DESA News Vol. 13, No. 11 November 2009


Eliminating violence against womenEliminating violence against women

Today, at least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime and more than 80 per cent of trafficking victims are women. Up to 130 million women have been genitally mutilated.

“All of us – men and women, soldiers and peacekeepers, citizens and leaders – have a responsibility to help end violence against women. States must honour their commitments to prevent violence, bring perpetrators to justice and provide redress to victims. And each of us must speak out in our families, workplaces and communities, so that acts of violence against women cease”, states the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Under these circumstances, this year’s observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 24 November will launch the Secretary-General’s Network of Men Leaders who will work to support the UNiTE campaign, a call for action on ending violence against women and girls. Some of these men will pledge to undertake specific activities to end violence.

In last year’s event, Mr. Ban called for more efforts to enforce laws and counter impunity. “We need to combat attitudes and behaviour that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims and survivors”, he said.

Violence against women has enormous social and economic costs, and undercuts the contribution of women to development, peace and security, and human rights. It poses a serious threat to the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

In his message on the International Day in 2008, the Secretary-General pointed out that “women everywhere are at risk, but those living in societies experiencing armed conflict face even graver danger. As conflicts have become more complex, the pattern of sexual violence has evolved. Women are no longer in jeopardy only during periods of actual fighting; they are just as likely to be assaulted when there is calm, by armies, militias, rebels, criminal gangs or even police”.

A worldwide campaign: Say NO – UNiTE

“Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women” is a global call for action on ending violence against women and girls under the leadership of UNIFEM’s Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman, who is the spokesperson to “Say NO”.

UNiTE calls on governments, civil society, women’s organizations, young people, the private sector, the media and the entire United Nations system to join forces in addressing the global pandemic of violence against women and girls. The campaign builds on existing international legal and policy frameworks, and works to synergize the efforts of all United Nations offices and agencies working to end violence against women.

By 2015, UNiTE aims to achieve in all countries the adoption and enforcement of national legislation in line with international human rights standards; the adoption and implementation of multi-sectoral national action plans; establishment of data collection and analysis systems; establishment of national and/or local awareness-raising campaigns; and systematic efforts to address sexual violence in conflict situations.

Between 2007 and 2008 more than 5 million people said NO. 30 Heads of State, 69 Governments and more than 600 Parliamentarians added their names to the campaign and more than 215 civil society groups; religious networks; and corporations joined. For this year’s campaign, the initial goal is to reach 1 million actions by November 2010.

Sixteen Days of Activism against Gender Violence

Each year since 1991, tens of thousands of activists from every region of the world have taken part in the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign. The campaign’s central messages – women’s rights are human rights and violence against women constitutes a violation of human rights – have been a rallying call of the women’s movement.

Recognizing that violence against women affects people from every country, race, class, culture, and religion, the 16 Days Campaign provides an opportunity for activists to work together in solidarity and draw upon this period of heightened international attention to gain support for their local efforts.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during last year’s 16 Days Campaign, millions of people pledged their support for ending violence against women and upholding human rights.

Building upon this momentum, the Center for Women’s Global Leadership dedicates the 2009 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign to honoring groups and individuals who have committed to bringing violence against women to the forefront of global attention, to encouraging everyone in their various capacities to take action to end the violence, and to demanding accountability for all of the promises made to eliminate violence against women.

This year’s campaign from 25 November to 10 December will be on the theme “Commit – Act – Demand: We CAN End Violence Against Women” and will encompass four significant dates: 25 November, the International Day Against Violence Against Women; 1 December, World AIDS Day; 6 December, the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, where 14 women engineering students were gunned down for being feminists; and 10 December, Human Rights Day.

Origin of the International Day

On 19 October 1999, at the 17th meeting of the Third Committee during the 54th session of the General Assembly, the representative of the Dominican Republic on behalf of his Government and 74 Member States introduced a draft resolution (document A/C.3/54/L.14) calling for the designation of 25 November, the anniversary of the day of the murder of the Mirabal sisters, as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Two months later, on 17 December 1999 , the General Assembly designated 25 November as the annual date for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in commemoration of the sisters. This day also marks the beginning of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence .

The Mirabal sisters were political activists in the Dominican Republic and became highly symbols of resistance to Trujillo’s dictatorship. Consequently, the sisters and their families were constantly persecuted for their outspoken as well as clandestine activities against the Government.

Over the course of their political activity, the Mirabal sisters and their husbands were repeatedly imprisoned at different stages. Despite Trujillo’s persecution, the sisters still continued to actively participate in political activities against the dictatorship.

In January 1960, Patria took charge of a meeting that eventually established the Clandestine Movement on 14 June 1960 of which all the sisters participated. When this plot against the dictator failed, the sisters and their comrades in the Clandestine Resistance Movement were persecuted throughout the country.

In November 1960, Trujillo declared that his two problems were the Church and the Mirabal sisters. On the 25ft of that month, the sisters were assassinated in an “accident” as they were being driven to visit their husbands who were in prison. The accident caused much public outcry, and shocked and enraged the nation. The brutal assassination of the Mirabal sisters was one of the events that helped propel the anti-Trujillo movement, and within a year, the Trujillo dictatorship came to an end.

The memory of the Mirabal sisters and their struggle for freedom and respect for human rights for all has transformed them into symbols of dignity and inspiration. They became symbols against prejudice and stereotypes, not only for those in the Dominican Republic but others around the world.

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Joining efforts for developmentJoining efforts for development

“Concerted action is essential if we are to alleviate extreme poverty, fight diseases and achieve the development targets," warned the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the last High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development. There is a clear need to take urgent action. Without rapid progress, by 2015 there will be more people struggling in poverty, and millions of people will not realize the basic promises of the MDGs in their lives.

The future of development financing is under discussion again at a High-Level United Nations event in New York that will attract the participation of ministers, central bank governors, government delegates and representatives of business and civil society, to advance a 2002 agreement made in Monterrey, Mexico and declaration adopted in Doha, Qatar in 2008.

The fourth High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, held on 23 and 24 November in New York, will focus on the overall theme of “The Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration on Financing for Development: status of implementation and tasks ahead”.

The Dialogue presents a unique opportunity for Member States and all relevant stakeholders to take stock of what steps have been taken since the Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus held in Doha, Qatar, from 29 November to 2 December 2008, and commit to further measures that should be implemented.

The event will consist of a series of plenary and informal meetings and also include three multi-stakeholder round tables. The informal meeting will provide an opportunity to review the progress towards the attainment of the broader UN Development goals. More details about the format of this year’s high-level dialogue can be found in the “Global dialogue on development” section of this newsletter.

Recent developments related to the overall theme of the Dialogue

The Secretary-General’s report on the “Follow-up to and implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and Doha Declaration on Financing for Development” (A/64/322) provides a major substantive input into this year’s dialogue. It highlights recent developments related to the six major thematic areas of the Monterrey agenda.

On the issue of mobilizing domestic resources for development, the report points out that, in order to counter the sharp increase in poverty generated by the current financial and economic crisis, developing countries need to implement expansionary macroeconomic policies, including social spending that targets the poor. Additional financial resources need to be provided to the affected developing countries.

With regard to mobilizing international resources for development, the report notes that, in the wake of the global financial crisis, private capital flows, including Foreign Direct Investment, to developing countries have dropped sharply, combined with a steep rise in the cost of external financing.

Moving to international trade, it is noted that, in response to global economic recession and downturn in domestic production and employment, protectionist trade measures have been observed in national recovery policies. It is therefore important to ensure that the global trading system remain open to support the development efforts of all countries, particularly the world’s poorest countries.

The chapter on the financial and technical cooperation for development concerns that the strain of the current crisis may lead to decreases in aid volumes, as happened during the economic recession of the early 1990s. Such a reversal at the present time would put an additional burden on developing countries already struggling with restricted sources of income.

In the area of external debt, the report points out that, with the onset of the global financial crisis, many developing economies, including those that have benefited from debt relief initiatives, could fall into debt distress due to reduced capital inflows, tightened external financing conditions, lower revenues and additional fiscal pressures arising from currency depreciations and higher interest rates. These factors pose serious risks to the debt sustainability of developing countries.

On systemic issues, it argues that reforms of the international financial architecture must include reshaping regulatory systems to identify and take account of macro-prudential risks, strengthening IMF surveillance over the major financial markets to reduce global imbalances and enhancing the voice and participation of developing countries in the major institutions of global economic governance.

Follow-up of the Monterrey Consensus

Almost seven years after the landmark International Conference on Financing for Development held in Monterrey in 2002, Heads of State and Government and High Representatives gathered in Doha, Qatar, in December 2008 to reiterate their resolve to take concrete action to implement the Monterrey Consensus and to address the challenges of financing for development in the spirit of global partnership and solidarity. Once again, they committed themselves to eradicate poverty, achieve sustained economic growth and promote sustainable development as we advance to a fully inclusive and equitable global economic system.

The Conference concluded with the adoption of the Doha Declaration on Financing for Development. The declaration reaffirmed the Monterrey Consensus and called for a United Nations Conference at the highest level to examine the impact of the world financial and economic crisis on development.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, recalling that the Monterrey Consensus marked “a new era of cooperation, bridging the old North-South divide”, stated at the Conference that “the Monterrey vision could yet deliver all that, and more. Faithfully implemented, it is a path out of our current predicament”.

On behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, who steered UN substantive support to the Conference, called the Declaration “an important milestone in the struggle for development” that adds significant value to what was achieved in Monterrey 2002. “On every aspect of the financing for development agenda, we can identify areas in which there has been progress”, Mr. Sha Zukang said.

Actions in time of crisis

The United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, which took place in June 2009, was mandated at the follow-up conference in Doha in 2008. Member States requested the General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann to organize the meeting “at the highest level”.

In order to assess the worst global economic downturn since the Great Depression, the aim was to identify emergency and long-term responses to mitigate the impact of the crisis, especially on vulnerable populations, and initiate a needed dialogue on the transformation of the international financial architecture, taking into account the needs and concerns of all Member States.

Government leaders and senior ministers agreed on a sweeping action plan to help blunt the impact of the economic downturn, especially for developing countries, but “in the interest of all nations <...] to achieve more inclusive, equitable, balanced, development-oriented and sustainable economic development to help overcome poverty and inequality”.

“We are all in this crisis together. While each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development, we will continue to work in solidarity on a vigorous, coordinated and comprehensive global response to the crisis, in accordance with our respective abilities and responsibilities”, the political leaders pledge in the outcome of the Conference.

More background information for the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, including inputs received from all relevant stakeholders and a calendar of side events will be posted and updated, on a regular basis, on the website of DESA’s Financing for Development Office at

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Securing children’s rights

Securing children’s rights

“As household incomes decline and governments reduce spending on public services, more poor families are falling deeper into poverty and must find ways to cope with meeting basic needs. These coping strategies often have long-term consequences for human development, especially of children and most often girls,” says Ms. Rachel Mayanja, Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women on the observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on 19 October, calling attention to the experiences and contributions of children and families living in poverty.

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