WOMEN’S COMMISSION APPROVES RESOLUTIONS ON PALESTINIAN WOMEN, TRAINING INSTITUTE, WOMEN AND CHILD HOSTAGES, FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION, HIV/AIDS

7 March 2008
WOM/1678

WOMEN’S COMMISSION APPROVES RESOLUTIONS ON PALESTINIAN WOMEN, TRAINING INSTITUTE, WOMEN AND CHILD HOSTAGES, FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION, HIV/AIDS

7 March 2008
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1678
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-second Session

16th Meeting (PM)

WOMEN’S COMMISSION APPROVES RESOLUTIONS ON PALESTINIAN WOMEN, TRAINING INSTITUTE,

WOMEN AND CHILD HOSTAGES, FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION, HIV/AIDS

Session Suspended, as Negotiations Continue on Agreed Conclusions

Convinced it was “a question of just a few hours”, before an agreement could be reached, the Chairman of the Commission on the Status of Women this evening suspended the 46-member body’s current session, urging delegations to work through the night to finalize their agreed conclusions on the priority theme “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”.

“If you look around this room, you will see there are a lot of people here expecting a text,” said Oliver Belle ( Belgium), urging the 46-member body not to loose sight of the “global context”, as the Commission’s agreed conclusions would provide important inputs to other upcoming international events.  “But we have run out of time for this meeting […] though it’s not the end of the world”, because delegations had been working very hard and, he believed, were “very close” to an agreement.  Delegations decided to press ahead with informal negotiations tonight in the hopes of returning next week to officially conclude the Commission’s work.

Though unable to reach consensus on the agreed conclusions, the Commission took action on resolutions dealing with key women’s empowerment issues, including on scaling up resources and access to HIV/AIDS care, protecting women and girls from harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, and providing “urgently needed” assistance to Palestinian women.

In line with its priority theme for the session, the Commission adopted a resolution requesting the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) to, among other things, promote gender equality and women’s advancement in the context development financing by “participating actively” in preparations for the International Conference on Financing for Development to review the 2002 Monterrey Consensus, to be held in Doha, Qatar, in late November.

The Training Institute works to improve the lives of women throughout the world by ensuring that their rights, views and priorities are integral components in decision-making and development, and the Commission’s resolution recognized the innovative initiatives promoted by INSTRAW in order to strengthen cooperation with Governments, national mechanisms of gender equality and civil society, as well as its ongoing efforts to enhance collaboration with relevant United Nations bodies.

Among the three other resolutions adopted, a text on “women, girls and HIV/AIDS” expressed the Commission’s concern that women and girls’ vulnerability to the deadly virus is increased by their unequal legal, economic and social status, including poverty, as well as other cultural and physiological factors.  It also expressed concern that the pandemic reinforces gender inequalities and that HIV infection rates are at least twice as high among young people, especially young and married women, who do not finish primary school, as among those who do. 

Calling on Governments to intensify their efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls in relation to HIV/AIDS, including by “challenging gender stereotypes, stigmatization and discriminatory attitudes”, and to encourage the active involvement of men and boys in this, the Commission also urges Governments to, among other things, work towards effectively reflecting the gender dimension of the pandemic in their national policies, strategies and budgets.

By the text on ending female genital mutilation, the Commission recognized that female genital mutilation is an “irreparable, irreversible abuse” affecting 100 to 140 million women and girls alive today, and that each year a further two million girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure.  The Commission urged States to condemn all harmful traditional practices, in particular female genital mutilation, and further urged taking “all necessary measures, including enacting and enforcing legislation to prohibit female genital mutilation and protect girls and women from this form of violence, and to end impunity”.

Welcoming the Call for Africa Free of Female Genital Mutilation, pledged at the Second Pan-African Forum on the Africa Common Position for Children:  Mid-Term Review, held in Cairo this past November, the resolution also emphasized that “awareness-raising, community mobilization, education and training” were needed to ensure that all key actors, including law enforcement and judicial personnel, health-care providers, teachers, and others working directly with girls, as well as parents, work to eliminate attitudes and harmful practices that negatively affected girls.

Approved by a recorded vote of 33 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 9 abstentions (Belgium, Cameroon, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom), a resolution on assistance to Palestinian women would have the Economic and Social Council reaffirm that “the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development of their society, and encourages all women in the region to take an active role in supporting the peace process”.

The text calls on the international community to continue providing urgently needed assistance and services in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families.  It further calls on “the concerned parties, as well as the international community, to exert all the necessary efforts to support the resumption of the peace process on its agreed basis, taking into account the common ground already gained”.

Reaffirming that hostage-taking, “wherever and by whomever committed, is an illegal act aimed at the destruction of human rights and is, under any circumstances, unjustifiable, including as a means to promote and protect human rights”, the Commission adopted a relevant resolution strongly urging all parties to armed conflicts to fully respect international humanitarian law and take all necessary measures to protect civilian populations as such, “including measures to prevent and combat acts of hostage-taking, and to release immediately all women and children who have been taken hostage”.

In other action, the Commission adopted its provisional agenda for its fifty-third session (document E/CN.6/2008/L.7), which was introduced and orally revised by Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women.  Adopting the draft report of its current session (document E/CN.6/2008/L.6), presented by Vice Chairperson and Rapporteur Cecile Mballa Eyenga (Cameroon), the Commission also decided to transmit the document to the General Assembly as input for the follow-up to the International Conference on Financing for Development. 

The Commission deferred the appointment of five representatives to serve on its Working Group on Communications until its fifty-third session. 

It also took note of the Moderators’ summaries of the high-level round table on “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women” as well as the panel discussions on “key policy initiatives on financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment”, “capacity-building for mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development, implementation and evaluation of national economic policies and programmes and budget”, “equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS”, “gender perspectives on climate change”, and “women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding”. 

Further, the Commission took note of the Secretary-General’s reports on:  financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment; forced marriage of girls; progress in mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development, implementation and evaluation of national policies and programmes, with a particular focus on financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment; release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts; and the joint workplan of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It also took note of a note transmitting the report of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the activities of the Fund to eliminate violence against women. 

Along with considering its priority theme, “financing gender equality”, the Commission during this session also emphasized national-level implementation of commitments made at the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women and the outcome of “Women 2000”, the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  It also examined one emerging issue, “gender perspectives on climate change”.

The session, which opened at Headquarters on 25 February, also reviewed the status of national-level implementation of the recommendations on “women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding”, adopted by its 2004 session.  The current session also provided a platform for the launch of two key initiatives:  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s multi-year global campaign to end violence against women; and a joint pledge by 10 United Nations agencies to end female genital mutilation, launched by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.

The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The Commission on the Status of Women met this afternoon to take action on draft resolutions and conclude its fifty-second session.  For background on texts, see Press Release WOM/1673 issued 5 March.

Action on Drafts

The Commission first adopted without a vote a draft resolution on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflict (document E/CN.6/2008/L.1), which was orally revised by its main sponsor, Azerbaijan.

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, the representative of the United States said that her delegation reaffirmed its support for the outcomes of the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women and the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the many important goals those outcomes endorsed therein.  At the same time, it reaffirmed those goals based on several understandings, including that continued support for those important policy frameworks did not imply legal obligations on States under international law or obligations to treaties, agreements or conventions to which a State was not a party.

The United States understood that references to the Beijing and the ICPD outcomes and their 5 and 10 year reviews did not create any rights, in particular the right to abortion.  The United States also understood that there was an international understanding that “sexual and reproductive rights” did not include the right to abortion.  She added that this statement pertained to the current resolution, as well as the text on “female genital mutilation” and the text on “women, girls and HIV/AIDS”.

The Commission next adopted, without a vote, a resolution on strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document E/CN.6/2008/L.4), which was orally amended by it’s main sponsor, Antigua and Barbuda.

The Commission adopted, without a vote, as orally amended by the representative of Cape Verde, speaking on behalf of the African Group, a draft on ending female genital mutilation (document E/CN.6/2008/L.2/Rev.1).

Speaking in explanation of position after the vote, Iran’s representative said that, since his country was not a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it disassociated itself from all references made to the Convention in the resolution and that he interpreted the resolution’s provisions in the context of national laws and Islamic principles.  Concerning the references to sexual and reproductive health, he said sexual and reproductive health services should be guided by ethical and moral values.

The Commission then turned to a draft on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2008/L.3). 

In explanation of vote before the vote, the United States representative said it would vote against the resolution because it was unbalanced.  While the document criticized Israel’s military, it ignored the targeting by Palestinian terrorists.  She regretted Palestinian loss of life, particularly in recent days, as well as Israeli deaths, which had also occurred in recent days.  The resolution was inconsistent with the universal values of the Commission.  Refugee issues must be negotiated by talks between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Israel ’s representative, also in explanation of vote before the vote, said the resolution had no place in the Commission.  It was an overtly partisan and politically motivated resolution.  The resolution, as it was, without addressing the internal Palestinian situation of human rights abuse and terrorism, left much to be desired.  She called upon Member States to oppose the resolution.

Also in explanation of vote before the vote, Germany ’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, called on the parties in the region to make every effort to improve the situation of Palestinian women.  She acknowledged efforts by the Palestinian delegation to improve the text.  The European Union still had reservations, as it did last year, over the appropriateness of the forum in which the resolution was discussed. 

The Commission then adopted, as orally revised, that text by a vote of 33 in favour to 1 against ( United States), with 9 abstentions ( Belgium, Cameroon, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom).  (See Annex.)

Following the action, Palestine ’s representative, in a general statement after the vote, thanked the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and others who supported the resolution, saying they had sent a strong show of support to Palestinian women and their families.  She expressed regret that some European Union members had abstained, except Spain, which had supported the text and demonstrated a principled position.  Palestine had deliberated with the European Union in good faith.  Support for Palestinian women was crucial, she said, noting that, in the past week, 120 Palestinians, among them dozens of women and children, had been killed by Israel forces. 

Next, the Commission adopted without a vote a draft resolution on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS (document E/CN.6/2008/L.5), which was orally amended by Zambia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Speaking in explanation of position before action, the representative of Egypt welcomed the resolution and the productive consultations that had led to its approval.  It supported the adoption of the resolution by consensus with the understanding that nothing in the text in any way condoned abortion.

After the vote, the representative of Iran welcomed the adoption, but said that his country believed that sexual and reproductive health education and services should be guided by ethical and moral values.

ANNEX

Vote on Palestinian Women

The draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2008/L.3) was approved by a recorded vote of 33 in favour to 1 against, with 9 abstentions, as follows:

In favour:  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Gabon, Ghana, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Lesotho, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, Qatar, Spain, Suriname, Togo, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia.

Against:  United States.

Abstain:  Belgium, Cameroon, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, United Kingdom.

Absent:  Kazakhstan, Paraguay.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.