Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs to the 52nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
New York, 25 February 2008

Mr. Chairperson,
Distinguished Delegates,

I am honoured to address the Commission on the Status of Women, for the first time, as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The Secretary-General could not have found a better venue in which to launch his campaign on violence against women than this prestigious body, which has more than 60 years of experience in working to eradicate discrimination and violence against women. I am sure that you will take up the call by the Secretary-General to ensure that women and girls can live in a world free from violence – a better world for us all.

The Secretary-General’s campaign focuses on violence against women as an impediment to the achievement of the UN development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals. My Department, DESA, will do its level best to support the objectives of the campaign.

In 2006, the General Assembly invited the Economic and Social Council and its functional commissions to discuss the question of violence against women and set priorities for addressing this issue within their respective mandates.

I am pleased that, earlier this month, the Commission for Social Development addressed this issue within its priority theme of promoting full employment and decent work for all. The discussion highlighted that violence in the home and in the workplace reduces women’s ability to fully participate in the labour market.

I also welcome the panel on indicators that this Commission will organize with the Statistics Commission. The availability of common indicators on violence against women would greatly facilitate data collection at national level – and strengthen Member States’ capacity to assess the scope, prevalence and incidence of such violence. I encourage this Commission to recommend a set of indicators. And I urge the Statistical Commission to provide its expertise in the development of those indicators.

With its priority theme, “Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”, the Commission will directly address the gap between global policies and national-level implementation, which was highlighted in the ten-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action. Clearly, access to resources is one of the critical elements in reducing this gap, in both developed and developing countries.

The Commission’s deliberations are also well-timed to increase attention to gender perspectives in all six components of the Monterrey Consensus, in the preparations for the Doha Review Conference on Financing for Development, to be held later this year.

The 2005 World Summit stressed that “progress for women is progress for all”. There is strong evidence that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth. Increasing resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment would contribute significantly to achieving all the development goals, including the MDGs.

Insufficient resources continue to undermine the effectiveness and sustainability of both national mechanisms for the advancement of women and women’s organizations and networks in civil society. Many gender equality policies and strategies are developed without adequate attention to the resources needed for their full implementation.

Initiatives to analyze budgets from a gender perspective, and to link policy commitments on gender equality with resource allocations, have been undertaken in approximately 60 countries. Although many of these efforts have been initiated by NGOs, Ministries of Finance have also been involved in an increasing number of countries.

The Secretary-General’s report on this theme proposes concrete recommendations, which deserve serious consideration by the Commission.

I commend the Commission’s effort to strengthen the policy impact of its work. This session you will review implementation of the recommendations on women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution and peace-building.

We must, together, strengthen our efforts to improve women’s participation in the area of peace and security. Indeed, it remains rare for women to be involved in formal peace processes.

Peace negotiations provide an opportunity to address discrimination against women in countries emerging from conflict. At the same time, bringing women into peace processes can widen the range of issues addressed and improve the overall impact and sustainability of those processes.

Your review should provide new impetus for action in this area.

I am heartened that the Commission will take up, as its emerging issue, one of the major challenges facing the United Nations today – climate change. Addressing the gender perspectives of climate change is critical. Women make up the majority of the poor in communities dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and are thus particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Women can be effective agents of change for sustainable development, which is the context in which climate change must be addressed. Women have a strong body of knowledge and expertise that can be used in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. They tend, however, to be underrepresented in decision-making.

Your deliberations should identify ways to facilitate women’s contribution to tackling climate change at the local, national and international levels.

The new functions assigned to ECOSOC provide increased opportunities for functional commissions to contribute to its work and to strengthen the collective impact of the ECOSOC system. This year, the Annual Ministerial Review of progress in implementing the development goals will focus on commitments in the area of sustainable development. Next year, the focus will be on global health. These themes are highly relevant for this Commission’s work.

An increased role for this Commission in the Council’s work is critical. As the global leader on gender equality and empowerment of women, the Commission on the Status of Women has a key role in strengthening the development pillar of the UN and its overall mission of development for all.

DESA is committed to serve and support you in this important work.

Thank you.