on the implementation of the Convention, at its twenty-sixth session, the Committee had drafted a statement of solidarity with Afghan women, and two statements to serve as a contribution to the preparatory process for the Second World Assembly on Ageing, held in Madrid last May, and the Johannesburg Summit on Social Development, held in August.


Regarding periodic reports yet to be submitted, she said that, as of 31 August 2002, there were 264 overdue reports, of which 45 were initial reports,  63 were second, 56 were third, 49 were fourth and 51 were fifth periodic reports.  In that regard, she drew States parties' attention to the Committee's decision 23/II, which invited such parties with overdue reports to combine them in a single document.  She also reminded States Parties of the possibility of the provision of technical assistance available through the Division for the Advancement of Women for the fulfilment of their obligations.  She added that the members of the Committee were happy to make themselves available for national level activities on the Convention.  They participated in technical assistance activities organized by the Women's Division and other parts of the United Nations system.  In the past months, members had participated in such activities in Albania, Kosovo, Tajikistan, South-East Asia and the North Pacific.


ELLEN MARGRETHE LØJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, stressed that gender equality was an essential element for the realization of social and people-centred sustainable development.  However, gender inequality was a major obstacle for the eradication of poverty.  The European Union supported the empowerment of women through the implementation of policies and programmes aimed at increasing women’s skills, capacities and opportunities.  Such policies and programmes enabled women to become agents of their own development and empowerment within societies, and contributors to the economic and social development of societies at large. 


The European Union paid special attention to the situation of women and girls in armed conflict since they were particularly affected because of their sex and social status.  Security Council resolution 1325/2000 was a landmark resolution, which had contributed significantly to a number of positive developments concerning gender aspects of conflicts and peace efforts.  More needed to be done, however, to ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.  Likewise, a gender perspective must also be incorporated in all mandates for peacekeeping operations as well as distinct expert responsibilities for gender mainstreaming. 


Violence against women was a crime and a major obstacle to achieving gender equality, she said.  Violence against women both violated and impaired or nullified the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Governments must prosecute and punish perpetrators and ensure that women victims of violence had access to adequate support services.  The European Union condemned trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual or economic exploitation.  Given the many different underlying causes of this phenomenon, joint efforts including trans-border cooperation and multi-professional approaches were essential in combating the problem.  


The European Union believed that in the field of health care, inequality and poverty prevented women and girls from enjoying their right to benefit from the highest possible level of both physical and mental health.  Efforts must be intensified to ensure the universal access to essential health care services.  In this connection, the European Union underlined the importance it attached to the activities of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) as a major contribution to solving the problems raised by population growth and reproductive health in developing countries. 


BRUNO STAGNO (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela), said that although progress had been made in some areas, there were many challenges pending.  Each time the commitments undertaken in Beijing were reviewed, one realized that situations persisted that placed women in a disadvantaged position and that frequently their human rights were not respected.  Poverty jeopardized fundamental human rights and defiled human dignity.  The Rio Group had, therefore, agreed to continue promoting, as a governmental priority, public policies that strengthened the individual capabilities of family members and to continue implementing strategies to combat poverty and its marginalizing effects. 


The Rio Group reaffirmed the need to incorporate the gender perspective in the design and implementation of their public policies, as well as in their efforts to attain economic and social development and eradicate poverty.  He reiterated the need to broaden the exchange of experiences, information and programmes in this field, appreciating the role of women in all areas. 


One of the most difficult areas of concern to the Rio Group was that of HIV and the AIDS pandemic.  AIDS had been recognized as one of the major obstacles to the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and its Platform of Action.  He emphasized that this pandemic, due to its economic and development implications as well as its close relations with human rights, had become an urgent matter for foreign policy.  AIDS threatened decades of hard-won progress and it stretched beyond the means and capabilities of the nations affected. 


Finally, the Rio Group expressed its support for the preservation, reorganization and renewal of INSTRAW, which was the only Institution of the United Nations exclusively dedicated to research, training and information on gender and one of the three United Nations institutions located in the developing world. 


ZHANG MEIFANG (China) said that since the General Assembly special session on Women in 2000, the United Nations had been paying attention to the issue of women in a more practical and in-depth way.  Last March, the Commission on the Status of Women had held dynamic discussions on two thematic issues -- poverty eradication and environmental management.  Delegates had stressed that eradicating poverty among women was an important task for sustainable development and that environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters represented a fundamental guarantee for sustainable development.  Women had been playing an irreplaceable role in disaster mitigation, post-disaster rehabilitation and management of natural resources, she said.


As pointed out in the Secretary-General’s report on the subject, violence against and trafficking in women and girls was still rampant.  The international community must enhance legal systems to prevent and prohibit all forms of violence and crimes against women.  The Chinese delegation believed that the international community must make further efforts at law enforcement and monitoring, and fight against all crimes violating the rights of women and girls. 


She stressed that the Chinese Government attached great importance to the protection of women’s personal freedom and health.  Remarkable progress had been achieved.  At the same time, China had set up an effective management system integrating crackdown, prevention and education, so as to tackle the root causes of this issue.  China was a developing country with a population of 1.3 billion, half of which were women.  The advancement of women was therefore a priority for the Government. 


KAY FUSANO (Japan) said her country believed that real gender equality would only be achieved when societies were created and developed in which individuals, regardless of sex, were allowed to fully demonstrate their abilities and personalities and pursue their ideal lifestyles based upon respect for fundamental human rights.  The Japanese Government had accordingly made a range of efforts towards the implementation of the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Convention, the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of "Women 2000".  Many of those efforts focused on empowerment of women, protection and promotion of the rights of women and meeting their special needs, and participation of women in decision-making.


In order to empower individual women and enable them to draw on their hidden potential, she said capacity-building and education were crucial.  The "Koizumi Initiative" envisioned the importance of human resources development for sustainable development with an emphasis on health, education and gender perspectives.  That initiative was committed to providing some $2 billion over the next five years for education assistance in low-income countries.  The women of Afghanistan were a prime example of women who needed special protection and assistance.  To that end, last February, Japan had set up an Advisory Council on Assistance to Women in Afghanistan, consisting of independent experts on gender issues.


To facilitate social reintegration, capacity-building, and the repatriation of displaced and refugee women, Japan was considering funding a UNIFEM project to set up eight women's community centres in Afghanistan, through the Trust Fund for Human Society.  She said it was also important to respond to the needs of women affected by HIV/AIDS and violence.  On the promotion of women in decision-making, particularly in the public sector, Japan had recognized that was key to integrating gender perspectives into national policies.  Thanks to persistent efforts, the number of women in policy-making positions was steadily increasing in all legislative, administrative and judiciary bodies.


FERNANDO COIMBRA (Brazil) said a number of significant initiatives had taken place in Brazil to further promote the advancement of women.  In its efforts to promote gender equality, the Brazilian Government had striven to ensure the full enjoyment by women of their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.  Ongoing programmes aimed at reducing poverty, promoting health, providing education and vocational training and combating violence and all forms of discrimination against women, adolescents and girls.  One of the most recent developments in Brazil was the establishment in May of the Secretariat of State for the Rights of Women.  This was a Cabinet-level Office whose main objective included preventing violence against women and promoting the empowerment of women through increased participation in the political arena and in the labour force.


Another important achievement was the adoption last January of the New Civil Code, putting an end to a prolonged debate involving all interested sectors of society.  This legal instrument would bring significant changes, such as the recognition of the full equality between husband and wife, through the suppression of previous dispositions such as the “prerogative of the father”, which in the near future would be recognized as the “prerogative of the family”. 


Brazil continued to give high priority to the implementation of strategies aimed at the eradication of poverty that focused, in particular, on the female population.  He added that action was also being taken to eliminate violence against women.  Public policies continued to be implemented to treat women victims of domestic violence through such institutions as specific police precincts for the care of women and shelters, as well as public information campaigns.  A comprehensive set of strategies was in place to combat violence against women, and more than three million individuals had benefited from these programmes.


HAZEM FAHMY(Egypt)said his country sincerely believed that the advancement of women was one of the prerequisites for achieving a balanced and truly equal and equitable society.  The Egyptian Constitution recognized equality between the sexes.  The country had undertaken a number of historic measures to ensure the promotion and protection of the rights of women, the most important of which was perhaps the law which accorded women the right to divorce and separate from their husbands.  That law spoke to a dramatic social and cultural shift and highlighted her country's desire to ensure the empowerment of all women.


He went on to say that the National Council of Women had been established in July 2000.  That body consisted of high-profile regional personalities and generally worked to raise awareness of issues related to the advancement of women in Egypt and beyond.  Among its important goals were proposing and developing policies aimed at empowering women as well as assisting and guiding civil society organizations concerned with women's affairs.  The Council also represented Egypt at international meetings and in other international forums.  It also emphasized the necessity of implementing the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Convention.


He said Egypt last year had hosted a major conference in preparation for the upcoming 2004 international conference on women and peace.  Participants at that preparatory meeting had recognized women as being an effective and necessary element in peace-building and post-conflict situations.  His delegation applauded the efforts undertaken by the United Nations system, as noted in the reports before the Committee, on violence, trafficking in women and girls, and honour crimes.  He hoped that in the future the reports would provide even more detailed data on the extent to which those phenomena had spread, as well as on their cause and impact.


ANA TERESITA GONZÁLEZ FRAGA (Cuba) said the majority of Member States were parties to instruments that promoted equality between men and women.  However, discrimination persisted throughout the world, in both developed and developing countries.  Women in developing countries were not only threatened by discrimination, but also their very basic human right to life was challenged.  The right to life was challenged as a result of poverty.  The persistence of foreign debt and the irrational neo-liberal policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and its structural adjustment programmes explained the persistence of poverty in developing countries.


It was a great challenge to the United Nations to implement the strategies agreed upon in Beijing.  However, resources needed to be made available, nationally and internationally.  It had been believed that when the cold war was over, all capital that had been used for the arms race would be used to create true equality in the world.  However, this had not happened as yet.  It was necessary to establish a just international order, which would enable both women and men to enjoy their human rights.


Cuba was particularly concerned about the lack of education, health care, employment opportunities and safety for women across the world.  In Cuba, women had been active agents in their own development and in the establishment of gender equality.  Women played active roles in the economy and in political and social life.  This approach by the Government had allowed the further involvement of women in health care, education, and legislation.  She stressed that education had been key in bringing about gender equality in Cuba.  All these achievements had been realized despite the harsh conditions faced by the Cuban Government due to the economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States.


ARNI HOLE, Director-General of Norway's Department of Children and Family Affairs, said political will was the key to success in achieving gender equality.  While 170 States were now parties to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Convention, many had made reservations that were incompatible with the object and purpose of that important instrument.  Norway would urge those States to withdraw such reservations and would call on States that had not done so to ratify the Convention and its Optional Protocol as soon as possible.


She said that in armed conflict situations, violence against women was being used as a war strategy.  To that end, the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court (ICC) defined rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as crimes against humanity.  The Statute’s entry into force last July had been a historic turning point in the development of international law.  She went on to say that trafficking in women and girls was one of the most blatant violations of human rights and dignity.  It tangentially touched issues such as poverty, migration, discrimination, border control and organized crime and corruption.


To that end, Norway was in the process of developing a national action plan to combat trafficking that should be ready by the end of the year to ensure that perpetrators were brought to justice and that victims were adequately protected.  She also said Norway supported the conclusion in the relevant report before the Committee which concluded that honour crimes should be criminalized and that those deliberately participating in such acts should be penalized.  While Norway was pleased with the results of many of the major conferences of past years, it regretted the limited action taken on reproductive rights and the right to land for women on equal terms with men at the recent Johannesburg Summit on Social Development.


ELLEN SAUERBREY (United States) said upholding the human rights of women was consistent with a civil, law-abiding society, and the foundation of democracy.  Women must be empowered through access to education.  Only then could women escape from poverty and take part in decision-making processes.  Educating women and girls contributed to all aspects of development.  Education was directly related to health, as educated women were healthier mothers and had healthier children.  Infant mortality was as much as two to three times higher among children of uneducated women compared with women with at least some secondary education.


Women must have access to economic opportunities, she stressed.  Women’s integration into mainstream economic life led not only to significant economic progress for the family, but ultimately for the country as well.  The use of information and communications technologies and the media could also help strengthen women’s economic situations.  The United States supported the increased use of those media to advance the status of women in all countries, and particularly in developing countries.  It was also essential that women be able to participate meaningfully and effectively in decision-making processes.  Security Council resolution 1325 highlighted how women suffered in conflict situations and the constructive role they could play in decision-making processes.


Trafficking in persons was one of the greatest challenges, she said.  It was also among the fastest-growing criminal activities worldwide and within countries.  Victims fell prey to the full spectrum of criminal organizations, from major criminal syndicates to smuggling rings to loosely associated networks.  They were subjected to violence and slave-like conditions in brothels, sweatshops and fields.


The United States commended the Secretary-General’s report on trafficking which documented action taken by Member States, the United Nations system and international bodies, she said.  However, it did not mention United States efforts and accomplishments in combating trafficking.  United States involvement included, among other things:  grant programmes to create shelters, services and economic opportunities for victims; prevention campaigns; training for law enforcement, prosecutors and judges; and international cooperation on investigations and prosecution of traffickers.

FARHAD MAMDOUHI (Iran) said gender equality and women's empowerment initiatives should be focused at local and community levels.  Indeed, world governments should ensure that the outcomes of the major summits and meetings of the past decade, particularly the Beijing Declaration, "Women 2000" and the Millennium Summit, were implemented to promote gender equality and empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate sustainable development.


The incorporation of a gender perspective in all policies and programmes had now become one of the country's priority development concerns, he said.  The programme for the development of Iranian women was based on the safeguarding of their rights, and it aimed to promote women's empowerment and participation in the process of national development.  At the end of the first planning stage in that ongoing process, many guidelines had been proposed by the Centre for Women's Participation , including in the field of reforming administrative and management structures, production and investment, social security, employment policies and cultural development. 


Regarding women's active participation in political, social and economic affairs, he said through legislation and practical measures, considerable progress had been achieved.  The Government had also submitted to Parliament a bill for the country's accession to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Convention.  A plan to examine and revise legal and judiciary structures was underway through the Centre for Women's Participation.  All laws and regulations were being studied, and proposals for amendment were being offered.  The Iranian Government attached special importance to involving civil society and non-governmental organizations in efforts to promote the rights of women. In that regard, the number of women non-governmental organizations had increased from 67 in 1997 to some 248 by 2001.


AMNEH HAMEED AL ALI (United Arab Emirates) said notwithstanding the efforts of the international community, millions of women in the developing and poor countries underwent hunger, humiliation, coercion, sex abuse, physical abuse, expulsion, contagious diseases, deteriorated human conditions and violence in all its forms.  The advancement of women could not be achieved without the elimination of the root causes of the above behaviour:  poverty; foreign occupations; ethnic conflicts; civil wars; and the deterioration of economic humanitarian conditions.  The international community was reminded of its responsibilities towards the developing and least developed countries as well as peoples who lived under occupation.  In such places, women suffered all forms of coercion and deprivation, and were stripped of the minimum standard of secured life and human dignity.


The United Arab Emirates condemned all practices undertaken by Israel in the Palestinian occupied territories, she said.  The international community and other concerned bodies were asked to come up with comprehensive solutions by peaceful means to put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people.  On the national front, the United Arab Emirates attached great importance to the advancement of women as well as the enhancement of their role in economic, social and human development.  The Government had enacted a number of laws to guarantee the legitimate rights of women, including the protection of women against various forms of exploitation.


The Government provided free education in all educational levels, including higher education, she said.  It also provided free health care and medical services, with special attention to maternity and childcare.  The level of illiteracy amongst women had declined; women constituted 47 per cent of the work force; and five women had been appointed to the Consultative Council.  The Government was always working to find new means and measures for strengthening the status of women.


OKSANA BOIKO (Ukraine) said her country had made considerable strides in implementing the outcomes of Beijing and its follow-up, "Women 2000".  Last year, its President had issued a decree on the advancement of the social status of women aimed at creating equal opportunities in political and social life.  Ukraine's national Plan of Action for the advancement of women had also been adopted.  At the same time, however, much remained to be done, particularly in areas such as increasing women's participation at higher levels of decision-making, ensuring equal employment opportunities and improving reproductive health, which had seriously deteriorated as a result of the lingering effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.


She said that much work also remained to be done on the prevention of violence and trafficking in women.  Violence against women was a major obstacle to achieving equality.  For its part, Ukraine's Parliament had last year adopted a law on preventing violence in the family.  Crisis centres and shelters had been set up for the social rehabilitation of women and children victims of violence.  In that regard, Ukraine was very much interested in receiving assistance from UNIFEM's Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence Against Women, which provided grants for new and innovative strategies and relevant best practices.


Sexual exploitation and trafficking remained one of the worst violations of women's human rights, she said.  Those scourges had been on the rise and had posed a significant challenge for Ukraine in the past decade, as thousands of young Ukranian women had been trafficked to the Balkan region and other parts of the world.  To enhance the fight against that crime, the Parliament had undertaken a number of legislative measures, including the adoption of amendments to the criminal code, which now provided tougher penalties for trafficking in people.  The multi-dimensional aspects of trafficking necessitated a comprehensive and integrated approach that should take into account socio-economic, cultural and legal factors.


ILHAM IBRAHIM MOHAMED AHMED (Sudan) said States had agreed to care for women and grant them their worthy place.  This goal would only be achieved through further cooperation within the international community.  It was difficult for the international community to address the advancement of women through one approach only, given the world’s diversity.  In this connection, she referred to the importance of the initiative of Dialogue among Civilizations and said global approaches should be based on cooperation, respect and tolerance. 


It was a shame that developing countries still faced problems preventing them from giving full priority attention to the advancement of women, she said.  The foreign debts of developing countries in addition to the negative effects of globalization would continue to affect negatively the rights of women and children.


Sudan had studied the report on the working group on the future operations of INSTRAW, and thanked the group for its recommendations.  It was important to keep the Institute open since it had a valuable role to play in the advancement of women, she said.  This could only be done through radical reform and the provision of adequate funds.  Sudan had also studied the report of the Secretary-General on trafficking and felt it was regrettable that trafficking was on the rise.  Sudan believed that countries and international organizations must do more to combat trafficking in women through fighting prostitution networks.


NAFTALI TAMIR (Israel) said the pursuit of gender equality and the creation of an egalitarian society must be one of the cornerstones of every nation.  In that light, Israel had taken several institutional and legislative steps aimed at enhancing the status of women.  One of these was the Golda Meir Mount Carmel Training Centre, established in 1961, which trained women, emphasized gender issues, and promoted the role of women in development.  Since the Beijing Conference, there had also been a marked improvement in the status of women in Israel and their impact on the political sphere.  The current Israeli Government, for example, included three female Ministers, and 16 of the 120 members of the Knesset were women. 


One serious problem that must be addressed in modern society was the phenomenon of recurring violence perpetrated against women, he said.  In the past five years, Israel had made tremendous progress in increasing public awareness of the problem.  In addition, new legislation helped to protect all women, regardless of their ethnic, religious or economic background, from physical and emotional violence.  In Israel there were 14 shelters for battered women and 50 centres for the prevention of violence against women scattered throughout the country. 


He referred to the report of the Secretary-General on the issue of trafficking in women and girls.  In July 2000, Israel had adopted a law prohibiting trafficking in persons for the purposes of prostitution.  This new law gave expression to the Israeli Government’s strong emphasis on combating this scourge through law enforcement and jurisprudence.  In this context, he stressed that the Israeli effort could be greatly enhanced through greater cooperation with neighbouring countries. 


ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti) said for many in the developing world, certainly in the least developed countries, the core of their problems seemed always to start with poverty.  The negative aspects of globalization, as well as those of structural adjustment policies, unsustainable international debt levels, trade barriers and low and falling levels of official development assistance all contributed to the weakness of governments to address the problems of women.  In addition to discrimination, and the widening disparities in employment, education and health services, women also suffered from the effects of armed conflict, foreign occupation and terrorism.  The resulting imbalance in economic development in the world for all these factors had, in many ways, constricted the rights and conditions of women.  Without the elimination of poverty and the containment of conflict, it would be difficult to significantly improve their status. 


Poverty remained a root cause of war and conflict, and the latter could be better addressed by involving women in the peace negotiations at early stages.  He stressed that violence against women remained high.  According to the World Health Organization, violence was tied to income, with the vast majority of violence-related deaths taking place in poor countries.  Trafficking in human beings was another international menace.  Some 200,000 persons each year, the majority of them women and children, were exploited in this manner.  They ended up in farms, factories, as servants and in the sex industry. 

No discussion regarding development, poverty and social issues could be held without mentioning the menace of HIV/AIDS, he said.  It constituted a major threat to international development and security and was a genuine global emergency.  Here, again, the status of women was a factor.  A nation, a people and an economy, suffered when their members failed or were unable to make a full contribution to the society, or develop their skills to the fullest extent. 


JOANNE SANDLER, Deputy Director of Programming of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), on behalf of Noleen Heyzer, Executive-Director of UNIFEM, said events of the past year had again indicated how vital it was that the international community come together to reach a common understanding of issues related to the promotion and protection of the rights of women.  Indeed in an increasingly interconnected world, permeated now with so much fear and violence, the common values and ethics that members of the international community developed with each other were the best and perhaps only guarantors of human security.  In times of global crisis, the United Nations was one of the few remaining spaces where the world community could use dialogue and negotiation to build understanding and hold each other to commitments.


She said that one of the best indicators of a country or community's will to implement international commitments made at major United Nations conferences over the past decade was the way in which it treated women.  From Afghanistan to East Timor, Colombia to the Congo, UNIFEM was supporting women to influence the process of conflict resolution and post-conflict rebuilding.  The Fund's efforts during the past year to ensure that women's leadership was a high priority in rebuilding Afghanistan were yielding promising results.  The Fund was now supporting the Ministry of Women's Affairs to broaden women's participation in all aspects of reconstruction, reaching out beyond Kabul into every province, and facilitating the development of a national women's agenda.


Addressing and eliminating the multiple forms of violence that women and girls faced remained a high priority for UNIFEM, she continued.  Two extreme forms of violence -- trafficking in women and so-called honour killings -- were areas in which UNIFEM's Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women was supporting community-based initiatives to chart a path to change.  Women's groups were working with traditional and spiritual leaders, families and communities to change attitudes and beliefs that made killing a woman a matter of honour.  Family by family, community by community, those projects were building respect for the lives of women and girls and an understanding that dignity for women and girls was an integral part of all cultures.


She also highlighted work being done to address the situation of women affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as the need to link social and economic rights with the notion of overall human security.  Today, as the world community contemplated the possibility of war, there was a definite need to enable women's voices to influence an agenda for human security and peace.  Two years ago, the Fund had commissioned a study on the impact of war on women.  Experts had traveled throughout the world, talking to women survivors of conflict.  This month, their findings would be presented to the Security Council.  They would testify that women and children were now among the major victims and targeted as such.  At the same time, they would detail the ways in which women were also the most creative and persistent in trying to bring about an end to conflicts, both national and global.

She added that if more were not done to improve accountability and action, the last decade could become the lost decade.  Women's voices, perspectives and contributions must make a difference in the desperate need to craft a vision of human security, to build a global dialogue for peace and to generate alternatives to war and violence.


ADRIANA PULIDO (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing nations and China, said that despite the progress made thus far in the advancement of women, there were still serious challenges and obstacles that remained to be addressed and surmounted.  Poverty eradication continued to be one of those challenges.  Globalization, as well as the transformations in the world economy associated to it, had had a deep impact on the parameters of social development and, in many instances, had worsened the conditions in which millions of people lived around the world.  One of the most disquieting trends of this process had been the increased poverty of women -- the “feminization of poverty”.  The empowerment of women must be understood as one of the central means through which the goal of poverty eradication could be achieved.


The elimination of poverty involved the transformation of power relations by which women moved from being objects within relationships of subordination to becoming subjects in control of their own lives, she said.  The insertion of women in income-generating activities contributed in the improvement of the standards of living of their families and, consequently, to the creation of new opportunities leading to poverty eradication.


Gender mainstreaming was also an essential component of the activities initiated and undertaken by the United Nations system concerning the advancement of women, she said.  In this context, cross-sector collaboration initiated in the United Nations system was important as part of the strategy to promote the advancement of women.


Concerning the question of INSTRAW, the Group of 77 and China attached great importance to the work of the Institute and had engaged in negotiations last year to guarantee its survival.  It was hoped that the recommendations of the working group on the future of INSTRAW would be adopted by consensus in this Committee.  She stressed that the situation of INSTRAW must not be evaluated in a vacuum, but rather in the context of the competencies of all the instances that formed the United Nations machinery for the advancement of women.  The Group of 77 and China called upon its partners to look seriously into this matter, so as to find a solution that was viable for all.  It would seem rather contradictory to decide to close the only Institute devoted to do research and training on the advancement of women, precisely when this issue was high on the list of priorities, not only for the United Nations, but the international community at large.


PEDRO PADILLA TONOS (Dominican Republic), host country of International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said that, based on a decision of the General Assembly last year, a working group on the future operation of the Institute had been constituted and had met in July and August.  The group had concluded, after broad consultations, that the Institute could make a valuable and substantial contribution for the progress of women, if given the necessary financial and human resources to fulfil its mandate.  With that in mind, his delegation considered that closing a United Nations body, particularly one located in a developing country, would send the wrong message.  It would be incongruous to do away with the Organization's sole research and training body for women, just at the time when gender issues were becoming more pressing throughout the world.  He urged Committee members to continue to provide support for the annual draft resolution when it came before them for action, so that that important text would be subsequently adopted by the wider Assembly.


KIM CHANG GUK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said the true solution of human rights could not be guaranteed without promotion and protection of women’s rights.  The international community had brought about successes in its continuous efforts through the United Nations and other international forums to redress the outdated concept on women’s rights, and had taken effective measures to protect them.  However, challenges lay ahead, he said.  Women’s freedoms and rights continued to be most severely violated in armed conflicts taking place in every continent of the world.


Sexual slavery, massacre, hostage-taking and violence against women and children were rampant in many countries.  Women were also the primary targets of all sorts of socio-economic evils such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and unemployment.  Yet, women accounted for half of the world population.  It was a prerequisite for world peace, security, development and prosperity to protect and promote the dignity and rights of women.


The major task in the promotion and protection of the rights of women was to realize the equality of women, with non-discrimination, in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life, and to ensure that women fully participated in and benefited from socio-economic development.  To this end, women and girls must have equal access to education at all levels, which must serve to consolidate and enhance their position and role in socio-economic life.  Investment in the welfare of women must be increased, he said.  In this connection he welcomed initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).


ISAAC C. LAMBA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), reiterated the urgent need to involve women as active participants and beneficiaries in all development-related projects and programmes.  In this respect, the advancement of women had been and continued to be in the forefront of the development agenda.  Progress had been made in several areas including the commitment to allocate 30 per cent of decision-making positions to women in a bid to advance their status in society.  However, millions of people from the SADC region still lived in conditions of abject poverty evident in high levels of illiteracy and the high incidence of infant, child and maternal mortality. 


He stressed that rural populations had particularly poor physical and living environments.  Growing rates of unemployment, especially among young women and the youth, emphasized how much effort and resources were needed to uplift large numbers of people out of the current unacceptable social and economic situation.  Most of the SADC countries had ratified the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Convention.  The major challenge was to effectively transform the substantive clauses of the Convention into nationally binding legislation.  At the national level, all SADC countries had developed gender policies and put in place, or strengthened, their national gender machineries to coordinate and monitor progress towards gender equality. 


Increased collaboration and the concerted effort of governments and non-governmental organizations and support of development partners had contributed significantly to some of the developments of SADC, he said.  However, the SADC countries would like to see UNIFEM strengthen programmes in supporting the training of law enforcement officers in areas of human rights education, sexual abuse and violence against women.  There was no doubt that women deserved fairness and justice in cases involving their abuse. 


HIV/AIDS provided an example of the undesirable trend in gender relations within SADC, he stated.  The HIV/AIDS pandemic, as well as other infectious diseases, had negatively affected the gains for women and girls more than those of men in SADC.  The increasing number of women infected and affected with HIV/AIDS was forcing many female-headed families into abject poverty.  The poor socio-economic situation of these families was further exacerbated by the escalating number of AIDS orphans.  He stressed that the health factor was critical in the planning and coordination of strategies and programmes for poverty eradication and sustainable development, which must address the concerns of the most vulnerable groups.


MRS. ALMALKI (Qatar) said there had been considerable success by the United Nations in mainstreaming gender issues in the Millennium Declaration, at the Monterrey Conference, during the Special Assembly Session on Children and at the Second World Assembly on Ageing.  Qatar fully supported the advancement of women, since women must participate in development on an equal footing with men.  A draft national strategy had been prepared by the Government of Qatar which aimed towards the empowerment of women, integrating them into all sectors of life.  Qatar was currently working on increasing community participation in decision-making for women and men alike.


Women’s participation in political life was relatively new in Qatar and the Government had therefore undertaken public awareness campaigns to avoid any discrimination.  In addition, Qatar had succeeded in totally eradicating any inequalities in the field of education.  Furthermore, new laws gave women the same work privileges as men.  Women in Qatar were also actively involved in voluntary work on social development.  Several legislative steps had also been taken to give working women additional rights, allowing women to also attend to family obligations.


Qatar condemned any form of violence against women.  The phenomenon of trafficking was particularly disturbing.  The tenets of Islam prevented any type of exploitation of or violence against women, she said.  She referred to the situation of women in the Palestinian occupied territories, and called upon the international community to ensure advancement for all women, without any selectivity.


ABDULMALIK AL-ERYANI (Yemen) said the Government attached great importance to the promotion and advancement of women in the country.  The Constitution had been modified, and it now guaranteed equal opportunity for all citizens.  The empowerment of women and the improvement of their economic and social status had been linked with efforts to strengthen their roles in society and decision-making processes.  At the same time, while there were laws on the books, it had proved difficult to ensure that they were always carried out comprehensively, particularly in the areas of education and access to high-level posts.  Due to lingering cultural attitudes, the opportunities for women to participate in some sectors had been somewhat reduced.  Despite that, many such obstacles had been overcome, as witnessed by the increase of young women in secondary and university education.


Highlighting some other national initiatives, he said the Government was convinced of the need to have women participate in national development efforts.  The women of the country participated equally with men in all levels of administration.  They also participated actively in political parties and Parliament.  Yemen supported the efforts of the United Nations to ensure that all forms of discrimination and violence against women, particularly trafficking in women and young girls, were eliminated.


Yemen expressed concern for the dire humanitarian situation of women and girls in the Palestinian occupied territories.  He urged the international community to do its utmost to ensure that their human rights were respected.  Their social development could not be ensured as long as they lived under occupation.


ROBERT LAU HOI CHEW (Malaysia) said obstacles to achieving the Beijing goals included:  lack of resources; debt; a decline in international funding to implement identified programmes; and the unmitigated impact of globalization, particularly in developing countries.  Clearly, more concerted and comprehensive efforts and cooperation at the national, regional and international levels were urgently needed to address these issues.  Malaysia had formulated a National Policy on Women in 1989, emphasizing equal partnership between men and women and development that integrated and benefited women, ensuring they were active participants and contributors to development.


Another important factor that had contributed to the social and economic advancement of women was the huge investment in education facilities, accompanied by the provision of equal access to educational opportunities.  The Government continued to support programmes carried out to improve the economic well-being of women, particularly in rural areas, he said.  Measures had been undertaken to facilitate the involvement of women in business, including through the provision of easy access to capital. 


Recent processes in Africa had proven that women had an important role to play in conflict resolutions.  Their role and positive influence must also extend to include their involvement and participation in peacekeeping and post-conflict peace-building, he said.  The issue of violence against women was also a matter of concern to Malaysia.  Identified as another core area to be addressed in the advancement of women, this issue must be looked at in a broad perspective.  Furthermore, his Government was concerned about the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, pornography, prostitution and sex tourism, and urged continued international efforts to eliminate this new form of human slavery. 


FÉLICITÉ NZE NGOUKOU (Congo) said the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women had always been considered a priority by public authorities.  The new Constitution guaranteed equality before the law, and there was a ban on all forms of discrimination.  Despite those goals, women in rural areas were systematically victimized in several sectors of social life, including access to education and health care.  But their participation in agriculture and economic development had been promising.


She said one of the principles of Beijing had highlighted the need to ensure that gender issues were an integral part of national and international development efforts.  In the Congo, however, there were certain obstacles to ensuring women's participation in critical development decision-making processes.  Those included a lack of enthusiasm or interest on the part of men to mainstream gender issues into programmes and strategies, as well as a lack of commitment on the part of women to their own advancement, since, customarily, men had been given superiority over them.  The protracted conflicts in the region had also negatively affected women's development.  Women had testified to the horrors of war, particularly the systematic violence and rapes committed against them, which had led to lingering psychological trauma.


SAMI ZEIDAN (Lebanon) said his was a country of diversity in which there were people of different religions, cultures and beliefs.  This diversity had enabled Lebanese women to express themselves and to hold a distinguished status in society.  Women activists and feminists had always been heard and respected.  It had always been said that Lebanon’s only capital -- with neither oil nor natural resources -- was the level of education of its men and women.  Since the 1970s, the proportion of women in universities had been around 20 per cent, and today Lebanese women enrolled in universities amounted to above 50 percent.


The Lebanese social and cultural milieu had allowed women to have professions outside the home for a long time.  They had rightfully joined the labour market and were active agents of their own development.  Recently, the proportion of women in the diplomatic core and the judiciary had increased significantly.  He stressed that women must benefit from the same rights as men.  In Lebanon, the legal framework to protect women’s rights and to advance women was in place.  Yet, inequalities remained.  The persistence of inequality was largely due to the fact that some women were not yet fully aware of their rights.


Concerning violence against women, he said a National Committee had been established in 1998.  The National Committee had undertaken particularly important work in Lebanon on violence against women.  He also stressed the need for the full implementation of programmes of action agreed upon at United Nations conferences, as Lebanon took its international commitments very seriously.  He expressed his gratitude to UNIFEM for its crucial role in technical resources development in several Arab States.


MOHAMMAD YUNUS BAZEL (Afghanistan) said that last year, his statement before the Committee had focused solely on the humanitarian situation of his country's people, women and girls in particular, in the wake of international efforts to topple the Taliban regime.  This year, however, he was pleased to focus on the progress that had been made in the face of that oppressive regime and the social devastation it had wrought over the years.  Afghan men, women and children had an overriding will to improve their living conditions and search for peace despite the scant means available to them.


He said the Afghan people appreciated the international coalition, led by the United States and other friendly countries, which had ended Taliban rule in Afghanistan.  The Afghan people also appreciated that the banishment of the Taliban had ended the misinterpretation of Islam that had been carried out by that regime, which had led to the systematic exclusion of women and girls.  Indeed, with the Taliban's downfall, women had become an integral part of the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the country.  Further, the Bonn Agreement

contained specific objectives on the role of women in the social and economic development of the country.


Today, thousands of women were returning to their jobs as teachers, judges and lawyers.  Promotion of the rights of women had been at the very heart of implementation of the Bonn process.  Still, he said, it was important to remember that 85 per cent of the population lived in the provinces, and women there continued to bear the brunt of 20 years of war and violence.  Infant and maternal mortality rates among rural Afghan women were among the highest in the world.  Sadly, the same was true of illiteracy rates.  Continued progress of women in Afghanistan depended on the ongoing commitment of the international community to provide the necessary assistance for capacity-building and infrastructure enhancement.  Assistance would be particularly important in the areas of education and skills training.


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