01/03/2004
Press Release
WOM/1435



Commission on the Status of Women                          

Forty-eighth Session                                       

2nd Meeting (AM & PM)


ROLE OF MEN, BOYS IN ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY, WOMEN’S ROLE IN CONFLICT

PREVENTION THEMES FOR WOMEN’S COMMISSION, AS TWO-WEEK SESSION OPENS


As the Commission on the Status of Women opened its forty-eighth session today, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told delegates that the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality -– one of the two main themes of the forty-eighth session -– was vital for future work in promoting equality between men and women.


Improved relations between women and men, he continued, could not be achieved by women alone, and men must be fully integrated into the process.  Ways must be found of encouraging men to understand gender equality and its positive consequences.


The Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Angela E.V. King, noted that the Commission had rightly placed the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality on its agenda.  Their involvement in promoting gender equality was critical to reaching gender balance in a number of areas.  Real change would come only when stereotypical attitudes, which inhibited women’s advancement and impeded efforts for gender equality, were once and for all removed.


As the Commission began its general debate, speakers emphasized the importance of including women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, as well as in post-conflict peace-building -– the other main theme of the Commission’s two-week session.  Women in armed conflicts, noted Finland’s Minister of Labour, Tarja Filatov, were often seen as merely victims of war.  However, as active subjects and often direct participants in conflict, they could have a crucial role in conflict resolution and peace processes.


Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, Ireland’s Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, William O’Dea, said that women had proven to be innovators in building bridges between parties divided by conflict and should have full input in promoting and preserving peace, as well as in the reconciliation and reconstruction process in the aftermath of wars.


In the afternoon, the Commission convened a high-level round table, which provided an opportunity for the users and producers of statistics to share national experiences, good practices and lessons learned in measuring progress in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, and for identifying gaps and challenges and possible solutions.


During the discussion, which was co-chaired by the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, Kyung-wha Khang (Republic of Korea), and Katherine Wallman (United States), Vice-Chair of the Statistical Commission, speakers underlined the value of statistics as an important tool for advocacy and lobbying to change laws and policies.  It was important, they said, for governments to publish statistics in order to show the real situation of men and women within countries.


Speakers stressed that statistics were a vital tool in achieving gender goals laid down in the Beijing Platform for Action, and in monitoring the effectiveness of gender-based policies and programmes.  They also underscored the value of statistics in improving the socio-economic situation of women, enhancing their participation in politics, and highlighting unequal resources between the sexes.  Echoing the concerns of other delegates, Pakistan’s representative emphasized the need to forward gender disaggregated data to all policy-makers in achieving broad-based gender equality.


Namibia’s representative pointed out, however, the difficulties and costs of collecting data and producing gender disaggregated data. Speakers also highlighted the problems of unreported data, which led to faulty statistics.  In addition, delegates shared experiences in setting up and improving national mechanisms for data collection, stressing that qualitative, as well as quantitative, indicators must be used.


Other issues raised included limited resources for the collection of data and production of statistics; the collection of quality data; the need for targets and indicators to measure progress; and difficulties in collecting data on specific groups, such as aboriginal women.


Also addressing the Commission this morning were Marjatta Rasi (Finland), President of the Economic and Social Council; Carolyn Hannan, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women;  Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); Carmen Moreno, Director, International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW); Feride Acar, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and Michael Smith, Chairman of the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights.


Statements were also made by the representatives of Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), France and Morocco


Also this morning, the Commission approved the draft organization of work for the current session, as orally revised. 


The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 2 March, to hold a panel discussion on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building.



Background


The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to begin its forty-eighth session.  The two-week session will focus on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality, as well as women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building.


Before the Commission is its provisional agenda and organization of work (document E/CN.6/2004/1).  In addition, it had before it the following documents.


The report of the Secretary-General, on the review of the methods of work of the Commission in the context of integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields (document E/CN.6/2004/2), suggests, among other things, that the Commission enhance its focus on interactive and action-oriented expert panel discussions and high-level round tables to facilitate increased implementation of policy recommendations at the national, regional and global levels.


In addition, the Commission should develop ways to ensure a close linkage between the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals to ensure full integration of gender perspectives.  It should also further develop approaches to strengthen linkages with other functional commissions.


The Commission also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on measures taken and progress achieved in the follow-up to and implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”, especially in mainstreaming gender perspectives in entities of the United Nations system (document E/CN.6/2004/3).  The report states that, although policies and strategies are in place in many entities and there has been an increased focus on the development of training, methodologies and tools, a large gap remains between policy and practice.  Gender equality is not yet fully integrated into the work of the United Nations.


The report contains a number of actions the Commission may wish to encourage United Nations entities to take, including in the areas of inter-agency support for gender mainstreaming and policy and strategy frameworks for gender equality.


The Secretary-General’s report on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2004/4) covers the period from September 2002 to September 2003.  It reviews the effects of continued movement restrictions and closures, the construction of settlements, outposts and a separation wall, as well as the unfolding socio-economic crisis, on the situation of women.  The report provides an overview of the assistance, education and training, health, the human rights of women, and the media and advocacy. 


The report states that the living conditions of Palestinian women have drastically declined.  As the international community seeks ways to end the conflict, it is important that gender perspectives are highlighted and that women are fully involved in the conflict resolution and peace-building initiatives.  It is essential that United Nations entities continue to operate in the occupied Palestinian territory and the refugee camps.  As the conflict exacerbates existing hardships and creates new difficulties, continued assistance to Palestinian women should be provided.


The report of the Secretary-General on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan (document E/CN.6/2004/5) presents an overview of the situation of women and girls in the country in 2003 and gender-related assistance provided by the United Nations system.  It includes recommendations for further efforts, including the need for increased security and prevention of violence, the importance of ensuring that the new Constitutional Loya Jirga enshrines the equality of women with that of men and that the forthcoming elections promote the full participation of women, as well as the importance of a rights-based and gender-sensitive approach to relief, reconstruction and development.


Also before the Commission is the report of the Secretary-General on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2004/6), prepared in compliance with resolution 46/1, adopted by the Commission in 2002.  The report contains information provided by MemberStates and relevant entities of the United Nations system.  It recommends that, in light of current submissions from Member States, the Commission may wish to renew its commitment to resolution 46/1 and further encourage Governments to report on its implementation. 


The Commission may also wish to encourage governments to report on the relevance of the issue, in the context of the follow-up to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).


The Commission also has before it the report of the Secretary-General on the joint work plan of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document E/CN.6/2004/7).  Cooperation between the Office and the Division will continue in 2004 to strengthen attention to the human rights of women and the mainstreaming of gender perspectives in all human rights activities in the following major areas:  support for human rights treaty bodies; support for intergovernmental bodies and special procedures; technical cooperation, advisory services and meetings; awareness-raising and outreach; and inter-agency cooperation.  The major activities planned in those areas are outlined in the report.


Also before the Commission is a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the elimination of violence against women (document E/CN.6/2004/8).  According to the report, new initiatives to combat the scourge have produced important results in all countries and all regions of the world and the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women has played a key role in stimulating many of those innovations. 


However, the report continues, as recent assessments have clearly indicated, the scale and depth of the pandemic urgently requires that the work on violence against women become a fundamental component of other mainstream efforts.  There is also a pressing need for greater coordination within the United Nations system in supporting the work to end violence against women and, ultimately, for a wide range of agencies to adopt and expand on the initiatives and successes that have been achieved to date.


The Commission also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality (document E/CN.6/2004/9), which focuses on socialization and education; the labour market and the workplace; the sharing of family responsibilities, including caring roles; and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.  The report concludes with a series of actions in those four areas that the Commission may wish to recommend.


With regard to the socialization and education of boys and young men, governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, the media and other stakeholders should, among other things, promote gender equality as a critical educational goal and outcome, alongside literacy and numeracy.  They should also carry out critical reviews of school curricula, textbooks, television programmes and other educational materials at all levels to eliminate gender stereotypes and strengthen ways of promoting gender equality that engage boys, as well as girls.


In the workplace and labour market, those actors should adopt and implement legislation and policies to close the pay gap between women and men, as well as review national family law to ensure that it does not pose obstacles for men to play an active role in the lives of children and dependants.  In the area of caregiving, they should develop campaigns that aim to remove stigma and cultural barriers that currently prevent certain groups of men and boys from caring for and supporting older, disabled and sick persons, in both the formal and the informal health sector.


With regard to combating HIV/AIDS through the involvement of men and boys, those groups should encourage the media, theatre groups, advisory and information services and male peer groups to expand awareness of HIV/AIDS and sensitize men, male adolescents and boys on the implications of male attitudes and sexual behaviour on the spread of HIV/AIDS.  They should also identify and fully utilize contexts in which a large number of men can be reached with HIV/AIDS prevention messages, at relatively little cost, including the police and armed forces, prisons, industries and sports associations.


The report of the Secretary-General on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building (document E/CN.6/2004/10) focuses on the role of peace agreements as tools for enhancing the participation of women and promoting gender equality in peace processes.  Given their central role in all stages of peace processes, the report discusses opportunities for enhancing the participation of women and promoting gender equality during the negotiation phase, in the substantive content of peace agreements and in the implementation phase of such agreements.


Among its recommendations, the report states that all mediators of peace processes should ensure that the composition of the mediator’s team is gender-balanced, that it includes from the start a senior gender adviser and that all team members have general knowledge of the gender perspectives regarding the conflict in question.  Also, to ensure that gender equality is actively pursued as one of the goals of peace agreements, all actors working towards the conclusion of a peace agreement need to ensure the inclusion of certain provisions or measures in such agreements.  One such measure is the adherence to gender balance in appointments to senior government administration and judiciary positions.


All actors in peace processes at the national level have a responsibility to ensure the gender-sensitive implementation of agreements.  In that regard, the reports suggests the creation of monitoring and accountability structures to ensure the gender-sensitive implementation of all aspects of the peace agreement, as well as the adoption of special measures for women to ensure their full and equal participation at all levels of policy and decision-making.


Also before the Commission is the Secretary-General’s report on the future work of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women (document E/CN.6/2004/11), which raises issues relating to the functioning of the Working Group and the communications procedure, in general, and makes recommendations for the Commission to consider in this regard.  Among other things, the Commission may want to consider specifying the sources from which it wishes to receive communications.  It may also wish to specify which mechanisms and bodies should be invited to supply information to the communications procedure, as well as the type of information sought. 


In addition, the Commission may want to consider extending the term of members of the Working Group to two or more years and stagger the nominations to enable them to gain experience and develop expertise in the procedure.  This would also provide a degree of continuity in the consideration of communications.


The Commission also has before it a letter dated 31 October 2003 from the President of the Economic and Social Council addressed to the Chairperson of the Commission (document E/CN.6/2004/12).  The annex to the letter contains resolutions and decisions adopted by the Council in 2003 calling for action by the Commission.


Introductory Statements


MARJATTA RASI (Finland), President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said that her presence here today was a clear sign of the increasing interaction between ECOSOC and the Commission.  Cooperation and collaboration between ECOSOC and its functional commissions had steadily increased in recent years.  That had enabled the Council to exercise its coordination and guidance role more effectively, which, in turn, had led to increased policy coherence.


One important mechanism in that, she said, had been the joint bureau meetings held each year between the bureau of the Council and the bureau of each of the functional commissions.  Last Tuesday, a joint meeting was held with the bureau of the Commission, during which coordination between the two bodies and possible contributions by the Commission to the work of ECOSOC were discussed.  Another way in which policy coherence was promoted had been through the meeting of chairpersons of the functional commissions with ECOSOC, an event which had been held annually since 2002.  That type of meeting had proven to be very useful, as it provided an opportunity for all chairpersons to come together for an exchange with the Council, and to raise issues of mutual interest.


She said that one of the key challenges was to try and maximize the impact of the Commission on the implementation of conference outcomes and the Millennium Development Goals.  The Commission had a special role, notably in helping to move on the agenda of mainstreaming gender.  One of the Commission’s main themes, “Women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building”, was particularly significant in light of ECOSOC’s recent efforts in focusing on the links between peace and development, which had led to the establishment of the ad hoc advisory groups on Guinea-Bissau and Burundi.


She also looked forward to receiving input from the Commission in the upcoming session of ECOSOC’s high-level segment, which would consider “Resources mobilization and enabling environment for poverty eradication in the context of the Brussels Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010”.  Given the cross-cutting nature of gender equality and the clear links between the advancement of women and the eradication of poverty and development, the Commission’s contributions would be especially relevant.


JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that the Commission had played a vital role in preparing for and following up global conferences on women in Mexico, Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing, as well as the special session of the General Assembly on the follow-up and implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action.  The Commission’s contribution had helped gender perspectives become increasingly recognized as integral components of development efforts worldwide.  The challenge now was to ensure that attention was paid to achieving further progress on gender perspectives and equality.  This year’s session of the Commission should assess progress in implementing international commitments to achieve gender equality.


Gender equality had been highlighted in one Millennium Goal, but was essential in achieving the other goals, as well, he said.  The Commission should play a key role in ensuring that gender perspectives were integral to the 2005 review of the Millennium Declaration.  Integrating gender policies within macroeconomic frameworks was crucial to reducing extreme poverty, and improving overall social conditions.


The Commission’s theme on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality was vital for future work in promoting gender equality, he said.  Improved relations between women and men could not be achieved by women alone, and men must be fully integrated into the process.  Ways must be found of encouraging men to understand gender equality and its positive consequences.


ANGELA E.V. KING, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, drew attention to the session’s critical importance as the countdown began to the 2005 comprehensive review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the special session of the General Assembly on “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.  She hoped the Commission’s discussions would not only lay the foundation for the review, but would also begin to shape the agenda in the field of the advancement of women for the next five to 10 years.


During the 12 months since the Commission last met, she said that there had been significant events where governments, international organizations and civil society reached consensus on the importance of gender equality and the empowerment of women in the continuing struggle for equality, poverty reduction, peace, security, democracy, human rights and development.  Among those events was the World Summit on the Information Society held in December 2003 in Geneva, when world leaders committed themselves in the Declaration of Principles to “ensuring that the Information Society enabled women’s empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society and in all decision-making processes”.


She said that since the Beijing Conference, 24 States parties ratified or acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, bringing the total number of States parties to 175.  Also, the trend continued for Member States to promote and protect the human rights of women and girls by enacting or amending legislation to achieve gender equality or by prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex.  And yet, the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration stressed that virtually nowhere were women’s rights given the priority they deserved.  Despite increased global awareness, the rights of women in many countries were still under threat.


She noted that, despite efforts, violent acts against women continued unabated.  Also, determined efforts were needed to reduce and eliminate poverty among women and girls.  The vast number of those below the poverty line were women, which affected disproportionately their access to health services and medicine.  A frightening pattern was emerging, as women were increasingly bearing the brunt of the lethal HIV/AIDS epidemic, with more women and girls than men and boys being infected. 


Further, recent World Health Organization (WHO) data showed that the gap between developed and developing countries was widest in the matter of maternal mortality.  To meet the related Millennium Goals of reversing HIV/AIDS and reducing the rate of maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015, concerted action was needed to fully finance women’s health programmes, incorporate a gender perspective into health care and ensure quality of care in childbirth.


Equally challenging was the growing violence against women and girls in armed conflict, she said.  In today’s conflicts, they were not only the victims of hardship, displacement and warfare, they were directly targeted with rape, forced pregnancies and assault as deliberate instruments of war.


The Commission had rightly placed the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality on its agenda, she said.  Their involvement in promoting gender equality was critical to reaching gender balance in a number of areas.  Real change would come only when stereotypical attitudes which inhibited women’s advancement and impeded efforts for gender equality were once and for all removed.


Considering how much inequality between women and men still existed in most parts of the world, remarkable progress had been achieved in a very short time, she noted.  By empowering women politically, economically and socially, societies as a whole gain, and would have a greater likelihood of bridging the gap towards achieving the 2015 goals.


She said:  “Our vision is a world where girls and boys have equal opportunities for education, where mothers and children have equal access to better health care and medicines, where women and men share decision-making and household chores equally, equally enjoy fundamental human rights and strive equally to achieve peace, democracy, good governance and sustainable development for their families and nations.”


CAROLYN HANNAN, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, said the Commission’s themes were vital in following up the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  Focusing on selected themes allowed the Commission to strengthen and accelerate implementation of those documents at national levels and further refine the global policy framework for gender equality to ensure practical action at all levels.  It also provided an opportunity to reinforce links with global policy instruments, such as the Millennium Declaration.


She noted that the Secretary-General’s report on men and boys in achieving gender equality focused on the importance of socialization and education, and the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality in the labour market and the workplace; in sharing family responsibilities; and in preventing HIV/AIDS.  It stressed the role of men in bringing about changes in attitudes, roles, relationships and access to resources and decision-making.  The Secretary-General’s report on women and conflict situations focused on peace processes and agreements as important tools for promoting gender equality and women’s participation in peace processes.  It highlighted the fact that attention to women’s contributions to peace processes had increased significantly in recent years, but women continued to be largely excluded from peace processes, particularly at formal levels.


The Division was preparing the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, she continued, which would be presented to the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the General Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.  The World Survey would consider women and international migration, including the situation of refugee women and trafficking in women and girls.  The Division had also continued to provide technical assistance to Member States to strengthen implementation of the Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and implementation of the Anti-Discrimination Convention.


NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), introduced the report on ending violence against women, saying that the enduring reality of violence against women continued to frustrate progress in meeting the commitments to women on the Beijing Platform’s 12 areas of concern.  Ten years since the Platform was adopted, 11 years after the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, and nearly     25 years since the Anti-Discrimination Convention opened for ratification, too many of the commitments to the world’s women remained unmet.  In nearly every country and region of the world, there had been progress on achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Yet, that progress had been uneven and the gains remained fragile.


Gender violence, she said, occurred along a continuum.  Whether a country was at war, recovering from conflict or enjoying decades of relative peace, too many women and girls were prey to gender-based violence.  Indeed, the UNIFEM-commissioned Independent Expert Assessment on Women, War and Peace highlighted the importance of using the Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women to enable a quick response and adequate resources to the challenges that women faced in situations of war and armed conflict, and the opportunities that they had to influence peace-building and reconstruction in its aftermath.


The threats to civilians, and especially to women in conflict situations, had underscored the need to incorporate gender concerns into conflict prevention to end violence and strengthen protection for women.  Such steps must be based on timely and accurate knowledge of the facts, an understanding of developments and global trends, as well as the economic, social and political causes of the conflicts and how to end them.  To generate more knowledge about that, UNIFEM was about to test gender-based early warning indicators in four field-based pilots:  the Solomon Islands, the FerghanaValley in Uzbekistan, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The objective was to make a contribution to mainstream conflict prevention and early warning mechanisms and actions that had thus far failed to regularly incorporate gender.


The work of UNIFEM and its many United Nations, government and non-governmental organization partners to end violence against women offered compelling evidence that the struggle to make meaningful progress on ending violence against women was central to all of the Millennium Goals.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had developed a forward-looking initiative, which UNIFEM was executing, to generate knowledge about how to mainstream a gender perspective in the Millennium Goals at the national level.  Women and girls everywhere wanted to see that the Goals were not just a set of targets and indicators, but rather a set of principles and commitments that put a priority on achieving a world free of poverty, violence and inequality.


CARMEN MORENO, Director, International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said the Institute had proposed a strategic plan for the coming years, and was also distributing a document aimed at overcoming the gender digital divide and achieving the empowerment of women.  The strategic plan included a catalogue of gender initiatives, involving governments, national institutions, United Nations bodies, civil society and academia, and also sought to form relationships with the private sector.


She said the plan focused on four strategic areas of action -- research, information and communication technologies, capacity building, and institutional development.  All of its activities would be coordinated with the United Nations system, governments, institutions and civil society.  The plan should strengthen the catalytic role of knowledge in promoting gender equality, support efforts to ensure that gender was mainstreamed in public policies and programmes, and facilitate effective dialogue among all actors.


FERIDE ACAR, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that since last year the number of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had increased to 175.  Also, 60 States had now ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  During its thirtieth session, the Committee considered reports of eight States parties.  Among other things, it had requested the reporting States to give wide publicity to the Committee’s concluding comments.  It was hoped that those comments would now be the basis for specific follow-up action. 


In all cases, the Committee emphasized the important role of civil society, particularly women’s non-governmental organizations, in the achievement of women’s human rights and the implementation of the Convention.  The Committee had noticed progress in the implementation of the Convention in several areas, and had assessed national action plans for gender mainstreaming.  It also encouraged States parties to set timetables for implementing particular actions, to prioritize their activities, and to monitor the impact of their policies and programmes so that corrective action could be taken.  It was also emphasized that there was a need for much greater awareness of the Convention and of women’s human rights throughout society.


As it had at its twenty-ninth session, the Committee found it necessary, once again at its thirtieth session, to focus its attention on the situation of women in Iraq, she said.  The Committee adopted a statement in support of the women in Iraq, which drew attention to the fact that Iraq was a State party to the Convention and emphasized the essential obligation of the governing authorities in that country to ensure women’s enjoyment of their human rights under the Convention.


Implementation of the Convention had benefited significantly, she noted, from the close and supportive relationship between the Committee and the Commission.  The clear advantages resulting from the interaction between the legal framework and the policy process, and between the Committee and the Commission, was demonstrated when the Committee considered reports of States parties.  Such interaction also helped to ensure that a rights-based approach to gender equality remained a high priority on the political agenda.


WILLIAM O’DEA, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform of Ireland, spoke on behalf of the European Union, Cyprus, CzechRepublic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Iceland.  He said that the inclusion of women in the structures which dealt with the prevention and resolution of conflicts was a prerequisite for the equitable resolution of those issues.  Indeed, women had proven to be innovators in building bridges between parties divided by conflict and should have full input in promoting and preserving peace, as well as in the reconciliation and reconstruction process in the aftermath of wars. 


He said that women and men often experienced conflict in different ways.  During periods of conflict, the role of women, both young and old, often became one of sole household provider, sole parent, and caregiver for the injured, older people, children and other relatives.  Women might also have roles of forced or voluntary combatants, or providers of various services for fighting forces. Those roles should be fully recognized.  In that context, he drew attention to the Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict, which the Union adopted in 2003, which also underlined the specific vulnerability of girls.  Those guidelines would be mainstreamed throughout all relevant Union policies and actions.


He emphasized that the full enjoyment of all human rights by women was crucial to the achievement of gender equality and sustainable development and peace.  However, the goal of gender equality could not be achieved by focusing strategies and practical work on women only.  It was also important to address and change discriminatory male behaviour and attitudes, and underline the crucial role of men and boys as partners in promoting gender equality.  The achievement of gender equality was now clearly seen as the responsibility of society as a whole, which needed to fully engage men as well as women.


There must be a fundamental shift in society’s perception of the roles of both women and men, he stated.  Real gender equality required the involvement and active participation of both men and women and an awareness of the benefits to be gained by both sexes and by society as a whole.  He urged governments to challenge and eliminate negative cultural or societal practices which stereotyped and diminished women in society and encouraged attitudes of superiority among men and boys.


In all societies, even in those free from armed conflict, male violence against women was all too common, he noted.  Distorted concepts of masculinity could never be invoked as justification for violating the enjoyment of human rights by women and girls.  He welcomed the growing determination to challenge traditional power imbalances between men and women as an essential component in the fight against violence against women.


ABDULLA EID SALMAN AL-SULAITI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that progress to improve the status of women and promote gender equality had been slow and uneven.  The international community should strive to achieve gender equality within families and in society at large, paying particular attention to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the “Beijing +5” document.  A system wide United Nations response was vital if United Nations bodies were to play an important role in implementing and monitoring the Platform for Action.


Equality between women and men was necessary for development and peace, he continued.  The two main pillars of gender equality were meaningful work and educational opportunities to ensure that both women and men could influence, participate in and benefit from development processes.  To that end, further investments in jobs and education were vitally needed.  Current official development assistance (ODA) was inadequate to meet such challenges as poverty and hunger, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, massive global unemployment, illiteracy, wars and foreign occupation, and the negative effect of globalization.


Women had a key role to play in realizing and maintaining peace and gender equality, he stressed.  Full participation of women in decision-making and the integration of a gender perspective in peace-building and peacekeeping was essential.  Concerted efforts should be made to increase knowledge on women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management, conflict resolution and peace-building, and to ensure the full participation and promotion of gender equality of women in all aspects of the peace processes.


NICOLE AMELINE, Minister for Gender Equality of France, said that it was essential to increase women’s participation, equally with men, in efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts and build peace.  The implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) was the collective responsibility of all.  Since the participation of men and boys was essential for achieving gender equality, it was a prerequisite for all of France’s policies to prevent and eliminate violence and discrimination, combat sexist images, promote greater harmony between private, family and social life and achieve more balanced participation of men and women in decision-making on the political, economic and social fronts.


The struggle for women’s rights and gender equality posed four challenges, she said.  First, it posed a democratic challenge, because the place of women in a given country was a sign of its level of commitment to democracy.  The struggle was about both de facto and de jure equality.  Next, the struggle posed an economic challenge, since equality in the workplace was a factor in both social progress and economic growth.  The modern economy needed all its talents, and discrimination -- which excluded -- must be replaced by diversity that brought enrichment, while respecting the unity of the State.


Then there was a societal challenge, she continued, as greater harmony between home and work, and more equal sharing of tasks would enable men and women to change the roles too often assigned to them.  For instance, men would be able to devote more time to unpaid activities, while women would be able to be more involved in the workplace without feeling guilty.  Last, the struggle posed a universal challenge.  She supported projects that enhanced women’s action for sustainable development, and wished to strengthen France’s cooperation on reproductive health and sexual education, and more generally on the protection of women’s fundamental rights.


TARJA FILATOV, Minister of Labour of Finland, said the participation of men and boys was crucial in achieving gender equality, bringing benefits for men and boys as well as for women and girls.  Specific initiatives on gender equality needed to be linked with wider issues in boys’ education, in ways that emphasized social inclusion and gender awareness.  It was also of fundamental importance that child-care and domestic responsibilities were shared more equally between women and men.  There was a need to guarantee the right to parental leaves also to fathers, or by offering affordable quality child-care facilities.  In promoting gender equality, men should not be addressed as a problem, but as a fundamental part of the solution.


Violence against women was often rooted in structural inequalities and unequal power relations, and there were no easy solutions for solving that widespread problem, she said.  Her Government was currently preparing a national strategy in that regard, containing elements like prostitutions, support services for victims of violence and protection of victims of trafficking.  Perpetrator programmes had also resulted in good experiences.


She said that women in armed conflicts were often seen as merely victims of war.  Women, however, were active subjects and often direct participants in conflict, and could have a crucial role in conflict resolution and peace processes.  Mainstreaming the gender dimension in peacekeeping and crisis management operations at the United Nations and the national level was vital.  Trafficking in women and girls was a form of modern slavery, and strong international cooperation was needed for its elimination.


YASMINA BADDOU, Minister of the Family, Solidarity and Social Action of Morocco, said that men and boys had a special role to play in transforming society and achieving gender equality.  Children should be educated and convinced of the need for gender equality and investments should be made in the mass media, which played a vital role in promoting gender equality.  Regarding women and armed conflict, she noted that women and girls were the first to suffer in such situations, due to their psychological and physical vulnerabilities.  All parties should allow women to participate in efforts to achieve peace and reconstruction.


She said Morocco had encouraged women to participate in decision-making, and the percentage of women elected to government had increased considerably in the most recent elections.  In addition, divorce had become a right that both sexes could enjoy, polygamy had been restricted, and women could marry men of their choice after a certain age.  They could also remarry and no longer needed permission to change their residences.  Morocco had also started projects to include gender mainstreaming in development projects.  The country also had a national strategy to combat violence against women, and had made provisions for gender mainstreaming in the national budget.


MICHAEL SMITH (Australia), Chairman of the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, said that the practice of having the chairpersons of the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women appearing before each other’s respective bodies was one way to inform each other of areas of common interests and the political context of respective deliberations and decisions.  The two Commissions were probably the most closely linked among the functional commissions of ECOSOC.


He welcomed the recent appointment of Louise Arbour as High Commissioner for Human Rights.  He noted that, at the current session, the Women’s Commission would be focusing on two thematic issues.  The Commission on Human Rights would be following with interest discussions on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality.  Concerning the second theme, women’s equal participation in conflict prevention and resolution and post-conflict peace-building, he recalled that the situation of women in conflict was an area of priority for the late High Commissioner, Sergio Vieira de Mello.


He recalled two issues raised last year by the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights.  The first was violence against women, an issue on which the Commission on Human Rights had long taken an interest.  The second was the work done on trafficking in women and girls, which would be prominent in the upcoming session of the Commission on Human Rights later this month.  He then highlighted the reform undertaken within the Commission on Human Rights, including the introduction of interactive dialogues with special procedures mandate holders.  Despite progress made in recent years, much more work needed to be done to ensure the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.


Afternoon High-Level Round Table


First Segment


During the first segment of the discussion, several speakers stressed that statistics were a vital tool in achieving the gender goals laid down in the Beijing Programme of Action, and in monitoring the effectiveness of gender-based policies and programmes.  Speakers also underscored the use of statistics in improving the socio-economic situation of women, enhancing their participation in politics, and highlighted unequal resources between the sexes.  Echoing the concerns of other delegates, Pakistan’s representative emphasized the need to forward gender disaggregated data to all policy-makers in achieving broad-based gender equality.


Other delegates underlined the value of statistics in development, especially in lobbying for change in gender-biased policies.  Namibia’s representative pointed out, however, the difficulties and cost of collecting data and producing gender disaggregated data.  Many developing countries had to rely on other nations in carrying out research to follow up on the Beijing Platform for Action.


Speakers also highlighted the problems of unreported data, which led to faulty statistics.  Statistics on violence against women, for example, were often unreliable due to societal stereotypes and the mistrust of law enforcement agencies.  Echoing the sentiments of other delegates, Armenia’s representative stressed that more reliable statistics on trafficking in women could be obtained through cooperation with transit countries.


Delegates also shared experiences in setting up and improving national mechanisms for data collection, stressing that qualitative, as well as quantitative, indicators must be used.  Canada’s delegate emphasized that human voices were needed to explain and interpret the numbers in producing positive change.  It was vital to work with specific groups, such as aboriginal peoples, for example, to ensure that issues of race, culture, privacy, and safety were reflected in statistical data.


Numerous speakers emphasized the importance of sex disaggregated data.  In Zambia, for example, such data had showed that more girls were out of school than boys, and that a minimal number of women found themselves in the formal employment sector.  Such data was an important tool to show the Government the differences between men and women, leading to discussion of the gaps and challenges. 


Another speaker added that it was necessary to have the best information possible to make the case for resources.  It was also stated that, in addition to official statistics, national studies were needed to provide qualitative data to show the real situation of women.


The challenges in the area of capacity building for the collection of data and production of statistics were highlighted by several delegations.


South Africa’s representative informed the Commission that her country was using statistics to measure, among other things, to what extent policies were impacting the everyday lives of women.  They were also measuring to what extent skills development programmes and affirmative action policies were succeeding.  Statistics, stated Congo’s representative, made it possible to have indicators to measure progress to see where weaknesses were, intervene better and improve the socio-economic situation of women.  The importance of gender budgeting was also stressed by some speakers.


Second Segment


The second segment of the discussion included representatives of the United Nations Statistical Commission, members of the Commission on the Status of Women, and observers.


A member of the Statistical Commission emphasized the need for collaboration between statisticians and policy-makers, as well as that between policy-makers and other ministries using or producing statistics.  To that end, another member noted that the Statistical Commission promoted a forum for dialogue between statisticians and users of statistics.  Cooperation and integration between and among those groups was needed to reduce the cost of using statistics and enhance group accessibility.


Another Statistical Commission member noted that a necessary condition for obtaining good gender statistics was a healthy, open, and honest partnership between statisticians and users of statistics.  Statisticians must be more creative and open, think beyond gender disaggregation, and consider further steps to illuminate men and women’s condition in society.  However, the Commission, which met once a year, was practically a pseudo body when its members returned home, with no Secretariat support.  As for the high cost of obtaining statistics, he noted that the General Assembly had set up a development account for regional projects, and perhaps regional statistical projects would be possible through that account.


Addressing the issue of statistical cooperation, Finland’s representative said her country had established an advisory group between producers and users, which worked together at all times.  Regarding the cost of statistics, she stressed that all data should be dissagregated to avoid costly and timely duplications.  She also emphasized that gender statistics should be produced according to the United Nations fundamental statistical principles.  They should be high quality, comparable at the international level, use transparent methods, and meet user requirements.


As various United Nations agencies took the floor, the representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) stated that statistical work on health-related Millennium Development Goals had fostered greater collaboration between UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).


The representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) stressed that it was necessary to look at the entire statistical process, including the definitions and classifications used, in order to engender the whole process.  How to engender the statistical process should be discussed with government officials.


It was necessary, stated the representative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), to do much more than just monitoring progress regarding the advancement of women.  Data was crucial for setting appropriate policies sensitive to women’s issues.  Also, it was important to involve women in the analysis of data not just in the collection of it.


The representative of the WHO expressed concern over the lack of data in many countries on deaths.  In some parts of the world, there was a dangerous imbalance regarding missing women, particularly through sex selection.  In other parts of the world, there was a dangerous imbalance related to men.


Among the issues raised by United Nations and non-governmental organization representatives was including other information such as race, ethnicity and religion in the collection of data and production of statistics; using regional and subregional statistics to monitor progress; focusing on cost-effective data collection as opposed to large, expensive projects; and the importance of having reliable and relevant data.


* *** *


__________


*     Press Release WOM/1435 dated 5 February should have been WOM/1434.