PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR JUNE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY SESSION BEGINS WORK

3 March 2000
WOM/1185

PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR JUNE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY SESSION BEGINS WORK

3 March 2000

Press ReleaseWOM/1185

PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR JUNE SPECIAL ASSEMBLY SESSION BEGINS WORK

20000303

Hears Statements by Deputy Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General For Economic and Social Affairs, and Special Adviser on Gender Issues

Concern about the limited progress achieved in the five years since the Fourth World Conference on Women was the very reason for the upcoming special Assembly session, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette told the Commission on the Status of Women, acting as the Preparatory Committee for the high-level review. The special session, which will be held in June, would provide an opportunity to determine how to travel farther and faster along the road towards true gender equality.

As final preparations got under way for the special session this morning, 21 speakers discussed the impact of globalization, armed conflict and natural disasters on women, and underscored the need for a high-level review to point the way forward.

It was important to place the work of the Committee in the broader context of United Nations work in the area of development, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, said. Work done in the area of women’s rights at the United Nations had been innovative in terms of promoting the involvement of non-governmental organizations, which had driven the global gender equality agenda as much as the United Nations agencies themselves.

Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, Angela King, said that of all the movements of the last century, perhaps the greatest peaceful, social revolution had been the transformation of the status of women. Significant progress had been made, but no country had fully implemented the recommendations of Beijing or fully achieved de facto equality for women and men. The women of the world looked forward to the elaboration of concrete and clear strategies that built on the Beijing Conference.

The representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to the full implementation of the Beijing outcome, which had sought to ensure women's full enjoyment of their human rights. The promotion of those rights should be supported by practical measures, and the special session should strive to turn rights into practice. It should also produce a second document defining the need for a clear, political commitment towards gender equality and empowerment.

Women’s Commission Preparatory Committee - 1a - Press Release WOM/1185 1st Meeting (AM) 3 March 2000

The strategic objectives and actions of the Beijing Platform had “absolute validity”, the Cuban representative said. Despite undeniable progress, achievements in all areas had only partly covered women's needs and aspirations, and no single programme objective had been completely fulfilled. Governments that had undertaken commitments at Beijing must implement them, and under no circumstances should the integration of civil society dilute the accountability of governments, as those had been the main guarantors of the agreements.

The Algerian representative said that the five years since Beijing had been a relatively short period of time in which to assess progress in implementing the plans and strategies of the Beijing Platform for Action, particularly at the national level. Progress had indeed been made, but the aims set at Beijing had been far from met. Governments, which had taken on the primary responsibility for implementation, could not achieve progress by themselves; the international community must assume its financial responsibilities.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Namibia, Cote d'Ivoire, Luxembourg, Denmark, China, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland, Thailand, Canada on behalf of the JUSCANZ group, Morocco, Venezuela, United States, Philippines and Madagascar.

The Preparatory Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its general discussion.

Committee Work Programme

The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to begin a 12-day session 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". It was expected to adopt its agenda and convene a one-day general discussion on preparations for the special session.

On Monday, 6 March, the Committee is scheduled to hold a panel discussion and dialogue on "Outlook on gender equality, development and peace beyond the year 2000", before resuming informal consultations from 7 to 15 March. It was expected to conclude its work on Friday, 17 March, by adopting its report.

The Committee had before it the following reports of the Secretary- General: implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action on the basis of national reports, taking into account the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (document E/CN.6/PC/2); comparative report on how different categories of projects and programmes of United Nations organizations are, including women's interests and gender mainstreaming issues and on resources allocated in this regard (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/3); and emerging issues containing additional material on further actions and initiatives for the preparation of the outlook beyond the year 2000 (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/4).

It also had before it the following documents: a note by the Secretary- General containing a summary of the online working groups on the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/CRP.1); a letter from the President of the General Assembly outlining his recommendations for the organization of the upcoming special session (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/7); the draft provisional agenda and organizational matters for the special session (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/8); and the establishment of the list of speakers for the plenary debate (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/9).

Reports of Secretary-General

A report of the Secretary-General on the Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/2) reviews the progress made by world governments towards the implementation of the Platform since its adoption at the Fourth World Conference for Women in 1995. It provides background to the Beijing Conference, analysis of the implementation of the Platform and identifies and examines some of the cultural, socio-political and economic trends that pose new challenges for its full implementation.

The report reviews the initiatives for achieving progress in the implementation of the Platform under the following categories: policy change; legal change; institutional change; programme level changes, the generation and dissemination of knowledge; and resource allocation. In the category of policy change, the report acknowledged that following Beijing, there had been a shift in policy design, formulation and implementation to refocus efforts to achieve gender equality in all sectors. This policy shift was reflected in the efforts of many countries to mainstream a gender equality perspective into national laws for poverty eradication. Progress made in implementing the 12 critical areas of concern adopted at the Beijing Conference is also outlined in the report. Those include: women and poverty; women and armed conflict; human rights of women; women and health; education and training of women; women and the economy; women in power and decision making; institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; women and media; women and the environment; and the girl child. Achievements in the category of programme level changes are also identified. These consist of special programmes for women and efforts to mainstream gender equality perspectives in new programmes. For example, steps have been taken to assist women in translating their legal rights into reality, and training programmes on domestic violence have been conducted for health professionals, law enforcement personnel and other officials.

Also, according to the report, a number of approaches were highlighted in the Platform for Action as important strategies for promoting women’s advancement and achieving gender equality. These include gender mainstreaming, the life-cycle approach, partnership between women and men, human rights and gender and development. Following a thorough review of these and other strategies, the Secretary-General concluded that one of the major challenges to the implementation of the Platform is the multifaceted impact of globalization. The reorganization of world economic relations, new structures of economic decision-making and the resulting financial crises had seriously challenged the ability of governments, particularly those in the least developed countries, to direct financial and human resources to the implementation of Platform commitments.

The report further finds that the decade of the 1990s was characterized by profound political, social and economic changes that impacted negatively on women and impeded efforts to implement the Platform for Action. These challenges included: conflict and human displacement; economic instability and change; institutional discrimination; the persistence of gender stereotypes and negative attitudes towards women; the absence of targets, data and monitoring mechanisms; and shortage of financial and technical resources. Ethnic and national conflicts, especially those of an intra-State nature, hampered progress in the achievement of gender equality and the full health and well-being for women and girls. The traumatic effects of these conflicts were exacerbated by sexual violence. Ongoing political instability was also cited as an obstacle to implementation of the Platform, as human and financial resources in time of such conflicts tended to be diverted from other important sectors.

Economic change and instability was reported as an obstacle to improving the status of women in several regions. Many countries reported on the negative impact of the Asian financial crisis. According to the report, some other countries noted the deterioration in indicators on women’s income along with a decline in women’s political participation, often as a result of the elimination of quotas. Increased dependency by women on partners of spouses and an increase in cases of violence against women were also noted. Also identified were a number of concerns and new challenges faced by Member States that had emerged from review of their efforts to implement the commitments of the Platform and other United Nations conferences. Foremost among these was that many countries were forced to cut back spending for public services because large portions of their national budgets were allocated to alleviate huge debt burdens. In all regions, governments reported that the effort to improve women’s participation in the public and private spheres was undermined by their domestic responsibilities. Addressing the deep-seated stereotypes around masculine and feminine roles was a priority. Another area requiring increased attention was the gender dimension of HIV/AIDS. The increasing toll of the disease among women had become an issue of global importance, and female-controlled methods of prevention needed to be developed.

Finally, the report explores some of the developments anticipated in the platform which not only form the backdrop against which Beijing commitments had been implemented, but also increasingly pose further challenges to the process of full implementation. Globalization, conditions in the work world, migration, issues of identity, the changing nature of conflict, natural disasters and epidemics, and challenges of new technology were all trends that offered expanded opportunities for productive partnerships among the Member States and the international community.

The Secretary-called on all constituencies beyond States and civil society to help build new alliances and coalitions to further enhance progress in the implementation of the Platform. According to the report, this and other efforts aimed to ensure adherence to commonly held values and beliefs, to the principles of human rights, non-discrimination in employment, and environmental sustainability. Women had an equal stake in all these issues, the report continued, and gender equality must be mainstreamed into these and other initiatives.

Also before the Preparatory Committee was the comparative report on how different categories of projects and programmes of United Nations organizations include women's interests and gender mainstreaming issues and on resources allocated in this regard (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/3). The assessment report summarizes information provided by entities of the United Nations system on implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern of the Platform for Action: women and poverty; education and training of women; women and health; violence against women; women and armed conflict; women and the economy; women in power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; human rights of women; women and the media; women and the environment; and the girl child.

According to the report, the designation of gender focal points has continued, and several entities have established gender units. For example, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) established a gender unit in November 1998, which has been carrying out a gender assessment and developing a gender mainstreaming strategy. In October 1998, the World Health Organization (WHO) established a department of women's health, which included such objectives as the creation of a coherent and comprehensive policy on women's health issues and the translation of evidence from research into the basis for action. At the initiative of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, two gender units are being established with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the United Nations Transition Authority in East Timor (UNTAET).

The coordination of system-wide efforts to implement the Beijing outcome had been facilitated by the establishment of the Inter-Agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality (IACWGE), which is chaired by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and supported by the Division for the Advancement of Women. During the reporting period, the Secretary-General finds that coordinated efforts significantly enhance the implementation of the Action Platform in certain areas. Inter-agency campaigns to eliminate violence against women in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, coordinated by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), as well as an inter-agency global video-conference on violence against women, which was held on 8 March 1999, underlined the commitment of all United Nations entities to address violence against women in a holistic manner.

Despite such coordination efforts, however, the reporter noted that further mechanisms for inter-agency coordination with regard to gender issues were required. Further, the responses highlighted a number of obstacles to implementation of the Action Platform and the system-wide medium-term plan, including the persistence of gaps between global concepts and their translation into practical, country-level strategies to achieve equality between women and men. The need for practical measures for gender mainstreaming at all stages of programming was emphasized, as were consistent commitment to and compliance with the gender-mainstreaming strategy and effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms. Among constraints identified were lack of understanding of gender as a concept or the failure to perceive issues, such as poverty, the environment or HIV/AIDS, as having gender dimensions.

The report finds that challenges are also posed by social and traditional environments that might be hostile to notions of women's equality with men, as well as lack of institutional support and political commitment from donor agencies and governments, which result in failure to develop concrete action programmes to advance women's equality with men, or development of targeted goals that could be evaluated and monitored at intervals. Challenges also exist as a result of weak national capacities in areas which include gathering data disaggregated by sex and other research information. Poverty, the negative impact of globalization and the persistence of stereotypical attitudes towards the role of women and girls, were identified as presenting particular challenges, while the lack of integration between economic and social policies remains an important obstacle to implementation.

Concerning the financial aspect, the report highlights the responses of several entities, which suggested a clear commitment to increase spending on gender-responsive activities. As one example, during 1998-1999, the Women and Habitat Programme of Habitat had an operational budget of $734,000, which represented under 0.1 per cent of the Habitat budget for that period. At its seventeenth session, in May 1999, the Commission on Human Settlements requested Habitat to ensure that both the Women and Habitat Programme and the Gender United were adequately funded. On the other hand, the responses of several agencies indicated that the collection of information on expenditures for gender-responsive programmes continues to be a problem within United Nations entities, with several reporting that their activities and projects concerning women and girls are budgeted and implemented within the sectors responsible for their major programmes.

Systems of financial monitoring, including with regard to gender concerns, have been or are being introduced by several entities, the report continues. The United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) financial and programme monitoring systems currently include specific codes for reporting on gender-mainstreaming activities, and budget codes have been designed to reflect gender-related activities, both as primary project activities and components of other projects. The budget coding system of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was similarly revised to facilitate tracing of how gender concerns are addressed within its programmes. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is currently developing a new integrated/programming/ budget/monitoring system, which will provide capacity for strategic review of activities and their impact, and allow programming elements to be defined in terms of activities, description and expected results, performance indicators and qualitative data, thus allowing assessment of the budgetary situation with regard to specific groups, including women.

The report on emerging issues (document E/CN.6/2000/PC/4) provides a summary of an international workshop "Beijing + 5" -- Future Actions and Initiatives", held in Beirut last November. The workshop was convened after the need had become apparent to focus on emerging issues and new challenges to the full implementation of the Beijing Platform. The aim of the workshop, convened by the Division for the Advancement of Women and hosted by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), was the elaboration of action- oriented recommendations for discussion by the Preparatory Committee for the General Assembly's special session. The experts to the workshop reviewed progress in the implementation of the Platform's critical areas of concern under three key themes: equality (including education, media, decision-making, the girl child, institutional mechanisms and violence); development (including poverty, economy, health, institutional mechanisms and environment); and peace (including a discussion on violence and armed conflict).

The Secretary-General notes that a review of progress revealed that human rights has emerged as an "overarching" approach embodying all of those above- mentioned themes, thus providing the integrated framework within which are the objectives of the Action Platform. The action-oriented recommendations were cross-cutting and fell within this larger integrated framework. The experts found that human rights -- civil, cultural, economic, political and social -- provided the essential integrated framework within which to place their recommendations. Among them that all actors -- governments, international organizations, civil society, political parties, the media and the private sector -- should encourage continuous public debate and campaigns on gender- related attitudes, perceptions, stereotypes and inequalities, drawing on the new discussion on the role of men and their responsibilities and the potential for more equal male-female relationships.

Actors in the field of education should be aware of their key role in socializing future generations to gender relations without bias and prejudice and should be provided with the necessary tools to fulfil that role, the experts urged. The actors responsible for governance at the national and international levels should respect, promote and implement norms and commitments and enforce legislation regarding gender equality. The United Nations system should coordinate the work underway on indicators of gender equality so that one set of acceptable, comparable indicators can be used to monitor performance. All actors should intensify efforts to promote the participation of women in decision-making and leadership positions, especially in political and economic areas. International organizations that shape global governance, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) should introduce gender equality in their decision-making, implementation and evaluation processes, as is being done by the United Nations system and others.

The action-oriented recommendations outlined in the report also concern alliances and coalitions, and social and economic justice. In the area of peace-building, the United Nations should act as a role model by achieving gender parity in all areas related to peace processes, from preventive diplomacy to peace-building, by 2010, and by ensuring that access by women to these processes leads to effective participation and transformation. Member States should be encouraged to make similar tangible commitments to increase the participation of women in all dimensions of peace. International organizations, governments and other relevant actors should involve women in all stages of the design, planning and implementation of post-conflict transformation as opposed to simply reconstruction. War crimes, especially gender-based violence, should be exposed, investigated and punished. Local peace movements and civil society should be encouraged to promote a culture of peace, human rights and tolerance. The international and national communities should set voluntary targets for reductions in military spending, and monitoring mechanisms should be established to sanction the arms trade and guidelines for investing the resources released in peacekeeping operations and development.

Statements

LOUISE FRÉCHETTE, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said that, in recent months, she had held talks with various delegations on preparations for the high-level review in June. Many had expressed concern about the relatively limited progress accomplished since Beijing. Everyone would have preferred more in-depth change to occur. That was precisely the reason for the special session -- to determine how to go farther down the road that had been delineated at Beijing towards true gender equality worldwide. The determination and political will with which governments had started working on the follow-up had been very heartening.

She said that the five regions had held preparatory meetings to evaluate progress and formulate new proposals in the priority areas. They had also looked at specific obstacles, and reaffirmed the validity of the Action Platform. Those meetings had also allowed for remarkable participation of non- governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups. Today, those had been playing a vital role in the follow-up at many different levels. She had been pleased to learn that Member States had devised a formula to include new NGOs in the “Beijing + 5” process, on which action was expected today.

The challenge ahead for the Preparatory Committee was twofold, she said. The Committee had been entrusted with reiterating and strengthening the Beijing commitments and looking at ways of moving forward. Beijing had been a milestone and there could be no turning back. A lot more could and must be done to address the issues raised at the conference, as well as new ones. The second challenge was to ensure that “Beijing + 5” was not a "water-tight" process, but one which had permeated other areas for action. Gender was a cross-cutting issue that affected women and men differently. Through its preparatory work, the Committee must be an advocate for gender-equal issues in all forthcoming review processes at the United Nations.

She said that, as the Committee embarked on the task of preparing the document for adoption by the special session, it must be kept in mind that the achievement of equality was the responsibility of all, whether governments, NGOs or the United Nations system. Everyone here had shared the responsibility for change and progress, whether the elimination of discriminatory domestic legislation, the strengthening of provisions protecting women against sexual violence, increasing their participation in public life, or the establishment of programmes supporting women in achieving economic independence.

Everyone here had to initiate such change and see that through to a successful conclusion, she said. The task would not always be easy. Above all, it would require a strong sense of the ultimate goal, namely, to make a real difference in the lives of women and girls everywhere, in order to finally overcome the discrimination and disadvantages they continued to face.

NITIN DESAI, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said it was important to place the work of the Committee in the broader context of United Nations work in the area of development. He said that the title of the special session was forward-looking because it would allow the Secretariat, United Nations agencies and the international community to place what had to be done in the area of gender equality in the context of what had already been accomplished.

Throughout history, the fight for the equal rights of women had always been considered an issue of great importance, he said. In 1867, John Stewart Mill had introduced a reform bill in the British Parliament with the requirement that wherever the word “man” appeared, it should be replaced with “person”. That example reflected the idea that the search for equality for women in law, politics, the workplace and the family had always been on the global agenda. It was, thus, very important to recognize that equality between men and women must be given legislative expression.

Though much had been achieved, much remained to be done, he said. Legislation was not enough; laws and policies must lead to progressive action in the area of gender equality. That would continue to be an important concern for the United Nations. In that regard, polices must reflect not just the concerns of women as individuals, but as a group. The United Nations had acknowledged this in the work of the Commission and programmatic initiatives that dealt with women in development, the economy and politics. He said that there should be more positive affirmative action so that women could realize their rights as a group and take their proper place in the development of the communities in which they lived.

He said it was important to note that events over the last decade had shown that the concerns of gender equality could not be limited to women alone, but must also expand to the roles of men. Actions and initiatives of the international community must impact both men and women. That was at the heart of the idea of mainstreaming, which had been the major theme of Beijing. The idea of mainstreaming should be a requirement in the economic and development polices enacted at the global level.

Although that would be a great challenge, the international community could succeed if there was collaboration between entities whose interests were those of women’s rights and global development agencies. That was a sure way to integrate gender concerns into global policies and initiatives. It was important to note that these two groups must cooperate on all levels -– gender mainstreaming could not be achieved by one group alone because some women’s rights groups might lack the proper mandate and developmental groups might not have the proper tools. “The challenge will be to see how we can integrate this collaborative effort”, he said.

Trends like globalization also affected gender concerns, he said. He hoped that the work of the Committee in identifying important and emerging issues in that area would aid the Secretariat in the implementation of policies and initiatives which addressed globalization’s effects on women’s humanitarian concerns. The work of the Committee and the outcome of the special session would also be a very important contribution to the upcoming work of the United Nations system as a whole, particularly the Millennium Assembly.

He said that work done in the area of women’s rights at the United Nations had been innovative in terms of promoting the involvement of NGOs. In fact, the gender equality agenda had been driven as much by NGOs as the United Nations agencies themselves. He urged all the delegations to review the documents before the Committee to get a better idea of the full extent to which NGOs were aiding the process of placing the issue of gender equality on the global agenda.

Finally, he said that the Secretariat had learned an enormous amount from the work done by the Commission on the Status of Women. He assured all delegations that gender mainstreaming was the highest priority of the United Nations in its analytical processes.

Angela King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that while the British parliamentarian, John Stewart Mill, had wanted the word "person" used 150 years ago, the only places it had been used inside the United Nations had been in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), the Women's Committee, and the Women's Commission. Certain conclusions could, thus, be drawn. Throughout the deliberation process of the Preparatory Committee, the Bureau's proven record of leadership and wide experience on the issues had ensured steady progress. The Preparatory Committee was in excellent hands, and a very positive outcome lay ahead.

Of all the movements of the last century, perhaps the greatest peaceful social revolution had been the transformation of the status of women, she said. Indeed, the Fourth World Conference on Women had attracted the widest participation of all United Nations world conferences. Identifying the goals for women's advancement and agreeing to concrete strategies for their implementation had provided an opportunity to learn, share experiences, and strengthen commitments. The preparatory process and the special session would also define the areas of focus for Member States, the United Nations system, and civil society, including NGOs.

She said that the women of the world were watching and looking forward to the elaboration of concrete and clear strategies that built on Beijing. They had expected the commitments to be preserved and strengthened and an agreement to be reached that would lead to the realization of the strategic objectives set out at Beijing. Indeed, significant progress had been made towards implementation: the creation of 116 national action plans and the replies received by 142 governments had testified to that fact. Yet, no country had fully implemented the recommendations of Beijing or fully achieved de facto equality for women and men. Indeed, some countries, since Beijing, had had experienced a reversal of some of the gains, resulting from such causes as economic crises, armed conflict and natural disasters.

Certain obstacles had impeded full implementation, and those should occupy the fullest attention in the coming weeks: increasing interdependence between economies, politics, culture and ideology, known as globalization, had become more and more apparent. Many speakers in the Commission's general debate and panel discussion had cited that process as among the most significant factors emerging since Beijing, and recent studies, including of the Division for the Advancement of Women, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), had all pointed to the effects of globalization on sustainable human development and the achievement of gender equality and gender relations. Globalization had presented opportunities, but its effects had been uneven. Some in the global North had benefited far more than others, and many individuals had experienced enormous suffering.

She said the emerging inevitable trend in the globalization process would deepen with time. It was, therefore, this group's responsibility to devise ways of managing the process in order to ensure that its benefits were shared by all countries and all people. It must also be ensured that countries and individuals, especially women and girls, were not further marginalized, excluded or made more vulnerable. The unequal access to information and telecommunication technologies had been highlighted during the recent panel discussion as another emerging challenge.

She said that poverty among women and girls, particularly heads of households, had persisted and, in many cases, had worsened, owing to some of the following events: the lack or withdrawal of assistance; armed conflict and the resulting flows of refugees and internally displaced persons; trafficking in women and girls; and the exploitation of prostitution across frontiers. The challenges of stereotyping had also continued to impede the Beijing goals. In addition, the HIV/AIDS pandemic now constituted one of the critical obstacles, not only to women's advancement, but to their very survival and that of their societies, particularly in African States. The unexplored impacts of natural disasters on women's livelihood should also be addressed.

The special session must craft clear and concrete strategies to overcome such obstacles, she concluded. For women of the world, "Beijing was a watershed"; its spirit must be built upon so that the women of the world would not be disappointed.

ANTONIO COSTA LOBO (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, reaffirmed the Union’s commitment to the full achievement of the principles of the Beijing Declaration and of the goals of the Platform for Action. Two guiding instruments must permeate thinking and work at the national, regional and international levels. The first was the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, whose norms and principles constituted the legal framework; the second was the Beijing Platform for Action, whose objectives and strategies constituted the programme framework on which the future should be built.

The objective to achieve now was turning rights into practice. The full enjoyment by women of their human rights was the aim behind the Convention and the Beijing Platform, as well as the debate that had been going on in the last decades. The progress made in the promotion of those rights should also be followed by practical measures. The special session should be strongly committed to turning rights into practice.

The European Union also favoured a second outcome document that was truly action-oriented, beyond a description of existing inequalities, he said. Crucial aspects in that perspective were the need for a clear, political commitment towards gender equality and women’s empowerment as an essential goal.

There was also a need to involve men in the pursuit of gender equality, the mainstreaming strategy regarding all policies and programmes, the development of methods for assessing progress and, basic to all, the concept of protection and promotion of human rights as the framework for future action and progress. Efforts for gender equality must take account of the changes in the last five years at the economic, social and political levels, including the revolution in information and communication systems.

The strategy of mainstreaming a gender dimension into all areas of policy- making was now more urgent than ever. Gender awareness must be fully present at all levels and occasions where decisions were taken. It must be clearly included in all political shaping of the new millennium strategies and in the political agendas of its main forums, particularly the Millennium Assembly. It was also the Union’s goal to mainstream gender equality concerns into all its policy areas, including those on development cooperation.

The process of gender mainstreaming had to be complemented by carefully targeted, women-specific activities to redress existing inequalities. Gender- responsive policy formulation and regular independent monitoring, including the collection of data disaggregated by sex and age and the inclusion of gender indicators, were indispensable tools in promoting the advancement of women. The time had come for the realities and obstacles affecting the lives of all women to be tackled and for strategies to be developed to allow for full and accelerated implementation of the Platform for Action. The time had come for women everywhere to realize full equality, he added.

NETUMBO NADI-NDAITWAH (Namibia) said the special session must serve as a forum for recommitment and rededication to the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action by governments and all other relevant actors. The Preparatory Committee should not permit the watering down of decisions agreed upon at Beijing.

As a review process, she said, the special session should not only look at achievements and obstacles, but must take account of emerging issues such as HIV/AIDS. During the Beijing Conference, HIV/AIDS was seen as a health problem, but it had today become a serious economic and social problem. The decaying family unit also needed attention.

A lot of work had already been done at all levels to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, she said. Resources must be mobilized to implement projects, especially at the local community level. The number of high-level expert meetings must be limited, and efforts concentrated on helping rural women, including those affected by conflicts struggling to participate in mainstream economic activities.

She said a 1999 exchange programme between Namibian and Zimbabwe women had not attracted support from donors or United Nations agencies. In May this year, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Women in Business would hold a Trade Fair and Investment Forum in Namibia to explore ways and means women in the region could fully participate in economic activities. The fair was open to all countries. The event did not seem, again, to be attracting interest from the donor community and agencies, she said, noting that money was somehow found to fund high-level meetings.

UAI CONSTANCE (Côte d’Ivoire) said that five years after Beijing, there had been much progress in the area of women’s rights in education and development, especially in developing countries. What was most important, however, was that nations were now starting to review the policies and mechanisms for the advancement of women at all levels of society, particularly in the political, social and economic areas.

She said that in her country women were now included in all levels of politics and development to ensure that gender issues were addressed. At the international level, it might be reasonable at present to re-examine the credit issue so that the money developing nations spent in debt alleviation could be used for the development of women. That was an important issue for all governments.

MARIE-JOSEE JACOBS (Luxembourg) said she fully supported the statement made by the representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union. Her Government had undertaken numerous key policies of action to promote the advancement of women and gender equality. A national action plan for 2000 that stipulated gender mainstreaming in all political actions had been drafted. It had also attributed responsibility for implementation of the 12 critical points of Beijing to specific ministers.

With the Government's restructuring in August 1999, the Ministry of Women had been maintained as an independent ministry, central to the implementation of an effective policy for women's advancement and gender equality. Mainstreaming had generally been respected throughout the national action plan on employment, and parental leave of six months for each parent raising a child under the age of five had been introduced. The Parliament would soon adopt a draft law combating sexual harassment in the workplace. Further, a foreign women's committee had recently been established in order to assess the situation of foreign women and make proposals to the Government for their successful integration into society. In the past five years, 60 communes had appointed a female delegate.

JYTTE ANDERSEN, Minister for Gender Equality of Denmark, said much progress had been made in certain areas, while other areas lagged behind. Much more needed to be done to ensure a world in which male values no longer functioned as invisible norms leaving women behind. It was a fact that women and girls were still being discriminated against and treated differently. Some obstacles were structural and cultural, others were historical and political. All obstacles, however, were unacceptable.

Political will was crucial for achieving gender equality, she said. New methods for promoting gender equality were also important. Words and plans must be followed by concrete actions. Strong institutional mechanisms with clear routines were also essential to ensure continued progress. Evaluation of gender mainstreaming must be based on results and not on plans. Involving men to a higher degree in the process towards gender equality was the challenge.

Gender mainstreaming was not just a woman's concern, she said. More equal relationships required a redefinition of the rights and responsibilities of women and men in the family, the workplace and society. Men needed to realize the advantage of gender equality. The promotion of equal conditions and opportunities in the workplace was of great importance, she said. If structural barriers such as access to land and economic resources were not removed, women would not enjoy the benefits of globalization and the face of poverty would remain female.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that significant consensus had been achieved in the preparatory work over the past year. While elaborating the draft political declaration and outcome document, it was necessary to take into consideration several important principles. Based on the overview of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, it was necessary to identify and highlight major obstacles in various countries and put forward priority strategies with a clear focus. The documents should be concise, workable, practical and to the point. It was necessary to highlight the themes of equality, development and peace, as well as coordination, cooperation and pursuit of common interests. Effective and practical strategies of support for the developing countries in situations of extreme poverty were also important.

Information technology and globalization should be conducive to common development and prosperity, he continued. It was regrettable that, in the process of economic globalization, the gap between the developed and the developing countries was getting wider. That represented a prominent obstacle to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, contrary to the general objectives of equality, development and peace. In the political declaration and outcome document, a spirit of international cooperation should be reflected, and assistance to the developing countries should become a priority. The objectives set in Beijing would not be realized unless the gap between the rich and poor countries was reduced and a fair and just new international order was established.

MERCEDES DE ARMAS GARCIA (Cuba) said the significance of the entire post- Beijing process could not be ignored, nor could the demands of organized women that the commitments of their governments be implemented and the process of their advancement be accelerated. The NGOs around the world had made an incalculable contribution to the process. Many social actors had also been left out of the process, which was attested to by the millions of illiterate women and girls, their high dropout rate from schools, their lack of access to health services or direct participation in shaping policy. Most women had not even known that there had been four world conferences about them.

She said the governments which had undertaken commitments at Beijing must implement them. Moreover, under no circumstances should the full integration of civil society dilute the accountability of governments, as those had been the main guarantors of the agreements. The nature of the present dialogue should be essentially intergovernmental, with participation of United Nations agencies, funds, programmes and NGOs. A way must be found to ensure adequate influence for all. The strategic objectives and actions of the Beijing Platform had been of "absolute validity". Despite undeniable progress, achievements in all areas had only partly covered women's needs and aspirations, and no single programme objective had been completely fulfilled. New initiatives must be designed to accelerate the promotion of the Beijing outcome; they should not duplicate existing activities or drain the existing scarce resources.

It was essential to delve deeper into the differentiated impact of the globalization and structural adjustment programmes in various countries, as well as among women of the North and South, she said. Only such an approach would enable the formulation of appropriate action. Without the necessary political will, it would not be possible to translate the Beijing agreements into action. More contributions should be sought from those with greater resources and the true beneficiaries of globalization, without which, the review would not be effective. “Beijing + 5” should not be characterized by mere rhetoric. Rather, it should be an organic process leading to women's true advancement.

BATSHANI TJIYAPO, of the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana, said the full and equal participation of women in political, civil, economic, social and cultural life at national, regional and international levels, as well as the eradication of all forms of discrimination, were priority objectives of the international community. It was, however, the responsibility of each nation State to formulate and implement laws, strategies, policies, programmes and development priorities aimed at realizing those objectives. The momentum of the Beijing Conference contributed to a number of developments in Botswana, including the 1998 launching of a National Gender Programme Framework which defined strategies for eliminating gender inequalities, he said. In 1999, a study on the Socio-Economic Implications of Violence against Women in Botswana had been completed. In 1999, a National Council on Women had also been established. Networking and collaboration between the Government and NGOs had been cohesive. Through a Women's NGO Coalition, different women's organizations had played an active role in the empowerment of women.

Although his country had made tremendous efforts in addressing gender inequalities through education and training workshops, traditional attitudes and cultural barriers still persisted, he said. The involvement of men in women's empowerment was lacking. The HIV/AIDS pandemic was having a devastating impact on achievements gained. The adoption of multi-sectoral and holistic approaches to address that crisis was urgent.

NKANDU LUO (Zambia) said that her country had undertaken a thorough review of the Beijing Platform for Action, the results of which had been compiled in a national report distributed throughout the country and in the United Nations. The review process had revealed some obstacles to the implementation of the Platform for Action, which needed further analysis -- they were household poverty, the national debt and the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Turning to the issue of household poverty, she said that 70 per cent of the population in Zambia lived below the poverty line. Female-headed households, particularly in rural areas, constituted a prominent category of those living in poverty. In that connection, it was necessary to devote serious attention to the emerging issues concerning the priority need for reform to secure land and inheritance rights to overcome the poverty of women. It was clear that a very high level of political commitment and resources was required to tackle the problem of poverty.

A very serious emerging issue in itself was the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and children, she said. It was a sad fact that women were not only socially and economically vulnerable, but also particularly vulnerable to HIV- infection. Poverty and HIV were closely linked, and lack of education and low literacy rates made information less accessible. Associated with AIDS deaths were related medical expenses, transmission costs and loss of human capital. It was estimated that, given the direct costs of medical treatments and worker attrition, without increased foreign resources, Zambian gross domestic product (GDP) would fall by about 9 per cent below projected levels. National income would be reduced by as much as 10 per cent.

Regarding the debt burden, she said that it constituted the single largest item of expenditure in the public budget. Social inequalities were increased by debt not only in terms of incomes, but also in respect of gender and age. Zambia had a legitimate reason to ask for significant debt relief if not debt cancellation. The implementation of the Platform for Action would be greatly enhanced if the Government could treat expenditures on social services as non- discretionary and at par with debt servicing. Other emerging issues included violence against women and the need to increase women's participation in the process of development. Her delegation was also looking forward to discussions on globalization and its effects on women. In the final analysis, a solution of many problems lay in the establishment of a just and equitable international economic order.

CLIFFORD S. MAMBA (Swaziland) said that while achievements had been realized in some areas, immense challenges remained in implementing the Platform for Action. It would be necessary to re-strategize and restructure programmes. In 1996, a Gender Unit had been established in Swaziland to coordinate and implement the Platform. While considerable progress had been registered in the area of women's health, there had been setbacks due to high levels of maternal and infant mortality, as well as the high rate of HIV/AIDS infections.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic had been declared a national disaster in his country, he said. Women and girls were most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. It was estimated that 31 per cent of pregnant women attending prenatal clinics had AIDS. Swaziland was encouraged by the awareness campaign conducted by United Nations agencies to address the HIV/AIDS problem. Further coordinated efforts should be made to provide systems, including medical attention to people infected with the disease, and to alleviate the economic and social difficulties faced by those affected, particularly orphans.

Poverty alleviation was a central priority and overriding objective for sustainable development for Swaziland, he said. One of the main areas for addressing poverty was through initiatives to promote and support indigenous small businesses. Another notable exercise was the process of recording and codification of Swazi law and custom. The recording and codification exercise, once completed, would harmonize the different interpretations of Swazi customary law. That exercise would bring customary issues concerning discrimination against women to the forefront for debate and probable reform.

PRISNA PONGTAFSIRIKUL (Thailand) said that since 1975 her Government had devoted consistent efforts to address the concerns and needs of women. Furthermore, the 1997 Thai Constitution had contributed a great deal to the effective protection of women's rights. Under that new Constitution, the National Human Rights Commission would be established by the end of this month to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, including those of women. In addition to the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, Thailand's priorities were gender equality, violence against women, the girl child, women's human rights, as well as trafficking in women and children.

She said the increased participation of women in politics and decision- making was important. More effort was needed by the media to eradicate the traditional stereotypes and negative images of women. Unfortunately, the economic crisis in Thailand affected mostly women workers in the export sector. It had damaging implications as it tended to reinforce deep-rooted gender biases about the role of women. A number of programmes and projects were being implemented to mitigate the severity of related problems. Violence against women was an increasing daily problem. Besides the amendment of related national laws and regulations to address that issue, Thailand had established a "one-stop service" to assist victims, especially children, through multidisciplinary teams with well-trained personnel.

She said that effectively combating trafficking in women and children required cooperation beyond borders. Further actions and initiatives needed for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action included: increased public awareness on gender equality; internal review of gender mainstreaming at policy and decision-making levels; amendment of obsolete laws and strengthening of law enforcement to eliminate discriminatory practices; empowerment of women at decision-making and policy levels; and the increased involvement of women in economic development.

SALLY ANDREWS (Canada), speaking on behalf of the JUSCANZ Group of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the United States, said that her delegations would work to ensure the adoption of an outcome document that did not rewrite the Platform for Action, but was action-oriented and forward-looking, and that would provide clear language to help the Commission in its efforts to further implement the commitments of Beijing. In that regard, the future actions and initiatives of the Commission needed to be based on best practices and lessons learned. That focus would provide assistance in identifying measurable goals and objectives for the empowerment of women and girls, the realization of their human rights and the achievement of gender equality, development and peace.

She went on to say that the importance of gender mainstreaming remained a key global strategy for the promotion of gender equality and women’s human rights. However, there needed to be increased attention to the use of a dual strategy of mainstreaming gender through integrating a gender perspective into all legislation, policies and programmes. Actions specifically targeted to women and girls were the key to achieving gender equality both at the national and international level. The active participation of men and their acceptance of responsibility in achieving these goals were also essential to achieving gender equality.

She said that while barriers continued to impede the full implementation of the platform, none of those factors was insurmountable. Accelerated progress and accountability to the world’s women could only be achieved through political will and the cultivation of partnerships among all relevant actors, including government-NGO collaboration, the private sector and partnerships among international and regional organizations.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the Beijing + 5 review had not only been about measuring the road since Beijing, but also about establishing new milestones towards women's full promotion and emancipation. Hopefully, the work of the Preparatory Committee would be crowned by success. The five years since Beijing had represented a relatively short period of time in which to objectively assess the progress achieved in implementing the plans and strategies of the 12 priority areas, particularly at the national level. Progress had indeed been made, particularly in the fields of education, health, decision-making, and empowerment, but the aims set at Beijing had been far from met.

He said that 1.5 billion people around the world were living on $1 or less per day, and the majority of them were women. Millions of women could not read or write, at a time when the new technologies had opened up unimagined opportunities for mankind. Such statistical data had been a reminder that the battle was far from won. The political will of the governments of developing countries had not been lacking, but it had not been sufficient to overcome the many obstacles those countries had faced.

In that unfavourable environment, governments that had taken on the primary responsibility for implementation of the Beijing agreements could not achieve progress by themselves. The support of the international community was vital, and more financial aid must materialize. The international community must assume the responsibilities it had undertaken at the World Summit for Social Development for accelerating the development of Africa, and the least developed States, and support continuing progress towards women's advancement and gender equality.

He said his country had made a great effort to fulfil its obligations and promote the status of women. To achieve those goals, institutional mechanisms had been strengthened and a national action plan had been drafted. His Government wished to reiterate its solemn attachment to the implementation of the Beijing Platform, despite existing difficulties and constraints. Perhaps more than any other international conference, Beijing had marked the last decade, since it had represented a primary reference point for women, and for some, even a renaissance. Five years later, the same enthusiasm had manifested itself in the preparations for the special session. Transparency must be practiced in order to maintain that momentum and respond to the real needs of women.

MOHAMED SAADI (Morocco) said that by adopting the Beijing Platform her country had developed a national plan for the establishing of institutional mechanisms that would focus the coordination of work for women’s equality at all levels. Morocco had also revised internal legislation policies to align with international documents like the anti-discrimination Convention and Platform. These and other changes were evidence of a national will to promote women’s rights and provide a level-playing field in education, reproductive health, employment training and strengthening of their potential in legal and political areas.

He went on to highlight some of the unstinting work done by his country to implement measures for the promotion of women’s rights. There had been a national campaign to address violence against women, studies had been launched on women in the media and particular importance had been placed on the follow-up procedures for these and other initiatives.

REINA ARRATIA (Venezuela) said that there had been important changes within her country to broaden the democratic system so that both men and women could play an important role in all levels of development. It was important to note that these changes could only be fully implemented within an appropriate legal framework. In that regard, Venezuela had created a new Constitution and enacted other policies and initiatives that would address that issue. An important facet of the new Constitution was the creation of an office entitled “Defender of the People” whose duty was to protect the human rights of all citizens, in particular women and girls. Non-governmental organizations had also taken part in the redefinition of many national policies and initiatives.

She went on to say that participation by women in decision making continued to be minimal. Special attention also needed to be paid to the issues of reproductive health, access to education and economic resources. The challenge, therefore, was to ensure that the advances that had been made be reflected in tangible reality to promote sustainable developments and economic progress for women.

BETTY KING (United States) said her delegation had associated itself with the statement made by the representative of Canada on behalf of the JUSCANZ group. The Beijing + 5 Host Committee, composed of more than 40 NGOs and foundations, had been working in partnership with the government and private sector, as well as with the NGO Committee on the Status of Women. There would likely be more guests at the special session than the United Nations building could accommodate. While it was difficult to predict how many people would be in New York, the host city had been working hard to ensure that all who came there had felt part of that important United Nations event.

In order to facilitate participation, the United States Customs House, which was located a few subway stops from the United Nations, would be open to participants, and United Nations televised proceedings would be piped into the auditorium, which could accommodate 350 people. On 6 June, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, would host a reception for delegations at the Hayden Planetarium of the Museum of Natural History. In addition, the Beijing + 5 Host Committee had been preparing a number of events that would be open to delegations and NGOs. A full list of those could be found on its Web site at >.

AMELOU BENITEZ REYES (Philippines), Chairperson, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, said that her country was committed to the advancement and strengthening of national machinery for women. In that regard, she proposed that new actions which could be undertaken to strengthen these machineries in promoting a gender mainstreaming perspective into all policies and programmes should be addressed at two levels: women-specific projects aimed at meeting the special needs and critical concerns of women for capacity building and economic development; and the application of a gender mainstreaming approach in all programme formulation and implementation activities of policy development and coordination. Strengthening national machineries to function and act as a resource base for mainstreaming a gender perspective could effectively support and facilitate the development and adoption of policies, legislation and capacity-building programmes for women’s empowerment.

She proposed setting up a trust fund from resources provided or loaned by financial institutions, as well as other interested donors. Earnings from such a fund would be earmarked for programmes that would implement and accelerate the implementation of the Platform. She said that she hoped these proposed initiatives could be given serious consideration by all delegations at the Preparatory Committee. “These initiatives are, after all,” she said “a call for the international cooperation to achieve the goals that we set forth in Beijing.”

NOROMALALA LYDIE KAKOTO JOSEPH (Madagascar) said that while the need for political will was important, it was becoming clear that specific ways and means needed to be identified to ensure the implementation of the Platform. The goals and stipulations from national conferences should be identified so that the issue of gender equality could inform the development process. Greater attention also needed to be paid to specific and immediate actions that would focus attention on the critical areas of concern, such as violence against women, equal access to education and health care.

At the international level, the major obstacle to the implementation of the Platform was lack of resources, which resulted in slower economic development, fewer jobs and lack of access to basic social services, she said. There was also a lack of information in the area of basic human rights for women. This was critical. The lack of access to credit, the feminization of poverty and culturally enforced stereotypical attitudes were other hindrances to efforts to implement the Platform.

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For information media. Not an official record.