COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TO MEET FROM 4 TO 15 MARCH; MAIN THEMES CONCERN POVERTY, ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL DISASTERS

1 March 2002
WOM/1321

COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TO MEET FROM 4 TO 15 MARCH; MAIN THEMES CONCERN POVERTY, ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL DISASTERS

01/03/2002
Press ReleaseWOM/1321

Background Release

COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TO MEET FROM 4 TO 15 MARCH; MAIN THEMES

CONCERN POVERTY, ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL DISASTERS

The gender perspective in environmental management and the eradication of poverty through the empowerment of women will be the two thematic issues the Commission on the Status of Women will consider during its forty-sixth session, opening at Headquarters on Monday, 4 March, and expected to run through 15 March.

The Commission will also consider critical situations such as that of Palestinian women and the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, along with the release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflicts.  The issues will be taken up in context of implementing the recommendations of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the follow-up special session of the General Assembly on the theme “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

An observance of International Women’s Day will be held on Friday, 8 March, as part of the session, which will also include two expert panels, one each on the thematic issues.  Other issues to be considered during the session include the Secretary-General’s report assessing implications of reforming mechanisms in the human rights area for communications procedure, follow-up to Economic and Social Council resolutions, and proposals for the provisional agenda of the next session.

The documents before the Commission, summarized below, contain background information and recommendations on all items on the agenda.  The Commission’s background and membership are summarized in the final section.

Documents

The Commission has before it its provisional agenda (document E/CN.6/2002/1).  Annex I contains its proposed organization of work and Annex II lists the Commission’s membership in the present year.

Also before the Commission are a number of reports by the Secretary-General.  One is his report on implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the General Assembly’s special session (document E/CN.6/2002/2).  It describes activities in gender policy and strategy development, including the incorporation of gender aspects in sector policies and strategies, and covers programme and operational activities.  Based on that overview, the report concludes that the United Nations system has taken a variety of steps to support and implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the outcome of the twenty-third special session.  In particular, system organizations have increased the use of the gender mainstreaming strategy in pursuit of gender equality goals. 

The Secretary-General’s report on the proposed medium-term plan for advancement of women from 2002-2005 (document E/CN.6/2001/4) gives an overview of intended actions.  Since the Economic and Social Council agreed conclusions on gender mainstreaming continue to serve as the comprehensive intergovernmental mandate for gender mainstreaming, the Secretary-General suggests that the Commission welcome the establishment of a regular sub-item on gender mainstreaming in the Economic and Social Council agenda.  Also, the Commission could encourage the achievement of gender objectives within the United Nations system by such actions as the incorporation of gender aspects into sector policies and strategies so that gender equality was an explicit responsibility in all programme and substantive work.  At the country-level, gender-specific programmes and projects could be made an integral part of all country-level activities.

Finally, the Secretary-General suggests that the Commission could emphasize the importance of monitoring progress in gender mainstreaming by measuring the impact of actions, continuing outreach and cooperating with stakeholders.  The Commission could encourage the United Nations system to identify and respond to emerging challenges and opportunities under the leadership of the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality. 

The Secretary-General's report on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2002/3) covers the period from September 2000 to September 2001 and is based on information from United Nations bodies or individuals that monitor the situation of Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory and in the refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.  It is also based on information submitted by entities of the United Nations system providing assistance to the Palestinians.

The report details the situation of Palestinian women, beginning with a section on the unfolding of the crisis.  It concludes that, in the reporting period, the violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians had a significant negative effect on Palestinian women.

The report goes on to say that many women were killed or wounded and/or lost their husbands, children or other family members.  Furthermore, the economic and social conditions of women were severely affected by the crisis, as poverty rates increased and access to basic services, such as education and health, was severely curtailed for women and girls.  Also during the crisis, the Palestinian Authority, civil society groups and organizations of the United Nations system have made considerable efforts to improve the conditions and encourage a negotiated solution.  In particular, the United Nations organizations and specialized agencies reacted immediately to the emergency situation and shifted their focus from long-term sustainable development projects to the implementation of humanitarian assistance programmes aimed at meeting the urgent requirements of Palestinian women.

In view of the current crisis, the Secretary-General concludes that it is essential for United Nations entities to continue to operate in the occupied territory and the refugee camps, with a strengthened focus on the advancement of women.  The meaningful work undertaken by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which benefit some3.8 million Palestine refugees, including women and children, should be further supported.  Since the status and living conditions of Palestinian women are linked to the achievement of a peaceful resolution of the conflict, new efforts should be made by the international community to end the violent confrontations in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It is particularly important that women are fully involved in any conflict-resolution and peace-building initiatives to be undertaken in the region.  Also important is that efforts be made to increase their full participation at all levels.

A report of the Secretary-General concerns the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2002/4).  It recalls that a resolution adopted by the Commission at its last session stated that the rapid and unconditional release of hostage women and children in areas of armed conflict would promote the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the Assembly on women.  The text urged all parties to armed conflicts to fully respect the norms of international humanitarian law in armed conflict and take all necessary measures for the protection of these women and children and for their immediate release.

[In paragraph 8 of the present report, the Government of the United Kingdom expresses its concern over grouping women and children together in a single report.  It felt that it was increasingly inappropriate to consider these two separate demographic groups as a single entity, as the issues dealt with in the context of the Commission's resolution 45/1 affected women and children in potentially different ways.]

A report of the Secretary-General on discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan (document E/CN.6/2002/5) states that the fall of the Taliban regime offered new opportunities for Afghan women and girls to regain their rightful position in society and become equal partners in peace-building in and reconstruction of their country. 

The report finds that, since the adoption of Economic and Social Council resolution 2001/3 last year on the subject, the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan continued to deteriorate, owing to the ongoing conflict, the critical humanitarian situation, the continuing efforts of a third year of drought, hunger, internal displacement and massive violations of human rights.  Following the events of 11 September 2001 and the military intervention in Afghanistan by the United States and its allies, significant changes occurred in the political landscape of the country, but the immediate humanitarian crisis also increased. 

At the same time, the report continues, new opportunities were presented  for women for the first time in many years to reclaim their rights as active participants in the governance, as well as in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their country.  In reality, women assumed greater economic and social responsibilities during the years of conflict, which created a gap between the reality of women's lives, on the one hand, and generally accepted norms based on traditional and customary models, on the other.  That gap would have to be addressed in future interventions by the assistance community.  Also, Afghan women should be seen as primary stakeholders and agents of change; they were ready to be full partners in rebuilding their society. 

The Secretary-General recommends that the Afghan Interim and Transitional Authorities may be called upon to, among other measures:  ensure full support for women's participation in the Special Commission to convene the Emergency Loya Jirga and in the Loya Jirga itself; ensure a safe environment free from violence to facilitate women's participation and the return of refugees; and take urgent measures to repeal all legal and other orders that discriminate against women and to end all forms of discrimination against them.  It may also be asked to support measures to hold accountable those who are responsible for gross violations of women's human rights in the past.

In the area of relief, reconstruction and development, he says that the United Nations system, donor governments and civil society, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), should ensure a rights-based approach and gender-mainstreaming in all programmes and operations.  They should also develop comprehensive and coherent gender policy and programmes in Afghanistan, apply good practices of gender budgeting and strengthen inter-agency mechanisms for coordination and cooperation, including an inter-agency gender forum.  Among the other recommendations in this area were to employ Afghan women, including in management positions, and support women's freedom of movement and security in their employment with the assistance community.   Equal access to funding for Afghan's women's organizations should also be ensured and indicators should be developed to measure progress and facilitate evaluation of progress towards gender equality goals.

The Secretary-General's report on the joint work plan of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document E/CN.4/2002/82-E/CN.6/2002/6) contains the work plan for 2002 and assesses implementation of the work plan for 2001.  Major emphasis will continue to be placed on supporting the work of human rights treaty bodies and selected special mechanisms and on cooperation between national machineries for the advancement of women and national human rights institutions. 

A report of the Secretary-General on improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (document E/CN.6/2002/7) stated that as of 30 November 2001, 40.4 per cent of Professional and higher-level staff on geographical appointments in the Secretariat were women.  Women constituted 34.6 per cent of Professional and higher-level staff in the larger population of staff in the Secretariat with appointments of one year or more. 

The report states that during 2002, priority will be assigned to the development of strategies to expand the supply of women candidates for vacancies in the Secretariat, including in peacekeeping and other special missions.  Particular attention will be paid to the identification of women candidates in Member States that are unrepresented or under-represented in the Secretariat and in occupations in which women are under-represented.  In view of a decline in women's representation at the D-1 level, particular attention will be paid to its improvement and identifying possible underlying causes.

A note by the Secretary-General (document E/CN.4/2002/136-E/CN.6/2002/8) transmits the report of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the activities of the Fund to eliminate violence against women.  The report concludes that, in the spirit of General Assembly resolution 50/166, UNIFEM will continue to identify and support innovative local, national, regional and international initiatives.

The Secretary-General’s report on thematic issues before the Commission (document E/CN.6/2002/9) focuses on a gender perspective in environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters, and on poverty eradication, including through the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle in a globalizing world.  The report is based on the analysis and conclusions of two expert groups convened by the Economic and Social Department’s Division for the Advancement of Women, one on each topic.  Other input is derived from case studies and contributions of regional experts and representatives of United Nations entities, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNIFEM.  The recommendations aim to expand an agenda for poverty eradication at the international and national levels as outlined in the Beijing Platform and the special session outcome document.

Among many others, the report recommends that governments make sound environmental management, risk management and gender equality an integral part of sustainable development and vice versa.  Also, along with the United Nations system and all civil society actors, they should strengthen administrative and legal measures to support gender-sensitive environmental management and risk reduction.  At the international level, governments at all levels and international organizations, including the United Nations system and financial institutions, should introduce gender mainstreaming into all disaster-management action and make all management at all level accountable.

Regarding poverty, the report describes United Nations actions to eradicate poverty among women and the empowerment of women as a transformative strategy for poverty eradication.  Among numerous recommendations for measurement of poverty and empowerment of women are those that call for improving the flow of data disaggregated by age and sex, in particular those that will increase the capacity to measure, assess and monitor poverty among women and men.  All sectors of government, international organizations and civil society are called upon to ensure that all actions achieve the poverty eradication goals of the Millennium Declaration.  The report also calls for the conduct of country and regional studies to increase the understanding of the impact of globalization on women, especially those in poverty.

A letter dated 8 October 2001 from the President of the Economic and Social Council to the Commission Chairperson draws the Commission's attention to the outcome of the Council's 2001 substantive session (document E/CN.6/2002/10).  Annexed to the letter is a list of resolutions and decisions adopted by the Council in 2001 that call for specific follow-up action by the functional commissions. 

Also, a note by the Secretariat on follow-up to Economic and Social Council resolutions and decisions (document E/CN.6/2002/11) contains a summary of recommendations addressed by the Council to its functional commissions, particularly the Commission on the Status of Women.  It also contains a summary of actions already taken by the Commission to implement those recommendations, as well as suggested recommendations for further action that the Commission may wish to take.

NGO Statements

Statements on the thematic issues have been submitted by the following NGOs having either a general, special or roster consultative status with the Economic and Social Council:  Soroptimist International, HelpAge International, International Alliance of Women, International Council of Women, International Federation of Business and Professional Women, Associated Country Women of the World, Centre for Women, the Earth, the Divine, European Women’s Lobby, International Federation of University Women, Italian Centre of Solidarity, National Council of German Women’s Organizations, Pax Romana, Salvation Army, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Socialist International Women, Women’s International Zionist Organization, European Union of Women, and International Association for Counselling.

Statements have also been submitted by the Women’s National Commission, the World Veterans Federation, Rotary International, Legiao da Boa Vontade, International Federation of Business and Professional Women, Coalition against Trafficking in Women, Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, Miramed Institute, Mouvement pour l’abolition de la prostitution et de la pornographie et de toutes formes de violences sexuelles et discrimination sexistes, World Federation for Mental Health, Fédération européenne des femmes actives au foyer, and Mother’s Union.

Submitting statements in support of UNIFEM were:  The International Alliance of Women, International Council of Women, International Federation of Business and Professional Women, International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centres, Soroptimist International, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, All India Women’s Conference, Associated Country Women of the World, Baha’i International Community, International Federation of University Women, International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, International Federation of Women Lawyers, Pan-Pacific and South-East Asia Women’s Association, United States Committee for UNIFEM, World Young Women’s Christian Association, Altrusa International, Armenian International Women’s Association, and the United Nations Association of the USA.

Zonta International, in addition, submitted a statement in support of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Background on Commission

The Commission was established as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council in 1946 to prepare recommendations and reports to the Council on promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.  The Commission also makes recommendations to the Council on urgent problems requiring immediate action in the field of women’s rights.

With the objective of promoting the implementation of equal rights for men and women, the Commission’s mandate was expanded in 1987 following the Fourth

World Conference on Women.  The Commission now integrates a follow-up process to the Conference into its work programme, playing a catalytic role and regularly reviewing critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action.  The Commission generally meets on an annual basis.

Membership

The Commission began with 15 members and now consists of 45 elected by the Council for four-year terms.  Members are appointed by governments and are elected on the following basis:  13 from African States, 11 from Asian States, four from Eastern European States, nine from Latin American and Caribbean States, and eight from Western European and Other States.

The 2002 membership of the Commission is as follows:  Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Malawi, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States. 

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For information media. Not an official record.