WOMEN’S COMMISSION APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION ON PALESTINIAN WOMEN, HOSTAGE-TAKING, AFGHAN WOMEN, INSTRAW

11 March 2004
WOM/1446

WOMEN’S COMMISSION APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION ON PALESTINIAN WOMEN, HOSTAGE-TAKING, AFGHAN WOMEN, INSTRAW

11/03/2004
Press ReleaseWOM/1446

Commission on the Status of Women                          

Forty-eighth Session                                       

14th Meeting (PM)

WOMEN’S COMMISSION APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION ON PALESTINIAN WOMEN,

HOSTAGE-TAKING, AFGHAN WOMEN, INSTRAW

By a recorded vote of 39 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 1 abstention (Canada), the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women this afternoon approved a draft resolution on the situation of Palestinian women and four other texts.

By the text on Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2004/L.2), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) would, among other things, call upon the concerned parties to ensure the immediate resumption of the peace process and for tangible improvement of the difficult situation and living conditions of Palestinian women and their families.  It would also call upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties.

Before the vote [see Annex I], the representative of Israel stated that the proposed resolution was politically one-sided, singled out Israel and contradicted the principles of the Commission.

Explaining her vote before the vote, the representative of the United States, noting that her country was the largest national donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said the United States was working with the Quartet to achieve the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and would vote against the one-sided draft.

The representatives of Argentina, Russian Federation, Canada and Peru explained their votes after the vote.  The Permanent Observer for Palestine made a general statement after the vote, as did the representative of Qatar.

A draft resolution on “release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.5), as orally revised, would condemn violent acts in contravention of international humanitarian law, as well as the consequences of hostage taking, in particular, torture, murder, rape, slavery, and trafficking in women and children.  It would also call for the immediate release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflict.

Preambular paragraph 4 of the resolution was adopted in a recorded vote requested by the United States, with 41 voting in favour and 1 against (United States) [see Annex II].  That country’s representative said the paragraph in question reaffirmed commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was too broad in the current context.  She would join consensus in adoption of the whole resolution with the understanding that it would not entail blanket support for the Beijing Platform, particularly those parts supporting abortion.

The Commission also approved a draft text on the “situation of women and girls in Afghanistan” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.1/Rev.1) that would have the Economic and Social Council urge the Afghan Transitional Administration and future government to ensure that any legislative, administrative and other measures support the full enjoyment by women and girls of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Also urging that Administration to fully implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Council would urge authorities to strengthen efforts to eliminate violence against women and to bring to justice those responsible for such violence.

The representative of United States made a short statement after approval of the text.

The Commission further approved a draft on the “revitalization and strengthening of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.3/Rev.1).  By that text, the ECOSOC would continue to encourage efforts to revitalize the Institute and invite voluntary contributions by Member States to the Institute’s Trust Fund.

In other business, the representative of Tunisia introduced a draft decision proposing to postpone consideration of the agenda item on communications concerning the status of women to the next session.

The Commission also approved without a vote the provisional agenda for its forty-ninth session, including its main themes:  “Review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of the special session of the General Assembly entitled ‘Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century’”; and “Current challenges and forward-looking strategies for the advancement and empowerment of women and girls”.

The representative of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Dominican Republic, Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and Chile also made short statements.

The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again Friday, 12 March at 3 p.m. to conclude its current session.

Background

The Commission on the Status of Women, a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), this afternoon had before it a number of draft texts that, if approved by the Commission, would go to the ECOSOC for adoption.

By a draft resolution on the “situation of women and girls in Afghanistan” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.1/Rev.1), the ECOSOC, would urge the Afghan Transitional Administration and future government, among other things, to ensure that any legislative, administrative and other measures supported the full enjoyment by women and girls of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including by mainstreaming gender issues into the activities of all ministries.

The Council would also urge the Transitional Administration and future government to fully implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; to ensure that the electoral processes were carried out and monitored closely to make certain that women were able to participate fully; and to support measures guaranteeing their representation in local, provincial and national government positions.

The Council would further urge authorities to continue efforts to re-establish the rule of law by ensuring that law-enforcement agencies respected and upheld human rights and fundamental freedoms, with particular emphasis on women’s access to justice; and to strengthen efforts to prevent and eliminate violence against women.  The Council would further urge authorities to ensure equal rights for women and girls to education, freedom from attack, and support for the educational needs of women and girls excluded from education in the past, as well as for equal rights of women to own land and other property.

By the same text, the Council would strongly urge the Secretary-General to ensure that the important post of Senior Gender Adviser in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was filled immediately.

By the terms of a draft on the situation of Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2004/L.2), the ECOSOC, concerned about the grave deterioration of the situation of Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and expressing its condemnation of all acts of violence, would call upon the concerned parties and the international community to exert all necessary efforts to ensure immediate resumption of the peace process.

The Council would demand that Israel, the occupying Power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Regulations annexed to The Hague Convention IV and the Geneva Convention, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families.  It would call upon that Power to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties.

The Council would further call upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and services to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis faced by Palestinian women and their families, and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions.

By terms of a draft resolution on the “revitalization and strengthening of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.3/Rev.1), the ECOSOC would continue to encourage efforts to revitalize the Institute and invite voluntary contributions by Member States to the Institute’s trust fund.

The draft text on “Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.5) would condemn violent acts in contravention of international humanitarian law, as well as the consequences of hostage taking, in particular, torture, murder, rape, slavery, and trafficking in women and children.  It would call for the immediate release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflict.

The text would strongly urge all parties to armed conflicts to respect fully the norms of international humanitarian law in armed conflict and to release immediately all women and children who have been taken hostage.  It would also urge parties to provide safe unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance for those women and children.

The draft would request the Secretary-General and all relevant international organizations to use their capabilities and undertake efforts to facilitate the immediate release of civilian women and children who have been taken hostage.

By the draft on “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.6), the ECOSOC would invite all entities of the United Nations to, among other things:  integrate gender perspectives into organizational policies and sectoral policies and strategies; incorporate gender perspectives into all existing training programmes; increase the involvement of men in promoting implementation of gender mainstreaming, including as specialists, focal points and trainers; and require sex-disaggregation of all relevant data.

The text would recommend to ECOSOC that it incorporate into its review and appraisal of the system-wide implementation of its agreed conclusions 1997/2 [which refers to the Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4-15 September 1995], the assessment of remaining gaps in the frameworks for gender equality policies and strategies and the mainstreaming of gender perspectives into all policies and programmes of United Nations entities.

Action on Texts

The representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, thanked all delegations for their cooperation in finalizing the draft resolution on the “situation of women and girls in Afghanistan” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.1/Rev.1) and trusted that it would be approved by consensus, as had been done in the past.

Liechtenstein, Norway, the Philippines, Argentina, Croatia, Thailand, Romania and the Republic of Korea had joined the co-sponsorship of the text.

The text was approved without a vote.

The representative of the United States thanked the European Union for the important resolution.  Her country’s support of the text signified its strong commitment to democracy in Afghanistan and to Afghan women, but in no way amounted to support for quotas as laid out in the resolution.  The position of her country was that quotas were antithetical to democratic values.  She realized that conditions in some post-conflict countries might require them to consider quotas, but they should be temporary measures.  They should not be listed as a usual option to achieve gender equality.

The Commission turned to the draft resolution on the “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.2).

The representative of Israel said that the proposed resolution was politically one-sided, singled out Israel and contradicted the principles of the Commission.  It neglected to mention the Israeli victims, especially women, targeted by terrorism.  It was an attempt to exploit the Commission for narrow political purposes.  Member States supporting the text were abusing the Commission and doing so was in defiance of the Beijing Platform for Action.  He requested that members of the Commission vote against the text.

The representative of Qatar asked which delegation had asked to have a vote on the resolution and was told that it was the United States.

In explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States said that her country was deeply concerned about the impact of the current crisis on Palestinian women.  The United States was the largest national donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and contributed to other United Nations programmes proving assistance to Palestinian women and the entire Palestinian population.  It also provided bilateral assistance to needy Palestinians.  In addition, it grieved for Israeli victims, including women, who suffered as a result of terrorism.  Her country was working with the Quartet to achieve the vision of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.  She would vote against the one-sided draft.

The text was approved by a vote of 39 in favour to 1 against (United States) with 1 abstention (Canada) (Annex I).

In explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Argentina said that she had voted in favour of the text in accordance with her country’s support of resolution 14 of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly.  She shared the concern of the international community over the manner in which the building of the separation wall in the occupied territories was affecting Palestinian women and their families.  She reiterated her call for an end to all violence and for the parties to resume negotiations.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that, as a co-sponsor of the Middle East peace process and a member of the Quartet, he had voted in favour of the text.  The international community was, with reason, disturbed by the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The representative of Canada said that his country had consistently supported giving greater attention to the situation of Palestinian women, demonstrated by its efforts to alleviate their situation.  He was deeply concerned that their living conditions had been severely affected by restrictions on movement and closures.  However, he had chosen to abstain on the text.  While Canada had consistently called on Israel to respect its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, today’s text did not reflect the current situation.  Both parties had a responsibility to improve the condition of Palestinian women.  A negotiated settlement offered the best chance to do that.  He called on all parties to end the violence immediately and resume implementation of the “Road Map”.

The representative of Peru said that she had voted in favour of the text because women’s and children’s human rights were universal and should be promoted and protected.  She rejected all forms of violence, wherever they took place and whoever committed them.

Making a general statement, the Observer of Palestine thanked Member States for the positive result on the vote.  She also thanked the “Group of 77” developing countries and China for its co-sponsorship and support.  Today’s action would send a signal by the international community of its support for alleviating the situation of Palestinian women.  She hoped that next year, the situation of Palestinian women would be considered under different conditions.

The representative of Qatar thanked all those who voted in favour of the text, which represented a signal of support for Palestinian women and children at such a critical moment.

Next, the Commission took up the draft resolution on the “revitalization and strengthening of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.3/Rev.1), which it approved without a vote.

The representative of the Dominican Republic said that, as host of the Institute, her country was pleased with the adoption by consensus of the text supporting the Institute’s revitalization and strengthening.

The representative of Qatar, on behalf of the Group of 77, thanked the representative of El Salvador for his efforts to achieve consensus on the text.

Following that, the Commission turned to the draft text on “Release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.5).

Armenia, Belarus, Guinea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Ukraine, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Peru, the Philippines, the Republic of Moldova, Syria, Tajikistan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Senegal had joined as co-sponsors.

The representative of Azerbaijan thanked all those who had participated in the negotiations and hoped it would be adopted by consensus.

The representative of the United States requested a vote on preambular paragraph 5 of the text.

The representative of Chile asked that the entire paragraph be read out to clarify which paragraph was being voted on.

The Secretariat clarified that it was actually preambular paragraph 4.

In explanation of vote before the vote, the representative of the United States thanked Azerbaijan for introducing the resolution on such an important subject.  The issue had plagued civilizations for many millennia.  Unfortunately, the resolution contained an unequivocal affirmation of the Beijing Platform for Action, which was too broad in the current context.  Therefore, she asked for a vote on preambular paragraph 4.  She was joining consensus with the understanding that the text was on the human rights violations entailed in the taking of women and children as hostages.  That in no way should be construed as blanket support for the Beijing Platform for Action, particularly those parts of the Platform supporting abortion.

Preambular paragraph 4 of draft resolution E/CN.6/2004/L.5 was approved by a vote of 41 in favour to 1 against (United States) with no abstentions (Annex II).

The representative of Azerbaijan, as the main sponsor, expressed her gratitude to all members who supported the resolution and the issue.  She noted that it was important to reaffirm the commitments made in Beijing, particularly in light of the upcoming review next year.

The representative of Malaysia said that had she been in the room she would have voted in favour.

The Commission then approved E/CN.6/2004/L.5, as orally revised, without a vote.

Action was postponed on the text on “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system” (document E/CN.6/2004/L.6) until tomorrow.

The Commission then adopted the provisional agenda for its forty-ninth session, which listed the two main themes for the session:  “Review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of the special session of the General Assembly entitled ‘Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century’” and “Current challenges and forward-looking strategies for the advancement and empowerment of women and girls”.

The representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed condolences to his Spanish colleagues and the families and friends of the victims of the terrorist attacks.

The representative of Spain expressed her thanks for the numerous expressions of support and condolences.  She said that as a result of the attacks, 192 people had died and 1247 people had been wounded, half of them women.  She hoped the international community would continue to work together in order to ensure that such attacks did not take place in the future and to ensure that support would be provided to the victims of such attacks.

The representative of Chile asked about availability of documents in all United Nations languages for tomorrow’s work.

ANNEX I

Vote on Situation of Palestinian Women

The draft resolution on the situation of Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2004/L.2) was approved by a recorded vote of 39 in favour to 1 against, with 1 abstention, as follows:

In favour:  Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Germany, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania.

Against:  United States.

Abstain:  Canada.

Absent:  Dominican Republic, Gabon, Guatemala, Nicaragua.

ANNEX II

Vote on Support for Beijing Declaration

Preambular paragraph 4, reaffirming the commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Action Platform, of the draft resolution on the release of women and children hostages (document E/CN.6/2004/L.5) was retained by a recorded vote of 41 in favour to 1 against, with no abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom.

Against:  United States.

Abstain:  None.

Absent:  Gabon, Malaysia, United Republic of Tanzania.

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For information media. Not an official record.