United Nations


Commission on the Status of Women

6 January 1998

Commission on the Status of Women
Forty-second session
2-13 March 1998
Item 3 (a) of the provisional agenda*
Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women:
Review of mainstreaming in organizations of the
United Nations system

         Mid-term review of the implementation of the system-wide
         medium-term plan for the advancement of women, 1996-2001

         Report of the Secretary-General


         The present report summarizes information provided by entities in
the United Nations system on their efforts in 1996 and 1997 to implement
the activities in the system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of
women, 1996-2001. It also highlights obstacles encountered, and makes a
number of recommendations for action in light of experience gained to date.


Contents                                              Paragraphs    Page

1.   Introduction                                          1-5       3
II.  Brief overview of progress in implementation in
     the 12 critical areas of concern of the Platform
     for Action                                            6-18      4

III. Institutional and financial arrangements and 
     obstacles encountered in implementation               19-51     5

     A.   Gender equality mainstreaming                    20-31     6
     B.   Gender analysis training                         32-34     7
     C.   Gender focal points                              35-37     8
     D.   Mobilization and allocation of financial 
          resources                                        38-41     9
     E.   Human rescources                                 42-44    10
     F.   Political and cultural obstacles                 45-46    10
     G.   Delays in project implementation                    47    10
     H.   Coordination                                     48-51    10
IV.  Recommendations for further action                       52    12

Annex  Highlights of information on implementation in the 12 cricital
areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, as supplied by
responding United Nations entities                                  14

                           I.    Introduction

1.                 In its resolution 1996/34, the Economic and Social
Council endorsed the system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of
women, 1996-2001, and called for a mid-term review, which is to be
undertaken by the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-second
session, in 1998. The Secretary-General was requested to submit a progress
report on the implementation of the plan for purposes of the mid-term

2.                 The plan was formulated at the end of 1995 pursuant to a
decision of the Commission on the Status of Women. It was structured around
the 12 critical areas of concern contained in the Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action (adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women) in
1995. It was also formulated to reflect relevant mandates from other recent
United Nations conferences and summits. Activities were clustered under
each critical area according to a typology of action, i.e., information
collection and database development; research and analysis; operational
activities, including advisory services, technical assistance and training;
and public outreach and information dissemination. The plan largely
addressed activities targeted to women but also included gender-responsive
activities that were planned as part of mainstream programmes and projects.

3.                 In order to prepare the present report, the Division for
the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the
United Nations Secretariat sought information on implementation from all
entities of the United Nations system, including on issues raised by the
Commission and the Committee on Programme Coordination when they reviewed
the draft of the plan in 1996. As of 5 December 1997, the following 33
entities had responded: 

       Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations

         Division for the Advancement of Women

         Population Division

         Former Department for Development Support and Management Services

         Statistics Division

       Department of Public Information

       Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

       Economic Commission for Europe (ECE)

       Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

       Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

       Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)

       United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

       Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

       International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

       International Labour Organization (ILO)

       International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of
       Women (INSTRAW)

       International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO)

       Joint and Co-sponsored United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)

       Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

       Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

       United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat)

       United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)

       United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

       United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)

       United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

       United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

       United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

       United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP)

       United Nations Interregional Crime Research Institute (UNICRI)

       United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)

       United Nations University (UNU)

       United Nations Volunteers (UNV)

       World Bank

       World Food Programme (WFP)

       World Health Organization (WHO)

4.                 Since the plan was formulated at the end of 1995 and
approved in mid-1996, the actual period of implementation has been about 18
months. Some respondents noted, therefore, that most of their activities
are still in the implementation stage.

5.                 Despite considerable overall progress in implementing
the wide array of activities envisaged under the plan and a policy
commitment to the proposals spelled out at the Fourth World Conference on
Women, a number of obstacles have been encountered, including lack of data
and of methodologies and indicators for monitoring progress; lack of tools
for tracking expenditures for cross-sectoral activities, at both
headquarters and field levels; inadequate human and financial resources;
low levels of commitment, both politically in some countries and at the
level of management in some agencies of the United Nations system; cultural
and other constraints; and delays in delivery of technical assistance.
Those obstacles are discussed in more detail in section III below.

            II.    Brief overview of progress in implementation in the 12
critical areas of
                   concern of the Platform for Action

6.                 A brief overview of progress in the implementation of
the critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action by the
United Nations system at mid-term is set out below. The overview is linked
to the strategic orientation/focus under each critical area of concern, as
spelled out in the system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of
women, 1996-2001. 
7.                 In the strategic orientation/focus of United Nations
system action in the critical area of concern "Women and poverty", the
importance of women's empowerment to raise their standard of living and
reduce their poverty has been emphasized in keeping with the Platform for
Action. Implementation during the period under review has therefore
included support for women entrepreneurs, particularly in rural areas,
including home-based workers; integrated rural development; studies of
female migration; credit access for women, and strengthening of the
informal sector.  Integrated approaches to rural development identified
rural women and girls as key agents, a gender-sensitive approach which led
to increased assistance to rural women producers.1/

8.                 In the critical area "Education and training of women",
the strategic orientation/focus of United Nations system activities
indicated in the plan has been based on a rights principle. United Nations
entities have developed and supported the use of appropriate training tools
to strengthen women's skills and those of teachers in areas ranging from
literacy and basic education to science and technology. Advocacy for girls'
education has been undertaken, and there has been wider acceptance of the
empirical evidence that educating girls and women raises productivity and
reduces fertility rates.

9.                 In addressing the critical area "Women and health", the
strategic focus has been concentrated on human immunodeficiency syndrome
(HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency disease (AIDS), reproductive health, and
the reduction of maternal and child mortality and morbidity. Environmental
health, gender and drug abuse, the impact of tropical diseases on women and
the health effects of female genital mutilation also received increased
attention. A joint World Health Organization (WHO)/United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF)/United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) statement
has been issued on female genital mutilation, and UNFPA appointed a special
ambassador on the issue. Implementation under this critical area also
addressed objectives in the Programme of Action of the International
Conference on Population and Development in 1994.

10.                Prevention and the root causes of violence against women
have been the focus of activities in the critical area "Violence against
women". Research on violence against women has continued, as have advocacy
and support for policy measures on violence against women and new forms of
protection for the victims of abuse, as well as increased collection and
dissemination of data. The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women has
reported on the situation in various countries, and her mandate has been
renewed by the Commission on Human Rights. The first grants have been made
under the Trust Fund on Violence against Women set up under the Untied
Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

11.                In response to the Platform for Action, the plan also
focuses on the critical area "Women and armed conflict", with particular
attention to the specific gender impact of armed conflict, including rape
and its short- and long-term effects on women and girls. Efforts have been
made to promote a gender-sensitive approach to conflict resolution and the
management of conflict through capacity-building and training. Discussions
on establishing an international criminal court, with specific attention to
war crimes that affect women and girls, particularly rape, have moved

12.                In the critical area "Women and the economy", the
strategic orientation/focus of the plan is on the promotion of a
comprehensive strategy for equal opportunities for women in employment and
for the development of women entrepreneurs by enhancing women's access to
productive resources. United Nations system activities have therefore
included increasing women's access to credit and to opportunities for
entrepreneurship, and raising awareness of the importance of the economic
empowerment of women and the impact of economic policies on women,
including trade policies. Research has been intensified on the
participation of women in manufacturing, and on the patterns, determinants
and future trends for women's employment. Particular attention has been
given to rural women's enterprises and employment opportunities.

13.                The Platform for Action and in turn the plan both place
new importance on the critical area "Women in power and decision-making".
In this critical area, the United Nations system has focused on the
importance of increasing the number of women in decision-making positions
at all levels and in various sectors, strengthening the role of women
parliamentarians, leadership and management training, and researching
issues of women's empowerment and honouring significant women role models.
Support has been given to women's organizations to empower women,
particularly at the community level. 

14.                The Platform for Action calls for strengthening the
capacity and catalytic role of national machineries for the advancement of
women. It also calls for the overall collection and development of
gender-disaggregated statistics and indicators. Activities carried out
during the period under review in line with the plan have also focused on
the development of gender-sensitive performance indicators, increased
visibility and inclusion of gender issues in policies and programmes, and
gender-sensitive development planning.

15.                The strategic orientation /focus of the United Nations
system in the critical area "Human rights of women" is to emphasize women's
full and equal enjoyment of their rights. Activities have focused on
educating women and adolescents about their rights; improving servicing and
visibility for the work of the Committee on the Elimination of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), including seminars for
parliamentarians and policy makers on the Convention on the Rights of the
Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
against Women; and mainstreaming gender in the international treaty r