GENDER MAINSTREAMING MUST BE ‘INDISPENSABLE COMPONENT’ OF DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES, IRAN (ON BEHALF OF GROUP OF 77) TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

6 November 2001
GA/EF/2975

GENDER MAINSTREAMING MUST BE ‘INDISPENSABLE COMPONENT’ OF DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES, IRAN (ON BEHALF OF GROUP OF 77) TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

6/11/2001
Press ReleaseGA/EF/2975

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

24th Meeting (AM)

GENDER MAINSTREAMING MUST BE ‘INDISPENSABLE COMPONENT’ OF DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES,

IRAN (ON BEHALF OF GROUP OF 77) TELLS SECOND COMMITTEE

Nations should ensure wider access to financial resources in order to empower women and better include them in economic development strategies, the representative of Iran told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this morning as it discussed sustainable development and international economic cooperation.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, he said that gender mainstreaming should become an indispensable component of all aspects of financing for development.  To achieve that goal, empowerment strategies should be an integral part of financial service delivery.  Micro-credit and small-business ventures should be seen as a catalyst to empower women and move them from subsistence activities to more established entrepreneurial ventures.

The full participation of women in development was only conceivable if they had true autonomy of action, including in reproductive health matters, said the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States.  To ensure their participation in development was also to ensure the exercise of citizenship by all.  In particular, the question of rights and health in relation to sexuality and reproduction was a priority for the Union.  The situation of some women, in that respect, remained a matter of great concern and even alarm, particularly in the case of Afghanistan.

Israel’s representative said that, in the field of legislation relating to women’s issues, his country was among the most advanced in the world.  However, in striving to achieve more equal opportunities for women, nations must be careful to respect existing social relations between men and women.  They should also take measures to avoid damaging the delicate balance between the need to preserve traditional roles and modern society’s need to utilize women as a potential source of talented, skilled workers.

Also speaking this morning was Angela E. V. King, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.  She said that while women’s share of employment and the number of women-owned businesses and enterprises had increased worldwide, women continued to face constraints in accessing credit, technology, support services, land and information.  While micro-credit programmes often represented the most viable source of access to financial resources for women in developing countries, they should not be considered a panacea for the economic empowerment of women.

Introducing reports this morning were:  Ian Kinniburgh, Director, Development Policy Analysis Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); Sarbuland Khan, Director, Division for Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Support and Coordination, DESA; Jones Hyazze, Director, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Liaison Office in New York; and Jan Vandemoortele, Principal Adviser and Group Leader of Social Development Programme, Bureau for Development Policy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Statements were also made by the representatives of the Republic of Korea, Japan, Venezuela, Libya and Mexico, as well as the Observer of the Holy See and the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its discussion of sustainable development and international economic cooperation.

Background

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to begin its consideration of sustainable development and international economic cooperation. 

Before the Committee is a note by the Secretary-General on communication for development programmes in the United Nations system (document A/56/221) transmitting the report prepared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The report includes the recommendations of the seventh Inter-Agency Round Table on Communication and Development, organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, in 1998 and reviews the communication and development activities of UNESCO, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank.

According to the report, the objectives of the Round Table were to share information, experiences and training; to develop common strategies and approaches; and to identify mechanisms of cooperation between the participants.  The Round Table adopted the idea of task forces, which would present communication as a fundamental element of development programmes.  It is also necessary to reinforce cooperation between United Nations agencies, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and learning centres.  It was also proposed that priority should be given to the creation of a Web site, which could collect the results of the applied research and the methodology of the communication for development. 

The Round Table, adds the report, strongly recommended supporting progress in the conception and realization of communication programmes concerning the HIV/AIDS pandemic, after having carefully evaluated the current results and the methods applied and the development of operational parameters for the project “Change”, developed by UNAIDS.

Also before the Committee is the report of the Secretary-General on women in development:  access to financial resources:  a gender perspective (document A/56/321 and Corr.1), which states that the number of women-owned businesses has steadily increased worldwide.  However, women’s contributions are limited by the constraints that women entrepreneurs face in accessing financial resources.  Therefore, developing accessible financial mechanisms responsive to the needs of women entrepreneurs is imperative for governments, NGOs and financial institutions in general.

According to the report, to encourage women entrepreneurs to explore more profitable business fields, particularly in non-traditional areas, governments and entrepreneurial associations should facilitate access of young women and women entrepreneurs to education and training in business, administration and information and communication technologies. 

Data, disaggregated by sex, on differential access to financial resources, are a prerequisite to effective policy formulation, needs and implementation and service delivery, states the report.  Governments should sponsor systematic research and data collection on women’s financial needs, preferences and access to financial services.  In addition, governments should encourage banks and other financial intermediaries to design savings schemes attractive to the poor and to poor women in particular. 

The Committee also has before it the report of the Secretary-General on advancing human resources development in developing countries:  implementation of General Assembly resolution 54/211 (document A/56/162).  Assembly resolution 54/211 of 22 December 1999 asked for an assessment of the contribution made by the United Nations system to human resources development through its operational activities in developing countries.  It also asked for recommendations to enhance further the impact of that contribution. 

The report states that in future initiatives for human resources development, the United Nations system should take a broader view of the issue –- not to equate it only with education and training, but also to relate it to broader capability development through knowledge acquisition, institutional change and policy reforms.  In such a situation, human resources will be able to respond to new demands associated with the technology revolution, take advantage of emerging opportunities in a globalized world and participate in the process that influences the lives of the poor. 

The United Nations system strategies for human resources development, continues the report, should concentrate on access by poor people and poor countries to new information and communication technologies to reduce the digital divide.  Also, international cooperation and resources for human resources development should be increased. 

Also before the Committee is the summary by the President of the Assembly on the high-level dialogue on the theme “Responding to globalization:  facilitating the integration of developing countries into the world economy in the twenty-first century” (document A/56/482), including the two ministerial round tables-cum-informal panels.  The dialogue, originally scheduled for 17 and 18 September, was rescheduled to take place in a somewhat compressed format on 20 and 21 September. 

Among the conclusions, it was agreed that globalization is a reality that must be accepted, according to the report.  Also, while the international community has done much to promote the integration of developing countries into the world economy, it must address the legitimate concerns of those not yet able to enjoy the full benefits of globalization, and give priority to correcting the imbalances in the international economic system that disadvantage developing countries.  Further, in addition to providing an enabling environment, vulnerable countries need to be supported through capacity-building in areas such as trade, investment, finance and technology. 

Statements

ANGELA E. V. KING, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that despite considerable advances in the achievement of gender equality in recent decades, discrimination on the basis of sex still existed in many aspects of life, including economic life.  The debate in the Committee over the past 14 years on the effective mobilization of women in development and their equal access to economic and financial resources had, however, greatly assisted in raising awareness about the importance of gender perspectives in economic development. 

She said that while it could be asserted that over the last decade, women’s share of employment and the number of women-owned businesses and enterprises had increased worldwide, women continued to face constraints in accessing credit, technology, support services, land and information.  In many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, women still did not enjoy equal property rights, including the right to inheritance.  That affected their access to credit and ownership of assets, critical resources required by women to ensure the livelihoods and well-being of their families. 

Micro-finance institutions supported by national and international organizations often represented the most viable source of access to financial resources for women in developing countries, she said.  Vital to those micro-credit programmes were services that complemented credit and savings facilities, such as training to develop entrepreneurial skills among women.  At the same time, micro-finance programmes should not be considered a panacea for the economic empowerment of women.  Women should not be marginalized in the area of micro-finance while important gender perspectives were neglected in all other areas of macro-economics.

With regard to the implementation of the International Development Strategy, IAN KINNIBURGH, Director, Development Policy Analysis Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said that having adopted the Millennium Declaration earlier in its session last year, the Assembly had decided to postpone the further consideration of a new international development strategy until after the completion of a number of development-oriented meetings being convened under the auspices of the United Nations.  In the meantime, at its present session, the Assembly would be considering the “Roadmap towards the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.”

He said the international development strategies of the past had never commanded widespread political support at the country level.  Achievement of the desired outcomes would require all concerned to sustain a high degree of political will.  Previous global development efforts had also been plagued by an inadequacy and a misallocation of resources.  In most previous strategies, governments, collectively and individually, failed to consider the resource costs of the international commitments they had entered into.  There was now an opportunity to remedy that situation.  One of the key objectives of the International Conference on Financing for Development must be to identify ways and means of mobilizing and effectively utilizing, both domestically and globally, the resources necessary to achieve the Millennium goals. 

Today, he said, the world as a whole faced its most severe short-term economic setback for a decade, one that would inevitably have negative consequences for the attainment of the Millennium goals and for the more general longer-term growth and development prospects of the developing countries and economies in transition.  At the same time, international peace and security had suffered a major shock which, for a variety of reasons, could have even more profound effects on long-term global development prospects than the present economic slowdown.  The quest for development and the fight against global poverty needed a degree of universal political will and a collective commitment of resources every bit as challenging as that required to overcome the present threats to international peace and security.

On the high-level dialogue, SARBULAND KHAN, Director, Division for Economic and Social Council Support and Coordination, DESA, said that since the event was held following the tragedy of 11 September, many of the high-level representatives scheduled to participate had been unable to do so.  The main thrust of the dialogue was on the current slowdown of the world economy and its implications for developing countries and development in general.  In the round tables and panels, some of the key issues on the agenda for the International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Doha had come up and had led to interesting discussions.

The question to keep in mind for planning future dialogues was how to preserve the comparative advantage and innovative character of the dialogue, he said.  One way to do that was to choose the theme in such a way that it moved the discussion forward and went beyond generalities.  Also, were there other ways to bring in the participation of stakeholders in a way that was more intense than having an informal panel or informal discussion.

Turning to communications and development, JONES HYAZZE, Director, UNESCO Liaison Office in New York, said it had not been possible to compile sufficient material from the various agencies on the implementation of resolution 51/172 for last year’s session.  As a result, last year UNESCO had presented an interim oral report.  This year, the report was available in the document before the Committee, which contained, among other things, the results of the Seventh Inter-Agency Roundtable on Communication Development, held in Brazil in 1998.

UNESCO, he said, had undertaken some new initiatives in partnership with other United Nations agencies to facilitate the dissemination of information on development in developing countries, with an emphasis on poverty eradication and good governance.  UNESCO was also providing a platform for international policy discussion on the ethical, legal and societal consequences of information and communication technology (ICT).  Further, it had plans to play an active role in the newly-created United Nations Task Force on ICT and in the planning of the World Summit on an Information Society.

On human resource development, JAN VANDEMOORTELE, Principal Adviser and Group Leader of Social Development Programmes, Bureau for Development Policy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that the Secretary-General had in the past indicated the need to adopt an integrated approach to human resource development.  As globalization extended to all corners of the world, the demand for a skilled human resource base had increased.

One of the foundations for human resource development was access to basic education of good quality, he said.  More than 70 countries had achieved good progress in achieving the goal of education for all by 2015, but progress had been uneven.  It was necessary to focus on basic education as the base of the educational pyramid.  If not, the gains already made would be quickly lost.  In the past couple of years, there had been a more intensified inter-agency coalition around the Education for All Initiative.  The report had put forward six specific recommendations in the area of human resource development.

NASROLLAH KAZEMI KAMYAB (Iran), on behalf of the Group of 77 Developing Countries and China, said that in view of the accelerating changes in the global economy, gender mainstreaming should become an undeniable component in all aspects of financing for development, both at micro and macro levels.  Such efforts were needed to ensure women’s access to financial resources, taking into account that empowerment strategies should be an integral part of financial service delivery.  Obviously, it was not sufficient to provide women with micro-credit programmes aimed at subsistence, but micro-credit and small business ventures should be seen as a catalyst to empower women and move them from subsistence activities to more established entrepreneurial ventures.  Governments, the private sector and financial institutions needed to consider the short term and long-term goals of women’s access to financial services. 

Education and training, particularly in ICT were essential for women’s empowerment and poverty eradication, he added.  Many negative factors, both at the national and international levels, were responsible for the perpetuation of situations where women were deprived of their invaluable role in development.  Widening economic inequalities, unemployment, deepening of poverty, the debt burden and low levels of official development assistance (ODA) were among factors contributing to those situations.  To combat them, renewed support was needed by the international community, including the United Nations system, to help the advancement of women worldwide.

On the topic of human resources development, he said the overarching focus of such development should be the provision of necessary services for equipping people with the skills and knowledge for competing in the international market.  Education, training and associated services, if well coordinated, could form a strong supportive human resources development web for all people as they sought their own path to sustainable livelihoods.  United Nations agencies needed to harmonize initiatives for integration of human resources development into their operational activities and adapt them to country specifics.

JEAN-PAUL CHARLIER (Belgium) spoke on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Liechtenstein.  He said participation by women in development also meant their participation in decision-making processes at all levels, including political participation.  Without appropriate representation and political participation by women, there was little chance of seeing their lot genuinely improve, nor therefore their contribution to development.  Political decision-makers set their priorities in relation to the distribution of power in their societies.  Women’s votes must therefore really count, and women must be able to have equal access to elected posts.

It was well known that women and children were the first victims of conflicts, he said.  Democracy and respect for human rights and the guarantee of peace, political stability and development, therefore must benefit women and children first.  Women had an important role to play in preventing and settling conflicts and in consolidating peace.  The European Union encouraged all parties involved in conflicts to integrate women more effectively into their peace negotiations.  They must be involved at all decision-taking levels in the prevention, management and settlement of disputes.

The full participation of women in development was only conceivable if they had true autonomy of action, including in reproductive health matters, he said.  They should also have true freedom to take decisions within the family in all its forms if all their human rights were to be fully respected.  To ensure the participation of women in development was also to ensure the exercise of citizenship by all.  In particular, the question of rights and health in relation to sexuality and reproduction remained a priority for the European Union.  The situation of women in that respect remained a matter of great concern and even alarm, in some countries, particularly Afghanistan.

KYUNG-CHUL LEE (Republic of Korea) said there was a broad consensus in the international community that the advancement and empowerment of women should be actively promoted in the process of economic and social development.  Strengthening and diversifying women’s financial tools in economic activities might be one of the most needed elements for achieving gender-aware development.  In that connection, his country had taken a number of steps to promote the advancement of women, particularly in the public sector and in terms of information access.  Among those efforts, the Republic of Korea now had a separate ministerial instrument wholly devoted to addressing gender issues.  Also, a policy had been introduced to ensure a minimum required ratio of women among those recruited by the Government through open competitive examinations.

Since that recruitment policy was put into effect, he said, there had been a remarkable surge in the number of new female recruits –- particularly in the Foreign Service.  That upward trend in the number of women occupying higher positions in the public sector would enable the Government to better integrate gender perspectives into public policies.  The information technology revolution had also helped to further gender equality and empowerment of women.  In terms of information access, his country had the fifth largest proportion of Internet users in the world, with over 40 per cent of the population enjoying Internet access.  Women accounted for well over 40 per cent of the on-line population.

FUMIO IWAI (Japan) said that, in light of its own experience accumulated during the development process, Japan was fully convinced of the importance of investing in people and of the effective role technical cooperation could play in that respect.  It was on the basis of that conviction that his country had thus far received roughly 200,000 trainees from the developing world and sent nearly 24,000 Japanese experts abroad through the Japan International Cooperation Agency -– a quasi-Governmental agency handling technical assistance.  In addition, more than 20,000 volunteers had so far dedicated themselves to the cause of development of developing countries at the grass-roots level.

On the topic of the high-level dialogue on strengthening international economic cooperation for development, he said the discussion would have been more stimulating if the topic had been more focused.  It might be useful to rethink what Member States wanted to achieve through that high-level exercise.  Certainly, the United Nations must avoid discussion for the sake of discussion.  Perhaps consideration should be given to transforming the high-level dialogue into a regular occasion for Member States to follow up on the outcome of the International Conference on Financing for Development, while keeping the inclusive and holistic nature of financing for development process alive.

JULIA LOPEZ-CAMACARO (Venezuela) said that, aware of the close relationship between sustainable development and international economic cooperation, her country had made some progress in the search for financing for specific programmes directed towards sustainable development.  With regard to women in development, Venezuela had made important advances on the national level, including the establishment of the Women’s Development Bank, which provided credit services as well as training and technical assistance for women.

On human resource development, she supported the strengthening of operational activities for development.  An important deficit facing developing countries was human resources development.  The formation of human capital was a priority of her Government in meeting the country’s needs in the face of the requirements of an information society. 

On the high-level dialogue, she thanked the Secretary-General for the spirit in which he had decided to carry out the dialogue on 20 and 21 September.  She supported efforts directed towards partnership mechanisms at the national and international level, which would make possible the creation of financing for development.  That could only be possible with the involvement of all players and if synergy was achieved among them.

RENATO R. MARTINO, Observer of the Holy See, said that a successful way of achieving the poverty-reduction goal was to promote pro-poor growth.  More pro-poor growth needed more pro-poor national policies that ensured sustainable social and economic development, such as a policy that attacked rural poverty.  In that regard, it was important to implement agrarian reforms that were effective, equitable and productive.  An effective policy to fight rural poverty should promote the development of family-size farms.  Also, public authorities should ensure the protection of the rights of rural workers, such as the right to work and the right to form associations.  In addition, education systems should be established to improve workers’ knowledge and skills.

At the international level, he said that more should be done to attack rural poverty, especially in the area of international trade.  The negotiations on agriculture should bring about a renewed commitment to substantially reduce the obstacles to market access for agricultural products from developing countries.  International cooperation must be enhanced to allow developing countries to intensify the process of diversification, create infrastructures and apply technologies that increased sustainable agricultural productivity.  Equally essential was a system of intellectual property rights that balanced the need to provide incentives for innovation with the need of poor countries to share in the benefits of those innovations.

AHMED A. EL ATRASH (Libya) said that the twentieth century was an exceptional one from many points of view, not the least of which was the exceptional growth of the population and its impact on the environment.  That link was reinforced in a report by UNDP and UNEP, which concluded that the excessive demand for resources was detrimental to the environment and had negative consequences for human development.  The increase in population had also led to an increase in the movement of people, not only between countries but also within countries.  Many countries had tens of thousands of immigrants living within them. 

The way in which the riches of the world were distributed showed great inequalities between countries and regions, he said.  The number of poor people continued to rise.  Economic development was more than just production.  The developed countries, which constituted 20 per cent of the world’s people, were the main consumers of its resources.  That was a danger that threatened the world’s environment.

Unfortunately, he said, many States had limited resources and lacked modern technology to achieve their sustainable development goals.  He hoped the developed countries would play an active part in helping the developing countries to achieve their goals more effectively.  He was prepared to share his country’s experience in fighting drought with others.

ALI YAHYA (Israel) said that in the field of legislation relating to women’s issues, his country was among the most advanced in the world.  In addition to existing legislation concerning gender equality, Israel had recently passed a law that obligated every local authority to appoint an adviser on the status of women for that locality.  That law provided an additional boost to the advancement of women.  Lately, Israel had witnessed the phenomenon of more and more women in local and national Government as well as in private industry.  However, women were still under-represented in key positions.  In spite of the fact that women had achieved very high levels of education, they still encountered barriers to their advancement, the roots of which were prejudices and persistent norms of inequality.

In striving to achieve more equal opportunities for women, nations must be careful to respect existing social relations between men and women, he added.  They should also take measures to avoid damaging the delicate balance between the need to preserve traditional roles and modern society’s need to utilize women as a potential source of talented, skilled workers.  In Israel, joint training courses, enlisting the cooperation of men and women alike, had yielded very positive results.

On the topic of human resources development, he said that, as a result of the current situation in the region, Israel had experienced difficulties in developing its trade ties with other countries.  The economic boycott of Israel imposed by Arab countries had made it extremely difficult to import raw materials and to promote its exports.  His country had therefore developed industries that placed a high value on a qualitative pool of human resources rather than the ready availability of natural resources.  It had also focused on developing high-tech industries, an advanced agricultural sector, communications industries and a successful education system.  Education and training in science and technology were essential to enhancing the human resource base, and must be accessible to all sectors of the population, young and old alike.

CARLOS VALERA (Mexico) said that in the Millennium Declaration, Member States committed to the equality of women in national development strategies.  Mexico recognized the fundamental role played by women in national economic development.  It had been shown that a major obstacle to women entrepreneurship was the lack of financing.  Government economic polices must be channeled to meet the needs of women-owned and small enterprises.  His country had recently hosted the Micro-Credit Summit for Latin America and the Caribbean.  That summit focused on the impact of loans on quality of life and the implementation of national policies and institutions.  Mexico was also carrying out a system of micro-credit and savings around the country.  Through those actions his country sought to give strong impetus to men and women who owned micro-enterprises.

        On human resources for development, he said that education was a key instrument for ensuring that all sectors of society could participate in the economic development of a country.  It was important for governments to increase access to education and technical training for all people.  In that regard, the international community should ensure that people in developing countries also had access to new and emerging information technologies.  Women and girls as well as the disabled should be given particular attention in that effort.

FLORENCE A. CHENOWETH, Director, FAO Liaison Office, said that rural women’s access to financial services was one of the main priorities on the FAO agenda.  FAO promoted the need to develop a full range of financial services, not only credit facilities, to strengthen sustainable financial capabilities.  It was dedicated to the development of viable financial institutions capable of serving large sectors of the rural population, which was bound to increase women’s access to financial services. 

In that regard, FAO focused its technical cooperation activities on three areas, she said.  First, designing and formulating financial policies and supporting the required legislation.  Secondly, advising on restructuring of financial systems, including institutions and mechanisms that could offer more effective operational linkages between savings and credit.  Thirdly, designing and helping to implement practical systems and operational procedures, aimed at providing effective and sustainable financial services to the rural population. 

Moreover, she added, to meet the specific financial needs of rural women, FAO concentrated on organizing training courses on entrepreneurship, accounting and other related activities.  For that purpose, it had established a Programme on Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis and developed a Guide to Gender-sensitive Micro-finance.

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For information media. Not an official record.