WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT SEEN AS CRUCIAL TO SUCCESS OF DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES AND FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TOLD

7 March 2001
WOM/1266

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT SEEN AS CRUCIAL TO SUCCESS OF DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES AND FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TOLD

07/03/2001
Press ReleaseWOM/1266

Commission on Status of Women

Forty-fifth Session

3rd Meeting (AM)

WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT SEEN AS CRUCIAL TO SUCCESS OF DEVELOPMENT STRATEGIES

AND FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TOLD

The Commission on the Status of Women continued its forty-fifth session this morning, resuming its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century".

During the lengthy discussion, the Commission heard from 22 speakers who highlighted various national experiences, plans, programmes and actions taken as well as recommendations for future strategies and approaches by the Commission.  The Commission also heard three exchanges of rights of reply between Israel and the observer for Palestine in response to charges made this morning.

Karen Mason, Director, Gender and Development of the World Bank, said the empowerment of women and men had become a central element in the Bank’s strategy for poverty reduction.

She said that by reducing gender inequalities in access to economic opportunities and productive resources, as well as to health and education, the Bank was promoting both economic growth and empowerment for women.  Only if men and women played equally active and productive roles in the economy, society and family, “can we hope to achieve the eradication of poverty in the next millennium”, she said.

Elhadj Sy, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said it was imperative to eliminate the social, economic and political inequalities that made women vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.  First, there was need for advocacy with development policy makers, legislators, health-care providers, educators and community leaders for policy development or reform that would reduce social inequalities.  He also called for gender-sensitive AIDS activities to be mainstreamed into development programmes. 

Azerbaijan’s representative said her country had the largest per capita burden of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world –- 1 million.  Of that million, the majority were women.  The international community should not remain indifferent to their hardships.  A new generation of children now had their birthplace listed as “refugee camp”.  Those children were deprived of human rights and subject to stigmas.  “We believe that women refugees must be involved in the process of peace-building because they, more than anyone else, are aware of the value of a peaceful stable society”, she said.

Iran’s representative said that while the role of information, education, access to preventive technologies, treatments and health-care services were highly significant in addressing that bitter phenomenon of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the dynamic and supportive function of morality and religion should also be given due consideration.

The observer for Palestine said that since September 2000 the situation of Palestinian women had deteriorated in the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, due to the “bloody” Israeli campaign.  Israel’s aggression had caused great destruction to the Palestinian economy and infrastructure.  That had created great hardship for Palestinian women, preventing their advancement and empowerment.

She underscored that the rights of Palestinian women could not be achieved with an occupying power in the region.  The empowerment of Palestinian women was linked to the peace process, to which Palestine was committed and to which it was ready to adhere.

Speaking exercise of the right of reply, Israel’s representative said there were important and legitimate issues relating to the status of women in Palestinian society.  But far more simple than confronting those issues as other societies did, the Palestinians chose to place the full weight of blame for them on Israel’s shoulders.  That blame was completely misplaced.  The cause of the violence which had placed a heavy burden on both Israel and Palestine, lay with the latter and not his country.

He said Israel had no interest in perpetuating the current kind of conflict since violence did not serve its interests.  His country had repeatedly expressed the hope that disputes between the two sides could be resolved peacefully around the negotiating table.  Yet, it was the Palestinians -- seeking to achieve their political goals through confrontation rather than negotiation –- who had initiated and perpetuated the violence.

Also this morning the Commission designated Mariano Simon Padros (Argentina) and Christine Kapalata (United Republic of Tanzania) to serve on the Working Group on Communications.

Statements were also made this morning by the representatives of Norway, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Argentina, China, Guatemala, Brazil, Malaysia, Namibia, Zambia, Ghana, Tunisia, Kenya, and the United Republic of Tanzania.  Representatives of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke.

The Committee will meet again at 3:00 p.m. today to begin its consideration of its multi-year programme of work.

Background

The Commission on the Status of Women met this met this morning to continue its forty-fifth session and resume its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century.

(For detailed background see Press Release WOM/1263 issued 2 March 2001.)

MOMINAT OMAROVA (Azerbaijan) said that at present, legislation in her country was being brought into conformity with the instruments that guaranteed women’s rights in accordance with universal standards.  For centuries, Azebaijani women had played a great role in shaping national and moral values.  Currently they were actively participating in the process of democratization and social reforms.  Unfortunately, they constituted the most vulnerable strata of the society as well.  They were currently healing from the wounds of war and aggression which had resulted in the occupation of 20 per cent of her country.  That left Azerbaijan with one of the largest per capita burden of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world.  The majority of them were women.

The international community should not remain indifferent to the hardships of the 1 million refugees and internally displaced persons.  A new generation was growing up with their place of birth listed in their birth certificates as “refugee camp”.  Those children lived in tents and carriages.  They were deprived of human rights and subjected to stigmas.  Other women were also victims of the war were taken as hostages in armed conflicts.  Women in wartime faced many problems including psychological trauma, health complications, poverty and unemployment.  

She said the number of countries healing from the wounds of wars, ethnic conflicts and cleansing had grown to such an extent that humanity today more than ever, realized that only peace could guarantee the development of civil society.  “We believe that women refugees must be involved in the process of peace-building because they, more than anyone else, are aware of the value of a peaceful stable society”, she said.

SOLVEIG SOLBAKKEN, State Secretary, Ministry of Children and Family Affairs of Norway, said decisions on gender equality should be short and to the point and should include time-bound targets.  The Communications procedure should be strengthened and brought more closely in line with that of the Commission on Human Rights.  The inter-sessional and regional activities should also be more focused and action-oriented.  It was important to integrate the results of that work in the United Nations process as well.  Meetings with other commissions and entities of the Organization should therefore be encouraged. 

Addressing the multi-year work programme, she said it was of utmost importance that the themes were selected to ensure that the work of the Commission was relevant to United Nations conferences and processes.  “At the same time”, she added, “we need to allow some degree of flexibility so that we can include discussions of emerging issues”.

She said the spread of HIV/AIDS was closely linked to gender equality.  The pandemic was not only a problem with gender implications, but also one that stemmed from gender-related premises.  The empowerment of women was therefore a key to making preventive action truly preventive.  The active involvement of men in the efforts against the pandemic must also be prioritized.  Further, the Commission needed to consider evaluating and monitoring racial discrimination against women and the difficulties they faced in exercising their civil, political, economic, cultural and civil rights.

AHMED DARWISH (Egypt) said everyone realized that depriving women of their rights impeded development efforts all over the world.  The achievements of women had proved to be an important and productive element in society.  Egypt therefore reaffirmed its support for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.  It was imperative that obstacles to women’s progress were removed and that their economic independence was promoted.

The promotion of women’s rights, he added, was not only the responsibility of national governments.  To achieve the various goals that had been set for the promotion of women’s rights, it was necessary for the international community to earmark specific resources for the benefit of developing countries.  He reminded members that a proposal for a special fund, similar to the international fund set aside for environmental issues, had been made by the first lady of Egypt and that it was time this was given serious consideration.

He expressed hope that the Commission’s deliberations would go a long way towards enriching the work of the first World Conference against Racism to be held in South Africa.  The conference should be a landmark on the road to eliminating all forms of discrimination and provide the political will to safeguard human rights regardless of sex, religion, race or colour.

On the plight of Palestinian women, he observed that they did not only suffer discrimination because of their sex but also had to endure suppression and violence perpetrated by the occupying Israeli forces.  They also suffered as mothers and wives who had lost their husbands and sons killed by Israeli soldiers.  The international community could not continue to ignore the pleas of Palestinian women and it was time that steps were taken to end the excessive and unjust violence against them.  It was time for the United Nations to start a peace process based on all the Security Council resolutions on the land for peace formula.

HAN MYUNG-SOOK (Republic of Korea) agreed ways that ensure gender mainstreaming should be given priority.  In this regard the Republic of Korea had strengthened existing gender focal points of its six ministries through its Ministry of Gender Equality.  Though there was still much to be done regarding violence against women, the Korea Police Agency had created an Office for Women’s Rights in an attempt to deal with domestic violence, sexual violence and Prostitution.  On the legal front, the Government had passed a gender discrimination act granting the Ministry of Gender Equality quasi-judicial power to investigate gender discrimination cases in education, employment and in the implementation of laws and policies.

Summit talks between the two Koreas last June had opened an era of reconciliation and prosperity which had resulted in increased exchanges between women in North and South Korea.  She believed that Korean women would play a constructive role in the reconciliation process on the Korean Peninsula.

She stated that her Government had withdrawn three out of its four reservations on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and was presently taking steps to withdraw the final reservations and to sign the Optional Protocol in the near future.  She informed members that her Government was preparing to host a Conference on the National Machinery on Women’s Policies in East Asia in May.  The aim of the conference was for States in the region to share perspectives and strengthen their ties in making bold moves towards gender mainstreaming.

LILA SUBIRAN DE VIANA (Argentina) said national legislation had been put in place concerning the prevention and fight against HIV/AIDS in her country, and every aspect had been covered –- groups at risk, discrimination, the right to privacy, testing, organ donation, disease control, blood banks, protection of identities, treatment centres, and preventive education.  

She said her country was one of immigrants and thus understood the consequences of intolerance.  There were therefore no privileges from the standpoint of blood or birth.  Skill and competence were the only factors that influenced employment.  There were also rules and laws against discrimination.

She said people who felt that they were victims of discrimination had been taken care of by the State and had mechanisms to address their grievances.  The upcoming World Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, would open up many international opportunities to fight racism.  Argentina intended to play its part.

SHEN GUOFANG (China) said the aggravation of the feminization of poverty, the serious threats of HIV/AIDS to the livelihood of women and children, persistent stereotypes and discrimination against women, as well as the lack of basic health care and education had seriously impeded the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document.  Those factors had also prevented women from fully enjoying their human rights and their participation in development in many developing countries.

His Government however, attached great importance to the rights, progress and advancement of women and therefore had taken concrete steps to implement the Platform for Action and the outcome document.  After five years of hard work,

11 major objectives set in the country’s programme for the Development of Chinese Women had been achieved.  These included the adoption of policies and measures designed to accelerate development and solve the problems of poverty, unemployment, education and training.  The Government had also formulated and revised laws and regulations, such as the Land Contracting Law for Farmers and the Marriage Law, to eliminate their negative effects on women and girls.

He further stated that the Government had also formulated a Programme of Development for Chinese Women from 2001 to 2010.  The new programme took as its basis the safeguarding of women’s rights, and priority areas and major targets and strategies had been identified to make it effective.

YOSEPHA STEINER (Israel) said grass roots organizations in her country were among the first to raise their voices against violence against women.  That experience had demonstrated that the optimum way to deal with that issue was to treat both women and men and to coordinate action by both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the Government.  That strategy had achieved notable results.  Today there were country-wide centres for the treatment of abuse and violence, irrespective of whether the victims and other involved parties were Christian, Moslem or Jewish.  Those institutions were managed by women’s organizations but received extensive financial support from the Israeli Government. 

She said NGOs had paved the way for the establishment of the Authority on the Status of Women in the Office of the Prime Minister.  That entity was dedicated to advancing and empowering women in Israel.  The Authority’s mission was based on the belief that the most effective way to counter violence against women was ensure their empowerment and to begin that process as soon as possible.  A project on the advancement of youth had a component to push gender equality forward as well.

She concluded by informing the Commission that for the first time since Israel’s establishment, three female Government Ministers had been appointed.  Another, Dalia Rabin-Pelossof, daughter of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, had been appointed as Deputy Minister of Defence.  Those appointments represented a major step forward for women in Israeli society.

LILLY CARAVANTES (Guatemala) said that 51.2 per cent of her country’s population were women.  Seventy per cent them lived in poverty.  For all those reasons and more, the improvement of their situation in every sphere constituted one of the prime objectives of the Peace Agreements.  The reference in the Peace Agreement to Guatemalan women and their development “compels us to recognize their cultural, linguistic, socio-economic, religious and political diversity”.  That diversity, which was a clear reflection of the social organization prevailing in Guatemala, was the central factor in an evaluation of women’s interests, needs, demands and expectations.

She said one of the many initiatives embodied in the Peace Agreements was the Forum for Women which sought to strengthen the participation of women at all levels in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of public policies.  Another body that had been set up was the Agency for the Defence of the Indigenous Woman.  The creation of that Agency was unprecedented in her country, inasmuch as it constituted a body that safeguarded the rights of women, who had historically been the object of discrimination and social exclusion.

MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil) said the Brazilian constitution upheld the principle of non-discrimination based on race and gender.  However, to ensure that this principle was translated into practice, the Government had put in place a series of initiatives designed to promote gender and race equality. These included the Sickle Cell Anemia Programme which was being implemented in several Brazilian municipalities.  Other measures included financial support for clinical research undertaken in former fugitive slave communities, in the States of Bahia and Sergipe.

On the issue of HIV/AIDS, she said that the Brazilian programme on combating the disease had established that this could not only be done by prevention but must also be accomplished through treatment.  Since

1996, everyone living with HIV/AIDS had received universal and free access to anti-retroviral therapy.  About 95,000 people were currently taking these drugs. The death rate had fallen by 50 per cent while hospitalization had fallen by

75 per cent.  The therapy had also reduced transmission rates, and follow-up treatment had kept people living with the disease in touch with public health services.

She concluded that the task facing the international community concerning HIV/AIDS could only be accomplished through partnerships between governments, international institutions, NGOs and the private sector.  Further, the representation and participation of women living with HIV/AIDS should be encouraged in all international fora.  Since 1997, Brazil had been implementing cooperation programmes on HIV/AIDS with Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa and was now extending this programme to other countries on the Continent.

NORASMAH SAMSUDIN (Malaysia) said her country’s continuous effort to strengthen the national machinery for the advancement of women was an expression of its commitment to the issue.  The lead Government agency had been relocated to the Prime Minister’s department and the department had been upgraded to a ministry with a cabinet minister responsible for the development of women and the family. 

Women accounted for more than 48 per cent of the total population and

44 per cent of the work force, she said.  In the public sector, they held 14 per cent of the decision-making posts in the year 2000.  The country continued to take measures to improve female participation in the labour market, which included encouraging employers to provide such facilities as those concerning housing, childcare, transport and health care as well as those dealing with protection against sexual harassment.

At the secondary school level, girls accounted for 66 per cent of the total enrolment, and the intake of female students into public universities had significantly expanded.  Women also had equal access to health care services, and, as result, the female life expectancy rate had increased from 74 years in 1995 to 74.7 in 2000.  The Government had also intensified its efforts to eliminate violence against women by adopting a comprehensive and integrated programme.

She expressed hope that the Commission would continue to play a crucial role in accelerating the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, and welcomed the opportunity to exchange views and share experiences and best practices.

SOMAIA S. BHARGHOUTI (Observer for Palestine) said the major task ahead was translating the goals of the outcome documents into tangible results aimed at the promotion of women’s rights worldwide.  The international community must explore and find innovative resources to overcome the continuing challenges to women in the new millennium.  Despite gains mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General on Palestinian Women, since September 2000 the situation of those women had deteriorated in the occupied territories including Jerusalem due to the bloody Israeli campaign.  Israel’s aggression had caused great destruction to the Palestinian economy and infrastructure.  Palestinian people continued to suffer under Israeli actions, and this in turn had created great hardship for Palestinian women, preventing their advancement and empowerment.

She appealed to the international community to continue to shoulder its responsibility towards the question of Palestine until the issue was resolved in all its aspects, and to urge Israel to observe the relevant resolutions of the Organization.  The rights of Palestinian women could not be achieved under an occupying power.  The empowerment of Palestinian women was linked to the peace process, to which Palestine was committed and to which it was ready to adhere.

NDAHAFA. A. NGHIFINDAKA (Namibia) said that gender, being a new concept, had not been well understood or fully localized in her country.  The Government had thus put in place appropriate machinery and strategies such as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare as well as the national Gender Policy and Plan of Action to facilitate mainstreaming of gender issues in all developmental programmes.  The Parliament was also in the process of ratifying the Optional Protocols related to the Rights of the Child, Children in Armed Conflict and the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

She said Namibia was one of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa hardest hit by HIV/AIDS.  The Government, recognizing the gravity of the epidemic had put measures in place to reduce the incidence of the disease.  A National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS for 1999-2004 was currently being implemented.  In addition, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare together with all relevant partners had undertaken a feasibility study on the introduction of the female condom in the five regions most affected by AIDS.

She said that at independence, her country adopted laws which replaced all apartheid policies and a constitution which protected the fundamental freedoms and human rights of its citizens.  A policy of national reconciliation and nation-building had been successfully implemented by the Namibian people as well.

ENESS CHIYENGE (Zambia) said the AIDS virus continued to infect many Zambians, although 80 per cent of the population was HIV free.  The disease was initially perceived as an urban problem but this had now changed.  Two major transmission mechanisms accounted for most of the new infection in the country

-– heterosexual contact and mother-to-child transmission.  From 30 to 40 per cent of infants born would be infected by their mothers, while 60 to 70 per cent would not be infected, but were at risk of becoming orphans.

In an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, she added, the Government, together with a number of NGOs, had initiated several programmes which included medical care, counselling and spiritual and emotional support.  It also established the National AIDS Council to coordinate a national response to the epidemic.  Several interventions adopted included voluntary counselling and testing, action to reduce transmission during breastfeeding and the use of anti-retroviral therapy. 

She concluded that the country’s efforts were beginning to pay off.  Prevalence levels had stabilized, and the infection rate had dropped from 28 per cent in 1993 to 15 per cent in 1998.  She expressed hope that the rate would continue to decline and looked forward to an exchange of ideas and strategies at the session.

EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) was encouraged by gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system.  Likewise, the Ghanaian Government considered gender mainstreaming indispensable to the development of the country.  To this end, the new Government had appointed a minister for primary and secondary girls’ education which would encourage girls to remain in school, especially those living in the rural areas.

Although no continent had been spared by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, he said, Sub-Saharan Africa had been hardest hit.  Women in Africa accounted for 55 per cent of the total number people suffering from the disease.  The vulnerability of girls to infection was five to six times higher than that of boys, and the highest rates of infection were among females in Ghana.  In response, the Ghana AIDS commission had been set up.  It had promoted the empowerment of women in order to reduce their financial dependency on men and had encouraged communities to mobilize to give care to those living with the disease.  It was also imperative to encourage men to be key partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

On the Commission’s programme, he stated that a review should be carried out to effectively monitor the Beijing Plan for Action.  He hoped that the current session would draw up the required programme to strengthen the catalytic role of the Commission.

MOHANMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) said the Commission’s multi-year programme of work should focus on the current challenges identified in the outcome document that impacted the implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action.  The realistic implementation of the Beijing results had indicated the need to enhance the Commission’s effectiveness.  Enhancing effectiveness, however, needed serious and in-depth discussion in a participatory and transparent climate.

He said the increased vulnerability of women to HIV/AIDS in the world was a reminder of the need to forge an effective response to the pandemic.  While the role of information, education, access to preventive technologies, treatments and healthcare services were highly significant in addressing that bitter phenomenon, the dynamic and supportive function of morality and religion should also be given due consideration.

He said the suffering of women as a result of armed conflicts, trafficking, violence, gender dimensions in new manifestations of racism, and racial discrimination were among other important issues which needed to be addressed in an effective an action-oriented manner.  The promotion of values associated with cultural diversity, tolerance, respect for differences, education and raising public awareness, had significant and pivotal roles in the struggle against all forms of discrimination.  States had primary responsibility to find ways to ensure the full implementation of the Platform for Action and the outcome document, while recognizing the significance of the follow-up process of both the regional and international mechanisms.

ZOHRA BEN ROMDHANE Director-General Ministry of Women and Family Affairs of Tunisia, said four women had been elected as the head of municipalities in the last election in her country.  The Third Plan of Action for Women was now in place.  Her country hoped to achieve gender mainstreaming, not only by the approaches articulated and adopted, but by putting that issue at the third level alongside the Action Plan for Women.

She said Tunisia had spared no effort to enhance its policies of tolerance and peace.  Last January, it had hosted the third session on Women and the Management of Conflict in Africa.  In the Commission’s work and plan of action for the next period, she wished to suggest that the Commission draw from and incorporate useful national experiences.  Those experiences could become part of its tools and upcoming strategies.

NOAH KATANA NGALA (Kenya) said his country was committed to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women.  Following the Beijing +5 conference, a workshop had been organized to disseminate the proceedings of the conference and discuss the way forward.

On the issue of HIV/AIDS, he revealed that some 9 per cent of the population was currently living with the disease and some 220,000 were infected annually. About 550 died every day, which translated to some 20 deaths an hour. Women who insisted on condom use were stigmatized and yet were more at risk of being infected by men than men were of being infected by women.  To increase AIDS awareness among the young who were most at risk, the Government was preparing an AIDS education syllabus to be taught in schools.

Turning to gender discrimination, he said that the Kenyan Constitution guaranteed the fundamental rights and freedoms of all.  The country had signed and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and several other instruments aimed at promoting the advancement of women. A task force had been set up to review all laws relating to women, and this had resulted in the drafting of a number of bills including the Family Protection Bill of 2000.  Female genital mutilation had been a problem in the past but through collaboration between the Government and NGOs, several interventions to combat this harmful practice had been put in place.  He further stated that Kenya would continue to implement the Platform for Action and had drafted a Gender and Development Commission Bill to this end.

SHAMIM P. KHAN (Tanzania) said that as one of the countries hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, Tanzania was very much concerned with the prevalence of the disease.  The number of people affected today was 1.6 million.  Women were the major sufferers and were not only victims of the disease but were also care providers to the sick, if they were not already infected.  Their vulnerability to the disease was due to a number of cultural practices, such as female genital mutilation and wife inheritance.

Despite the Government’s efforts in tackling the disease, she added, poverty had proved a major setback to these efforts.  She appealed to the international community to increase assistance as well as make accessible the provision of affordable generic drugs to stop the spread of AIDS.  She hoped the special session due to be held in June would address the pandemic in a holistic manner.

On the issue of women’s participation in the decision-making process, she said that the country’s constitution provided for the allocation of 20 per cent of all parliamentary seats for women.  In local government, it was mandatory that 33 per cent of the seats be occupied by women.  

KAREN MASON, Director, Gender and Development of the World Bank said there has been a shift from her organization’s traditional focus on the economics of growth to a fuller incorporation of social, environmental and cultural considerations.  The empowerment of women –- and of men -– had become a central element in the Bank’s strategy for poverty reduction.  Since the 1995 Beijing Conference, her organization had made substantial progress in bringing gender perspectives into its way of doing business, in the projects and programmes it financed, as well as in improving the gender balance within the Bank.

She said that by reducing gender inequalities in access to economic opportunities and productive resources, as well as to health and education, the Bank promoted both economic growth and empowerment for women.  Only if men and women played equally active and productive roles in the economy, society and family, “can we hope to achieve the eradication of poverty in the next millennium”, she said. 

In response to the increasing spread of HIV/AIDS among women, she said that work on gender and the epidemic had been initiated and was expected to increase the effectiveness of Bank-funded HIV/AIDS projects by integrating insights into the gender disparities that affected the transmission and consequences of the disease.  Turning to discrimination, she said the Bank’s efforts towards improving the situation of women were focused particularly on eliminating the barriers that kept them from equal access to socio-economic resources.

ELHADJ SY, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said it was imperative to eliminate the social, economic, and political inequalities that made women vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in order to create an enabling environment for gender equality.  First, there was need for advocacy with development policy makers, legislators, healthcare providers, educators and community leaders for policy development or reform that would reduce social inequalities.  Second, gender-sensitive AIDS activities must be mainstreamed into development programmes.

Third, he continued, special programmes must be designed that targeted women and young people who commonly faced gender-related obstacles in HIV/AIDS prevention and care programmes.  Fourth, there must be promotion of gender awareness in related prevention programmes.  He said that it must also be ensured that the development and strategic marketing of HIV/AIDS prevention methods could be initiated and controlled by women.  He also called for a strengthening of the gender-sensitive health delivery and support systems.  Finally, he stressed that the quality of care for men and women living with the disease must necessarily consider gender-specific need.

YOUYUN ZHANG, the representative of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said that based on the recommendations and initiatives covered in the outcome document of Beijing +5, his organization had integrated the gender perspective into the follow-up process of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and promoted other international labour standards, such as those concerning maternity protection.  It had also strengthened the employability of women and fought poverty by addressing the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of women’s employment.

In response to the emerging challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, she added, the ILO had developed a global programme.  She warned that the impact of the disease on the labour force had reached a critical stage, particularly in Africa where 12 million children had been orphaned.

On the theme of “Gender and all forms of discrimination”, she said the organization paid special attention to situation of migrant workers.  Recent estimates had shown that 60 million men and women were economically active in countries other than their own.  Studies had shown that women were more vulnerable to discrimination and abuse and often ended up in exploitative working conditions.  She pledged that the ILO would continue to work closely with all concerned to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.

ROBERT G.PAVIA, the representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) observed that the links between population mobility and HIV/AIDS, had been clear since the very beginning of the epidemic.  Initially, Governments were concerned with migrant workers spreading the disease.  Now, however, although this concern had not disappeared completely, there was increasing awareness that migrants were in fact often more vulnerable to the disease than the sedentary population.  This was due to the fact that migrants whether they were men or women, faced poverty, exploitation and separation from their families, in their varied situations.  Trafficking in migrants was another factor.

The IOM was currently updating its internal guidelines for HIV/AIDS prevention in line with present knowledge and expertise, he added.  It was also developing programmes which would focus on AIDS prevention and access to health care for migrant populations.  It also developed a priority agenda to recognize the importance of population movement and its implications for health and disease.  Migrants and refugees needed to be targeted with new types of programmes that focused on reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as on food, water, immunization and shelter.

Rights of Reply

AARON JACOB (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said this morning his delegation made a statement on the substance of issue at hand

–- the advancement of the status of women.  Regrettably, however, this forum, dedicated to an issue of great importance to the international community, had again been appropriated by certain delegations for the purpose of waging a political attack on his country.  It was deeply disturbing that those delegations habitually seized upon any and all opportunities to divert discussions from the subjects under consideration and to politicize issues which were inherently apolitical.

He said there were important and legitimate issues relating to the status of women in Palestinian society.  But far more simple than confronting those issues as other societies did, the Palestinians chose to place the full weight of blame for them on Israel’s shoulders.  That blame was completely misplaced. The cause of the violence, which had placed a heavy burden on both Israel and Palestine, lay with the latter and not his country.  There were, however, those who would deny that this was the case. 

He said Israel had no interest in perpetuating the current kind of conflict since violence did not serve its interests.  His country had repeatedly expressed the hope that disputes between the two sides could be resolved peacefully around the negotiating table.  Yet, it was the Palestinians -- seeking to achieve their political goals through confrontation rather than negotiation –- who had initiated and perpetuated the violence.  As Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times just a short while after the outbreak of the hostilities; “This explosion of violence would be totally understandable if the Palestinians had no alternative.  But that was not the case.  What’s new here is not the violence, but the context.  It came in the context of a serious Israeli peace overture, which Mr. Arafat has chosen to spurn”.

He went on to say that if any more proof was needed, one must merely look to the statement of Imad Al-Falouji, the Palestinian Minister of Communications, as quoted on 4 March by Reuters.  Responding to assertions that the Palestinian violence was a spontaneous uprising, Mr. Al-Falouji replied by saying that such thinking was fallacious.  Rather, he stated that the violence was planned by the Palestinian leadership after the failure of the Camp David Summit this past July. 

That statement, he continued, echoed an earlier one quoted in Al-Ayyam on 6 December 2000 in which Mr. Al-Falouji confirmed that the Palestinian Authority had begun preparations for the outbreak of the current “intifada” from the moment the Camp David talks concluded, in accordance with instructions given by Chairman Yasser Arafat himself.  Mr. Al-Falouji went on to state that Mr. Arafat launched the current “intifada” as the culminating stage of “Palestinian

steadfastness” in the negotiations.  Other Palestinian leaders had made similar statements in recent weeks.

He said the if the recent violence had brought with it certain hardships, the Palestinians had no one to blame but themselves.  Israel would continue to do what it must to ensure the safety and security of its civilian population. Today a freely and democratically elected Government was inaugurated in Israel. Like all its predecessors, it was committed to pursuing a lasting peace with its neighbours.  He hoped the Palestinian leaders would recognize the fruitlessness of the path of violence, call on their people to end the confrontation immediately, restrain terrorist elements now operating freely and openly in their territory, and return in earnest to the negotiating table.

In exercising her right of reply, SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, (Observer for Palestine) said that her statement reflected in a transparent way the condition under which Palestinians lived and the practices of the Israeli forces.  The Israeli representative might not be fully cognizant of the mandate of the Commission, but its work reflected the importance the United Nations as whole placed on the plight of those living in the Palestinian Territories.

When the Israeli delegation claimed that the Palestinian people made a choice to put their children in front of tanks, this was a racist attitude and a misrepresentation of the truth, she continued.  She then quoted a recent article by the Associated Press stating that the closure by Israel of the Palestinian Territories had directly led to the present wave of violence.  General Sharon had also said the Israeli Army would employ stricter measures than were currently being carried out.  Just recently, three more Palestinian citizens had been killed.

She added that even the United States State Department, which was usually biased in favour of Israel, had charged Israeli soldiers with committing human rights abuses, using excessive force and exceeding their mandate.  She said that the fact that the Palestinian delegation could not attend the meeting was an indication of the burden that Israel had imposed on the Palestinian people.

In his right of reply AARON JACOB, (Israel) said that the Palestinian delegation had attributed remarks to him which he had not made.  The social and economic difficulties facing Palestinians were of their own making, because they had made a choice to engage in violence.  This in turn had forced Israel to adopt cautionary measures to protect its citizens.  The measures currently undertaken by Israel were not punitive arising from malice.  Those who perpetrated and encouraged the behaviour of Palestinians were the ones responsible for bringing economic hardship to the Territories.  Palestinians had banned all Israeli products and had declared Palestinians who traded with Israel collaborators.  Israel routinely treated injured Palestinian women and children in its hospitals free of charge.  The essence of the peace process was a willingness by all concerned to live up to their commitments.  He therefore called on the Palestinians to live up to their commitments so the peace process could be resumed.

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For information media. Not an official record.