OBSTACLES TO GENDER EQUALITY BY YEAR 2000 FAR GREATER THAN EXPECTED, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS THIRD COMMITTEE
OBSTACLES TO GENDER EQUALITY BY YEAR 2000 FAR GREATER THAN EXPECTED, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS THIRD COMMITTEE
OBSTACLES TO GENDER EQUALITY BY YEAR 2000 FAR GREATER THAN EXPECTED, ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS THIRD COMMITTEE19961024 Debate Begins on Advancement of Women, Outcome of Beijing Conference; Gender Balance among Secretary-General's Special Representatives Addressed
Obstacles to achieving gender equality by the year 2000 were far greater than expected, said the Assistant-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues, Rosario Green, this afternoon in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural).
Speaking as the Committee began its general debate on the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Mrs. Green said that although the severe financial crisis was the Organization's biggest problem, the Secretary-General had continued his efforts to ensure it did not disproportionately affect women. A roster of highly qualified women was being compiled to provide him with a pool of women candidates who could serve as his special representatives.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Dennis Halliday, said the United Nations had achieved one of the overall goals of gender balance -- the number of women in posts subject to geographical distribution was currently 35.2 per cent, a level achieved during an overall hiring freeze. However, despite real progress at the junior level and improvements in the middle ranks, there were not enough qualified women in senior decision-making posts. Member States needed to alert the Secretary- General about women candidates qualified for those assignments.
The representative of Zambia, speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said anyone who still doubted women's capacity should look at their contribution towards peace in Africa. Women in Sierra Leone had stood up for democracy and Ruth Perry, Africa's first woman head of State, had helped restore peace and calm in Liberia. The Secretary-General should appoint at least one women as a special envoy in a United Nations peace initiative.
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The representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Fourth World Conference on Women was not an end in itself, but a milestone on the road to ensuring that women enjoyed full equality with men in all aspects of life. Governments could not use religion, ethical values, cultural background or philosophical conviction as excuses for not fully implementing the Conference Platform for Action. The Women's Conference had established a set of actions which should lead to fundamental change.
The representatives of Mexico, Japan, Norway, Netherlands, Malaysia, Cote d'Ivoire, Slovakia, Senegal and Argentina also spoke.
Statements were also made by: the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women; the Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; and the Acting Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Friday, 25 October, to continue its consideration of women's issues.
Committee Work Programme
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to begin its examination of the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).
Advancement of Women
The documents on the advancement of women include the 1996 report of the Economic and Social Council; the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; four reports by the Secretary-General; and the Administrative Committee on Coordination's (ACC) comments on the Joint Inspection Unit report.
According to the Economic and Social Council's 1996 report (document A/51/3), the United Nations system should integrate a gender perspective into the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of poverty eradication policies and programmes, particularly in the collection of gender- disaggregated data. Otherwise, the programmes will not achieve their goals. Steps should be taken to promote mainstreaming and a gender perspective in both macro-economic and micro-economic policies; analyse the gender impact of the design and implementation of policies and programmes; and integrate a gender perspective into monitoring and evaluation, especially of operational activities.
The report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (document A/51/38), which held its fifteenth session from 15 January to 2 February 1996, contains the initial and periodic reports of Belgium, Cuba, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iceland, Paraguay and Ukraine, as well as a presentation on women's human rights in Rwanda. The report suggests policy reforms to be undertaken by those eight States parties to the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The report suggests a witness protection unit be created within the prosecutor's office of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, to protect those who testify about rape and other crimes. It also suggests that Paraguay revise its penal code with regard to violence against women; Cyprus enact special legislation on sexual harassment in the workplace; Ukraine increase access to family planning services and affordable contraception; and Ethiopia address the prevalence of female genital mutilation.
The Committee said at least two three-week sessions a year, each preceded by a pre-session working group, were needed to alleviate its heavy workload. It recommended that Member States indicate their support for an interim measure to permit the additional sessions.
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The Secretary-General's report on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (document A/51/277) states that as of 1 August 1996, 153 States had ratified the Convention, of which 58 States had acceded and 6 had succeeded to it. In addition, four States had signed it without ratifying it. Since the last progress report, the following States parties have ratified, acceded or succeeded to the Convention: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Côte d'Ivoire, Eritrea, Fiji, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa and Vanuatu. The list of States that have signed, ratified or acceded to the Convention and the dates when they did so are contained in annex VI of the report.
The report also contains records of the reservations upon ratification to the Convention made by Algeria, Fiji, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Pakistan and Singapore; objections received by Finland, Netherlands and Sweden; withdrawals of reservations and declarations received from Jamaica, Thailand and the United Kingdom; and communications received by Austria, Belgium and Portugal.
In a draft resolution the States parties to the Convention recommend that the General Assembly approve the Committee's request to allow it to hold two sessions annually, each of three weeks duration, and each preceded by a pre-session working group, starting from 1997 for an interim period. According to the resolution, the workload of the Committee has increased because of the growing number of States parties to the Convention, and the Committee's annual session is the shortest of all sessions of the human rights treaty bodies.
The report of the Secretary-General on the status of women in the Secretariat (document A/51/304) contains a gender distribution of Secretariat staff, by department, office and grade as of 30 June 1996. The statistics show an increase in the number of women at all levels, although the target of equality in gender distribution by the year 2000 remains elusive. The percentage of women in posts subject to geographical distribution has increased 12 per cent in the last 11 years and they have not been disproportionately affected by early separation programmes in 1995 and 1996. However, the number of women at higher professional levels, D-1 and above, is still very low. Although the goal of 35 per cent overall female participation in professional posts has been achieved, the percentage of women at policy- and decision-making levels is 17.9 per cent, reflecting very slow progress towards the goal of 25 per cent.
According to the report, the Organization's current financial crisis has had a negative impact on recruitment at all levels, diminishing opportunities to change the balance in the foreseeable future, particularly at the policy- and decision-making levels. The goal of 50/50 gender distribution by the year 2000 is not realistic. The General Assembly, therefore, may wish to set more achievable targets for women, such as 37 per cent by 1997 and 41 per cent
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by 1999. The target of 25 per cent for women in senior decision-making levels has not been achieved, but it should continue to be a guiding factor.
The Secretary-General and Member States must ensure that qualified women are identified and given the opportunity to serve in senior positions in the Secretariat, the report says. The search for gender equality and other efforts to bring about more diverse and equitable geographical representation should be pursued as a mutually beneficial goal. Member States need to collaborate with the United Nations, demonstrate their commitment to gender equality and identify ways to reach those objectives.
The report of the Secretary-General on traffic in women and girls (document A/51/309) said that there was heightened concern over the issue of trafficking because of the ease of international travel and the growth in temporary migration for work; increased economic pressures on poor women to provide income for their families; and the expansion of organized crime into trafficking for prostitution and other forms of exploitation. The problem of trafficking in children, a major violation of international human rights laws, has led States to begin work on a draft optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which would deal explicitly with the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
The 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women are the two international instruments that address the issue of trafficking. However, the report says their current reporting procedures do not adequately monitor either the dimensions of the issue nor State compliance. The 1949 Convention lacks a monitoring body and less than half the United Nations Members are parties to it. As elements in the treaty make it difficult for many States to sign, ratify or accede to, it might be an opportune time to make it more effective by increasing the States parties and creating a regular reporting and monitoring mechanism. As that could be a long procedure, the Secretary- General might, in the interim, seek information from States parties to the Convention, as well as publicize and analyse the information provided as a means of encouraging further implementation by some States.
The Secretary-General's report on violence against women migrant workers (document A/51/325) details the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the expert group meeting held in Manila from 27 to 31 May 1996. The meeting concentrated on two issues: improving coordination among United Nations agencies on violence against women migrant workers; and the development of concrete indicators to determine the situation of women migrant workers. Indicators cover the issues of violence against women and of tracking international migration conditions.
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The group recommended that the United Nations facilitate the development of standardized data collection procedures and that all sending and receiving countries collect and share data. The ACC should serve as the focal point within the United Nations system and undertake a comprehensive review of existing policies on migration and violence against women in order to identify the gaps in addressing issues related to violence against women migrant workers. The group suggested governments take proactive measures to reduce outflows of non-documented migrants; establish outreach programmes and shelters; hold States accountable for inaction on the issue; and apply national labour standards and enforce laws equally to protect women migrant workers.
The report also summarizes replies by 20 countries who responded to the Secretary-General's request for information. Most States agreed that workers' human rights should be protected regardless of their residential status. Many countries expressed their willingness to tackle the problem in coordination with the United Nations and emphasized that international coordination was essential.
A note by the Secretary-General transmits the United Nations Development Fund for Women's (UNIFEM) activity report for 1995 (document A/51/391) which provides a review and update of UNIFEM and describes initiatives undertaken by the Fund. After the Fourth World Conference on Women, UNIFEM restructured its programme into two major thematic areas -- economic empowerment and political empowerment. Within each area, there are the following sub-themes: globalization and economic restructuring, sustainable livelihoods, governance, human rights, peace-building and conflict resolution. Overall, UNIFEM supports projects that purposely aim to develop or demonstrate new methods of supporting women. The UNIFEM has increased its focus on advocacy, awareness- raising, brokering and documentation to respond to large numbers of women through information sharing.
The UNIFEM defines economic empowerment as having access to and control over the means of making a living on a sustainable and long-term basis and receiving the material benefits of that access and control. With respect to globalization and economic restructuring, UNIFEM has taken steps to assist women to become economically empowered by creating networks (trade, new technologies, credit, science and technology); packaging and disseminating information; mobilizing women for advocacy; and formulating recommendations for action. Under the theme of women's sustainable livelihoods, UNIFEM's work has yielded benefits which include the creation of jobs and increased income for women. Innovative pilot projects have helped to increase women's self- confidence, well-being, and their ability to handle technology and solve problems. The UNIFEM also has been successful in enabling women to become more independent of intermediary institutions which have given them initial assistance.
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The goal of UNIFEM's political empowerment programme is to ensure the participation of women at all levels of development planning and practice. Under the theme of peace-building and conflict resolution, UNIFEM has intensified efforts to empower African women who have been displaced from their home communities, and promote gender-sensitive strategies and actions in peace-building and conflict resolution. The UNIFEM also promotes the principle that the protection of women's human rights is fundamental to ensuring women's self-realization and full participation in their societies. Within the context of governance, UNIFEM continues to create environments where women's legal and social status are improved and gender-sensitive policies are developed and implemented; strengthen the women's movement so it effects social change; and promote women's enhanced leadership and participation.
A note by the Secretary-General transmits the comments of the ACC on the Joint Inspection Unit report entitled: "The advancement of women through and in the programmes of the United Nations system: What happens after the Fourth World Conference on Women?" (document A/51/180). The ACC says many of the concrete actions called for in the report have been undertaken by individual organizations. However, the Organization's severe financial situation has constrained the ability of human resources departments to take on new initiatives. During the 1996-1997 biennium, the personnel department of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will be reduced by about a third and the Office of the Human Resources Management will cut some 16 per cent of its staff.
In developing his human resources strategy, the Secretary-General has integrated objectives for the advancement of women into the Secretariat's new management culture. To date, 4,500 staff have been trained in the new performance appraisal system, which includes mandatory indicators to evaluate whether managers and supervisors achieve gender balance in their offices. Women's and gender programmes must involve top management and the efforts of all staff, not only a focal point.
Many organizations and agencies found the report too "headquarters- centred" and lacking in attention to the challenges faced at the country level, where the role of UNIFEM in supporting gender-responsive programming should be emphasized. The organizations' efforts to bring about a more equitable representation of women in their secretariats will require intense efforts, and Member States' responsibility in ensuring that the United Nations reflect the world community by placing gender balance on an equal footing with geographic distribution will be a propelling force.
Outcome of Fourth World Conference on Women
In his report on the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/51/322), the Secretary-General states that the
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first step in implementing the commitment at the international level was for intergovernmental forums, and the secretariats and programmes that they oversee, to adopt policies and programmatic guidelines for mainstreaming as a key aspect of implementing the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. Most of the intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations system and the secretariats and programmes of the system have taken the necessary initial steps. However, over the next year it was important for further steps to be taken to elaborate the concept of mainstreaming a gender perspective and its practical implications and requirements.
Mainstreaming a gender perspective in programming and policy-making involved the following steps: define issues to observe gender differences; diagnose differences between women and men and the factors associated with those differences; analyse how the differences were reflected in roles and how those roles were created and reinforced; examine how those roles function in terms of the process of change; adopt programmes and policies that address the issue in question.
The Secretary-General's report also contains progress updates from the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies, specialized agencies of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and other civil institutions. In addition, as of 22 August 1996, the Secretariat had received copies of national strategies or plans of action from Denmark, Haiti, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Turkey and the United States.
ROSARIO GREEN, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues, said following the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995) she had been appointed to ensure the gender issue was more effectively integrated into all United Nations activities. That would be achieved through the inter-agency committee on women and gender equality. The Secretary-General had vigorously pursued specific targets in his effort to achieve a total gender parity by the year 2000. However, the obstacles had been far greater than first imagined, the United Nations severe financial crisis being the biggest problem. But the Secretary-General had continued his efforts to ensure that women were not disproportionately affected by the financial crisis. She emphasized that the issue of gender sensitization was being pursued both at Headquarters and in the field, and a roster of highly qualified women was being compiled to provide the Secretary-General with a pool of women who could be chosen to become his special representatives and for other high-level missions. He had chosen a woman, Canadian Judge Ann Arbour, to replace Justice Richard Goldstone as Special Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
She said that by taking a firm stand on the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, the Secretary-General had played a leading role in a particularly sensitive situation. He had done so by holding the United Nations to its
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principles and making sure its agencies and programmes upheld the commitment to respect and advance women's rights. The Secretary-General's determination to comply with the Organization's mandate to advance women needed the support of Member States and their commitment to look for chances where women could advance their careers in the United Nations in the service of the international community.
DENIS HALLIDAY, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on the improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat. He said the United Nations had achieved one of the overall goals of gender balance -- the number of women in posts subject to geographical distribution was 35.2 per cent, a level accomplished during difficult times when there were financial restraints and an overall hiring freeze. The Secretary-General had continuously pursued the goal of increasing the numbers of women and ensuring they were not disproportionately affected by the Organization's financial crisis. He had appointed Ms. Green to ensure that the gender perspective was effectively integrated in all areas of the Organization's work.
In January, the Secretary-General had issued a bulletin to remind all senior managers and the Organization at large of the policies in place to achieve gender equality, he continued. An Administrative Instruction had been published consolidating all the previous special measures to achieve gender equality that had been issued piecemeal to enable better implementation and monitoring. The measures were designed to provide women with enhanced opportunities for promotion and placement until the goals of gender equality had been achieved. Two special measures had been particularly effective. One allowed women who had served in the Organization for one year under any type of appointment to be considered internal candidates. The second, that of cumulative service, recognized the historical pattern of women spending longer than men in grade and the need to increase the pool of women eligible for senior posts -- particularly important for building a pool of internal women candidates for policy-making and decision-making levels.
There had been real progress for women at the junior level and improvements in the numbers of women in the middle ranks, he continued. Still, there was a need to create a critical mass of women at the P-4 and P-5 levels through training and on-the-job experience. Three departments had met the General Assembly goals of 50/50 gender goal. However, the General Assembly target of 25 per cent women in senior decision-making levels had not been achieved. There were only 17.9 per cent women at the D-1 level and greater efforts must be made to give well-qualified women an opportunity to serve at more senior levels. Member States needed to bring to the attention of the Secretary-General women candidates for those assignments. The recruitment freeze had removed one of the main tools for advancing women to senior posts. There were simply not enough women on board to advance them as needed to meet targets. There must be nurturing and mentoring for young
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entrants and middle-level women. There were not enough women in political decision-making levels. Efforts must also be made to make the Organization more family-oriented and take into account women's needs.
ANGELA E.V. KING, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, introducing the agenda items on the Advancement of Women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, said the issues before the Committee were all about implementation of the agreements reached at Beijing, over one year ago. The General Assembly was now in a position to review the intergovernmental structure it set in place last year, as well as the implementation by the United Nations system. The picture given in the reports before the Committee was one of momentum throughout the system at the intergovernmental level and of a coordinated approach to implementation of Beijing by the organization of the United Nations system.
The Beijing Platform for Action assigned primary responsibility for implementation to the national governments that adopted the document, she said. Governments were proceeding, working in consultation with non- governmental organizations, to implement their commitments. At its last session, the General Assembly emphasized that governments should develop comprehensive implementation strategies no later than the end of 1996. The importance of completing these plans as a means of maintaining momentum cannot be stressed enough.
If Beijing proved one thing, it was that the momentum generated by ideas could be a powerful force for change, she said. The United Nations challenge was to maintain that momentum by taking action. And to meet this challenge, in a time of uncertainty and financial crisis, all of the actors set out in the Platform must keep their faith in the outcome and do what needs to be done.
NOELEEN HEYZER, Director of UNIFEM, said UNIFEM has been working to facilitate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, an agenda which serves as the foundation to promote women's economic and political empowerment. During the last year, UNIFEM further refined and focused its programme and advocacy efforts in women's empowerment. The UNIFEM's work in the economic sphere includes helping women's organizations take advantage of new economic opportunities and new markets to improve livelihoods. In the area of political empowerment, UNIFEM has been strengthening women's leadership and decision-making capacity in order to influence the direction of society and to help women gain increased control over their lives both within and outside the household.
This year, she said, UNIFEM also was assisting in the implementation of and advocacy for the Beijing Platform for Action by working with women's networks, policy makers and grass-roots organizations to develop strategic
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plans for the Platform's implementation and evaluation. Furthermore, it was providing assistance to more than 16 governments that were transforming the Platform for Action into national action plans, including India's Ninth Development Plan.
Within the United Nations system, UNIFEM, working with its 10 Regional Programme Advisers and two Senior Programme Managers, was becoming a women's empowerment resource, she said. It acted as a gender adviser to the United Nations Resident Coordinator System and chaired inter-agency task forces on gender and development in several countries. The UNIFEM also was holding consultations with governments, non-governmental organizations and United Nations partners to seek agreements on mechanism and future directions for advancing women's status, including legal reform, funding priorities, information campaigns, and monitoring of post-Beijing priorities.
MICHAEL HOEY (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Beijing Conference was not an end in itself, but a milestone on the road to ensuring that women enjoyed, in law and in practice, full equality with men in all aspects of life. Governments could not argue religious, ethical values, cultural background or philosophical conviction as an excuse for not fully implementing the Platform for Action. Beijing established a set of actions which should lead to fundamental change, including traditional views and concepts. He urged governments to inform the international community and the Division for the Advancement of Women of their efforts and progress. Governments should also enhance and support the involvement of all aspects of civil society and non-governmental organizations, particularly feminist groups and women's organizations, in the follow-up to Beijing. Human and financial resources must be made available to women at the national and international levels. To achieve that end, the gender perspective must be included in budgetary decisions on policies and programmes.
The European Union was contributing to the follow-up through the Fourth Community Action Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men which would run until the year 2000. It aimed to mainstream equal opportunities in all policies and programmes; mobilize all economic and social sectors to achieve equal opportunities; promote equal opportunities in a changing economy; reconcile family and working life; promote gender balance in decision-making; and make conditions more conducive for exercising equal rights. The Union had also adopted a resolution on the image of women and men portrayed in the media, aimed at promoting a more diversified and realistic picture of their skills and potential. In 1996, a Council directive which applied to 14 member States of the Union was adopted, guaranteeing men and women workers a minimum of three months unpaid parental leave, each -- distinct from maternity leave -- when a child is born or adopted. The Council of Ministers was also considering a recommendation on the balanced participation of women in decision-making.
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YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico) said the Fourth World Conference on Women in China reiterated the fact that the advancement of women was crucial, and no development policy was viable unless it included the advancement of women as part of its agenda. In the Beijing Platform for Action, a series of specific measures to improve the position of women was set out in a comprehensive fashion. International cooperation was of particular importance in achieving the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. In order to ensure the completion of the Beijing objectives -- and other platforms achieved at world conferences in recent years -- multi-agency task forces should be established to ensure implementation and follow-up of measures adopted at conferences and meetings.
Following the example of Beijing, Mexico had instituted a national programme for women, involving all forums in the executive branch and establishing plans of action to increase and further the development of women to achieve equal opportunities with men in political, economic and cultural spheres, she said. The Government also established guidelines to implement a strategy with a gender perspective. This year, the Mexican Government hosted the Continental Meeting on Intra-Family Violence, co-sponsored by the United Nations and other international bodies. In the multilateral field, Mexico welcomed the results of the Commission on the Status of Women, and the mandate of the Commission was further strengthened under the Beijing platform.
PETER L. KASANDA (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the South African Development Community (SADC), said anyone who still doubted the capacity of women should take notice of the contribution of African women in peacemaking in Africa in the past year. The women of Sierra Leone turned the tide towards democracy by standing up and saying enough was enough. Ruth Perry -- Africa's first woman head of State -- took over the reins of leadership in Liberia at a difficult time, and now peace and calm had returned to that war-torn country. These two examples were more than proof that the time had come for the Secretary-General to seize the initiative and appoint at least one woman as a special envoy in one of the United Nations peace initiatives.
The governments were convinced that the Beijing train should run on its own rails and with a clear destination, he said. The implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action deserves a high profile and visibility, which are extremely important in sustaining high political interest and commitment. This was also important for accountability and the assumption of responsibility for a lack of performance. Therefore, keeping in mind the recognition of the need to integrate a gender perspective in all activities of the United Nations, the SADC recommended the establishment of a special high- level post to act as a focal point within the United Nations for the coordination of gender issues. The Platform made a specific and deliberate link between that office and the Division of the Advancement of Women, and it was unfortunate that the recommendation had been ignored and another arrangement had been implemented.
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Regarding mainstreaming, a gender perspective and its practical implications and requirements, the SADC believed that the emphasis must be on the practical application, he said. A simple and common-sense understanding of this concept was essential. The challenge was now to formulate a strategy for reflecting the status of women in policies and programmes.
NAGAKO SUGIMORI (Japan) said that effective and efficient implementation of the Platform for Action could best be achieved when the operational programmes of the United Nations, specialized agencies and other international organizations use the Platform as a guide to their own activities. This implementation would also require system-wide integration at the local, regional and nationwide levels. She stressed that linking policy-making intergovernmental bodies with the funds and programmes was of utmost importance.
Japan had begun to undertake a number of measures to implement the Platform for Action, she said. The most important activity was the formulation of a new national plan of action by the Prime Minister's Office for Gender Equality. The new plan was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. Japan gave high priority to women-in-development in its official development policies. Japan would pursue the "Initiative on Women in Development", stressing importance of the three priority areas of education, health and economic and social participation.
She said that her Government fully supported UNIFEM activities aimed at eliminating violence against women at the national and local levels. Japan intends to contribute $1 million to the trust fund that was established to strengthen UNIFEM's activities in this area.
KARIN STOLTENBERG (Norway) said that the United Nations should set quotas or other more drastic measures in its efforts to hire more women in the Secretariat. She said her delegation found the Secretary-General's report suggesting that "more realistic targets" be adopted for increasing the proportion of women staff members disappointing. The qualified women were there, if one looks a bit harder. It was crucial to have women in all appointment committees because women's eyes for what was relevant talent and experience were different from men's.
As regards the report on the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women, she said that it was no longer a problem confined to women from third world countries, but had spread to large parts of Europe, particularly those countries in transition. This situation called for strong, concrete international cooperation, such as international police cooperation and the work done at the World Congress Against Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm in August.
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ANNELIES PIERROT-BULTS (Netherlands) said that Member States could demonstrate the importance they attach to gender equality by providing the resources necessary for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. She stressed that it was of utmost importance to women that the United Nations be enabled to fulfil all its responsibilities and that was possible only if States paid their contributions.
Women should be involved at all levels and at all stages of the planning and implementation of programmes, she said. Education is the first priority if women and girls are to achieve economic independence. Education and empowering women will empower future generations and, slowly but surely, reduce poverty throughout the world. It was vital that the image of women be changed and that stereotypes be abandoned. Governments, for example, could encourage projects depicting girls and women in a balanced way. Educational programmes aimed at men as well as women could be developed to make it clear that caring was not a task for women alone. In the Netherlands, the school syllabus for children aged twelve to thirteen included lessons in social and life skills, encouraging boys as well as girls to learn the basic elements of taking care of others and themselves.
Women should play a greater role in decision-making at all levels, she said. The United Nations could appoint more women to posts in its Secretariat. Although some progress had been made, there was still much more room for improvement.
TAN YEE KEW (Malaysia) said that the Platform for Action was not only helpful in the promotion of the advancement of women, but also encouraged the advancement of society as a whole. Successful implementation of the plan depended not only on political will, but on workable strategies adopted by national governments. In Malaysia, there has been encouraging progress in promoting the advancement of women. Malaysian women enjoyed equal access to education with enrolment as high as 45 per cent with a significant increase in professional and technical fields. Women's participation in the labour force reached 47 per cent in 1995.
The problem of women in poverty could not be addressed apart from the wider economic environment, he said. In countries where poverty and unemployment were rampant, the creation of pockets of economically advanced women was not realistic. The international community needed to make greater efforts to address the problems of poverty in their entirety.
Speaking on the issue of violence against women and children, he said that Malaysia's Domestic Violence Act had created greater protection against physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
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DIENEBOU KABA CAMARA (Cote D'Ivoire) said one of the main aims of the Beijing Conference was to reverse the trend towards the feminization of poverty. Many world meetings had been held to combat poverty but, in fact, resources and finances were scarce at a time when needs were increasing. There had been a 40 per cent reduction in official development aid and an increasing number of States were failing to honour their aid commitments. African countries were taking urgent measures to deal with very difficult economic conditions. Unfortunately, the political will of African countries to promote women were hampered by the drying up of resources and that was a serious obstacle to implementing the Beijing Conference. It was difficult for them to take new initiatives and renew programmes which focused on gender equality. If such obstacles to the advancement of women were not removed, it would be very difficult to implement the Beijing Programme, which called for new resources to be allocated to women's advancement. She called on the international community to take action.
She congratulated UNIFEM and the FAO, which had helped rural women by training them and involving them in development. In its research, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) had made a major contribution to the advancement of women.
She noted with regret that the number of women at the level of Assistant Secretary-General and Under-Secretary-General had decreased by 50 per cent since Beijing. There must be more measures to combat harassment in the workplace and reconcile women's family and working life. She hoped that the Economic Commission for Africa would take into account the special situation and role of women in Africa when implementing its work.
OKSANA TOMOVA (Slovakia) said unemployment and the decline of living standards had an especially unfavourable impact on women living in rural areas. In Slovakia, where 44 per cent of women lived in rural areas, the status of women had worsened through the changes in agricultural production. Many women had been employed as farm workers without receiving any payment or for a small wage.
She said that Slovakia, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), had implemented a project called "Slovak Women on the Move" which sought to actively influence issues concerning the status of women both in Slovakia and abroad. She stressed that the mass media could uniquely change the stereotypical views of men and women in society. The goals of the Slovak women's project were to inform and disseminate conclusions of the Beijing Conference; implement the media campaign to actively influence and inform society about issues concerning the status of women; and to research critical areas of interest in the Platform for Action. She noted that the first part of the research indicated that in the present labour market men tolerated discriminative acts against women. It also revealed that a certain portion of Slovak men were unwilling to accept equality of women in the workplace, family or public life.
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IBRA DEGUENE KA (Senegal) said the contribution of women in society should finally be recognized, especially considering that for a long time women were considered secondary citizens. Fortunately, despite obstacles and hesitation, society was increasingly willing to reverse this trend so that everyone could be recognized regardless of colour or sex. However, all States must continue to work to consolidate and extend the advancement of women. A major step forward was taken by the Secretary-General when he appointed a Special Adviser on Gender Issues, following a recommendation made at the Beijing Conference. This was proof of a growing awareness that the United Nations was focusing increasingly on the discrimination of women in the workplace. And that was how Senegal viewed the establishment of the steering committee on the place of women in the Secretariat. These actions also reflected a seriousness in wiping out an injustice that had persisted for too long.
One of the priorities of Senegal's policies has been the advancement of women, which included improved education and training. The Government had undertaken this objective to ensure schooling for all. Today 50 per cent of all schoolchildren were girls, which was a considerable achievement considering Senegal's limited means. The Government's program of action for women was proof of its commitment to achieving equality for women, and it had achieved encouraging results in this area.
Ms. REGAZZOLI (Argentina) said governments were responsible for implementing the Beijing Platform and ensuring the full participation of women in political, social, economic and cultural spheres. The follow-up to Beijing could not be achieved in isolation and must be coordinated with the action plans of the other major United Nations conferences on children, the environment, population, development, settlements and food. Full access to education was the only key to help them achieve those objectives. Knowledge gave women strength and freedom. Governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society must implement the gender perspective in their policies and programmes. Development institutions and bilateral donors must be mobilized to help in that objective. "We must give content to the word solidarity", she added.
She said that without the United Nations it would have been impossible to have achieved any of the legal instruments which had been put in place, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Her Government fully supported an optional Protocol to the Convention. It would also take part in the next session of the Commission on the Legal and Social Status of Women. Argentina's President had just presented the country's third updated report of the situation of women in Argentina. The Government had also established an ad hoc committee to monitor the follow-up to Beijing. It was also responsible for implementing solutions to eradicate problems and permit an improvement in the social and economic situation of women. Attention was also being given to how the media portrayed
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women. A "quota law" had made it possible for more women to enter politics and there were now 76 female parliamentarians in the 257-seat congress. In the last 10 years, the legitimacy of domestic violence had been wiped out, although other less visible forms continued.
MARTHA DUENAS LOZA, Acting Director of INSTRAW, said the Institute had expedited a very important evolution in the understanding of the greatest obstacles hindering the advancement of women in different sectors of social chores. The change in perception and acceptance of women as a major actor in the development process and not as some disadvantaged group was central to the Institute's work. Those observations must be further clarified and supported by in-depth and innovative research to understand the complexities affecting women, including rural and indigenous women. So-called women's issues were linked to the survival of millions of women and their children.
Regarding the issues of transparency and efficiency, no institution by itself had the capacity to deal with complex issues of women's advancement. It must be a multi-disciplinary and inter-institutional process. Inter-agency coordination required a lot of flexibility, imagination and mutual trust. The research necessary to follow up on Beijing required expertise and high skills to achieve the necessary quality and needed cooperation within the United Nations system.
Since assuming management, she had had to deal with severe financial limitations as well as a lack of qualified, expert staff, she said. However, the Institute had managed to keep favourable balances in its trust fund and had complied with a significant part of its work programme. Member States must demonstrate their long-standing recognition and support for the Institute by guaranteeing compatibility between its mandates and their financial support, otherwise it would become ineffective.
NINA SIBAL, director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said UNESCO participated in the elaboration of the draft system-wide medium-term plan for the advancement of women, 1998-2001 for the follow-up to the Beijing Conference. Within the framework of this plan, UNESCO made commitments to all 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, with special emphasis on five priorities: education, peace, the media, environmental protection and the girl child.
Both Africa and women were among UNESCO's four priorities, along with least developed countries and youth, she said. The UNESCO's Director-General initiated a new way of testing the Organization's work as regards sub-Saharan Africa. It involved three prominent African women and, through them, local and professional women's networks, in defining and monitoring UNESCO's activities concerning women. By working directly with the Secretariat and project teams, the Organization hoped to respond better to women's needs and expectations. Specifically, the advisory board's work involved ensuring
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access to education for all African girls and women; supporting multi-purpose training centres in local communities; developing better communication among African women; developing women's community radio and Internet links; and supporting African women scientists, especially in water supply and use projects. Responding to the growing conflicts in Africa, the advisory group also emphasized the need to involve women in conflict prevention and resolution.
IVANKA CORTI, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, said that as of 1 October 1996, 154 countries had become States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. The Committee hoped that the universal ratification of the Convention and implementation of commitments of the Vienna Conference on Human Rights and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing would be accomplished by 2000.
Women were using the Convention more and more as a means to defend and promote their human rights, she said. However, the Convention and the work of the Committee had to be better known, especially now that the major themes of the women's movement -- equality, development, peace, and end to violence against women -- were undergoing significant changes and women's movements had come to a deeper understanding of the implications of their concerns. The Vienna and Beijing conferences, and conferences in Cairo and Copenhagen, had all recognized the Convention as the basic legal framework for the human rights of women. The Beijing Conference, in particular, cited the crucial role the Committee played in ensuring the rights recognized by the Convention were realized.
The adoption of an optional protocol to the Convention was important for enhancing the juridical significance of the Convention, she said. The Committee asked for a positive decision by the Third Committee for the follow- up of the working group in order to continue its work and proceed in the drafting of the protocol. The Committee was hopeful that the General Assembly would adopt a positive decision on the matter.
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