|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)
After ‘Remarkable Year’ for Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment, Momentum Must Be
Turned into Tangible Gains for Women, Girls Everywhere, Third Committee Told
UN-Women’s Deputy Executive Director: ‘We Are Moving in the Right Direction’;
Special Rapporteur on Violence, Chair of Anti-Discrimination Committee Also Speak
Following a remarkable year in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment that was marked by the establishment of UN-Women and the launch of the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, it was now time to turn the momentum generated in 2010 into clear, tangible gains for women and girls everywhere, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
Speaking at the start of the Committee’s three-day discussion on the advancement of women, Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau of UN-Women, said those landmark events had strengthened global resolve to close the persistent gaps between commitments and women’s daily realities, between women’s rights in the law and their enjoyment of those rights in practice, and between existing empowerment policies and women’s actual well-being and security.
“We have many good indications that we are moving in the right directions,” she stressed, noting that, during the General Assembly’s annual debate last month, world leaders had signed on to a joint statement on advancing women’s political participation and UN-Women was committed to translating it into concrete results. “UN-Women stands beside women around the world who are demanding that their voice be heard and they have equal participation in decision-making.”
Outlining UN-Women’s work, she said progress had been made in its institutional consolidation, including the alignment of staff resources. As attention turned to boosting its field presence, significant efforts were being made to position UN-Women as a catalyst for change.
At the same time, however, the women-focused entity continued to struggle to identify the funding required for its full start up. “One year after its establishment, UN-Women is seriously under-resourced, hampering our ability to deliver on the expectations of stakeholders,” she said, appealing for support from Member States in order to deliver prompt, concrete results.
Pressed by the Kenyan delegation, on behalf of the African Group, to detail what its leadership was doing to secure the needed funds, Ms. Puri said it was not only approaching traditional donors, but asking them to prioritize UN-Women for the next two years as it built up its foundational capacity. Appeals were also being made to non-traditional and emerging country donors, as well as the private sector and foundations. She further encouraged Member States to prioritize gender equality and women’s empowerment in their bilateral aid negotiations since this would allow for aid to be made available at the country level.
Presenting two reports of the Secretary-General on migrant women workers and women in rural areas, she also stressed that specific and targeted policy responses must be crafted both to empower those two groups of women and to prevent discrimination against them. States and United Nations entities had been active in setting up measures to empower rural women and women migrant workers, but there was a dearth of knowledge on the impact of such initiatives. Further, current approaches were both general and ad hoc, which meant they lacked the targeted and systematic nature needed to make a dramatic difference in the lives of those women.
Outlining her first written report to the General Assembly under the terms of resolution 65/187, Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said it was clear that the investigation, prosecution, protection and redress measures for women victims of violence directly affected the prevalence rates of such violence. To prevent future violence, States should address structural discrimination and ensure women’s empowerment, while committing the same efforts and resources to addressing violence against women that they committed to curbing other forms of violence. States also needed to consider the specificities of violence against women in order to recognize the diverse kinds of oppression faced by women.
Stressing that violence against women was not the root problem, she said it occurred because other forms of discrimination were allowed to flourish. Indeed, if a woman experienced violence at home and was then denied security and protection by the legal system, she was encountering multiple forms of violence. In that context, efforts to end all forms of violence against women must consider how structures of discrimination and inequality perpetuated and exacerbated a victim’s realties.
“Interventions that seek to only ameliorate the abuse, and which do not factor in women’s realities, are not challenging the fundamental gender inequalities and discrimination that contribute to the abuse in the first place,” she said, calling for a holistic approach to eliminating all forms of violence against all women that addressed inequality and discrimination among women, as well as between women and men.
She also described for the Committee the results of the visits she made to Algeria, Zambia and the United States this year as part of her mandate.
Silvia Pimentel, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Noting that 187 States were now party to that international instrument, she said it was now just seven Parties short of universal ratification and called on those seven States — Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga and the United States — to undertake the necessary domestic procedures to ratify or accede expeditiously, thereby joining the global consensus that women’s rights were human rights.
During the ensuing debate, delegations called for States and the United Nations system to do more to protect the rights of women to participate on equal terms during all phases of political transitions, as well as during peace negotiations. Several speakers also drew connections between women’s economic advancement and their empowerment. Norway’s representative stressed that gender equality could not be a side-activity or extra programme, but had to be mainstreamed into all development processes.
Arguing the corollary on behalf of the Arab Group, Qatar’s representative stressed that any development strategy that did not address the advancement of women was destined to fail. Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Kenya’s representative called for more efforts to be directed towards the empowerment of rural women. “The role of rural women in Africa is central to social and economic development. It is, therefore, difficult to achieve societal transformation without their productive participation,” he said.
Also offering comments today were the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development for Nigeria and the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community).
The representatives of Argentina (also on behalf of the Group of 77 and China), Guyana (on behalf of Caribbean Community), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Chile (also on behalf of the Rio Group), Liechtenstein, Senegal, United States, Thailand, Nicaragua, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Brazil, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Libya, Japan, Cuba, Israel and the Netherlands also spoke.
Also participating in today’s question and answer sessions were representatives of Kenya (on behalf of the African Group), Algeria, Zambia, Australia, the United States, Liechtenstein, Niger, the European Union, Cameroon, Benin, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, Sweden (on behalf of Nordic countries) and Timor-Leste.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 11 October, to hear the introduction of draft resolutions related to social development and to continue its discussion of the advancement of women.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its general discussion on the advancement of women.
The Committee had before it the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/66/38 Supplement No. 38), which summarizes that body’s work. It covers the forty-sixth session, held from 12 to 30 July 2010 at United Nations Headquarters, as well as its forty-seventh and forty-eighth sessions, held from 4 to 22 October 2010 and from 17 January to 4 February 2011 in Geneva.
The Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/66/99), which covers the period from 24 August 2009 to 1 July 2011, provides information on the Convention as well as its Optional Protocol, which entered into force on 22 December 2000. It also summarizes the work and servicing of the 23-member Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which oversees the compliance of State parties to the Convention and its optional protocol.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/66/181), submitted by request of the General Assembly after its High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in 2010 highlighted rural women as critical for enhancing development and pledged to address obstacles to their economic empowerment. The report notes growing recognition that rural women are critical agents in poverty reduction, food security, environmental sustainability and other aspects related to achieving the Goals. But they remain disadvantaged and excluded from decision-making, holding a disproportionate burden of unpaid care work.
Member States and Organization entities are taking measures to reduce this burden while improving rural women and girls’ access to local services, employment and entrepreneurship, land rights and technology. But, the report says, these initiatives currently benefit only a small number of communities and there is lack of evidence about their impact on empowerment and poverty reduction among rural women.
The report recommends a more systematic strategy that integrates economic empowerment of women and girls in rural areas into national development plans. It calls for temporary special measures for equal participation in decision-making bodies such as agricultural policy boards, water and land committees, and small business and farmers associations. National and local job creation initiatives that target rural women will also strengthen their contribution to development, while examples of good practices promoting gender equality in rural areas can be compiled to replicate success, it says.
The report of the Secretary-General on violence against women migrant workers (document A/66/212) summarizes measures to implement General Assembly resolution 64/139 to protect the rights of women migrant workers. It notes promising actions such as extending labour laws to cover domestic workers, regulating recruitment agencies to prevent illegal practices, training officials, and raising public awareness of the issue. Yet, gaps persist in data collection and dissemination to inform policies, with little reporting on the impact of protection measures.
The report recommends States enhance gender-sensitive data collection and analysis on the issue while continuing to implement international instruments, with special focus on early ratification of the Convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. States also should strengthen gender-sensitive training for officials to ensure effective responses, while increasing victim support.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (document A/66/215). The first written report of the Special Rapporteur provides an overview of the mandate’s work and findings over the period of October 2010 to July 2011, recommending violence against women be addressed through a holistic framework in which States acknowledge it occurs because other forms of discrimination are allowed to flourish.
A one-size-fits-all approach is insufficient because not all women are equally vulnerable and gender-based violence results from a complex interplay of individual, family, community and social factors. Eliminating all forms of violence against all women requires measures that address inequality and discrimination among women as well as between women and men, it adds. Human rights treaties, declarations and mechanisms give the institutional framework for a holistic response to ultimately end all violence against women.
The report of the Secretary-General on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/66/211) was also before the Committee. It notes some progress incorporating a gender perspective in intergovernmental bodies; 60 per cent of reports of the Secretary-General between the sixty-fifth and sixty-sixth sessions included a gender perspective, in an increase from about half the previous year. But, the report notes limited progress with respect to resolutions, and says the goal of gender equality still needs to be inserted into documentation and work of intergovernmental bodies.
The report also recommends Governments improve data collection and analysis to support gender policies, and calls for greater encouragement of non-governmental organizations specializing in gender equality issues through outreach, funding and capacity-development.
Presenting the reports of the Secretary-General prepared by UN-Women, LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau, said that with the establishment of the women-focused entity and the commemorations of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), as well as the Secretary-General’s launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, it had been a remarkable year for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Global resolve had been strengthened to close the persistent gaps between commitments and women’s daily realities, between women’s rights in the law and their enjoyment of those rights in practice, and between existing empowerment policies and women’s actual well-being and security.
All stakeholders now faced the challenges of sustaining the momentum of 2010 and turning the opportunities generated into clear, tangible gains for women and girls everywhere, she said. “We have many good indications that we are moving in the right directions,” she stressed, underlining the emphasis placed, during the General Assembly’s annual general debate, on women’s indispensable role as agents of development and in peace processes, as well as their contributions to conflict prevention and resolution. She further noted that world leaders signed on to a joint statement on ways to advance women’s political participation, and UN-Women was committed to translating it into concrete results.
Highlighting women’s participation in the Arab Spring and the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, she stressed that women had been demanding equal involvement in the work of peacebuilding and democracy for years. But, while women’s involvement was central for achieving lasting peace and security, they were too often excluded from the negotiating table. “UN-Women stands beside women around the world who are demanding that their voice be heard and they have equal participation in decision-making,” she said, echoing the words of UN-Women head, Michelle Bachelet.
Outlining the work of UN-Women, she stressed that much progress had been made in its institutional consolidation, noting further that staff resources had been aligned and attention was now turning to boosting the entity’s field presence. Significant efforts were also being made to position UN-Women as a catalyst for change. Moving forward, the women’s economic empowerment agenda would be strengthened, as would partnerships to bolster food security and empower rural women. At the same time, UN-Women was supporting intergovernmental deliberations and decision-making processes. Further efforts were being made to ensure that the United Nations as a whole used every possible opportunity and negotiation – including in the context of next year’s Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) – to engender standard-setting processes and their outcomes.
She further stressed that UN-Women was dedicated to ensuring that experience gained on the ground was feeding effectively back into intergovernmental processes. That feedback loop was visible in the support to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, as well as in the Secretary-General’s reports on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/66/181) and on violence against women migrant workers (document A/66/212). Among other things, those reports confirmed that specific and targeted policy responses must be crafted to empower those two groups of women and prevent discrimination against them.
One conclusion emanating clearly from both reports was that, while States and United Nations entities had been active in putting in place measures to empower rural women and women migrant workers, there was a dearth of knowledge on the impact of such initiatives. Thus, all actors must pay much closer attention to the effectiveness of measures taken and results achieved - and to reverse course if necessary. A second clear conclusion was that current approaches were both general and ad hoc, lacking the targeted and systematic nature needed to make a dramatic difference in the lives of those women.
The need for a more systematic attention to gender perspective was also clear in the Secretary-General’s report on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/66/211). That report concluded, among other things, that a gender perspective must be mainstreamed into all issues considered by United Nations bodies, summits and conferences, and the participation of women’s groups and non-governmental organizations specializing in gender equality must be supported in intergovernmental processes.
Noting the current uncertain and difficult financial climate, she said that “one year after its establishment, UN-Women is seriously under-resourced, hampering our ability to deliver on the expectations of stakeholders”. While it was working to expand its resource base, the entity looked forward to support from Member States in order to deliver prompt, concrete results, she said.
Question and Answer Session
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Kenya’s representative asked what UN-Women was doing to ensure it had the resources to fulfil its mandate and to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5.
Ms. PURI assured the Kenyan delegation that UN-Women was doing its best to gain the needed resources and capacity. In fact, Ms. Bachelet was actually unable to meet with the Third Committee today because she was out actively fundraising. Further, the question of resources was an existential priority for the entity and, to that end, it was not only approaching traditional donors, but asking them to prioritize UN-Women for the next two years as it built up its foundational capacity. Similarly, those donors were also being asked to “front load” contributions for the period. Appeals were also being made to non-traditional and emerging country donors, as well as the private sector and foundations.
“We are doing every bit, but we also call upon Member States,” she said, adding that it would help if beneficiaries and programme countries indicated in their bilateral aid negotiations that gender equality and women’s empowerment were a priority for them. Such an emphasis would help allow for aid to be made available at the country level.
Presentation by the Special Rapporteur
RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said she would share with the Committee her first written report to the General Assembly pursuant to resolution 65/187, and then describe the activities she had undertaken as mandate holder. Her report found, among others, that it had become increasingly clear that: the investigation, prosecution, protection and redress measures for women victims of violence directly affected prevalence rates of such violence; States should aim to prevent future acts of violence by addressing structural discrimination and ensuring empowerment of women; and States should commit the same efforts and resources to addressing violence against women as they committed to curbing other forms of violence. The report to the General Assembly proposed a holistic approach to understanding and addressing discrimination and violence against women, and contained four main recommendations, she said.
In her first recommendation, she said although rights remained universal, States also needed to consider specificities of violence against women and recognize the diverse experiences of oppression faced by women. “States should move beyond the more common focus on the privileges of civil and political rights and recognize how the denial of social, economic and cultural rights restricts women from meaningfully exercising civil and political life,” she said. In the report’s second recommendation, she said States should recognize that violence against women was not the root problem – it occurred because other forms of discrimination were allowed to flourish. If a woman experienced violence at home and was then denied security and protection by the legal system, she was encountering more than one form of violence.
Discrimination also affected women in different ways, depending on how they were positioned within different social, economic and cultural hierarchies, she said. Thus, her third recommendation: efforts to end all forms of violence against women must consider how structures of discrimination and inequality perpetuate and exacerbate a victim’s realities. “Interventions that seek to only ameliorate the abuse, and which do not factor in women’s realities, are not challenging the fundamental gender inequalities and discrimination that contribute to the abuse in the first place,” she said.
In her final recommendation, the Special Rapporteur said a holistic approach to eliminate all forms of violence against all women required measures that addressed inequality and discrimination among women, as well as those between women and men. In conclusion, she said, a “one-size-fits-all programmatic approach” was insufficient for combating gender-based violence. “Violence results from a complex interplay of individual, family, community and social factors – and, even though all women are at risk for violence in every society in the world, not all women are equally vulnerable to acts and structures of violence,” she said.
Turning to the work under her mandate, she gave an overview of findings from her country missions. Her November 2010 follow-up visit to Algeria found significant developments in the national, family and penal codes to eliminate critical areas of inequality, but there were persistent, discrimination-entrenched attitudes and stereotypes that relegated women to a subordinate role. On the subject of her December 2010 visit to Zambia, she said the Government had secured important legal and institutional achievements, but there had not been improvements in the lives of the majority of women in the country, who remained marginalized, discriminated against and at high risk of violence. Her mission to the United States earlier this year found positive legislative and policy initiatives, but few legally binding federal provisions to give protection for acts of domestic violence against women. That had a particularly detrimental effect on poor, minority and immigrant women, she said.
Among her other duties, she presented a report to the Human Rights Council in June 2011, but regretted only three Governments out of thirteen concerned replied to communications for the work. But, she noted strengthened cooperation with inter-governmental expert bodies this year: in July, she participated in a general discussion by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and held bilateral meetings with the Committee, and in February, she presented a report to the Commission on the Status of Women. She also contributed to the report on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo presented in March 2011, and took part in a January 2011 Asia Pacific consultation in Malaysia, which was followed by a national consultation, as well as June 2011 consultations in Brussels with European civil society organizations.
Question and Answer Session
Ms. MANJOO then took questions and comments from a number of delegations, who thanked her for her report.
The delegate from Algeria noted that her report did not address the history of terrorism in the country, which was responsible for much violence against women. He also said a review of the laws was a relatively easy task, but changing of minds and discriminatory customs required a long time. He asked if the report took the role of educational institutions into account, and how they could be used to change discrimination.
The delegate from Zambia thanked the Special Rapporteur for her report, but said it was misleading when it said violence against women was perpetrated or condoned by the State. It would be appreciated if a more balanced report was presented, reflecting a more balanced approach on the ground.
The delegate from Australia said significant effort was needed to educate young males to change attitudes that promoted discrimination. Also, more effort was needed in the area of protection of women in areas of conflict, she said, asking what else could be done to support Security Council resolution 1820 (2008) on protection from sexual violence in armed conflict.
The delegate from the United States said her country was pleased the report addressed the situation of refugee and displaced women, and hoped the Special Rapporteur would continue that work around the globe. She strongly supported the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and work and urged colleagues to also support it.
The delegate from Liechtenstein asked how the Special Rapporteur was working with the special representative for children and armed conflict and UN-Women. She also asked what the Committee could do to thwart early and enforced marriage.
The delegate from Niger said he would have liked to have heard reference to education in the Special Rapporteur’s presentation. Many women accepted violence at home and discrimination as if it was a natural course of events. He would like an institution, such as a school, to educate husbands and men, and through that help put an end to violence.
The delegate form the European Union asked what States could do to address violence in the private sphere, and what were best practices in due diligence in that area? She also asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on differences between inter-gender and intra-gender violence, as well as how structures could be altered to help address violence at all levels of society. Finally, in her holistic approach, had she coordinated or cooperated with other organizations’ special rapporteurs.
The delegate from Cameroon said the parallel between poverty and empowerment was particularly important.
The delegate from Benin said he agreed with his colleagues from Niger and Cameroon that violence against women was essentially economic in origin.
The delegate from Sierra Leone said she would like to draw attention to female genital circumcision as a form of violence against women, as the incidence of that harmful practice were over 80 per cent in her country. She asked what could be done to help governments counter that abuse.
Responding, Ms. MANJOO thanked the delegations of the three countries where she made country visits for their constructive comments and noted that the report acknowledged the historical context of the situation in Algeria, including the black decade. She agreed that reviewing laws was much easier than societal transformation and that was a challenge for all countries, including in the context of Zambia and the United States. Education was an integral role in effecting such a transformation, as the report noted. She said that when her report reflected on violence against women perpetrated by the State, it looked at specific cases in which State actors operated as custodial actors, such as in prisons.
Further noting that impunity was the norm in many parts of the world, she appealed to all States to employ the same standards in preventing and punishing crimes against women as they used in the context of all other crimes. Impunity normalized violence against women in many contexts, she added.
Welcoming suggestions to increase dialogue, she stressed that it was also important to look at when and how dialogue worked. Turning to forced marriages, she underlined the socio-economic dynamic at play, as well as the question of safety, pointing in that context to sexual violence committed against girls in school and surrounding environments.
She said that the more peace education could be taught at all levels of schooling, the more it would help instil a culture of non-violence. Moreover, it was increasingly clear that the social empowerment of women and social transformation could not proceed independently. While addressing accountability and impunity was one step towards ending violence against women, the effective enforcement of laws and programmes continued to remain a distinct challenge.
She went to say that decentralization of services was critical for targeting the most vulnerable in society, but it must not be accompanied by diminished resources. The inclusion of marginalized voices in legal settings was also crucial. The goals of equality, development and peace were goals to which the United Nations clearly subscribed, including in terms of a gender perspective. While she was not sure if such support was at a commensurate level at regional and national levels, there were important regional commitments and mechanisms aimed at promoting women’s equality and empowerment and curbing violence against them and, noting some of the most recent, she welcomed them.
SILVIA PIMENTEL ( Brazil), Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, expressed particular pride, as a Brazilian woman, that Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff had been the first woman ever to open the General Assembly’s general debate. The CEDAW Committee was equally proud of that occasion, which, as President Rousseff said, proved that women were now occupying the place they deserved in the world. She also paid tribute to Nobel Laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, whose passing left a gaping hole among the ranks of women leaders and global environmental champions.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/66/99), she said that, with Nauru’s accession, 187 States were now party to that international instrument. Noting that the Convention was now just seven Parties short of universal ratification, she called on those States – Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Tonga and the United States - to undertake the necessary domestic procedures to ratify or accede expeditiously, thereby joining the global consensus that women’s rights were human rights. The Convention’s Optional Protocol had been accepted by 102 States parties, including by Cambodia, Ghana and the Seychelles in the last year.
She called on all States parties that had not yet done so to formally accept the Amendment to the Convention, which would extend the Committee’s meeting time to three annual working sessions. For its part, the Committee had now considered or scheduled all long-overdue reports for consideration. Yet, it was concerned about the lack of resources provided to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the treaty bodies. In that context, she drew attention to the Secretary-General’s report on, and proposals for, measures to improve further effectiveness, harmonization and reform of the treaty body system (document A/66/344).
Welcoming and voicing support for the consultation process to strengthen the treaty body system launched two years ago by High Commissioner Navi Pillay, she said the Committee was working to ensure that its working methods were efficient and effective. However, it was clear that not all of the measures that had been identified for increasing efficiency would also reduce costs. On the contrary, to make the work most useful and visible at the national level where implementation by State parties was to take place, “we may have to invest more: more analysis, research, time, as well as possibly the use of new technologies,” she said.
Continuing, she said the Committee was working with other human rights actors and encouraging the input and support of non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions and parliamentarians, and the entire United Nations system. It was also working to establish an effective framework for collaboration with UN-Women and to strengthen its coordination with special procedures mandate holders.
In addition to its constructive dialogue with States parties and the issuance of concluding observations, the Committee provided clarification on the Convention’s substantive content and the specific nature of discrimination against women by elaborating general recommendations. At its forty-seventh session, it had adopted two such recommendations on older women and the core obligation of States parties under article 2 of the Convention. It was also working to elaborate recommendations on the economic consequences of marriage, family relations and their dissolution; on harmful practices in conjunction with the Committee on the Rights of the Child; and on the human rights of women in armed- and post-conflict.
In other areas, the Committee’s jurisprudence under the Optional Protocol was an emerging area of importance, she said. While the number of cases was modest, it was influential and had set, in cases involving violence against women, for example, a high bar regarding the level of legislative protection and the practical implementation of required legal standards.
Further noting the Committee’s efforts to promote its work – including through the speaking engagements of its members – she underlined the Committee’s emphasis on the specificity of discrimination against women and the need to give high prominence to the promotion and protection of all women’s rights. Yet, the potential of the Convention and its Optional Protocol to bring about change at the national level had not been fully exploited, owing largely to a lack of visibility, accessibility and political will. Still, due to the commitment of the Committee and many States parties, as well as of civil society and regional and international organizations, both instruments had led to significant changes on the ground. She commended those States parties that had taken concrete measures to implement the Committee’s recommendations and called on all States parties to do the same.
Question and Answer Session
Stressing that the work of the treaty bodies was very important because it aided in domestic human rights reviews, Costa Rica’s delegate noted that her delegation had recently submitted its combined report and made its oral report in July. Following that interaction with the Committee, it had established a group to follow up on the Committee’s concluding observations.
Liechtenstein’s representative asked about the potential of meeting in parallel chambers and what qualitative and quantitative contributions such a format could make to address the Committee’s workload.
The Observer of the European Union urged all countries that had not yet done so to fully implement the Convention’s procedures, as well as those of its Optional Protocol. She requested further information on value added by collaboration in that process. She also asked for more information on the working group on the harmonization of working methods of the treaty bodies.
Noting that his country’s report had been submitted in April 2010 but not yet taken up by the Committee, Algeria’s representative asked how it would be able to solve the problem of accumulating reports. He stressed, in that context, that Algeria’s report was now obsolete.
Speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, Sweden’s representative said the progress resulting from the Convention and its Committee over the last three decades had been immense, including in policy guidance. She particularly welcomed the two general recommendations adopted in the last year. She also requested further details on increased collaboration with the special procedures mandate holders, as well as efforts to increase the Committee’s efficiency.
Timor-Leste’s delegate asked for an update on the collaboration between the Committee and UN-Women, which her delegation believed must occur at all levels.
Responding, Ms. PIMENTEL thanked the delegation of Costa Rica for broadly publicizing the Committee’s concluding observations, which was a critical pat of the treaty body process.
She said that the Committee faced a “pile of work.” While she was personally pleased with the prospect of meeting in parallel chambers, such a change in format was still under discussion in the Committee and its members had not yet reached a collective position.
She said the adoption of the general recommendation on older women and the crucial obligations of States stemming from the Convention aimed at facilitating an understanding of what was expected of States. Among other things, that would encourage the development and implementation of policy and laws. Focusing on implementation, she echoed earlier comments that some States had wonderful laws, but did not enforce them.
Turning to the Committee’s experience with UN-Women, she underscored how vital that relationship would be. During their meeting with Ms. Bachelet, she and two other Committee members had emphasized how UN-Women could help disseminate the Committee’s recommendations in each State party. She had also stressed that access to justice was a key matter in ending discrimination against women, and noted the outstanding study on gender equality and access to justice recently published by UN-Women.
She went on to say that the Committee was proud of its working methods, although it was making an effort to improve those methods. Similarly, while the Committee was also proud of its follow-up procedures, it had nevertheless been calling for a different format, as well as a reduction in the number of words and pages in its reports. It had decided that, for each report it analyzed, it would include one or two questions on follow-up. As a result, it would highlight one or two questions to which it must have answers.
She said that it was clear to members of the Committee that the delay in addressing reports was a problem. In some cases, the Committee received updates to what were considered “outdated” reports. A dual chamber would be one way of resolving the problem, but that was a personal view-point, she said. Noting that the questions from Sweden and Timor-Leste had largely been answered, she assured those delegations that the Committee was working closely with States parties and with UN-Women to further its effectiveness.
Taking the opportunity to address questions related to UN-Women, Ms. PURI recalled that the entity was created to combine and connect the normative with the operational. This was, she said, its strength in supporting the work of the Committee. In addition, UN-Women was supporting Governments and other stakeholders in reporting to the Committee.
MARCELO CESA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said that the progress made by women since the Beijing Declaration had been uneven among regions and there was urgent need for further action at all levels to address poverty, violence and discrimination against women, as well as their root causes, which included unequal power relations between men and women and socio-economic constraints. In addition to those persistent obstacles, new threats were emerging and the impact of the crises in global finance, energy, food insecurity and climate change must also be addressed. In addition, collective action must be taken to relieve the suffering of women and girls living under foreign occupation.
In order to empower women, he said, it was necessary to continue to encourage their increased participation at all levels of decision-making. In efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, in addition, Member States must further mainstream the gender perspective into all development strategies and actions. It was also important to enhance international cooperation for those purposes, through fulfilment of commitments on official development assistance (ODA), debt relief, market access, financial and technical support, and capacity building, for women’s education, health and employment, and other areas. Supporting UN-Women, he reaffirmed the commitment of the Group to the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
MACHARIA KAMAU ( Kenya), speaking on behalf of the African Group, aligned himself with the statement made by Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77. He commended the Secretary-General for his illuminating reports under the agenda item, which highlighted the efforts made by Member States, the United Nations system and other stakeholders to address the obstacles that hindered the empowerment of women. Women were an important segment of the population and enhancing gender equality and facilitating the enjoyment of their rights was key to unlocking their full potential to contribute to development and the eradication of poverty. Over the years, international actors continued to commit themselves to challenges facing women. While noting the progress made in improving the situation of women, he was concerned that it remained very slow in relation to women in rural areas.
Since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Africa had made great strides in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. More recently, the African Union Gender Policy had been adopted. In addition, the African Women’s Decade and the fund for African Women had been launched. In a continent whose population was highly dependent on the agricultural sector for their livelihood, women in rural areas bore the largest responsibility for cultivating food crops for subsistence use and income generation. In recent months, the Horn of Africa had been hit by the most severe food crisis in decades. The situation demanded that more efforts be directed towards their empowerment, in order to help rural women contribute to sustainable development.
“The role of rural women in Africa is central to social and economic development. It is, therefore, difficult to achieve societal transformation without their productive participation,” he said. Touching on other issues, he noted the disease burden of Africa and especially rural areas, as well as the need for gender responsive policies for the participation of women in decision-making, as well as the challenges of rural women which hampered their ability to participate in informal and formal decision-making. With regard to violence against women, he welcomed the decision of the Heads of States and Governments of the African Union to ban female genital mutilation. In conclusion, he noted that “the scaling up of efforts toward the empowerment of women and realizing a gender-neutral society continues to be a challenge for all”.
GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development painted a disturbing picture, stating, among other things, that women represented 40 per cent of the world’s labour force, but held just 1 per cent of the world’s wealth, and that every year, 3.9 million women and girls go “missing” in developing countries. Although regional efforts in the Caribbean had achieved progress in the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, in areas such as education, where women outnumber men at the secondary and tertiary levels, cultural and structural factors continued to impede women’s access to resources and services, to economic opportunities, and to power and political influence.
He said that increasing women’s participation in politics and decision-making was a challenge in CARICOM States, as the general lack of quota laws on the representation of women in Parliament undermined progress in that area. The health status of women was a source of perennial concern. The feminization of HIV/AIDS had required adoption of several measures, including gender mainstreaming in national HIV/AIDS programmes, which were yielding positive results. Recently, greater attention had been placed on non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes and their impact on women, both from a health, as well as a developmental perspective.
The situation of women in rural areas must remain a priority, he said, given that the overwhelming majority of the world’s women and girls lived in rural areas. CARICOM women played a significant role in agriculture and food production and were directly affected by the unfavourable terms of international trade in such areas. He, therefore, reiterated CARICOM’s call for an end to unfair competition and agricultural trade distortions, and the establishment of an inclusive international economic system.
SOFIA MNYAMBI SIMBA, Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the SADC had continued, individually and collectively, to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. It had developed the SADC Strategy to address sexual violence and the SADC Framework for Mainstreaming Gender within the SADC Peace and Security Architecture. There remained a gap, however, between commitment and implementation. Contradictions existed between customary laws, national laws and international commitments, and women’s representation in decision-making positions remained low. High levels of illiteracy and poverty among women and girls remained obstacles to full gender equality. Those challenges needed to be addressed.
She said the majority of women in SADC countries lived in rural areas and had lesser control over resources, such as land, livestock, credit and modern technologies. Empowerment of women could, therefore, not be achieved without improving the situation of women in rural areas. The power and creativity of rural women must be recognized, invested in and unleashed. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s report on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas, she welcomed its recommendations. She also expressed appreciation for the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in providing skills training for women in agricultural extension work in some of the SADC countries. She was encouraged by the decision of the Commission on the Status of Women to make empowerment of rural women its 2012 priority theme.
In conclusion, she said the attainment of gender equality and empowerment of women required a strong gender architecture at national and regional levels, as well as in the United Nations. She expected that UN-Women would have a strong presence at the field level and, thereby, complement efforts of national Governments and regional gender units. She hoped that UN-Women would be provided with adequate and predictable funds to enable it to carry out its mandate.
NUR JAZLAN MOHAMED, Member of Parliament and Representative of Malaysia, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his delegation had participated in both regional and international efforts to ensure women’s advancement, dating back to the 1975 ASEAN Women Leaders’ Conference. Today, the ASEAN Committee on Women (ACW) met regularly each year to coordinate and monitor the implementation of key regional priorities related to women. ASEAN’s commitment to women’s advancement was reflected in the 1988 Declaration on the Advancement of Women, while the 2004 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women marked the first time that all 10 Member countries committed to that cause at the regional level. Governments’ partnership with non-government bodies also was seen in the link between ACW and the ASEAN Confederation on Women’s Organizations.
Touching on accomplishments, he cited regional workshops, seminars and training sessions that had allowed Government officials and civil society organizations to share experiences on women’s advancement, most notably the ASEAN High-level Meeting on Gender Mainstreaming, held in 2006. At the thirteenth ASEAN Summit in 2007, leaders agreed to develop an ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint to raise the quality of life for people, including women, through people-centred and socially responsible activities. That Blueprint was adopted at the fourteenth Summit in 2009. In addition, the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, inaugurated in April 2010, aimed to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children. In closing, he voiced hope that people-centred policies could be created that would allow the region to prosper.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that the Rio Group countries were deeply committed to gender equality and the empowerment of women, as well as to respect for all the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. The Group reaffirmed the importance of full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and of the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, as well as reaffirmed the importance of complete fulfilment by States parties of their international obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol. Today, he said a consensus existed at the multilateral level regarding the priority to be given to gender equality and empowerment of women as a prerequisite for attaining the Millennium Development Goals and promoting the gender agenda in a coherent manner, and those efforts must be promoted and strengthened.
The Rio Group strongly supported the adoption of General Assembly resolution 64/289 which established UN-Women, and the appointment of a woman from the South and from our region, Michelle Bachelet, as the Under-Secretary-General for UN-Women. The Group was pleased with its entry into operation earlier this year and supported its 2011-2013 Strategic Plan, presented last June, where the main objectives were to encourage leadership and political participation of women, promote their economic empowerment, end violence, promote greater participation of women in peace processes, and encourage the development of budgets that promoted gender equality in different countries. The Group was confident that the incorporation of the mandate of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) – now a part of UN-Women – in the new composite entity would be effective. The Group was also confident that, by the end of the entity’s transitional period, the training and research would continue worldwide from the physical premises in the Dominican Republic, benefiting from the value added of the work experience, programmes and convenient geographical location, and low costs offered by that country. The Group considered that the training and research programmes of INSTRAW, as part of UN-Women, would continue to assist in the empowerment of women and the achievement of gender equality throughout the world.
The “Brasilia Consensus”, adopted at the eleventh Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in July 2010, provided a comprehensive framework to enhance gender equality and the empowerment of women, he said. The Group also welcomed the ongoing campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” (2008-2015) launched by the Secretary General. Its broad coverage had enabled the United Nations system to step up its support for the national initiatives, programmes and campaigns adopted in this area. Further, the Member States of the Group were committed to intensifying measures to prevent and combat trafficking in persons, including “smuggling” and exploitation of migrants, in all its forms, and to guarantee protection and care for victims of these crimes, especially women, children, and adolescents. At the same time, the Group appealed to States to establish and strengthen appropriate focal points for coordination between countries of origin, countries of transit and host countries to combat these crimes.
The Group recognized rural women on the occasion of the International Day of Rural Women, which would be celebrated on 15 October, he said. In many Rio Group countries, rural women, including indigenous women, accounted for a significant percentage of the population and had made a significant contribution to the development of their countries. Yet rural women still faced considerable challenges all over the world. The group appealed to the international community to intensify efforts to eliminate the barriers to their empowerment. The Group also attached great importance to the protection of women and girls in migrant families, calling for an end to the violence directed against them and protection of their rights. The Group would refer to the issue at greater length under the human rights agenda item.
ABDULRAHMAN AL-HAMADI ( Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, underlined the Group’s commitment to implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Calling for intensified efforts to promote gender quality and women’s empowerment and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he stressed that any development strategy that did not address the advancement of women was destined to fail. Indeed, women must be given full and equal opportunities to contribute to the advancement of their communities. For their part, Arab States had enacted laws and procedures aligned with United Nations resolutions and other international instruments to ensure that women played their full roles in society. National legislation also ensured the citizenship rights of Arab women and protected them from physical and emotional abuse at all stages of life. Other programmes sought to end violence against women and to protect victims when such violence did occur.
Noting that Arab women had made significant strides in reaching decision-making positions in both the public and private sectors, he said many women were actively participating in political life, including by holding ministerial positions. Nevertheless, the common image of Arab women remained mired in accumulated historical stereotypes, even though reality proved otherwise. In that regard, he noted last week’s award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, as well as recent political developments in the Arab world.
The clearest problem facing Arab women was the Israeli occupation, he said, underscoring the importance of the international community’s meeting its obligations to end the suffering of Arab women living under occupation. The Arab Group believed women must play a pioneering role in achieving unity among religions and cultures, and women’s participation in all aspects of life must be encouraged in order to enhance the alliance of civilizations. Further, women’s contributions must be encouraged on an equal footing with men, while their decision-making roles must also be expanded, particularly in resolving conflict and consolidating peace.
HAJIA ZAINAB MAINA, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development for Nigeria, aligning with the statements made on behalf of the African Group and the Group of 77, said her President was committed to true affirmative action on women; 33 per cent of cabinet ministers were now women, compared to 11 per cent last year. “There is no doubt that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency, sustained economic growth, peace and security,” she said. Gender-based violence continued to be a great concern, and draft legislation to prohibit sexual harassment in school and the work place, protect and assist victims of trafficking, and abolish all forms of violence were at various stages of completion. The domestication of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women remained a national priority, she added.
Since poverty remained the main social risk factor for abuse, discrimination and disempowerment, Nigeria hoped recent grants and cash transfer schemes targeted at women and girls would facilitate school attendance, access to medical services and reduce girls’ street hawking. Over $300 million had been spent on those schemes in 2008 and 2009, and Nigeria had seen reduced street hawking and increased school enrolment among girls. The Nigerian Government had also doubled resources for the Women’s Centre over the past two years, providing credit facilities and vocational skills that enabled vulnerable groups of women to live independent lives. Also, almost all states in Nigeria now offered free maternal and child care services, she said.
ALESSANDRA GREGG ( Liechtenstein) said women continued to face discrimination and exclusion from decision-making. Recent events of the Arab Spring had shown that, while women were a driving force for change, they risked being excluded from the very processes that their actions had initiated, as some countries transitioned to a new era. Active at the grass-roots level, they faced discriminatory practices that excluded them when laws were codified and constitutions were written. “States must do more to protect the rights of women to participate on equal terms throughout all phases of political transition,” she said. For its part, the United Nations must support efforts to fully include poor and marginalized women in democratic processes.
She also pointed out that almost 11 years after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), women were underrepresented as stakeholders in peace processes and the United Nations should lead by example and appoint more women as leaders in mediation and other transitional processes. She also had high hopes that the new monitoring and reporting arrangements on sexual violence in armed conflicts would provide information on the use of such abuse as a method of war. Harmful practices such as early child marriage, female genital mutilation, and domestic and other violence should be urgently addressed, and she fully supported The Elders’ initiative entitled “Girls not Brides” to foster the political will to end such abuse.
Finally, she said investigation, prosecution, protection and redress measures offered to female victims of violence would directly affect the prevalence rates of such abuse, but formal justice systems often lacked the resources to prosecute perpetrators. Liechtenstein was alarmed by recent reports suggesting that pervasive human rights violations against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were being perpetrated with impunity and called for efforts to strengthen the domestic justice system to be dramatically scaled up. Ending impunity would ultimately depend on addressing structural discrimination, including access to justice and ensuring the legal empowerment of women.
FATOU ISIDORA NIANG ( Senegal) said, in the creation of UN-Women, the international community was responding to the needs of women and girls, and creating structures to help their social integration. According to the World Economic Forum in 2010, countries with better gender equality had the best competitiveness and growth rates. Senegal attached importance to the gender policies of Millennium Development Goal 3 to reduce disparities from discrimination. The Executive Director of UN-Women, Michelle Bachelet, was correct that the strength, diligence and wisdom of women was the least exploited human resource – the challenge was to see how that resource could be used.
Senegal had taken on the female dimension in its policies, she said. It had ratified all conventions on the elimination of discrimination against women and girls, and adopted laws to punish the abuse of women and girls. It also had a strategy for massive enrolment of girls in school and provided access to land, education and employment for women. Further, in 2005 it began providing free childbirth and caesarean section services, bringing about a decline in infant and maternal deaths. New laws aimed to raise the level of education of women, bring down early marriages and pregnancies, and promote female entrepreneurship. In closing, she said the application of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women in peace and security remained timid and slow, despite national efforts, including Senegal’s opening of its military to women while continuing its strong contribution to peacekeeping.
LAURIE SHESTACK PHIPPS (United States), sending heartfelt congratulations to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tawakkul Karman and Leymah Gbowee, said they were shining examples of the difference women could make and the progress they could help achieve when given the opportunity to make decisions about the future of their societies and countries. For its part, the United States had made the empowerment of women and girls a guiding principle, both at home and abroad. Women’s empowerment was increasingly critical in ensuring women’s full political participation and the issue of women’s equal right to nationality. “If women cannot be equal partners in the political process, especially in times of transformation, nothing less than the development, economic prosperity and stability of their nations is put at risk,” she stressed, commending the work of the United Nations in highlighting the costs of excluding women from the political process. She also highlighted the Joint Statement on advancing women’s political participation that was signed by world leaders during the General Assembly’s general debate last month.
Underlining the role of UN-Women and other parts of the United Nations system in breaking down economic and political barriers facing women and girls, she said her delegation would table a resolution on women’s political participation, emphasizing periods of democratic political transition, to the Third Committee. Calling attention to women’s equal right to nationality, she said the consequences of nationality laws that discriminated against women were not sufficiently recognized. Indeed, such laws could ultimately lead to statelessness, which rendered women and their families more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and arbitrary arrest and detention. The United States urged Governments around the world to repeal discriminatory nationality laws and commended civil society groups that continued to advocate for women’s equal right to nationality. It also supported the global mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to reduce statelessness and encouraged other United Nations agencies to strengthen their work on that issue.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO ( Nicaragua) said his Government was firmly committed to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the outcomes of the Fourth World Conference on Women, and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. That commitment was reflected in its national laws and the Government’s efforts were based on a human development framework. As a result, illiteracy had been reduced. Free health and education services were being provided, while social security had been expanded. Those changes had been critical in ensuring women enjoyed wider participation in Nicaragua’s political and social life. The Government plan also promoted women’s participation as owners of their own human rights and generators of development, all while positing women as direct stakeholders.
Despite the international recession, all of Nicaragua’s social services were being maintained, he said. The right to free health care had been reinstituted. A national strategy for sexual and reproductive health now provided wider access and better services. It had also helped reduce maternal and infant mortality. Women’s life expectancy had risen to 78 years. Special police stations for women had been set up, while special homes provided shelter to victims of domestic violence. Nicaragua’s educational policy also made it a constitutional human right for all citizens to have free education. National legislations guaranteed women’s participation in political life. Consequently, the gender gap in the cabinet had been reduced. In addition to the Institute for Women, which guided gender policies, 24 gender units had been set up in the executive arm of the Government. Other units in local governments further guaranteed the mainstreaming of gender equality policies. Among other things, women could now own land, he added.
WANG MIN ( China), aligning with the Group of 77, said that UN-Women had, since its establishment, conducted its work effectively, and his delegation hoped it would maintain its momentum and push for new progress in women’s affairs. China supported the Secretary-General’s initiatives to incorporate the enhancement of the economic empowerment of rural women and children into national development strategies and to introduce a gender perspective in intergovernmental processes. While the international community had become increasingly aware of the need for gender equality and women’s empowerment, discrimination against women remained disturbingly widespread around the world. China endorsed the priority areas set by UN-Women – namely expanding women’s voice, enhancing their economic empowerment, curbing violence against them and promoting the agenda of women, peace and security.
Stressing that more attention must be paid to safeguarding the rights and interests of women in the post-economic crisis era, he said countries should also take effective measures to provide women with vocational training, health examinations, legal advice and other services to help them address real-life difficulties, in terms of their employment and health. Equal emphasis should be placed on social development and women’s empowerment. International cooperation should be strengthened in a joint effort to advance the cause of women. In that regard, UN-Women should increase its support, under the national ownership principle, to all women-related work in developing countries. For its part, the Chinese Government had promulgated the Outline for the Development of Chinese Women, which identified major goals and policy measures in the areas of health, education, economics, political participation, social security, environment and law. Among other advances, eight women leaders were serving at the national level, while there were three women ministers and more than 670 women mayors.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), aligning with the statement on behalf of the Group of 77, said his country was especially interested in the continuing improvement of the situation of women. In October, Chile approved a law extending maternity leave for working women from three to six months, and protecting their jobs. The Government would also soon send a bill to congress for a minimum wage for families, benefiting 700,000 families and eradicating the most extreme poverty. Chile would also continue its support of UN-Women and its most important work, he said.
TINE MØRCH SMITH ( Norway) congratulated the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman. “Needless to say, this year’s award serves as a great inspiration for all of us,” she said. Lack of equality between men and women was not only one of the greatest challenges of the time, it was also the key to prosperity and development. The World Bank Development Report said gender equality brought more representative decision-making, leading to improved outcomes for the next generations. “The World Bank report puts gender equality on the top of the global agenda. Norway applauds this,” she said.
Gender equality could not be a side-activity or extra programme – it had to be mainstreamed into all development processes, she said. UN-Women would play an important role, and Norway wanted to be its constructive partner. Gender equality was also key to sustainable development, and Norway would like to see the issue integrated into the Conference of Parties-17 in Durban this year and the Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio next year. Despite growing recognition that rural women were critical agents in poverty reduction, food security and environmental sustainability, hardly any development funds were linked directly to gender. The World Bank report showed that, in the past ten years, only 0.001 per cent of its budget had been used on gender equality programmes. However, the World Bank would be mainstreaming gender equality into all its activities from now on, she noted.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), aligning with the statements on behalf of the African Group, the Arab Group and the Group of 77, said his country appreciated the cooperation and support of UN-Women throughout its democratization process, promoting women’s political participation and economic empowerment, particularly in rural areas. Women had a vital role in the advancement of peace and security, development and human rights, he said. “Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to three women activists, in light of their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work, is a clear testimony of the recognition by the international community of the role that women can play in advancing peace and security, boosting development and ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms around the globe,” he said.
Egypt’s new Government would further promote women’s rights through several measures, including: harmonizing international and regional obligations to gender equality in national legislations; sensitizing its society on the effects of gender-based discrimination; developing the National Council for Women to reflect new political developments and establish a wider framework to deal with women’s issues; enhancing efforts to eradicate female illiteracy, particularly in rural areas; and increasing the number of women in top management and political positions. Implementing that “road map” would require the strong support of the Organization and international community, he said, and Egypt looked forward to such support for its pursuit of gender equality and the social integration of women.
ASKAR ZHUMABAYEV ( Kazakhstan) emphasized the critical role of the United Nations in ensuring that women had access to decision-making, in mainstreaming gender-sensitive approaches in programmes and polices, and in protecting women from violence. Expressing appreciation for the inclusion of gender issues in preparations for high-level intergovernmental processes and meetings, he urged that thematic discussions be held to consider the needs of specific groups of women. He also called for the active involvement of UN-Women in forthcoming United Nations events, in order to enrich the gender component of their outcomes. He also underlined the need for gender analysis and the provision of gender- and age-aggregated data to be further developed.
He said that, at the national level, Kazakhstan was strongly committed to the further advancement of women and gender equality, particularly through implementing its National Law on State Guarantees of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities and its Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Recognizing that the key factor in women’s economic empowerment was decent work, the Government had worked to lower the unemployment rate among women to 6.4 per cent. For rural women that rate had dropped to 5.4 per cent. Currently, wages were rising and the State was working to provide allowances for women who lost or gave up their jobs due to pregnancy or childbirth. In other areas, the role of women in decision-making was steadily increasing and over 58 per cent of the civil service positions were now held by women. Even more women were represented in the business world. Meanwhile, a multi-pronged strategy had been adopted to educate women about their legal rights and to provide greater access to exercising those rights. Finally, victims of abuse now had access to immediate assistance in 21 shelter centres throughout the country, he said.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said her country welcomed actions taken by the Women’s Anti-discrimination Committee to increase signatures and ratifications to the Convention and Optional Protocol by Member States, and placed particular importance on the establishment of UN-Women. The Strategic Plan was the correct approach, since it included medium- and long-term objectives, but there was still much work to be done throughout the world to guarantee the involvement of women in the development of their communities, through allowing them to participate in decision-making processes, facilitating their education and ensuring their safety.
Violence against women continued to be a priority for the Mexican Government, which had in recent years passed The General Law of Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence and the Law on Prevention and Sanction of Human Trafficking. It had also created a national data bank of figures and information on violent incidents, she said. As part of the Charter of the United Nations, Members had the responsibility to work towards the enhancement of the quality and life conditions for human beings – women could not be the exception. “The recent changes and political transitions we have witnessed have made things clear: women ask for their voices to be heard. But they do not only ask, they work towards it, and they have found a way to be a part of these changes,” she said.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil), aligning with the statements of the Rio Group and the Group of 77, said women were the main victims of poverty in Brazil, but they were also the best allies in strategies to overcome it. Women were the main beneficiaries of cash transfer programmes and housing credit in the country, lifting around 28 million people out of extreme poverty and 36 million more into the middle class. “The impact of this social transformation on gender equality and women’s empowerment cannot be overemphasized,” she said. Brazil would also build 6,000 childcare centres by 2014, had made it a priority to guarantee mother’s safe and humane care, and widened efforts to reduce teen pregnancy, cervical and breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
This year would always be remembered in Brazil as a landmark for gender equality and the empowerment of women, with a woman taking office as president for the first time. Nevertheless, she said, women were still largely underrepresented in decision-making positions in all areas, as only 10 per cent of lawmakers were women. Brazil was honoured to co-sponsor the High-Level Event on Women’s Political Participation, organized by UN-Women and other partners on the sidelines of this year’s General Debate. For women to increasingly participate in the destinies of their countries, they had to fully enjoy their social and economic rights, she said.
CHRISTINE LOEW ( Switzerland) said the advancement of women and the elimination of violence against women could only be achieved by tackling the root causes of gender inequality, specifically stereotyping and discrimination. Governments should make the rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other international instruments a priority objective in their economic and social development efforts. In peace and security, Security Council resolution 1325 called for women to have equal participation in peacebuilding and security policy. For that to happen, women must have access to the necessary resources to be players in their own right. As for access to education and key assets, such as land ownership, women must enjoy the same terms as men. Also, human security not only implied the freedom from violence, but also the full respect for human rights and, therefore, the rights of women.
Another issue was female genital mutilation, she said, the practice of which was symptomatic of gender inequality. It left the victims with lasting physical and emotional scars. A 2011 amendment to a Swiss criminal law explicitly outlawed the practice, which was a major step in the right direction. Prevention and awareness, however, were key to put an end to that practice. In her country, work had begun on a national mediation service aimed at preventing the genital mutilation of girls. States must work together with relevant government and non-governmental organizations to bring about the social change needed to eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation.
NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said the Commission on the Status of Women must remain an intergovernmental forum for dialogue on all women-related discussions. His delegation was pleased with the successful completion of the Commission’s recent session. It welcomed the establishment of UN-Women, which should work closely with the Commission and strictly comply with the principles of universal geographical representation. Such compliance must involve both the distribution of support and the agency’s work on the ground, including the opening of its units and its country programmes. Moreover, such country programmes could only be adopted and implemented on a State’s request, he said, while underlining the need for a clear agreement on UN-Women’s accountability and use of funds. The Russian Federation was committed to holding a constructive dialogue including all regional State groupings.
Underlining the Russian Federation’s commitment to ensuring an equal society, he said the Government was conducting gender work based on the recommendations of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee. Among other things, it considered economic equality to be an important part of women’s empowerment. In the Russian Federation, women dominated in areas such as health and social services, and accounted for about 40 per cent of the managers of private firms, as well as the majority of the heads of small businesses. Creating reliable conditions for women to start up their own business was one critical way to ensure they had access to decent work. He further noted that a woman recently rose to the third highest post in the Russian government, as President of the upper chamber of parliament. Efforts were also being made to better combine work and private life, including through increases in subsidies for childrearing. The Government was also considering the Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health. Among other things, it believed involving men was critical in all efforts to promoting gender equality.
SAMIRA ABUBAKAR ( Libya) said women needed to be involved in all development policies and at all levels of government. The new administration of her country emphasized its commitment to enact all conventions on the human rights of women, and avoiding any discrimination against them. Her Government also condemned all crimes of rape committed by pro-Qadhafi troops during the conflict there. Women, comprising 52 per cent of Libya’s population, would form a key part of the reconstruction for the country. The new administration would try to enact laws on the rights of women that would guarantee access to education, health, social security, pensions and economic activities.
Women, she noted, played an important role in Libya’s 17 February revolution. They stood side by side with men in institutions throughout the country, helping establish numerous humanitarian activities that sought to reduce harm from the battle. Libyan women also extended refugee assistance to internally displaced persons, she said. Undoubtedly, UN-Women had plenty of work ahead, and Libya hoped to see many accomplishments in education and training for the achievement of equal rights. As a member of the Executive Council for UN-Women, Libya would not be remiss in its financial obligations, once the reconstruction of its Government was complete. She concluded by condemning Israel’s occupation of Palestine for its negative effect on women.
ATSUKO HESHIKI ( Japan) said the devastating earthquake in March brought an opportunity to review disaster prevention and victim assistance, and in that context, the Government had carried out measures that took women’s views into account. The earthquake also had shed light on the central role of women’s groups in providing victim assistance and recovery. Japan’s “Basic Policy for the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Reconstruction Efforts” outlined the promotion of women’s participation in all organizations involved in recovery. In the health sector, Japan had announced a $5 million contribution to maternal and child health over five years, beginning in 2011. It also aimed to save 430,000 pregnant women through a programme that ensured continuous care from pregnancy to after-childbirth.
He went on to say that implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) was among the most pressing issues, expressing hope that the indicators set by the Secretary-General would be used globally and at the country level. Japan also recognized the importance of women’s participation in the establishment and amendment of the constitution, laws and political processes during the nation-building phase of countries in transition, he said, citing Japan’s support for policy planning and implementation to resolve the causes of conflict in Nepal. Finally, he said Japan’s Third Basic Plan for Gender Equality aimed to secure at least 30 per cent of leadership positions for women. Japan also had strengthened its monitoring system for implementing that plan and was committed to achieving a gender equal society.
LISANDRA ASTIASARÁN ARIAS(Cuba) said the global feminization of poverty continued to be a matter of great concern. Developing countries faced ongoing problems in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, from the combination of the current global economic financial, food and energy crises. Unequal terms of trade, reduced official development assistance, increased foreign debt and the negative impact of climate change further decreased the ability to implement those strategies. Thus, to eliminate gender inequality, the imbalanced trade and resource exploitation, as well as irrational expenditures on weapons and wars, must be ended. The elimination of all unilateral coercive actions must also be ended, including the economic and financial blockade by the United States against Cuba, which was a genocidal act and the main form of violence suffered by Cuban women and girls. She further denounced the United States for causing the suffering of the mothers, wives and children of the five Cubans imprisoned for 13 years, as well as the repeated violation of the human rights of Adriana Pérez and Olga Salanueva, who had been denied visas to visit their husbands in United States prisons.
Turning to Cuba’s domestic efforts to promote gender equality and to empower women, she highlighted the many statistics showing the Government’s achievements. Among other things, Cuban women enjoyed a life expectancy of 80 years and represented 67 per cent of university graduates. They also accounted for 65.7 per cent of Cuba’s professionals and technicians, more than 70 per cent of its health-care and education workers and 56 per cent of its judges. In addition, 43.32 per cent of Cuba’s parliamentarians were women. Concluding, she voiced support for the work of UN-Women and stressed that the realization of the right to development was essential for the advancement and empowerment of women in the countries of the South.
MARINA ROSENBERG ( Israel) strongly supported UN-Women’s Strategic Plan and noted Israel’s commitment to substantially increasing its contributions for the next three years. Gender equality was enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence and in its 1951 Equal Rights for Women Law. Women, she said, had always enjoyed full rights and equality in Israel. It was the third country in the world to have a female prime minister and currently had a woman presiding over the Supreme Court, leading the main opposition party, and a woman had recently been elected to lead the Labour Party. Women comprised over 50 per cent of Israel’s judiciary and of university students and staff. All bills in Parliament were analyzed for gender implications before passage.
Israel was deeply committed to full implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 and welcomed the inclusion of provisions in peacekeeping mandates protecting women and girls from sexual violence. Still, she was concerned by the slow progress on the issue of sexual violence in conflict situations, particularly by the involvement of peacekeepers in Haiti in sexual misconduct. Further, she recognized the link between empowering women and advancing development, particularly in the areas of agriculture and education. Gender equality had been a key priority of Israel’s Agency for International Development, which had been dedicated to the cause of empowering women for 54 years. Israel had launched several projects in West Africa for small holder women farmers and was committed to sharing its advanced agricultural technology around the world. She called on States to support the “Agriculture and Technology for Development” resolution, which this year had an added focus on women. Israel’s Golda Meir Mount Carmel Training Centre was dedicated to empowering women and, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, had conducted a workshop on violence against women and children last month.
KIRSTEN VAN DEN HUL ( Netherlands) said that women performed 66 per cent of the world’s work, produced 50 per cent of the food, but earned 10 per cent of the income and owned 1 per cent of the property. Two years ago, her country ranked ninth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, but now ranked seventeenth, after Sri Lanka. The current Administration only counted 3 female ministers; 10 per cent of all professors were female and only 8.1 per cent of all corporate board room seats were held by women. “Quite a shame, really,” she said, because there was a direct link between increased female participation and economic growth. It was estimated that if women’s paid employment rates were raised to the same level as men’s, American gross domestic product (GDP) would be 9 per cent higher, and the euro zone’s 13 per cent.
Referring to the wind of change sweeping through North Africa and the Middle East, she said, “I am calling for a she-volution: a drastic change in our attitudes, policies and actions to improve the position of women worldwide.” Governments should catalyse the she-volution by adopting a broad diversity agenda which would include a legal framework to make sure women get equal opportunities and enjoy equal rights in the workplace, in the political realm, as well as in their private lives. Public-private partnerships were needed to create sustainable solutions for women, such as diversity procurement, equal pay, equal mobility, child care and equal opportunities for training and education. In closing, she said “’Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world,’” said Margaret Mead. “I say: ‘Viva la she-volution!’”
* *** *For information media • not an official record