|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Economic and Social Council
2010 Substantive Session
15th & 16th Meetings (AM & PM)
Economic and Social Council’s Development Cooperation Forum Concludes amid Calls
for ‘Road Map’ to Meet Millennium Development Goals Target Year
The Economic and Social Council today closed its second Development Cooperation Forum amid calls for a “desperately needed” road map to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and an understanding of areas where attaining the targets would have a multiplier effect, whether by investing in women and girls or supporting capacity for domestic resource allocation.
Summarizing proceedings in the two-day Forum, Council President Hamidon Ali (Malaysia) stressed the need to ensure coherence between development cooperation and “beyond-aid” policies on trade, investment and technology through more analysis and political engagement by donor as well as programme countries. Aid providers must set ambitious targets for 2011-2015 during September’s High-Level Summit to review progress towards the Millennium Goals, putting in place plans for scaling up disbursements.
To make aid more effective, he said, programme countries and non-executive stakeholders must be fully engaged and improve the way in which progress was measured on issues relating to capacity development and mutual accountability. Moreover, the international system must capitalize fully on the comparative advantages of South-South cooperation by providing cost-effective support and enabling peer learning.
As for the Forum, he urged it to identify best practices for policies that moved beyond aid to cover all of Goal 8 (global partnership), continue its regular assessments of development cooperation trends and enhance its role in the related architecture, as the “legitimate apex” for policy dialogue and norm-setting.
The Forum’s programme also featured the final two of five policy dialogues, which focused, respectively, on the “Impact of multiple crises: allocating resources among competing needs”, and “Achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015: an agenda for more and improved development cooperation”.
Also today, the Council continued its Annual Ministerial Review, established in 2005 to assess progress towards the Goals, among other internationally agreed development targets. Senior officials from Namibia, France and the United States made national voluntary presentations — a unique feature of the Review — on their implementation progress, with a special focus on strategies to address women’s needs, in line with this year’s theme of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Tapera Chirawu, Professor at the University of Namibia, discussed strategies for addressing gender in health, education and poverty-eradication efforts, noting that poverty in his country stemmed from the fact that women could not access financing or loans. To tackle that problem, the Koshi Yomuti — or “banking under a tree” — strategy offered financial services to rural women involved in small business enterprises, he said, explaining that Namibia’s classification as an “upper middle class” country made it costly to access international finance capital, which impeded its development agenda.
Underscoring that point, Doreen Sioka, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare, said the majority of her compatriots did not own land, which had an impact on income levels, adding: “We need advice. We need assistance.”
For its part, France had initiated global and regional projects to support women, according to Fabrice Heyries, that country’s Executive Director for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. He said that under the “Women protagonists for Development” plan, 18 African businesswomen were training at the École Nationale d’Administration. I addition, a programme that fostered respect for women’s rights in the Arab world was being carried out jointly with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). In the end, however, the Goals could only be achieved if the outcome documents from the Cairo and Beijing conferences, on population and women, respectively, were fully implemented, he said.
Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues of the United States, emphasized that investing in women was a powerful force for development, adding: “Women and girls are one of the world’s greatest untapped resources.” Globally, women were vastly underrepresented, holding less than one fifth of positions in national Governments and often missing from negotiating tables. But higher levels of female participation in Government had been associated with lower levels of corruption, she pointed out. For such reasons, the United States placed women and girls at the core of its development strategy and foreign policy.
Parallel to the Review, the Council held a special policy dialogue on the theme “The role of women in countries in special situations”. Setting the stage for the discussion, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that “without more women in Government office, we may only see small gains for women in education, employment and health”. Achievement of the Goals had been severely compromised in societies where women and girls were not allowed to contribute equally, he said, adding that investing in them would unleash a tremendous source of human potential.
Panellist Leymah Gbowee, Executive Director of the Women in Peace and Security Network in Africa, said that, while the African Union’s designation of the years 2010-2020 as the “Decade of the African Woman” might create the belief that African women were making strides, progress was being undercut by incorrect assumptions, including that women would automatically be involved in post-conflict efforts. Though Liberia had elected a female President and Rwanda had achieved 50 per cent female representation in Parliament, the situation in Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was “not as exotic”. The political will to lift women up was “just not there”, she said. Calling for a different course, she declared: “Our politics is now. The time is now.”
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday 1 July to continue its high-level segment.
The Economic and Social Council continued its Annual Ministerial Review today, as delegates examined initiatives to accelerate the development agenda, with a focus on goals relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The Review is expected to include national voluntary presentations on progress in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Presenting their reports today would be Namibia, France and the United States.
Also on the Council’s agenda was a special policy dialogue featuring a round table discussion on the theme “The role of women in countries in special situations”.
The Council was also expected to conclude its Development Cooperation Forum, which began yesterday. (See Press Release ECOSOC/6432)
Annual Ministerial Review — Namibia
DOREEN SIOKA, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, presented her country’s strategy to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, saying it prioritized primary health care, covering disease prevention, general health promotion, as well as curative and rehabilitation services.
TAPERA CHIRAWU, Professor, University of Namibia, presenting an overall picture of the country, said that 65 per cent of Namibia’s 2.5 million people lived in the rural north, and that 53 per cent of them were women and 47 per cent men. Regarding efforts to attain the Millennium Development Goals, the country had three major strategies, the first of which prioritized primary health care, with a focus on child health, and maternal and reproductive health. Namibia would probably reduce child mortality rates, but improving maternal health was a complex task and the Government was working hard to meet its targets. To combat HIV/AIDS, the Government hoped to meet its targets but faced challenges, including financing child health care, immunization and nutrition.
A second focus was education and gender, since women had been the most disadvantaged educationally, he continued, noting that the Government sought to rectify that situation through long-term strategies that would empower women to be economically independent. The main focus in that effort was making education accessible to all through the Education and Training Sector Improvement Programme, which identified the infrastructure needed to provide education and skills training.
Another programme, the Establishment of Namibia College of Open Learning, provided other opportunities for those who had not been able to rejoin mainstream education after dropping out, he said. The programmes had yielded mixed results, given the diversity of the population, he said, adding that challenges included stereotypes about women; raising the percentages of students passing into grades 10 and 12; limited infrastructure; and a shortage of teaching and learning materials.
Strategies to combat poverty and gender included the creation of an environment enabling women to access financing, he said, describing the Koshi Yomuti (“banking under a tree”) strategy implemented by a financial outfit created to offer credit and financial services to rural and other women involved in small business enterprises. Poverty in Namibia stemmed from the fact that women could not access financing or loans, he explained, adding that the country’s classification as “upper middle class” had proven to be a challenge due to persisting poverty, especially among women.
Ms. SIOKA, closing the presentation, said the majority of her compatriots did not own land, which had an impact on income levels. “We need advice. We need assistance,” she emphasized.
The Council then heard from the three reviewers of Namibia’s presentation.
RITVA KOULEKU-RONDE, Under-Secretary General of State for Development Policy and Cooperation of Finland, said the presentation provided a “good and realistic overview”, applauding Namibia for its outstanding progress in providing health services and reaching upper-middle-class country status. She requested additional information on women’s participation in politics and property rights, asking also why more resources were budgeted for defence than for health.
JUAN ANOTONIO YÁÑEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) hailed the significant improvements in primary and adult education, as well as vocational training. With regard to challenges, he urged the Namibian authorities to develop indicators on public policies, delve deeper into potential reasons why children and young people dropped out of school, and continue its decentralization efforts to ensure equal distribution of resources among the regions, especially the rural areas.
MBANGISENI DZIVHANI, Head of Department, Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities of South Africa, highlighted Namibia’s achievements in promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality, and requested additional information about institutional arrangements to foster those principles. In terms of health care, she asked why Namibia prioritized primary health care over prevention.
Ms. SIOKA attributed improvements in education quality to large investments in the sector, noting, however, that her country still needed support in that regard. The School Development Fund required parental contributions, but children of parents unable to contribute were still given the opportunity to attend school.
Addressing the question on resource allocation to the Ministry of Defence, she said it was the only sector that considered uneducated people for employment, and pointed out that Namibia had gained independence only 20 years ago. Land was in the hands of a few, she said, requesting Finland’s help in redistribution. People in rural areas suffered because the land they owned was inadequate, she said, emphasizing that landowners lived outside the country and many people feared being prosecuted and fined if they built or lived on land they did not own.
With regard to Namibia’s focus on primary health, she said it was not a priority at the expense of another, since primary health care encompassed many elements, including prevention.
Mr. CHIRAWU added that people would already be settled if Namibia did have property rights. However, because it was a democratic country which respected the rule of law, problems persisted. A number of policies were in place to ensure equal achievement in education and training, he said, noting that the Ministry of Gender and the Ministry of Health worked hand in hand to ensure benefits for women.
Annual Ministerial Review — France
FABRICE HEYRIES, Executive Director for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality of France, reaffirmed the universal nature of human rights, including those of women, and condemned all forms of violence against them, saying his country wished to give new impetus to women’s rights and equality. Reaffirming France’s respect for women’s reproductive and sexual rights, he said their equal participation in all levels of economic, social and political life was required for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Describing his country’s efforts internationally, he said its participation in multilateral bodies showed its commitment to women’s rights, adding that, alongside the Netherlands, France had initiated, in 2006, a draft resolution aimed at the elimination of all forms of violence against women, which had been adopted by the General Assembly. In the area of development cooperation, France’s 2007 strategy aimed to change profoundly the relationship between women and men so as to ensure respect for women’s rights, he said. A plan of action entitled “Women protagonists for development” established the framework for women-oriented policies.
Regionally, France had implemented a programme of cooperation assistance in respect of the rights of women and families in the Arab world, he said. Carried out jointly with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the programme supported the creation of outreach centres for victims of violence in Morocco, as well as other projects in Algeria and Tunisia. He hailed the 1 March adoption by the International Organization of La Francophonie of a robust statement on combating violence against women at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Describing the national experience, he said legal equality had not always been reflected in de facto equality, partly because the female workforce was concentrated in a few, less well-paying areas. Women did more part-time work than men, because maternity often “put the brakes” on their careers. That was one among many factors that had led to their low participation in decision-making. France wanted an overall policy that emphasized equality in schools and strengthened salary equality obligations, he stressed.
He said the country also wished to improve gender equality in companies through the use of an “equality label”. To help balance professional and personal life, France was working to create more child care centres. To combat violence against women, Parliament had adopted yesterday a law that made gender-based violence a crime and allowed the use of restraining orders. In closing, he emphasized that the Millennium Development Goals could only be achieved if the outcome documents adopted at the Cairo and Beijing conferences were fully implemented.
NOUZHA SKALLI, Minister for Family, Social Development and Solidarity of Morocco, the first reviewer, posed several questions: what inter-ministerial steps were being taken that were important for equality? What were the results, obstacles and future prospects of efforts towards gender parity? What were France’s strategies to promote women’s participation in the economy? What efforts was it making on violence against women, and was it involving men in prevention? What was being done to increase the number of women in prestigious positions? What relevant instruments were being used to combat stereotypes?
HERMAN SCHAPER ( Netherlands), the last reviewer, said the presentation offered a clear overview of France’s domestic and international policies, and requested additional information on the effects of legislation to establish quotas for women. Had its pro-family policy led to improvements in work quality and the economy? Had legislation punishing inter-partner violence been implemented? Was it possible to assess progress on forced marriages?
Mr. HEYRIES said France took a comprehensive approach to policies on women’s rights, involving all ministries at all levels and guaranteeing equality in all spheres. However, the country had not achieved many positive results on gender parity and corporate quotas. The application of gender-parity rules in certain elections were limited to the election lists and did not allow access to the National Assembly or the Senate. One response could be to impose equal representation for men and women on electoral lists and to fine political parties that did not respect equality, he said.
He went on to say that women made up only 10 per cent of the boards of leading French companies, noting that many women were hired against quotas, which they felt sent a negative message. Recognizing the need for equality, he said quotas could provide a unique opportunity to achieve the dynamism needed to promote gender parity.
France’s strategy against women’s poverty was to guarantee their inclusion in decision-making, through the quota law, he said. Women needed to diversify their study and job choices, and to be provided with career development courses to help them enter the job market after school. The Government had attempted to negotiate with social partners in order to prevent salary gaps, but some companies would not “play the game”, he said, noting that imposed part-time work for women often forced them into poverty.
Positive economic results could be contributed to France’s considerable allocation of resources to childcare, he said, highlighting the Government’s four-year plan to create another 200,000 childcare centres beginning in 2012. With regard to violence against women, he said France had taken a hard-line approach in the last five years, creating crisis centres and shelters for women victims as well as awareness campaigns. The results of legislation on violence could not be observed in terms of a reduction, but there had been a clear increase in the number of complaints made, court cases initiated and sentences handed down, he noted.
CECILE SPORTIS, Special Adviser on Gender Issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, added that, for the first time, the country had allocated budget funds for women, an approach that would enable the Government to assess what was happening with them nationally.
In a second round of questions, speakers from non-governmental organizations underscored the need to fight economic, psychological, verbal and physical violence against women in the home, workplace and the streets. Practices including female genital mutilation, honour killings and forced marriage were raised in that context. “Gender equality is not a luxury for developed countries,” but rather a requirement for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, one speaker said, asking how France protected women and girls from humiliating traditions and acquired reliable data on practices that should be eradicated.
Another speaker said gender issues had acquired an element of political correctness, a form of pressure that masked men’s attitudes. What was the Government doing to change men’s mindsets?
The representative of Israel asked the panellists to discuss the impacts of the economic and financial crisis on women. What was the Government doing to reduce unemployment, and how were women being reintegrated into the job market?
Mr. HEYRIES responded by emphasizing that the reforms under way were intended to address a statistics problem. For example, when people migrated to France, they were not always identified as immigrants, and the country was developing ways to help them access their rights and get more involved in society. Regarding violence, he said laws had gradually been made harsher.
To help women gain or regain employment, provisions were in place to help them enter or re-enter the labour force, he said, adding that more recent initiatives, some created in 2009, outlined social allowances for women to go back to work.
Participating in the discussion were representatives of the European Women’s Lobby and Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini.
Annual Ministerial Review — United States
MELANNE VERVEER, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues of the United States, said “the Millennium Development Goals are also America’s Goals”, and Goal 3 (gender equality) was the linchpin — the means to achieving all the others. Women and girls were among the world’s greatest untapped resources, and investing in them was among the most powerful forces of international development. Globally, women were vastly underrepresented, holding less than one fifth of positions in national Governments, significantly outnumbered in the chambers of parliaments and provincial councils, and often missing from negotiating tables seeking to resolve conflicts.
Investing in women had been positively correlated with general economic prosperity, she said, noting that women-run small- and medium-sized enterprises were proven drivers of gross domestic product (GDP). Investing in women’s health acted as a positive multiplier, benefiting social and economic development through the health of future generations. Additionally, higher rates of female participation in Government had been associated with lower levels of corruption. For those reasons, the United States had placed women and girls at the core of its development strategy and foreign policy, she said, pointing out that the Government’s creation of her position was unprecedented.
Describing three major initiatives, she said the President’s $63 billion “Global Health Initiative” focused on people whose health had the greatest impact on families and communities — women and girls. The Government was strengthening health systems to give women access to an integrated package of essential health services, and linking health programmes to efforts for the removal of barriers to care for women and girls, including gender-based violence.
She went on to say that investing in women and girls was also central to the $3.5 billion “Feed the Future Initiative”, which recognized that women’s contributions to agricultural production and their need for training and access to financial services, markets and decision-making must be met in order to enhance agriculture. Women and girls were also instrumental to the national response to climate change, as seen in the announcement to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 to address the climate needs of developing countries.
ALONZO FULGHAM, Chief Operating Officer of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),said his country’s voice was just starting to be heard on the Millennium Development Goals. Hailing countries that had prioritized development, he said that despite the extraordinary development gains made, “we know there is much more to do”, noting, among other facts, that infant mortality was unconscionably high in South Asia and Africa. Women and girls were the majority of the world’s poor, unhealthy and underfed, but investing in them was about achieving the other Millennium Goals.
He said that placing gender at heart of development efforts was part of a larger strategy that focused on driving innovation; investing in sustainability, notably through support for trade; tracking and evaluating development outcomes by improving data quality; and recognizing the shared responsibility of donor and recipient nations.
MASHIUR RAHMAN, Economic Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, commended the initiatives launched by the United States and shared his views on the situation of women in developing countries, focusing on such issues as micro-enterprise, microfinance and microcredit opportunities.
CARSTEN STAUR ( Denmark) also commended the progress made by the United States, describing its change in direction over the past year as “impressive”. He asked how the country combined its approaches to women and gender with its approach to men, since women were only “half the sky”. He also sought the United States view on quotas for women, and asked how to enhance the role of women in governance and politics. Lastly, he broached the country’s approach to sexual and reproductive health and rights, asking why it seemed so difficult to talk about that issue, especially sexual rights for women.
SERVACIUS LIKWELILE, Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania, noted that gender equality and the empowerment of women were global issues requiring a global approach, wondering if common ground could be found on which to address them. He also asked whether global benchmarks could be established through the country’s initiatives, how men were involved in the country’s efforts on gender, and whether the United States reached out to women in dire need.
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, thanked the delegations of Namibia, France and the United States for their excellent presentations, noting that they had helped to prove that “where there is a will, there is a way”. Country experiences showed that firm commitments could lead to real progress, he said. The commitment of the United States Government to the Millennium Development Goals was good for the country itself, the United Nations and the Goals, he said, noting that, as the world’s biggest economy, the United States could afford to be “super generous” and guide the Organization’s work to attain the Goals and sustainable development. “The world welcomes your efforts,” he added.
Ms. VERVEER, responding to questions, noted that financial inclusion, access to insurance for the poor and microfinance were areas of great importance, and preferable to the riskier loans required for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Such enterprises were, however, critical to economic growth, and it was important for women to have access to credit, she said. Making loan guarantees available was “absolutely critical”, because it enabled more people to engage in the economy, leading to the kind of growth the country wanted to see.
She noted that her country was, indeed, including men in its gender policies, citing its food security initiative, which took both men and women farmers into consideration. The initiative recognized that each gender may require different tools to enhance their productivity, she said, adding that the so-called gender lens helped to make the Government’s efforts more effective. Hopefully, it could be applied in the fullest context in the future.
She went on to stress that women could not influence political outcomes unless they were allowed to participate. In achieving political empowerment, they needed to be able to bring their perspectives and express their needs. The United States did support quotas, she confirmed, highlighting efforts in Afghanistan as a “daily push for women’s representation in the peace process as it goes forward”. In that regard, the United States was committed to helping women with great needs in terms of political participation. Recognizing the importance of women’s health and well-being, the United States viewed family planning as a cornerstone of its initiatives, and had begun working with the Secretary-General on a platform for action to improve the health and well-being of women and children.
Mr. FULGHAM added that small- and medium-sized enterprises constituted an important issue that should be addressed more seriously, citing the need to consider non-conventional financing models for women, including private equity. Until private equity funds were available, banks would continue to be hesitant to lend to women, he warned, adding that USAID tried to integrate gender into every programme, yet it had not been able properly to track outcomes. In attempting to do so, it had seen an opportunity to be more accountable to taxpayers, he said, expressing hope that that could lead to a disaggregation of information with regard to assistance to women.
Special Policy Dialogue on Women
In a parallel session this morning, the Council held a special policy dialogue on the theme “The role of women in countries in special situations”, which featured a round table discussion chaired by Council Vice-President Octavio Errazuriz (Chile).
The discussion was moderated by Carla Koppell, Director of the non-governmental advocacy group Initiative for Inclusive Security. The panellists were Leymah Gbowee, Executive Director, Women in Peace and Security Network Africa; Frances Stewart, Director of the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, Department for International Development, University of Oxford; Jan Egeland, Director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs; and Graciana del Castillo, Senior Research Scholar, Columbia University.
Mr. SHA, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, setting the stage for the discussion, introduced the reports of the Secretary-General on the Council’s similarly themed Annual Ministerial Review, saying it was clear that despite progress in increasing women’s participation and their access to health and education, many gaps remained. Citing the reports, he said societies needed to involve boys and men much more deeply in the effort to promote gender equality. Men needed to be educated about women’s human rights and trained on how to promote and protect those rights in schools, workplaces and homes.
Political representation was the linchpin for advancing gender equality, he said. “Without more women in Government office, we may only see small gains for women in education, employment and health in many societies.” Furthermore, achievement of the agreed development targets was severely compromised in societies where women and girls were not allowed to contribute equally. The reports reiterated the need to make the global partnership for development more responsive to the specific needs and priorities of women and girls. “Investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect […] when women are granted the same rights and opportunities as men, a tremendous source of human potential is unleashed,” he concluded.
Ms. KOPPELL echoed the sentiment that too little attention was being paid to women in special situations and how to elevate their voice in dialogues and decision-making around post-conflict peacebuilding efforts. There were three “lenses” through which that issue should be tackled: through the lens of fundamental rights and justice, especially since women were the majority of the population and the majority of those afflicted by conflict; through the lens of international law, especially the aims of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000); and through the growing body of evidence that societies could more quickly recover from conflict when women were better integrated into post-conflict space.
Indeed, evidence showed that women advanced economic and social priorities when they were in legislative or other decision-making positions, she said. In Rwanda, the only country in the world with a majority of women in Parliament, clear progress had been made on women’s rights, human rights in general and on increasing attention to critical socio-economic concerns. Women had been able to rehabilitate the image of post-conflict governance because they were not tainted by the conflict and appeared to be less corrupt. So it was clear that the role of women in those and other fields “are ignored at our own peril”, she said, noting that, in India, socio-economic growth had been pegged to correlated growth in the numbers of women entering the workforce and the political arena.
There was a great deal of rhetoric about how to move the agenda forward, but a decisive lack of political will to promote efforts on the ground, she continued. She recalled that 2010 marked the tenth anniversary of the Security Council’s adoption of resolution 1325 (2000) on women peace and security, and that the Secretary-General had created a civil society advisory group on the issue. “We need to use and leverage these processes to drive action,” she declared, adding: “This is not an issue about men ‘or’ women, or ‘men versus women’; this is an issue of solid development policy.”
Ms. GBOWEE, for her part, said more attention was being paid to the situation of women, including through changes to the African Union Charter, and the African Union’s designation of 2010-2020 as the Decade of the African Woman. Yet, while those and other initiatives might lead one to think that women in Africa were really making strides, that progress was being undercut by a raft of assumptions, including that women would automatically be involved in post-conflict efforts, or that development programmes automatically targeted women’s empowerment.
Most such assumptions were incorrect, she asserted, pointing out that women’s participation remained relatively low. While African leaders boasted about the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in Liberia, and the appointment of 50 per cent women in Rwanda’s Parliament, the situation in Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was not “as exotic as it was in those two countries”. At the same time, awareness was being raised and women at the grass-roots level had begun to believe that they did indeed have a real role to play in post-conflict processes and political decision-making in general.
“So why are we not excelling?” she asked. One reason was that, despite all the words of solidarity and support, after a conflict, “what everybody really wants is for women to go back home and take care of their children and cook for them”. The political will to lift women up was “just not there”, despite the will of political leaders attending special sessions and panel discussions to brag about what they were doing for women. Describing “cross-cutting” as one of her favourite United Nations terms, she said it did not apply to women, adding that when the time came for action on women’s behalf, there was suddenly no money, no office space, no computers and no positions of consequence for them.
Decrying stereotyped assumptions about women’s priorities, she citied, by example, a women’s empowerment programme she had visited in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had provided funds for tie-dying and soap making, but which had fallen apart with the advent of the planting season. Her suggestion to the programme leaders had been that, rather than assume that all women wanted or needed to do was to make soap, why not take that money and buy tools to make farming and field work easier for them? That and similar examples made clear the absolute necessity of concrete political action and attention to detail, she declared. “It is time to move beyond rhetoric and take action. Our politics is now. The time is now.”
Ms. STEWART said women were too often portrayed as victims and too often neglected when peace was achieved. At the same time, it was true that women were subjected to rape as a tactic of war, recruited for fighting and abducted to become the wives of combatants. She also cited evidence that women were active combatants in wars from Algeria to Sri Lanka, while more frequently serving in supportive roles such as cooking for fighting forces, running messages, or even planting bombs. In some cases, they were vital recruiting tools for rebels and other armed groups, she said.
Meanwhile, women were routinely ignored in post-conflict peace processes, despite clear evidence that they played vital roles in bolstering peace initiatives, especially at the grass-roots level, she continued. When it came to political negotiations, women’s roles were often improved, if only through constitution-making processes, as evidenced by such exercises in Rwanda and Afghanistan. Sadly, women were left out of economic restructuring efforts such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, despite the fact that they were most often displaced or left without jobs during and after conflicts.
Even though everyone knew that women made up the largest proportion of farmers, extension services largely bypassed them and were extended to men, she said, specifically highlighting the hardships faced by indigenous women in such situations. “So we need recognition that all this is happening and then we need solutions,” she stressed. It was not enough to assume that giving women a political post-conflict role would resolve all problems. Indeed, it was necessary to address the underlying and root causes of the grievances of both men and women.
Mr. EGELAND, former United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted the international community’s “mixed balance sheet” on implementing goals for women in the 10 years since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). While women-focused programmes had led to significant progress, “the bad news dwarfs the good” since little real change had taken hold. Women and girls continued to suffer “unbelievable” human rights abuses and, in too many places, remained totally marginalized in decision-making about their own lives. In conflict and post-conflict situations, “what is already bad becomes worse”, as housing and property rights, employment rights and health and reproductive rights were repeatedly violated.
“So integrating the gender perspective into disaster preparedness and response is critical,” he said, calling for systems to be put in place to ensure that the needs of all women, girls and boys were taken into account. A major goal to that end would be to improve the reliability and availability of sex-disaggregated data on the situation of women, he suggested. Furthermore, it was important for all stakeholders “to follow the money” in ensuring that resources were targeted more towards grass-roots and advocacy groups.
He called passionately for an end to rape as a tactic of war and harmful traditional practices against women. Civilian and military commanders who allowed rape — “and we all know who they are” — must be brought to justice, and religious or community leaders who backed harmful traditional practices must be publicly condemned. Overall, he said, if women continued to be marginalized, all society would suffer, so improving their situation must be the focus of the next decade. “So it’s as easy and as difficult as that,” he concluded.
Ms. CASTILLO, the final panellist, cautioned against “lumping together all countries emerging from crisis”, emphasizing that post-war priorities were vastly different. As some States focused on national reconciliation, others targeted economic rehabilitation and still others pressed for security reforms. “Development as usual is not the answer,” she said, stressing that post-conflict measures must target the areas or populations most affected by the fighting. In many cases, that population was one of women, and the international community’s record was “dismal” on that score.
It was vitally important, therefore, to ensure that resources were channelled to women’s groups, she stressed. It was also to important to make sure that new aid did not support bad models for women, she added, drawing attention to the situation in Haiti, where women largely worked in sweatshops or other deplorable jobs. With money pouring in to help the impoverished country recover from the devastating 12 January earthquake, care must be taken to ensure that programmes targeting the employment of women did not rush to “just give them a job”, but to improve labour conditions and training. Furthermore, stakeholders, especially the United States, should press multinationals working in Haiti to adhere to corporate responsibility agreements, she said, adding that, overall, sustainable implementation of all gender-related policies would be impossible without national ownership.
During the ensuing discussion, most speakers agreed that it was time to put all the instruments and agreements on women’s empowerment into action. There had been enough seminars, and political will and resources must be mobilized now. Several speakers also called for more attention to women’s economic empowerment, especially in post-conflict and post-disaster situations, where women, often widowed, routinely struggled to support their families while their land rights were abused and their work usurped by new priorities.
A civil society representative said that the new United Nations gender entity under discussion in the General Assembly must be headed by a strong Under-Secretary-General, and it must have operational capacity on the ground. Such an agency would only be effective if it was adequately resourced and politically supported.
Also speaking were the representatives of the United States, Nepal, Indonesia, Argentina, Australia (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum) and the Republic of Korea.
Speaking prior to the panel discussion, PATRICK HAYFORD, Director of the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, delivered a statement on behalf of Cheick Sidi Diarra, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
A representative of the delegation of the European Union also spoke, as did a representative of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Civil society participants included representatives of the International Presentation Association and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Policy Dialogue IV
In the afternoon, the Council returned to its Development Cooperation Forum, holding its fourth policy dialogue, on the topic “Impact of multiple crises: allocating resources among competing needs”.
Nitin Desai, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Internet Governance and former Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, moderated the Panel.
MARIE-JOSÉE JACOBS, Minister for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs of Luxembourg, said her Government had reached the globally agreed 0.7 per cent contribution of GDP for official development assistance (ODA), and despite the financial and economic crisis, it had also been able to remain on track over the past year. Luxemburg adhered to the aims of the Paris Declaration and the Accra Declaration on Aid Effectiveness by devoting attention to the quality of the assistance it provided, she said.
Turing to the broader picture, she reminded the Forum that, even if all countries attained all the Millennium Development Goals, their success would only reduce poverty by half. In that light, efforts to reach the ODA targets must not be diminished and development cooperation must be enhanced at all levels and in all spheres, especially since the Goals had been set a decade ago and now faced new obstacles. Luxembourg had taken significant care to ensure that its ODA activities and the resources it devoted to, humanitarian assistance, for example, did not undercut each other, she said. The country had also set up a special fund through which to channel initiatives addressing climate change.
Luxembourg was also attentive to the situation of migrants, and aware of the important role that remittances played. On the global economic crisis, she said the downturn was putting more pressure than ever on development financing, and welcomed the fact that on 17 June, the European Union had pledged to attain collectively the long-agreed objective of 0.7 per cent. At the same time, it was well known that ODA would not be enough to achieve sustainable development, and that being the case, Luxembourg supported microfinance initiatives and investment programmes to boot development financing.
Mr. RAHMAN, Economic Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, highlighted his Governments strategy to offset the effects of the recent crises, saying the policy focus was on sustaining domestic demand and bolstering income generation and employment. The Government had also placed an emphasis on supporting rural populations and improving access and opportunities for women, he said, adding that two of the ministers leading the broader effort were women.
One of the keys for Bangladesh was ensuring food security in a time of wild fluctuations in the prices of commodities and food staples, he said. The Government had therefore stepped up its support for the agricultural sector and, among other social security initiatives, launched food-delivery programmes, such as “food-for-work”, and food production activities.
In addition, Bangladesh had just been awarded $51 million by the World Bank to carry out three agricultural projects that included the provision of assistance to small farmers. That support bolstered food security, employment and agricultural productivity all at the same time, he said, calling for specific international help to cope with the effects of climate change and natural disasters. Because Bangladesh was very flat and so prone to floods, “we feel like Alice in Wonderland — we have to run fast to stay where we are”, he said.
Mr. FULGHAM, Chief Operating Officer of USAID, said many feared that the global financial crisis and the rapid upward spiral of food and fuel costs would cruelly harm the world’s most vulnerable people. The world was still recovering and would continue to do so for some time to come. While the international community was on track to cut poverty in half by 2015, there was now much more poverty than would be the case had the crisis never happened, he noted. In responding to the financial crisis, developed countries had taken several urgent policy measures, positively impacting developing-country economies and placing economic growth on the path to an expected 6 per cent increase for the period 2010‑2012, he said.
Countries with institutionalized safety nets were better equipped to cope than those relying on ad hoc donations, he said, underscoring the need to prioritize assistance in strengthening social safety nets. ODA had, in fact, helped countries to be better prepared after the financial crisis; however, existing programmes focused on long-term development and thus could not address short-term issues. Despite that, the United States still recognized the relevance of aid and had increased its ODA fund, he said, urging other countries to meet their commitments.
Decades of progress on health, education and poverty reduction were at risk as the economic slowdown exasperated global unemployment, he said. Highlighting President Barack Obama’s efforts to encourage action, he noted that his country’s 2010 foreign assistance budget for agriculture had increased significantly over the last year. Building strong institutions in developing countries would sustain their growth and eliminate their reliance on other countries for food, he said, urging the international community to use all tools at hand to encourage economic growth in developing countries. ODA was not the sole driver, so private aid was essential. “Without inclusive growth, the world will find it difficult to meet the Millennium Development Goals,” he said in closing.
CARLOS A. PRIMO BRAGA, Director, Economic Policy and Debt, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network of the World Bank, said the series of crises occurring in the past few years was considered “the new normal”, as advantages were likely to accompany vulnerability in an integrated world. “We have to be prepared to live in a situation which is much more characterized by fluctuations,” he said. Emphasizing the positive global impact of ODA, he nevertheless stressed that it was not sufficient to solve development issues on its own.
Given the current financial climate, State budgets were under significant pressure, he continued. “We all want more aid, but if history is a prologue of what’s ahead, we will see problems in terms of fiscal capacity.” The global crises had made the Millennium Goals much more difficult to attain, since nearly 53 million people would be living in extreme poverty by 2015. International donor assistance was the best tool the donor community had, he stressed.
Considering the range of fiscal deficits, he predicted that interest rates were sure to go up over the next few years. “When they go up, those points in the development agenda that are future-oriented will become much difficult to implement because we will be discounting the future at a much higher rate,” he said, underscoring the importance of acting now and not diverting resources from priorities like food security.
When the floor opened for comments and questions, speakers backed a stronger role for the United Nations in discussions on finding solutions to the ongoing economic and financial downturn. Calling for urgent action in that regard, especially since the Organization provided space for all countries to have their voices heard, one speaker warned against allowing a second wave of financial instability to reach the developing world. In the same vein, several speakers called for “rewriting the equations” that had established the existing financial models and mechanisms, which had obviously been caught short in the wake of the financial turmoil. Such a realignment would not only help prevent future shocks, but might also bring more players to the table.
For his part, the representative of Iraq said that while his country was receiving more donor assistance than ever, its impact had fallen far short of needs due to a host of factors, including weak institutional capacity exacerbated by donors enacting their own projects. The consequent fragmentation of aid had led Iraq to develop strategies that mutually reinforced partnerships between the Government, donors and other actors. Speakers from least developed countries stressed the “painful and often destabilizing” impact of recent crises on their countries. While they appreciated the extra assistance they had received in the past 18 months, more attention should be paid to projects that strengthened agriculture sectors and provided social services for rural populations.
The representative of France said the economic crisis required a coherent response, even though its impacts varied one country to another. France had enhanced its national programmes as well as its engagement with the relevant European Union bodies, and at the multilateral level, it had contributed to the establishment of an investment fund for agriculture in Africa, he said. The crisis also required finding innovative development financing mechanisms and sources.
Civil society representatives cautioned against getting caught up in didactic or overly technical debates when solutions could only be found in frank discussions about “real issues”, such as the promotion and protection of human rights for all, and ensuring that “financing for development seriously includes financing for gender equality”.
Mr. DESAI wrapped up the discussion by saying he had been stuck by the near-universal failure to anticipate the crises, and expressing hope that the past 18 months had taught everyone that the present volatile times “are the new normal”. Globalization would continue to expose economic vulnerabilities; market volatility would continue to rattle financial institutions; and climate change would continue to spark devastating floods and droughts, especially now that people lived closer to the margins of environmental resources.
“So things will not go as planned […] therefore, resilience must now become a goal of development,” he declared, adding that spending on built-in resilience may be essential to attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Such spending did not mean there would be less money for development, because in these times, such spending might be required for the achievement of sustainable development. Agreeing that new ideas must be injected into the development cooperation dialogue, he suggested that the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, informally tagged “ Rio + 20”, might provide the space for in-depth consideration of those issues.
Also participating were the representatives of Brazil, Indonesia, Morocco, Nepal, Japan, Cape Verde, Republic of Korea, Congo, Nicaragua and Saint Lucia.
Civil society was represented by speakers from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Action Aid, Association for Women’s Rights in Development and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Policy Dialogue V
The Council then began its fifth policy dialogue, on the topic “Achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015: an agenda for more and improved development cooperation”.
HELEN CLARK, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, moderated the discussion. Noting that only 80 days remained until the upcoming Millennium Development Goals Summit in September, she said the Goals could be achieved, notwithstanding the challenging situations faced by many countries. An action-oriented agenda was needed to accelerate progress across goals and regions, she said, adding that identifying areas where achievement would have a multiplier effort, whether through investing in women and girls, supporting capacity for domestic resource allocation, or strengthened global partnerships.
SAMURA KAMARA, Minister for Finance and Development of Sierra Leone, said that development cooperation partners recognized the need for shared responsibility, policy coherence, accountability and transparency. Cooperation “must be done with respect and honour”, he said, quoting a Bible verse. Global crises, as well as fiscal consolidation, had increased developing countries’ financial requirements, while aid flows were either falling or remaining at current, inadequate levels. Global partners must live up to their commitments, he stressed, calling for the allocation of more grants and resources to agriculture and food security.
Highlighting some of his country’s initiatives for achieving the Millennium Goals, he stressed the importance of embracing South-South, triangular and decentralized cooperation. Those types of cooperation — which filled gaps and touched upon areas not supported by traditional donors — needed to be better understood and integrated into international frameworks in a mutually inclusive manner. Financial modalities and bilateral aid models must also be addressed, he said, noting that sector-wide funding was preferred, alongside direct aid support.
With regard to aid effectiveness, he called for increased aid flows for sub-Saharan countries whose progress lagged behind. At the same time, recipient countries had a responsibility to commit themselves to global best standards and practices, and to participate in reviews on aid effectiveness, he said. Most importantly, however, it was crucial to develop exit strategies that eliminated aid dependence.
BOB MCMULLAN, Parliamentary Secretary for International Development of Australia, noted that most people thought of failure rather than success when they considered the Millennium Goals. “We must focus on the fact that the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals is something to highlight,” he stressed. With regard to ODA, he underlined the importance of looking beyond traditional forms, pointing to South-South and triangular cooperation as well as private sector funding as important sources of development resources.
Additionally, there was a need to consider innovative financing for development, he said, noting that fund-raising models that challenged traditional methods were available. “We owe it to the poor to make sure to get the best value for the dollar, but we also owe it to the taxpayers,” he noted, calling for the coordination of donor activities and partnerships so as to make maximum use of available resources.
Underlining key areas for accelerating progress towards attaining the Millennium Goals, he noted the importance of prioritizing women and girls, encouraging national leadership of the development process, undertaking more work on aid effectiveness and policy coherence, and mobilizing more resources, including ODA.
Mr. STAUR (Denmark), co-facilitator of the negotiations on the outcome document of the upcoming “MDG + 10 Summit”, said it was a matter of key importance to examine the nexus between improved development cooperation and accelerated efforts to achieve the Millennium Goals. The upcoming Millennium Development Goals Summit would provide an excellent opportunity to consider that issue, especially in light of significant changes in the international development cooperation arena, and the impact of various crises over the past two years.
Thus far, delegations hammering out the outcome document had agreed on the need for a coherent and comprehensive text, he said. Some of the other issues at the centre of the discussion included enhancing the global partnership for development, ensuring gender equality, promoting accountability and transparency, and involving more stakeholders in the process. He noted that many of the negotiators believed that the Economic and Social Council and the Development Cooperation Forum could play a vital role in following up the outcome document over the next five years.
DAVID LANE, President and CEO of the grass-roots campaign and advocacy organization ONE, and the final panellist, said that, with just five years left until the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Goals, the world desperately needed a road map for achieving those vital targets. The upcoming Summit would provide an excellent opportunity to do just that, especially after last week’s “lacklustre” G-20 meeting in Canada had failed to come up with any serious accountability mechanisms for donors and other stakeholders.
He said his organization was targeting specific areas in the run-up to the Summit, and expressed hope that the outcome document would express support for activities that would lead to the creation or facilitation of accountability mechanisms; better statistics; stolen-asset recovery initiatives; contract transparency in the oil and other extractive industries; and the promotion of “smart aid”. On bolstering support for initiatives that had proven successful, he said it would be tragic if, a few weeks after the Summit, the international community failed to replenish the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In the ensuing discussion, several speakers called for increased development cooperation that maximized the use of resources, with the representative of Pakistan saying that an improved and more effective development cooperation framework should be built around a people-centred approach and full ownership of national development strategies. Many speakers agreed that adequate, predictable, and condition-free aid was critical to achieving the Millennium Goals. In that regard, the aid-effectiveness agenda must ensure accountability and transparency between donors and recipients.
Noting that the global crises threatened to roll back progress already made, a representative of LDC Watch urgently called on development cooperation partners to consider specifically the progress of marginalized groups. Several speakers stressed that the current level of ODA was not sufficient to support fully the progress of developing countries, citing the mobilization of domestic and international resources as key. Others stressed the need to consider innovative sources of financing.
Mr. LANE, responding to comments, agreed that a comprehensive and holistic approach to the Millennium Goals was critical, and underscored the importance of concrete commitments to accountability.
Mr. STAUR ( Denmark) added that there could be no “one-size-fits-all” approach, given that development cooperation priorities differed by country. He urged the international community to assess how ODA was prioritized and to support developing countries’ resilience to shocks, without offsetting previous progress in social sectors.
Also participating were representatives and senior Government officials from Mongolia, Pakistan, Gambia, Slovakia, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil and Nicaragua.
Representatives of the observer delegations of the European Union and the Inter-Parliamentary Union also addressed the meeting.
A representative of the International Labour Organization also spoke, as did a representative of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations.
* *** *For information media • not an official record