Fifty-sixth General Assembly
15th Meeting (PM)
THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTIONS, DECISIONS ON AGEING ASSEMBLY,
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, FAMILY, DISABLED PERSONS
Problems of Women in Conflict Areas
Discussed, As Debate on Women’s Issues Continues
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) this afternoon approved two draft decisions and one draft resolution on the upcoming Second World Assembly on Ageing, scheduled to take place in Madrid, Spain, from 8 to 12 April 2002. Two of those drafts, which will be forwarded to the General Assembly for adoption, established, among other things, the rules of procedure for the Second World Assembly and arrangements for the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the work of that Conference.
Another draft approved today would have the Assembly urge all Member States and other actors to contribute generously to the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing in support of the preparatory activities for the Second World Assembly on Ageing and its outcome -- particularly the participation of developing and least developed countries. That text would also have the Assembly urge States and public and private organizations to contribute to the Trust Fund to support public information activities to promote the Second World Assembly and its outcome.
After the Committee completed voting and returned to the topic of the advancement of women, several delegations told fellow Committee members that women had a more difficult time having their rights respected during times of armed conflict.
The representative of Angola said the internal fighting in his country had caused a lack of food supplies among many other hardships. In the vast rural areas of the country, he said, women made up 30 per cent of the heads of households, which made the scarcity of food even more devastating.
And the delegate of Iraq said the sanctions imposed on that country over the last 11 years had reversed a trend of thousands of years of equal rights for women. Environmental pollution from depleted uranium, which came from the missiles that were fired upon the country, had led to miscarriages and infertility in women, and cancer in both women and men. When Iraq presented its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, committee members concluded that women in Iraq faced difficult and dangerous conditions. The
Committee said that hindered the full implementation of the Convention, and slowed the advancement of women.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, meanwhile, called the situation of women and children in the Palestinian Occupied Territory "grave", and called on the international community to exert pressure on the Israeli Government to leave the disputed lands, and to forge ahead with talks that would bring peace and stability to the Middle East.
Following that thought, others who took the floor stressed the importance of including women in peace-making and peace-keeping discussions and operations. The representative of Holland said in many conflict areas, it was women who took the initiative to curb the use of violence. If those initiatives were not recognized and facilitated, women would not be invited to the negotiating table, as was the case in Kosovo. The virtual absence of women in the peace negotiations there had perpetuated and institutionalized the marginalization of women in the political process after the conflict. To prevent such situations from happening in the future, it was crucial for the international community to recognize the potential of women in an early stage of conflict management.
The Committee also approved a number of other draft resolutions on items related to social development, including: the implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly; two on the preparations for and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family; and the implementation of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons: towards a society for all in the twenty-first century.
Others participating in the discussions this afternoon were the representatives of Morocco, Tanzania, Ukraine, Brazil, San Marino, Jamaica, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Canada.
The representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday to continue discussions on the advancement of women.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue consideration of issues related to the advancement of women, including implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of "Women 2000", the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3637 of 17 October.
The Committee was also expected to take action on draft resolutions on items related to social development, including the world social situation, ageing, disabled persons and the family. For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3635 of 16 October.
It was also expected to hear the introduction of and to subsequently take action on three other drafts.
The first of those texts, on arrangements regarding the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.13) would have the Assembly decide that, among other things, representatives of NGOs accredited to the World Assembly could make statements in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole. Further, given the available time, a limited number of NGOs may make statements in the plenary.
Another draft was on provisional rules of procedure for the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.14).
The third text concerned the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.3). By that draft, the Assembly would urge all Member States and other actors to contribute generously to the Trust Fund and to support the preparatory activities for the Second World Assembly on Ageing, particularly the participation of developing countries, and its outcome.
Action on Drafts
The Committee began its meeting this afternoon by taking action on six draft resolutions on items related to social development, including the world social situation, ageing, disabled persons and the family. For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3635 of 16 October.
Adopted without a vote was a draft on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/56/L.11), which had been introduced earlier in the session by the representative of Chile.
The Committee next adopted without a vote a draft on preparations for and observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family (document A/C.3/56/L.7), as orally amended. That text contained amendments to specific preambular and operative paragraphs of a related resolution (document A/C.3/56/L.2), which was also adopted without a vote. At the time the draft was introduced, the representative of Benin introduced a number of oral corrections to the text.
Also adopted without a vote was a draft resolution on implementation of the World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons: towards a society for all in the twenty-first century (document A/C.3/56/L.9), which, at the time of its introduction, had been orally amended by the representative of the Philippines.
The Committee next took up three drafts recommended for approval by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), on the up-coming World Assembly on Ageing.
A draft on arrangements regarding the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.13) was also adopted without a vote.
The Committee adopted another text on provisional rules of procedure for the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.14).
The final draft resolution adopted today was on the United Nations Trust Fund for Ageing (document A/C.3/56/L.3).
ANTONIO LEAL CORDEIRO (Angola) said gender equality had been an issue for the past 16 months. However, those efforts were not sufficient to close the gap between men and women. Despite the focus of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action on eliminating gender discrimination, gender inequities remained a constant reality. The disparities and social inequalities between the sexes had existed throughout the centuries, and today, these same discriminatory practices persisted.
Angola, he said, continued to experience dire realities due to an ongoing internal conflict. The lack of food supplies was one of the many consequences of those circumstances. In rural areas where women made up 30 per cent of heads of households, the scarcity of food was even more devastating. To address that problem, his Government decided to give particular attention to that situation by earmarking aid for basic needs and essentials. In that context, the Ministry of Family and the Advancement of Women had held the Second National Conference on Rural Women, which had concluded its work last week.
It was understood, he said, that to implement a mainstreaming gender perspective in all policies, it was important that there was full engagement of governments, the international community and civil society. Close cooperation between all international actors and a steady stream of information were necessary to facilitate those efforts. The collection of accurate data was essential to illustrating gender disparities, as well as to fully and duly reflect the results of new policy measures.
AICHA AFIFI (Morocco) completed the statement she had cut short this morning by highlighting Morocco’s national and regional efforts to ensure the advancement of women. She said her country had given priority to a host of issues related to the advancement of women, including education for young girls as well as boys and the vaccination of children. Morocco also aimed to cut in half the illiteracy rate among rural women by 2005. It would promote greater access by women to the labour market and to micro-credit schemes. Morocco would also intensify efforts to disseminate information on the Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Discrimination against Women to raise awareness about women’s rights and to bring to their attention avenues of recourse in cases where those rights were compromised.
OBAID AL-KETBI (United Arab Emirates) said despite generally beneficial social and economic developments, women still faced unique challenges. Women in the developing world were disproportionately affected by disease, infant mortality and high rates of illiteracy. He called on the wider international community, the developed nations and international financial institutions -- particularly the World Bank -- to intensify their efforts and to ensure initiatives aimed at promoting the advancement of women achieved concrete results.
He went on to say that efforts to empower women should particularly take into account the specific social, cultural and religious situations in which they lived. In the United Arab Emirates, the Government had been keen on creating human development policies particularly focused on enhancing the participation of women in the decision-making process of the country and region. Recent initiatives had also identified ways to enhance women’s participation in peace processes.
The United Arab Emirates was particularly concerned about the grave situation of women and children in areas of conflict or who were suffering under foreign occupation. That was particularly true for the women and children in the Palestinian Occupied Territory, who continued to suffer grave injustices caused by Israeli occupying forces. In that regard, he called upon the United Nations to ensure adherence to its Charter and the relevant Geneva Conventions. He also called on the wider international community to exert pressure on the Israeli Government to leave the occupied lands, including Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights, and also to seek a peaceful and diplomatic solution that would create stability in the Middle East.
CHRISTINE KAPALATA (United Republic of Tanzania) said the Women and Gender Development Policy, which was adopted last year by her Government, aspired to make progress on several fronts. Tanzania aimed to empower women, alongside men, to grasp the full extent of poverty, and to provide them with the means of combating it. It also wanted to highlight women's contributions to the development of the family, society and the nation, and to recognize women's rights in all stages of development. In addition, there was a need to project the value of both parents’ involvement in the upbringing of their children. Further, the Government hoped to enable all residents of Tanzania to seriously implement the principle of the equality of all human beings, thus accelerating the pace of development.
She said the political and legal empowerment of women had also been promoted in her country. That had been possible through training, the revision of laws which discriminated against women, the reforming of legislation which discriminated against women, and the enactment of new laws which aimed at safeguarding their interests. The 1998 Sexual Offenses Special Provisions was one such piece of legislation, and the Land Act of 1999 was yet another. The target was for women to have 30 per cent of the representation in Parliament by 2005.
She said that alleviating the burden of poverty on women was another area to which the Government had committed itself. To that end, the Government was providing access to micro-credit to women in both rural and urban areas while promoting and strengthening social services for women and girls. These were some of the steps that the Government had taken toward the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the further initiatives. A lot more remained to be done.
ROKSOLANA IVANCHENKO (Ukraine) said her country, guided by the final documents of the Beijing Conference on Women and the recent General Assembly special session on women, had elaborated the National Plan for the period of 2001-2005 on the advancement of women and the enhancement of their role in society. Abiding by its international commitments and bearing in mind the priorities of domestic policy, the Ukrainian Government also had adopted the Declaration on the General Principles of the State Policy Concerning Family and Women, which contained, in particular, measures promoting women's economic rights, and measures increasing the overall number of women working in leadership positions in the Government. Other measures directed that particular attention be paid to reproductive health care and safe motherhood programmes, and that violence against women be eradicated.
Although significant efforts had been made by the Government, she said, UKRAINE acknowledged that a full mainstreaming of the gender perspective in all sectors of society had not been fully achieved yet. Since Ukraine's economy was in a transition period, the status of women was in the process of adjustment. There was no doubt about what had to be done to attain the full realization of women's rights and to achieve their equality and empowerment. The special session had identified many further actions and initiatives to be taken by Member States. The Platform continued to be Ukraine's framework, and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women itself remained the fundamental charter for gender equality. With those tools, Ukraine was well-equipped to make concrete progress for women, and therefore benefit all societies.
JOHANNA DEGGELLER (Netherlands) said Dutch women were convinced that conflict prevention, poverty eradication and the advancement of women were closely interconnected. Poverty was seen as a root cause of conflicts and war. The development strategy of the Government included spending 0.8 per cent of GDP on Official Development Assistance. That policy enjoyed massive public support. Information, evaluations and discussions organized by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and largely financed by the Government sustained that support. A development policy that aimed at poverty eradication should include the empowerment of women because gender inequality hindered development, as pointed out by the World Bank in its recent report, "Engendering Development".
She said that in many conflict areas, it was women who took initiatives to curb the use of violence. If those initiatives were not recognized and facilitated, women would not be invited to the negotiating table, as was the case in Kosovo. The virtual absence of women in the peace negotiations there perpetuated and institutionalized the marginalization of women in the political process after the conflict. To prevent such situations from happening in the future, it was crucial for the international community to recognize the potential of women in an early stage of conflict management. There were numerous women's organizations around the world that deserved support from the international community. One in the Congo, for example, would like to invest in training in women's rights and leadership, monthly broadcasting time on regional radio stations, and assistance with the identification of discriminatory aspects of family law and employment laws. Women needed help in shaping their own lives and societies, and that would begin by involving them with all aspects of peace-building.
FERNANDO COIMBRA (Brazil) said the United Nations had been at the forefront of the debate on the promotion of gender equality and of women’s struggle toward empowerment. The cycle of conferences dedicated to women’s issues had created a solid foundation of commitments that had inspired national laws and government policies for the promotion and protection of women’s rights and well being. Brazil had adopted many initiatives aimed at implementing the outcomes of the Fourth World Conference on Women and “Women 2000”.
Women’s participation in politics had been increasing in Brazil, he continued. In the 2000 elections, political parties had successfully implemented legislation that would require at least 30 per cent of all candidates for office to be women. 317 women had been elected mayor, six of which were in state capitals. Women living in rural areas had also been given specific attention. The Ministry of Agrarian development had put in place a programme which provided opportunities for credit and gave land tenure titles preferentially to women. In the area of health, Brazil continued to strive to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates. Free health care services were provided to the entire population. Programmes for women and girls focused on, among other things, early motherhood, family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention.
ELENA MOLARONI (San Marino) said in many parts of the world, cultural, traditional and social practices still limited, or denied, women their freedom. They could not enjoy full access to key positions, and consequently, their decisions and choices could not be heard. They had no possible means to enhance their well-being or foster their development. In San Marino, the path towards gender equality had been relatively easy for women. Thanks to favourable economic conditions, participation in public office was high. Today, the number of San Marino women holding medium- and high-ranking positions both in the public and private sectors was significant. The whole population had access to social security and social support, and women could benefit from all necessary services. Wage equality between male and female workers was a consolidated achievement, as was trade union equality. Education was extremely high and diversified, and offered a wide range of opportunities.
Achieving gender balance, she said, had to be a priority for all countries. It represented a little step with enormous positive consequences. It involved a great effort, but carried with it great results in all fields. In fact, empowerment of women and gender equality had been identified as a major means to fight poverty and enhance development. San Marino would support any reference to gender balance in all the work of the Third Committee, hoping to increase sensitivity in the general public, and among governments. San Marino was particularly concerned about the increase of violence against women. According to the report of the Secretary-General, it was taking place all over the world. All possible causes of violence against women had to be examined, and then precise and concrete measures had to be taken to put an end to them. The respect for women's rights and the awareness of their constructive role in society were the fruits of a far-sighted policy of enlightening governments and peoples.
PATRICIA DURRANT (Jamaica) said the goal of gender equality and the promotion of women's rights remained primary challenges in the global effort to achieve sustainable development and peace. Since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Programme of Action, several concrete steps had been taken at the national and international levels to secure greater recognition of women's rights. The available evidence suggested that as a result of direct strategies to improve the realities faced by women, their participation in economic activity had increased. Women had entered the labour force in unprecedented numbers, and national governments had implemented legislation to improve the status of women. To promote women’s human rights, gender perspectives were being increasingly reflected in several international conferences and other actions at the global level.
Despite those achievements, she said, the systematic inequities which had traditionally characterized the situation of women had remained institutionalized and deeply entrenched in the twenty-first century. Without a comprehensive approach which sought to address the social, economic and cultural disadvantages faced by women, limited changes would fall short of the bold and ambitious targets that had been set in 1995 and in 2000. In the sixth year after Beijing, there was a challenge to demonstrate in clear, unequivocal terms the global record of implementation. While that record included commendable achievements, it also demonstrated several areas of weakness.
There were clearly other urgent challenges, such as increased opportunities for trafficking in women and girls, and other forms of exploitation which had become more pronounced on account of increases in transnational organized crime. Significant efforts had to be made to address acts of violence against women, she said, and to create effective mechanisms to curb these ills. These objectives could not be achieved without the active participation of women, and the incorporation of women's perspectives at all levels of decision making.
VIVIANA LIMPIAS (Bolivia) said it was important to apply comprehensive public policies aimed at moving toward gender equality and ensuring overall development for the country. There had been significant progress in the areas of land ownership and use for the benefit of women. Legislative frameworks had been created to prevent violence against women as well as children. Further, Bolivia was continuing to promote training and awareness-raising programmes for those who sought justice or were affected by violence, domestic or otherwise. The Government was also promoting the implementation of “life plans” aimed at ensuring, among other things, health care and child care.
She said the major inequalities and exclusion faced by many living in the developing world today, were not only sparked by economic factors, but were equally reflective of ethnic, cultural and gender inequity. The international community must continue to deal with issues such as poverty and educational lags suffered by particularly vulnerable groups such as girl children and rural women. It was also necessary to recognize rural economic dynamics in order to ensure the participation of women in relevant decision-making processes. It should also be emphasized that it was international cooperation that had most supported and promoted the mainstreaming of gender-related policies. It was important therefore to draw up a balance sheet and measure the progress achieved after Beijing and “Women 2000” to identify where gaps in achievement remained and what could be done to close them.
SAID AHMAD (Iraq) said that women in Iraq over centuries had enjoyed rights and privileges. This had been going on for over 4,000 years. Iraq had enacted many laws inspired by the tolerant Islam religion. It had ratified many international conventions and agreements that benefited the advancement of women. Many national and international conferences had been held in Iraq over the years.
However, he said, this had been undermined due to the sanctions imposed on Iraq for the last 11 years. That had led to the collapse of the country’s infrastructure and particularly had affected the livelihood of women and children. The pollution of the environment due to the radioactive depleted uranium missiles had led to diseases, including miscarriages and infertility, as well as cancer. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had pointed out in its remarks when the country presented its report that women in Iraq faced difficult and dangerous conditions. The Committee said that hindered the full implementation of the Convention, and slowed the advancement of women. In light of those facts, it was incumbent on the international community to understand what had caused that humanitarian disaster and genocide.
JULIA ALVAREZ (Dominican Republic) said that with the aim of revitalizing the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) which had been suffering through a financial crisis for some years, the Secretary-General had proposed a new structure and working method based on the use of new information and communications technologies. Although INSTRAW had been able to successfully adopt that new working method, it had not yet received the financial support to correct the continuing institutional crisis that continued to hamper its work.
The Assembly, she continued, had approved a supplement of some $800,000 that would allow it to operate through 2001. But because of the low level of voluntary contributions, the situation had not changed. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) had subsequently asked that the Assembly consider transferring to the year 2002 any unspent funds from the supplement approved for 2001. That amounted to some $400,000 in addition to some $200,000 expected from voluntary contributions. Still, in its resolution, ECOSOC invited the Assembly to consider requesting the Joint Inspection Unit to review the Institute’s Trust fund and make an urgent evaluation of the institute’s activities.
She said the Dominican Republic, as the Institute’s host country, deemed it urgent that the entities that established INSTRAW in 1979 should seriously deliberate the causes that had led it to its current situation. They should also consider practical options that would allow it to operate in a sustainable manner. The necessary structural changes must be made that would insure its financial and institutional sustainability. It must be noted that efforts to revitalize the Institute in the past had not really included suggestions for serious restructuring; they had merely been requests for resources and a redistribution or reduction of its work.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said it had been over a year since the international community had come together to review its collective progress with respect to gender equality and women's human rights at the Beijing Plus Five special session. That extraordinary meeting had reaffirmed the basic principles that gender equality not only contributed to, but was essential for, societal progress, including democratic development, social cohesion and economic prosperity.
The active participation of women, he said, and the incorporation of women's perspectives at all levels of decision-making was vital to the achievement of the overall objectives of the United Nations. Canada was pleased with the progress that had been made to improve the status of women in the United Nations system. It was important to note, for example, that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations continued to recognize that gender equality had to be addressed in a
systematic manner in the context of peacekeeping. Canada strongly supported the Secretary-General's recommendation that gender experts were staffed in the Office of the Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations.
Canada regretted that a year had passed and the goal that had been set for the achievement of a 50-50 gender balance in the United Nations system had yet to be attained. There were a number of issues outlined in this year's report which raised some concerns. Despite the progress within the United Nations system towards the achievement of the 50-50 goal, five departments had yet to attain a minimum of 30 per cent representation of women, and in some departments, there had been a regression from past achievements. In order for that important target to be met, it was hoped that the Secretary-General and the United Nations system would intensify their efforts.
GEORGES PACLISANU of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said humanitarian emergencies impacted men and women differently. Recognizing that fact and responding appropriately were vital to ensuring that the suffering of specific groups was not further exacerbated. In that context, the ICRC had repeatedly expressed concern about the situation of women in armed conflict and other difficult situations and had called for increased attention to their plight.
He said the ICRC had initiated a study three years ago on women in armed conflict entitled “Women Facing War”. That study had shown that, existing norms provided adequate coverage of the needs of women in armed conflict. The crux of the matter lay therefore in implementing those existing rules. In that regard mechanisms for enforcing rights and redressing violations were of crucial importance.
Recent developments, he said, both at the national and international levels, in the prosecution of those responsible for war crimes, were a very important step in the fight against impunity. While the ICRC was fully committed to appropriately assisting and protecting women by all available means, improving the lot of women in times of war was everyone’s responsibility. It was time that international humanitarian law -- which aimed at limiting the level of violence during armed conflict -- be put into practice, he said.
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