17 March 2000



Press Briefing



PRESS CONFERENCE BY SPECIAL ADVISER TO SECRETARY-GENERAL ON GENDER ISSUES AND ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN

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Participants in the forty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women and in the Preparatory Committee for the upcoming special Assembly session on the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women had reconfirmed that the Beijing Platform for Action and Declaration should not be renegotiated, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women told correspondents at a Headquarters press briefing today

Angela King was discussing the outcome of the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women, which concluded on 2 March, and of the Preparatory Committee for the “Beijing + 5” special session scheduled to end today. The special session, to be held from 5 to 9 June in New York, would follow up and analyse implementation of the outcome of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (1985) and of the Fourth World Conference on Women convened in Beijing five years ago.

The Beijing Platform had been a consistent theme in all of the preparatory meetings, particularly during the current one being held at Headquarters, she continued. Also, the spirit of Beijing, which had energized women throughout the world, especially at the grass-roots level, and engendered many new non- governmental organizations (NGOs), was still evident in the Organization's corridors.

Expressing her satisfaction that the question of NGO participation had been resolved, she noted that the estimated 5,000 to 15,000 representatives of those organizations expected to attend the special session would pose a logistical challenge. To that end, the Customs House, located in downtown New York, would serve as an overflow point with access to plenary meetings and other special events through video services provided by the Department of Public Information (DPI).

She also hoped that the NGOs would be able to participate in other events being hosted by Columbia University and other institutions. The decision to allow NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council to speak in plenary, and in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole, reflected the Organization's resolve to work in partnership with that community. The largest number ever – 1,300 individual NGO representatives -- had participated in this session.

Delegations had agreed on the provisional agenda and organizational arrangements for the special session, but more progress still needed to be made, Ms. King said. Moreover, during the current deliberations, six signatories had been added to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- Argentina, Paraguay, Indonesia, Spain, Dominican Republic and Ghana. That instrument was one of the most visible outcomes of the follow-up to Beijing, and she was confident that it would enter into force before the end of this year.


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Also present at the press briefing was the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, Dubravka Simonovic. She told correspondents that during its meetings there had been a substantial general debate on the follow-up to, and implementation and appraisal of, the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as the Declaration. Many had emphasized the need for the special session to give impetus to implementing the Beijing outcomes and an effective document, which would have specific measures to overcome obstacles. Many regretted that the goal for universal ratification of the Convention had not yet been reached. During panel discussions, it had been noted that women's economic empowerment was essential to achieving gender equality, she emphasized. The Commission had also concluded that policies governing part-time work should target both women and men.

Mrs. Simonovic said the Commission had adopted four resolutions, including one on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, and another on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan. It had also decided on two themes for its next session -- "Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS"; and "Gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance". She mentioned that other issues, including women's rights, employment policies and violations against women, had been dealt with.

The negotiation of substantial issues, particularly regarding the identification of future actions and priorities to be reflected in the outcome documents for adoption by the special session, had gotten off to a slow start, said the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee, Rose Odera. More time was needed for additional informal meetings, but so far only five and a half days had been allocated to the Committee for those consultations. The documents would try to bridge the gaps between those countries that had made progress in implementing the Platform for Action and those which had not. Clearly, no country had achieved full implementation.

She said that five years was a short period for governments to implement their development plans and domesticate some of the recommendations and proposals made. However, the review process would still be useful. Work had begun since last year on a draft political declaration in which governments would reaffirm their commitment to the goals and objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action and to the implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern. The declaration would also recognize the role and contribution of civil society, in particular NGOs and women's organizations, and would emphasize men's role in ensuring gender equality. She hoped that it would be adopted at this afternoon's meeting.

Another outcome document dealt with the achievements and obstacles confronted such as the impact on women of the structural adjustment programmes and the resulting decline in resources allocated to the social sector. It also dealt with challenges like globalization, which had cultural, political and social impacts resulting in increased inequality between women and men in wages and working conditions; and science and technology. Another part of the document addressed the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its devastating impact on women and


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girls and the increase of violence against women. The role of NGOs had also been emphasized in that document.

What were the major significant issues still lacking from that document? a correspondent asked, noting that it was rather late to be working those out.

Ms. Odera said the work on the document had been divided among two parallel groups and efforts were being made to bridge the gaps between those who had made progress and those who had not been able to do so. Therefore, it would take further effort to gain common ground. They were currently studying achievements and obstacles in part 1, and actions in part 4. One of the challenges the groups had faced was acknowledgement of the hurdles they would have to cross to be able to make similar decisions.

The correspondent wondered whether part 4 would set specific targets like dates for achieving some goals of the Platform for Action.

Ms. Odera said that it would. During the review, participants had realized that timed targets had been missing and that had posed difficulties in assessing progress. That was one reason for the delay in reaching agreement.

Another correspondent asked whether, considering its diversity, the “Group of 77” developing countries and China would be split into different groups.

Ms. King said the current regime for the negotiation process would have to discuss that. There were reports that one sub-group might make a statement to that effect in today’s meeting of the Preparatory Committee.

Ms. Odera said that the group was aware of those issues on which a common position was possible. That observation applied to many groups, she added, and there was strength in that diversity.

Now that full recognition of NGO partnership had been attained, would only an hour be given for them to make statements? a correspondent asked. Would those organizations at the Customs House be allowed interactive representation?

Mrs. Simonovic said she had mentioned full participation of NGOs during the sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women, not during those of the Preparatory Committee. It was important to note that during the regular session, while there were 45 members on the Commission, the bureau incorporated all Member States, as well as NGOs.

Ms. King said that, as with other special sessions, NGOs would have their own conference room. They were free to view the plenary web cast in that location, as well as to hold any other event.

Reports had been circulating that a number of financial commitments that had been made during the Beijing Conference had not been kept, a correspondent


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said. There had also been calls for a fifth world conference. How were those issues being addressed?

Both the political declaration and the second outcome document had addressed the issue of resource mobilization, Ms. Odera said. That was the purpose of the review -- to study why the Platform had not been implemented.

Ms. King said that a fifth world conference would be a welcome event. However, a 10-year span between conferences and special sessions would be more effective for measuring the impact of their outcomes.

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