COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN CONCLUDES FORTY-FOURTH SESSION; APPROVES TEXT ON SITUATION OF PALESTINIAN WOMEN BY VOTE OF 35-1-0

2 March 2000
WOM/1183

COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN CONCLUDES FORTY-FOURTH SESSION; APPROVES TEXT ON SITUATION OF PALESTINIAN WOMEN BY VOTE OF 35-1-0

2 March 2000


Press Release
WOM/1183


COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN CONCLUDES FORTY-FOURTH SESSION; APPROVES TEXT ON SITUATION OF PALESTINIAN WOMEN BY VOTE OF 35-1-0

20000302

The Commission on the Status of Women this afternoon approved a draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, by which the Economic and Social Council would demand that Israel comply fully with the provisions and principles of the relevant international documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families. It approved the resolution by a recorded vote of 35 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. [For details of the voting, see Annex.]

By further terms of the orally amended text, the Economic and Social Council would urge Member States, financial organizations of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and other relevant institutions to intensify their efforts to provide financial and technical assistance to Palestinian women, especially during the transitional period.

Acting without a vote, the Commission approved another orally amended draft resolution on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, by which the Council would condemn the continuing grave violations of the human rights of women and girls in all areas of Afghanistan, particularly in areas under the control of the Taliban, and also condemn the restrictions on women's access to health care and the systematic violation of the human rights of women in that country, including the restrictions on access to education and to employment outside the home.

In other business, orally revised resolutions on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts, and on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS, were directly adopted without a vote by the Commission today.

By the first text, the Commission condemned violent acts in contravention of international humanitarian law against civilian women and children in areas of armed conflict, and called for an effective response to such acts, including the immediate release of such women and children.

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* The 7th Meeting was closed.

Commission on Status of Women - 1a - Press Release WOM/1183 8th Meeting (PM) 2 March 2000

Under the resolution on HIV/AIDS, the Commission urged governments to take all necessary measures to strengthen women's economic independence and to protect and promote their human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to allow them to better protect themselves from HIV infection. It urged the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and its co-sponsors to intensify their efforts in assisting governments to determine the best policies and programmes to prevent women and young girls from becoming infected with HIV/AIDS.

Before convening tomorrow morning as the third and final preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly in June on women in the twenty-first century, the Commission also adopted the report of its session and of its Working Group on Communications. According to the draft provisional agenda for its forty-fifth session, also adopted today, the Commission will focus on: women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS; and gender, and all forms of discrimination, in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

It was decided that an informal paper containing a summary of the general debate of the current session would be included in the final document of the preparatory committee for the special Assembly session. The Commission found that, during the session, delegations had reaffirmed their commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action as a fundamental document not open to renegotiation. They had acknowledged it as an essential instrument for the achievement of gender equality and underlined the importance of perceiving the review of its implementation as part of the process of women's advancement.

Statements in explanation of vote were made by the representatives of Israel, United States, Iran, Russian Federation, Canada and Gabon. The representative of Israel spoke again in exercise of the right of reply.

Representatives of Syria and Lebanon spoke, as non-members of the Commission. The observer for Palestine also spoke.

Yakin Erturk, the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women also spoke, as did Dubravka Simonovic (Croatia), the Chairperson of the Commission.

The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at 10 a.m. on Friday, 3 March, as the preparatory committee for the forthcoming special session of the General Assembly.

Commission Work Programme

The Commission on the Status of Women met this afternoon to conclude its forty-forth session, before convening tomorrow as the third and final preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly entitled: "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century". During this week, the Commission discussed follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 and had undertook a comprehensive review of the Conference's outcome.

Today, the Commission was expected to adopt the report on its session (document E/CN.6/2000/L.3), as well as the provisional agenda for the forty- fifth session (documents E/CN.6/2000/L.7, E/CN.6/2000/CRP.3). It was also expected to adopt the report of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women (document E/CN.6/2000/CRP.4).

It was also expected to follow up the resolutions and decisions of the Economic and Social Council (document E/CN.6/2000/5). The Council recommended, among other things, that the Commission prepare, at its next session, a new multi-year work programme for the years 2002 to 2005; it continue its practice of cooperating with the Commission on Human Rights; and identify actions to be taken by the United Nations system, in light of the Commission's agreed conclusions on accelerated implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern.

The Commission was also scheduled to adopt two draft resolutions and approve two more for adoption by the Economic and Social Council. The drafts for adoption by the Commission are, as follows: women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS (document E/CN/.6/2000/L.6); and the release of women and children taken hostage, including subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2000/L.2).

The draft texts for adoption by the Council are, as follows: the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan (document E/CN.6/2000/L.4); and the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2000/L.5).

Draft Resolutions

A draft resolution on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2000/L.2), sponsored by Azerbaijan, would have the Commission condemn violent acts in contravention of international humanitarian law against civilian women and children in areas of armed conflict and call for an effective response to such acts, including the immediate release of such women and children.

Also according to the text, the Commission would strongly urge all parties to armed conflicts to respect fully the norms of international humanitarian law in armed conflict and take all necessary measures for the protection of these women and children and for their immediate release. The Commission would urge all parties to conflicts to provide unimpeded access to specialized humanitarian assistance for these women and children.

The Secretary-General and all relevant international organizations would be requested to use their capabilities and efforts to facilitate the release of these women and children.

A draft on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan (document E/CN.6/2000/L.4) would have the Economic and Social Council condemn the continuing grave violations of the human rights of women and girls, including all forms of discrimination against them, in all areas of Afghanistan, particularly in areas under the control of the Taliban.

The Council would also condemn the restrictions on women's access to health care and the systematic violation of the human rights of women in Afghanistan, including the restrictions on access to education and to employment outside the home, freedom of movement, and freedom from intimidation, harassment and violence, which has serious detrimental effect on the well-being of Afghan women and the children in their care.

In that connection, the Council would urge the Taliban and other Afghan parties to recognize, protect, promote and act in accordance with all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion, in accordance with international human rights instruments, and to respect international humanitarian law.

All Afghan parties, in particular the Taliban, would be urged to bring to an end, without delay, all human rights violations against women and girls and to take urgent measures to ensure, among other things: the repeal of all discriminatory legislative and other measures which impede the realization of the human rights of women and girls; respect for the equal right of women to work; the equal right of women and girls to education; and respect for freedom of movement for women.

Under a further provision, States would be urged to continue to give special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of women in Afghanistan and to maintain a gender perspective in all aspects of their policies and actions related to Afghanistan.

The Secretary-General would be urged to ensure that all United Nations activities in Afghanistan were carried out according to the principle of non- discrimination against women and girls, and that a gender perspective and special attention to the human rights of women and girls were fully incorporated into the work of the civil affairs unit established within the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Japan, Kenya, Liechtenstein and the United States.

In addition to the oral revisions to the text announced yesterday by the United States representative [see Press Release WOM/1182 of 1 March], the following operative paragraph 14 has been added, as follows:

"Requests the Secretary-General to continue to review the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and to submit to the Commission on the Status of Women at its 45th session a report on progress made in the implementation of this resolution."

Under a draft text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2000/L.5), the Economic and Social Council would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Regulations annexed to The Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families.

The Council would call upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties, in compliance with the relevant United Nations resolution.

In a related provision, the Council would call upon the concerned parties, as well as the entire international community, to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the continuity and success of the peace process and its conclusion by the agreed time of September 2000 and the achievement of tangible progress in the improvement of the situation of Palestinian women and their families.

The Council would urge Member States, financial organizations of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other relevant institutions to intensify their efforts to provide financial and technical assistance to Palestinian women, especially during the transitional period.

The draft resolution is sponsored by Nigeria on behalf of the Member States of the United Nations that are members of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.

A draft resolution, sponsored by Zambia on behalf of the Group of African States, on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS (document E/CN.6/2000/L.6) would have the Commission urge governments to take all necessary measures to strengthen women's economic independence and to protect and promote their human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to allow them to better protect themselves from HIV infection.

The Commission would also urge governments to take steps to create an environment that promotes compassion and support for those infected with HIV, to provide the legal framework that would protect the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, to enable those who were vulnerable to have access to appropriate counselling services and to encourage efforts to reduce discrimination and stigmatization.

It would also urge governments, with the assistance of relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes and intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations to create an environment and conditions that would take care of and support children orphaned by AIDS.

Governments, with the assistance of relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, would be further urged to adopt a long-term, timely, coherent and integrated AIDS prevention policy, with public information and life-skills-based education programmes specifically tailored to the needs of women and girls within their socio-cultural context and sensitivities and the specific needs in their life cycle.

In a related provision, the Commission would urge, also, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and its co-sponsors to intensify their efforts in assisting governments to determine the best policies and programmes to prevent women and young girls from becoming infected with HIV/AIDS.

A number of oral revisions to the text were also expected to be read out.

At the end of the second preambular paragraph, the following line would be added:

"In this context, welcoming the newly launched international partnership against AIDS in Africa".

The paragraph would then read:

"Noting with great concern that the proportion of women becoming infected with HIV is growing in every region, that in sub-Saharan African 55 per cent of those living with HIV are women and that, in the younger age brackets (15-24 years), girls are at higher risk of HIV infection and that more girls than boys are now infected."

The end of the fifth operative paragraph would be reformulated to read, as follows:

"... especially for the most vulnerable populations, including women, young girls and infants, also taking into account prevention of mother-to-child transmissions of HIV."

The new operative paragraph 5 would read:

"Stresses that every effort should be made by governments, relevant United Nations agencies, funds and programmes and intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations, individually and collectively, to place combating HIV/AIDS as a priority on the development agenda and to implement effective prevention strategies and programmes, especially for the most vulnerable populations, including women, young girls and infants, also taking into account prevention of mother-to-child transmissions of HIV."

A new operative paragraph 14 would read:

"Reaffirms the value of the coordination by UNAIDS and calls upon all of the elements of the United Nations to examine their programmes of work to see how and where combating HIV/AIDS, especially among women and children, can be incorporated into their activities."

Action on Drafts

The Commission first took up the draft resolution on release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2000/L.2). It was announced that Turkey had joined Azerbaijan in sponsoring the draft.

The representative of Azerbaijan said that a proposal of the European Union to redraft the third operative paragraph had been accepted, as follows:

The word "armed" would be added before the word "conflicts"; the word "safe" would be added before the word "unimpeded"; and the word "specialized" would be deleted.

The third operative paragraph would read, as follows:

"Urges all parties to armed conflicts to provide safe and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance to these women and children."

It was then announced that Iran, Cameroon and Gabon had joined as co- sponsors of the text.

The Commission then adopted the resolution, as orally amended.

Turning to the draft resolution on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, the Bureau announced the following revisions: in the second operative paragraph, the word "continued" would be inserted before the word "restrictions". In the seventh operative paragraph, the word "maintain" would be replaced by the word "mainstream".

It was announced that the following delegations had joined as co-sponsors of the text: Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Netherlands, Denmark, Croatia, Mongolia, Republic of Korea, Kenya, Luxembourg, Hungary, Belgium, United Kingdom, Thailand, Mali, Argentina, Ireland, Israel, Finland, Philippines, Sweden, Austria, Norway.

The representative of the United States said that the following delegations had also joined as co-sponsors: Australia, Dominican Republic, Fiji and France.

For clarification, she then read out the amended operative paragraph 9, as follows:

"Notes the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, on her mission to Pakistan and Afghanistan, 1-13 September."

She also read out the new operative paragraph 14 requesting the Secretary- General to continue to review the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The Commission then approved the text, as orally amended.

The Commission next turned to the draft concerning the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2000/L.5). Speaking before the vote, the representative of Israel said his delegation had been extremely sorry to see that, once again, a few representatives of Arab States had chosen to take the time, since the first day of this important international forum, to distract the Commission from its agenda in favour of specific political concerns. In the Palestinian community, 97 per cent of which was not under Israeli rule but under Palestinian rule, Palestinian women actually enjoyed a most advanced and developed status -- social, economic, political, education, and health -- compared to that of most women worldwide. Anyone present could read about that in the Palestinian booklet entitled "Palestine in Figures". A glance at the publication would show figures about infant mortality, unemployment, education, and so forth, in support of their improved status.

Nevertheless, the status of the Palestinian women was not the subject here today, he said. Rather, it had been another way of exploiting a United Nations conference, meant to combine the positive energies of many people, into a narrow political attack. Indeed, today, the parties in the Middle East conflict had been trying to resolve the issues and reach a peace agreement that would benefit the entire region. The place to solve the conflict was around the negotiation table -- where there would, hopefully, be many women -- and certainly not in the preparatory committee of the “Beijing + 5” Conference.

Furthermore, he said, there were so many other conflicts in the world in which women were really suffering. Many other global problems impacted tremendously on the plight of women throughout the world, including the absence of running water, or the lack of primary education and basic health services. Such urgent issues had really belonged on the agenda; a purely political conflict had not.

The Commission then approved the draft by a recorded vote of 35 in favour to 1 against (United States), with no abstentions. [See Annex.]

The representative of the United States, speaking after the vote, said her delegation had opposed the resolution because it addressed the issues of refugees and Jerusalem, issues which the Israelis and Palestinians had agreed to address in the context of the permanent status negotiations. Her delegation had not wanted to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations.

The representative of Iran said her delegation had voted in favour of the draft on Palestinian women, as a comprehensive and just solution to the issue of Palestine lay in the restoration of all of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homeland, the full exercise of the right of self-determination, and the liberation of all occupied territories.

The representative of the Russian Federation said her delegation had voted in favour of the draft, as the Russian Federation was a co-sponsor of a peace process initiative in the Middle East calling on all parties involved to show wisdom and abstain from armed propaganda and rhetoric, and to take constructive steps to mitigate everything obstructing a peaceful solution to the conflict.

General Statements by Non-Members of Commission

The representative of Syria said the draft expressed full support for the Palestinian woman, for her right to return home and to self-determination, in conformity with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council. He had a reservation, however, about the mention of the peace accords cited in preambular paragraph 5 and operative paragraph 1. Regarding the first operative paragraph, he would have liked a reference to a comprehensive and global peace in the region on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolution, and also the principle of land for peace.

The representative of Lebanon said he had a similar reservation about the draft because there had been no precise mention in the text of the basis for peace in the Middle East, which was specifically contained in the relevant Security Council resolutions or the principle of land for peace; however, his delegation vigorously supported the fight of the Palestinian women and the achievement of their legitimate rights. Those rights could not be achieved as long as the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories continued.

The observer for Palestine expressed her gratitude to the Group of 77 and China for submitting the draft, as well as to all of the delegations who had supported it. Its approval, by an overwhelming majority, had underscored the importance of the position of the international community and of the Commission, which had supported Palestinian women in their struggle against occupation and for the recovery of their rights, including the right to self-determination.

Responding to the remarks made by the representative of Israel, she said the present draft had been presented by the entire Group of 77 and China, which represented 130 States, and not just the Arab Group. The United Nations responsibility with respect to the Palestinian women would be sustained until all of the aspects of the Palestinian matter had been settled and until the Palestinian people, including the women, had achieved their independence. Also, all of Palestine was under Israeli occupation. The truth was that the Palestinian people, as a whole, lived under Israeli occupation, and help could not be provided without the authorization of Israel.

The Commission then turned to the draft resolution on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS (document E/CN.6/2000/L.6)

Before a vote was taken, the following countries joined Zambia as co- sponsors of the draft resolution: United States, Japan, Paraguay, Rwanda, Cameroon, Canada, Liberia, Kenya, Thailand, Iceland, Uganda, China, Chile, Norway, Ukraine, Australia, Israel, Croatia, New Zealand and Ecuador.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of Zambia read a further list of co-sponsors: Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Netherlands, Finland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Austria, France, Italy, Portugal and Germany.

The Commission then adopted the draft resolution as orally revised.

The Commission also took note of the various reports and notes of the Secretary-General that were before it during this session. The Commission also took note of the note by the Secretariat on the proposals for the medium-term plan for the period 2002-2005 (document E/CN.6/2000/CRP.2).

The Commission then took note of the agenda item entitled the “follow-up to the Economic and Social Council resolutions and decisions” (document E/CN.6/2000/5), which was a summary of recommendations by the Council and follow-up action by the Commission, as well as suggested recommendations for further action.

YAKIN ERTURK, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the draft provisional agenda and documentation for the Commission’s forty-fifth session (document E/CN.6/2000/L.7). The first item of the provisional agenda was the adoption of the agenda and other organizational matters. The proposed themes for this session would be “Women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS”; and “Gender and multiple forms of discrimination, in particular issues related to racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and discrimination based on age and disability”.

She also noted that since officers had been elected during the current session, the “election of officers” item should be deleted.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Union supported the proposed themes, but suggested that in order to be more in line with the exact designation of the 2001 Conference, the theme should read: “Gender and multiple forms of discrimination, particularly racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. This broader formulation would suggest that the phrase “and discrimination based on age and disability” could be deleted. She hoped some time at the upcoming session would be reserved to reflect on the Commission’s work programme for 2002-2005 and the outcome of the special session.

The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, suggested that the second item of the proposed agenda be amended to read: “Gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, related intolerance and discrimination based on age and disability”. She also said that she hoped that the provisional agenda could address women in armed conflict and violence against women.

She went on to suggest that the provisional agenda item entitled the “Adoption of the report of the Commission on its forty-fifth session” be amended to reflect, among others, the topics of racial and ethnic equality.

Ms. ERTURK said that the forty-fifth session actually had no predetermined thematic issues, and that the proposed themes had been presented in order to highlight the focus of the session. The Commission might wish to limit review to a few issues or discuss the item further.

After consultations among the delegations, Ms. Erturk read the agreed-upon revised second theme of the proposed provisional agenda. It would be: “Gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. The representative of Canada supported this change, but hoped that at its upcoming session the Commission would find time to discuss the issues of racial discrimination arising from indigenous status, as well as age and disability. The “multiple forms of discrimination” clause might have been more all encompassing, but she trusted that the Commission would address all the areas of discrimination as thoroughly as possible.

Also speaking before the vote, the representative of Gabon said that she understood the concerns of Canada. She was concerned specifically about the deletion of “disability” from the proposed themes. She said that as leaders in the area of women’s rights, the Commission must ensure that the concerns of the disabled were taken into account. She wondered if the disabled had been ignored in the proposal presented by the Secretariat because there were no disabled persons in the room to defend their inclusion.

Dubravka Simonovic (Croatia), Commission Chairperson, said she was certain that the Commission was aware that the phrase “related intolerance” would include age and disability in any discussion of the issue.

The representative of the United States supported the described changes, but hoped that future sessions could focus on the issues of age and disability.

The representative of the Sudan added her delegation’s support for the proposed changes.

The Commission then adopted the draft provisional agenda and documentation for its next session as orally revised.

The representative of the United States asked the Commission to reconsider the language in operative paragraph 9 of the resolution on women in Afghanistan. In order not to reflect the name of another country, she proposed that “Pakistan and” be deleted.

There were no objections.

The Chairperson said that an informal paper that summarized the work of the Commission during this session would be made available to all delegates. She also said that a summary of the panel discussion held on 1 March would be annexed to the final report of the work of the Commission.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel said he wished to remind the Palestinian observer that at least 35 per cent of the area in question was totally independent and under the Palestinian Authority. In the nice booklet to which he had referred earlier, the name "Israel" had not been mentioned at all on the map -- that revealed a lot.

(annex follows) ANNEX

Vote on Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women

The draft resolution entitled “The situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document E/CN.6/2000/L.5) was approved by a recorded vote of 35 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:

In favour: Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom.

Against: United States.

Abstain: None.

Absent: Burundi, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Sudan.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.