ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN CRUCIAL TO DEVELOPMENT PROCESS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE ON WOMENS’ ISSUES CONTINUES

18 October 2001
GA/SHC/3638

ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN CRUCIAL TO DEVELOPMENT PROCESS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE ON WOMENS’ ISSUES CONTINUES

18/10/2001
Press Release
GA/SHC/3638


Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

14th Meeting (AM)


ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN CRUCIAL TO DEVELOPMENT PROCESS, THIRD


COMMITTEE TOLD, AS DEBATE ON WOMENS’ ISSUES CONTINUES


As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on the advancement of women, several representatives stressed that renewed commitments to ensure gender balance could not be effective unless international actors recognized that equality was intrinsically linked to effectively addressing global problems, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and development, and peace and security.


The representative of Egypt was convinced that the advancement of women was one of the primary criteria for creating an atmosphere conducive to development.  She said the participation of women in social and economic areas helped poverty eradication programmes.  New Zealand’s representative said she hoped that the new commitments adopted at various international conferences would provide renewed impetus for gender balance.


The representative of the Republic of Korea welcomed recent developments to strengthen the international legal regime for safeguarding women’s human rights.  The advancement of women and the full guarantee of their rights could not be achieved in a short amount of time -- achieving those goals required untiring international efforts and concrete actions on the part of governments.


Many speakers noted that while there had been progress -- citing commitments made at Beijing and the Assembly special session on women last year -- a persistent gap between words and action remained. 


The representative of the Philippines said while States had instituted programmes and policies to empower women, there were still many obstacles to implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that needed to be overcome.  Further action was needed in promoting policies aimed at mainstreaming a gender perspective at all levels, to emancipate women from the scourge of poverty, improve their health and increase their participation in decision-making processes.


Thoroughly implementing the Beijing commitments would also improve the situation of women in rural areas, many representatives said.  Noting that her country’s population of women was predominately rural, the representative of Uganda said such women were shining examples of the ability to overcome adversity -- in this case poverty, disease and traditional cultural practices -- and transform it for the common good of society.


Third Committee                     - 1a -            Press Release GA/SHC/3638 

14th Meeting (AM)                                      18 October 2001


Still, she continued, recognizing all that did not mean that the overall situation for rural women, or all women for that matter, could remain as it was today.  Rural women must be trained with the necessary skills to enable them to reduce the load they carried.


The representative of Burkina Faso, who spoke on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), echoed that sentiment.  Changes had to be made, he said, that would recognize that rural women played a big role in economic development.  In his country, he explained, micro-credits were being extended to women, who helped the economy by investing in it.  For instance, female farmers in certain areas were being given access to land.


Representatives of Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Cuba, Sudan, Holy See, Mongolia, Australia, El Salvador, Norway, Nigeria, Japan, Morocco and Peru spoke during the debate.  In addition, a representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) also took the floor.


The Committee will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue its deliberations on the advancement of women, and to take action on items related to social development.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of items related to the advancement of women, including implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, “Women 2000”.


Statements


MAI KHALIL (Egypt) said Egypt was committed to all efforts made for the advancement of women, especially in the economic, social and cultural areas.  Egypt was convinced that the advancement of women was one of the primary points of allowing society to create an atmosphere conducive to development; the Government had made great strides in this field.  The 30-member National Council for Women, which was established last year, included representatives from various walks of life.  They recommended policies to the Government, and represented Egypt at international conferences about the advancement of women.


She said the participation of women in social and economic areas helped poverty eradication programmes.  There was a need to strengthen social and economic progress to improve their situation.


Egypt was optimistic about the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, and hoped that due attention would be paid to the role of women in development.  She noted that United Nations resolutions about the advancement of women also referred to their education and training.  Egypt supported funding for the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).


SONIA ELLIOT (Guyana) speaking for the member nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the review and appraisal processes that had taken place since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action reaffirmed the key contribution those landmark texts had made to the empowerment and advancement of women in all countries.  Last year, at the General Assembly’s special session, “Women 2000”, the global community was reminded that gender inequality would always endanger sustainable development and peace.  That meeting highlighted new challenges posed by globalization, growing economic disparities, migration and the growing trend of substance abuse among women.


Although the international community had consolidated its commitment to a common development agenda underpinned by the principle of gender equality, she said, the articulation of policy must be matched by implementation of women’s rights.  Despite achievements over the last few years, women continued to be disproportionately affected by poverty, leading to what had been called the “feminization of poverty”.  Universal access to basic social services had still not been achieved and to date, pregnancy-related death rates remained high in many regions.


Member states of CARICOM were fully committed to the women’s empowerment agenda established at Beijing and at “Women 2000”.  The Community had identified priority areas based on findings carried out at national and regional levels, including poverty, violence against women, women and health, inequality in policy-making schemes, power structure and economic inequality and the girl child.

At the regional level, she continued, model legislation on issues such as equality for women in employment, equal pay, domestic violence and sexual harassment now assisted governments in addressing certain gender-related gaps in their legal systems.  There had been close cooperation between United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, to better sensitize government officials and regional negotiators to the impact of trade agreements on women.


MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso), on behalf of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)), said they recognized the dire financial situation faced by the INSTRAW, and hoped it could be straightened out.  West African countries applauded the work of UNIFEM.  They had seen many programmes that were supported by Fund and which were the driving forces behind development. 


In West African countries, he said, a great number of women were illiterate.  There was a gap in the schooling between boys and girls.  Maternal and infant mortality remained high, despite the scientific achievements the last decade.  There were harmful traditional practices, such as genital mutilation and forced marriages that needed to be eradicated.


He said changes had to be made that would recognize that women played a big role in economic development.  Micro-credits were being extended to women, who helped the economy by investing in it.  Even in rural communities, where many women lived, this was being done.  For instance, female farmers in certain areas were being given access to land.


He said the contribution of women to national development, though being effective, was still impeded by a number of factors.  Raising literacy levels, eradicating violence and stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS were of paramount importance.  Female genital mutilation was one of the ways of transmitting HIV/AIDS.  It was a serious impediment to the well-being of women.  The health of women had to be promoted more energetically.


ANATERESITA GONZALEZ (Cuba) said the situation of the world’s women continued to be very complex, particularly in the developing countries.  What was most clear was that women were disproportionately affected by globalization, and its resultant and increasing marginalization at all levels.  Women were also negatively affected by mounting external debt.  Unemployment among women was rampant, and where jobs were available women were doing the most precarious work.  Women were also subject to violence, from States and all the way down to the domestic levels.


She said that in the current international economic climate, it was crucial that resources funnelled to superfluous causes, such as the arms race, the cosmetic industry and propaganda and advertising, should be reallocated to efforts that would improve the situation of women worldwide.  Cuba was committed to just and sustainable development for women.  The high indicators of economic and social participation, and the true claim of women’s rights, were a testament to Cuba’s commitment to ensuring women’s empowerment and advancement.  Women accounted for 43 per cent of the civil labour force and 60.6 per cent of university students.  Infant mortality had decreased and life expectancy for women had increased to over 76 years of age.  That progress had been made despite the criminal and economic blockade put in place by the United States, which had been particularly hard on women.

SARAH PATERSON (New Zealand) said it had been hoped that the new commitments adopted at various international conferences would provide renewed impetus for gender balance, particularly when it was recognized that gender equality was intrinsically linked to effectively addressing global problems such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and development, and peace and security.  While there had been progress, the persistent gap between words and action remained.  The United Nations should take a leadership role in the global pursuit of the goals set at Beijing in 1995.


The Commission on the Status of Women had a key role to play.

New Zealand had taken steps to meet the commitment entered into last year at the five-year review of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.


She said United Nations policy for gender mainstreaming in all its work had been significantly progressed by the work of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and her office.  It was hoped that this work would also be boosted by the Economic and Social Council's decision this year to include gender mainstreaming on its agenda, and to review and appraise the system-wide implementation of its Agreed Conclusions on gender mainstreaming by 2005.  The New Zealand Government had this year taken further steps to ensure that a gender perspective was incorporated into the policy-making process, by requiring that proposals affecting social equity should include gender analysis and a “gender impact” statement.


She said the Canada, Australia and New Zealand group would present a resolution on improving the situation of women in the United Nations system.  It was disappointing that consideration of this issue this year had been hampered by the lateness of the Secretary-General's report.  It was also disappointing that in the larger population of staff with appointments of one year or more, the representation of women had actually declined since last year.  However, incremental steps were still being taken towards achieving the goal of a 50-50 gender balance in the United Nations.  The goal was in sight, and the Secretary-General was urged to continue in his efforts to reach it.


LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said much progress had been made in achieving the goals set at Beijing and at “Women 2000”.  Global conferences this year had also helped shed light on the compounded discrimination women faced.  The Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS noted that for women the virus was as much a social ill as it was a health concern.  Poverty, lack of adequate education, sexual exploitation and stereotyping were all identified as elements that increased the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS.  The recent conference against racism also identified the double discrimination that women were subjected to, particularly those belonging to an ethnic minority.


He said his country welcomed recent developments to strengthen the international legal regime for safeguarding women’s human rights.  The advancement of women and full guarantee of their rights could not be achieved in a short amount of time; achieving those goals required untiring international efforts and concrete actions on the part of world governments.  For its part, the Government of the Republic of Korea was committed to implementing the Beijing Platform for Action.  It had also made it a priority for women to take advantage of the new technological and communications revolution by instituting programmes aimed at expanding the role of women as both users and providers of information technology.  He added that the key to improving the lives of tomorrow’s women lay in educating today’s girls.


MUBARAK HUSSEIN RAHMTALLA (Sudan) said the States of the world had agreed that the status of women needed to be advanced.  It was difficult to apply a single standard to remedy all the difficulties faced by women in all societies.  The efforts of the international community had resulted in the adoption of a document at Beijing Plus 5 that reaffirmed the importance of implementing the entire Beijing Platform, particularly eliminating poverty and all forms of violence against women.  The outcome of that meeting on women also stressed that the main responsibility of implementation lay with national governments.  The report of the Secretary-General on the role of women in development confirmed that it was necessary to earmark funds for national programmes and projects that would give women equal access to productive resources, including allowing them to obtain credit.


Globalization was an inescapable reality, he said.  While it had benefited some States, most other countries suffered from marginalization, and found themselves even further behind technologically.  Globalization could continue to plague all sectors of society.


Follow-up mechanisms were needed to ensure that the commitments of various international and regional conferences were implemented, he said.  That would help revive the role of women.  Also important was work toward the eradication of poverty, and the eradication of violence against women.  With either, women could not thrive.  Economic sanctions imposed against certain States hampered national efforts, and affected women.


CATHERINE OTITI (Uganda) said her country’s population of women was predominately rural.  The beauty of rural women was in their sweaty brow, their rough palms, and sweaty feet.  The rural woman was indeed a shining example of the ability to overcome adversity -- in this case poverty, disease and traditional cultural practices -- and transform it for the common good of society.  Still, recognizing all that did not mean that the overall situation for rural women, or all women for that matter, could remain as it was today.  Rural women must be trained with the necessary skills to enable them to reduce the load they carried.


She recommended that future reports before the Committee analyze tangible proposals that addressed the political, economic, social and cultural factors that contributed to the adverse situations women faced.  When all those elements had been addressed, and only if men were a part of that process, rural women and all womankind could be truly elevated.  Her Government had summoned the necessary political will to help women at the grass roots level to achieve their rights. Though the situation was not yet ideal, women were given equal opportunities for education, employment, health services and political participation.


There was still a significant gap between the aspirations of rural women and their urban sisters, she continued.  Indeed it appeared that while one took care of livestock, the other monitored the stock market.  To that end, it was encouraging that UNIFEM in partnership with other women’s organizations had undertaken to help women acquire the ability to prosper in and influence trade markets, political processes and the judiciary.


JOAN MCGRATH-TRIULZI (observer of the Holy See), said on the eve of the Beijing Conference, that Pope John Paul II had called on Catholic institutions to renew and strengthen their commitment to the women of the world through reaching out to those most vulnerable and in need.  Everyone could see that Catholic schools, hospitals and humanitarian agencies all over the world had responded seriously to the Pope's exhortation.  The Holy See continued to be a major provider of basic social services to girls and women, especially in developing countries.


She said the world of the 21st century was a very different one than the world of even six years ago, when the Beijing Conference was convened.  Recently, United Nations conferences on HIV/AIDS, racism and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons pointed to the changing current of international political discourse.  Amidst those different issues, however, one theme dominated -- the phenomenon of globalization and its vast implications, both positive and negative.  The challenge to the international community was to foster the moral and cultural framework that would allow globalization to serve the human person and foster authentic human development.


Recognition of the dignity of the human persons, she said, especially women and girls, had to be the starting point for fostering authentic human development.  A form of globalization that ignored the inherent dignity of women and especially the special contribution they made to their families and society would certainly reduce them to an object of solely economic means.  To facilitate their contribution to the building of a better world, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls had to be protected so that they would benefit from globalization.  Respect for the right to freely enter into marriage and raise a family, to seek employment and just wages, and to be protected from abuse and exploitation was a prerequisite to women's contribution to economic development.


ENRIQUE A MANALO (Philippines) said while States had instituted programmes and policies to empower women, there were still many obstacles in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that needed to be overcome.  He saw that further action was needed in promoting policies aimed at mainstreaming a gender perspective at all levels, to emancipate women from the scourge of poverty, improve their health and increase their participation in decision-making processes.


He said his delegation was pleased at several developments in broad efforts to promote the empowerment of women, particularly the identification of all forms of violence against women as a violation of their rights and dignity.  He also welcomed the enhanced role of women in keeping and promoting peace.  For its part, the Philippines Government had legislated a Migrant Workers Act to promote and protect the welfare of migrant workers and their families.  That law had been recently amended to cover “Internet brides”.  The Senate was reviewing a bill on Anti-Trafficking in Filipino Women and Minors which sought to provide comprehensive measures to address all forms of trafficking in women and children and to provide higher penalties.  The Government had also put in place a Case Monitoring System to assist Filipinos overseas.     


PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said Mongolia was among the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).  Last September, the Government had signed its Optional Protocol.  The conclusions and recommendations from Mongolia's report before the Committee were of considerable importance in the follow-up activities to implement the provisions of the Convention and to improve the overall situation of women in Mongolia.


He said the challenges faced by women in the country included complex inter-related problems in the areas of poverty, unemployment, education, health, social protection, culture and behaviour.  To meet those challenges, continuous efforts had been made by his Government, in close cooperation with the main actors within society, including women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to forge genuine partnerships between men and women, and between the public sector, civil society and the private sector.  New legislation had been enacted, and some older laws had been revised to mainstream gender into policies and programmes.


To improve the situation of women in rural areas, particular attention should be given to implementing the Beijing commitments.  There was a recommendation on special studies to be done by governments, research institutes and the private sector to establish the best model for integrating rural women in the field of information and communication technology.  It was strongly believed that all conclusions and recommendations from international conferences deserved closer attention and consideration from the international community in its efforts to empower women worldwide.


ROBYN MUDIE (Australia) said it was the duty of the global community to put the blueprint for the advancement of women laid down by the Beijing Declaration into action and to adapt it to a new, unpredictable and challenging international environment to ensure that women continued to move forward in the pursuit of their full and equal rights.  As part of Australia’s efforts to contribute to the improvement of the status of women at the regional level, it had sought to raise awareness of the unique gender aspects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, increasing women’s participation in leadership, strengthening participation in economic activities and enhancing women’s financial well-being.


She said that Australia had also continued to examine ways in which it could contribute to the empowerment of women in East Timor.  Australia welcomed the results of the 30 August elections, which had seen the appointment of 24 women to the 88 Member Constituent Assembly of East Timor.  Australia was also working on a bilateral assistance programme to support the Gender Development Affairs Unit of East Timor to mainstream gender into government. 


At the domestic level, she continued, Australia had, among other things, adopted an Action Plan for 2001-2005 to advance its efforts to implement the Beijing commitments.  That Plan aimed to ensure that all strategies were appropriate to the diverse needs of different groups of women.  A practical, sustained and cooperative approach should be taken to ensure gender equality in the long-term.


CARLOS ENRIQUE GARCIA GONZALEZ (El Salvador) said his Government continued to attach great importance to the advancement of women.  The implementation of the National Policy of Women played an important part in creating a gender perspective in national programmes.  El Salvador was aware of the huge efforts that still remained to be made to achieve gender equality.  It had redoubled its efforts at the institutional level to further ensure that all necessary mechanisms had been implemented.  Further, his Government had submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women its Third, Fourth, and Fifth periodic reports, bringing El Salvador up-to-date.


He said following the devastating earthquakes last January, special attention was paid to women and children in the affected areas so they could return to normalcy as soon as possible.  Concerning migrant workers, his Government had begun an awareness campaign on the importance of preventing violence in the work place.  The Option Protocol of the CEDAW was being considered by the legislative assembly of the Government, although members were receiving information from civil society, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  El Salvador also recognized the important contribution of INSTRAW, and hoped that its financial situation would be settled.


OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said equal rights and opportunities for women and men in all areas of society were essential for sustainable economic and social development.  Empowerment of women was important to achieving equality for all.  “But we are not there yet,” he added.  It was the responsibility of the Committee to promote the effective implementation of gender equality and gender perspective in all areas of United Nations work.  It was regrettable that women did not enjoy their full human rights.  Gender-based discrimination was still prevalent in many societies.  There was a need to join forces, and to invest resources and compassion in efforts to achieve a gender equal world for all.


Norway, he continued, had been focussing its efforts on strengthening its Gender Equality Act and combating violence against women.  At the international level, Norway was pleased to note that progress had been made on some important issues during the past year, including the unique situation of women and the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Girls were particularly vulnerable to the virus.  Preventive measures, including health care services and increased attention to harmful traditional cultural practices, had been identified as requirements to protect young girls as well as women.  Last year there had also been a breakthrough on the front of women, and peace and security, when the Security Council put that issue on its agenda.


GLADYS MODUPEOLA QUIST (Nigeria) said that since a democratic government had taken over in Nigeria, the country had made practical commitments to the goals enhancing the status of women and reducing gender inequality.  Further demonstrating its commitment, the Government had ratified a number of international conventions, including the African Charter on Human Rights.  The human rights of women were an indivisible part of universal human rights, which had been proclaimed time and again.  Concerted efforts were to ensure their realization, not only in words, but also in deeds.


She said Nigeria was a country steeped in tradition.  However, the Government was committed to eradicating negative aspects of the traditions, such as subjugating women to odious and dehumanizing practices and prejudices in marriage, in divorce, and in widowhood.  Some states in Nigeria had legislated against female genital mutilation.  While there had been some success in the fight against such negatives practices, it had to be recognized that attitudes died hard, and that sometimes there was a slow process of change.  Some of those harmful traditional or customary practices that affected the health of women increased their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.  Policies had been reviewed to ensure a favourable environment for control of AIDS, especially as it affected women and children.


Nigeria, she continued, was deeply concerned about the horrendous crime of trafficking in women and children, which was universally acknowledged as a crime against humanity.  Nigeria signed and ratified the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, which supplemented the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  Nigeria also fully endorsed measures to combat violence against women migrant workers, as detailed in the Secretary-General's report.


TSUNEKO YANAGAWA (Japan) said creation of a gender-equal society must remain a major agenda item for the international community.  Great efforts had already been made; in particular, the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted in 1995, and the follow-up Declaration and further actions and initiatives adopted in June 2000, were important mechanisms in achieving this.  However, in order to further advance gender equality, and fully to realize the goals of those two conferences, all the partners, including governments, international organizations and civil society, should maintain their endeavour with a strong political will.


She said that Japan, fully aware that the primary responsibility for advancing the status of women lay with each government, which had to act in cooperation with civil society, had recently taken several steps.  There had been created a Gender Equality Bureau within the Cabinet Office, with the Prime Minister as its head.  In the current Government, there were five female ministers, the largest number in modern Japanese political history.  More women were involved in high-level decision-making, which facilitated the inclusions of more balanced gender perspectives in the Government's policies.


AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) said at a time when the world was transforming rapidly women were aspiring for equal treatment and more just opportunities at all levels.  The international community should strive to ensure continuous improvements, which promoted equality.  It was time to recognize that the role of women, particularly at the decision-making levels in the settlement of conflicts and in the media, was necessary to ensure broad economic and social development for all.


She said that inadequacy of basic social services, as well as the effects of poverty and marginalization continued to impede women’s march toward parity.  Morocco had long recognized the role played by women in achieving a just society for all.  Her Government had adjusted and harmonized legislation with international commitments, particularly those in the areas of health and education.  The country had spared no efforts to implement a national strategy that promoted, among other things, partnerships between Government and civil society organizations and women’s groups.  Up-coming elections in 2002 would see increased participation of women so that their unique concerns could be taken into account.


CARMEN-ROSA ARIAS (Peru) said Peru was committed to working toward gender equality and implementing standards within the domestic laws of the country.  A major obstacle in Peru was poverty, and the Government was working with civil society to establish a welfare system based on three criteria -- literacy, health and food security.  Peru was trying to reduce the incidence of child mortality and teenage pregnancy, and to decrease the rate of people suffering from HIV/AIDS and other diseases.  Sexual education was stressed in schools.  Her Government also stressed the importance of nutritional health.


She said national institutes were working toward implementing programmes of care for disabled and elderly residents, a significant number of whom were women, and who were more likely to be marginalized.  Peru was faced with a great challenge, and to meet it required the participation of all members of society.

RHITU SIDDARTH, Liaison Officer of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said the international policy and legal framework for empowering women and attaining gender equality had seldom been as strong as they were today.  At the same time, there were alarming signs of increasing female poverty, unequal access to resources and negative global economic trends that continued to endanger progress toward gender equalization.  Women continued to bear the brunt of family responsibilities and were more often than not paid less than men for equal work.  Gender roles shaped the entire world of work, not merely men and women in employment, but also the relationship between work and life.


She said that the ILO’s goal was to promote opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity and human dignity.  The Organization was pursuing a concerted follow-up strategy to Beijing Plus 5 that addressed issues related to employment and income, social protection and social dialogue.  Addressing the gender dimensions of poverty alleviation and social security was central to ILO programmes in all developing regions.  Work was a means of expression, creativity, contribution and fulfilment.  Liberating women’s leadership potential in the workplace and beyond was crucial to the economic and social transformation sought by the international community.


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For information media. Not an official record.