Efforts to Empower Women, Initiatives to Promote Sustainable Economic Growth Mutually Reinforcing, Say Third Committee Speakers
Efforts to Empower Women, Initiatives to Promote Sustainable Economic Growth Mutually Reinforcing, Say Third Committee Speakers
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)
Efforts to Empower Women, Initiatives to Promote Sustainable Economic Growth
Mutually Reinforcing, Say Third Committee Speakers
As Debate Continues on the Advancement of Women,
Some 45 Delegations Describe National Steps to Advance Gender Equality
In promoting women’s empowerment it was critical that the international community systematically link women to the development agenda, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it continued its discussion on the advancement of women.
As nearly four dozen speakers took the floor to urge further international cooperation in advancing gender equality and to outline specific steps being taken by their national Governments on that front, economic empowerment was frequently highlighted as the surest route to improving women’s social status.
To this end, several delegations emphasized the feminine face of poverty and suggested that efforts to advance women and initiatives to promote sustainable economic growth were mutually reinforcing. Thus, strategies for one area should also account for the other.
Thailand’s representative said that, in her country, as in many others, women were the primary contributors to the country’s economic growth. The Thai Government was working to reverse the feminization of poverty, embarking on strategies to improve women’s education, health and empowerment. Overall, its efforts aimed to both protect the rights of, and promote opportunities for, women throughout the economic and social development process.
Echoing this focus on development’s gender dimension, a number of African countries underlined the growing awareness of the crucial role of women in development and the need for their participation in decision-making processes to ensure sustainable development.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that, to enable women’s economic empowerment, her Government actively promoted savings and credit societies in both rural and urban areas. Women also benefited from the Tanzania Social Action Fund, while a Government-established women’s bank provided training and credit that complemented other microfinancing and entrepreneurship programmes.
She stressed that her country, like other countries both on the African continent and elsewhere, was particularly concerned with addressing the economic situation of rural women. Much of its focus was on ensuring women’s access to, and ownership of, land since the majority of rural women depended on agriculture for their livelihood. She said it was imperative to “reverse the neglect” in official development assistance and Government spending on rural women.
Indonesia’s representative sounded a note of caution in the discussion on economic empowerment by highlighting an emerging danger that seemed to be the result of women’s advancement in this area. She said that as women gained more opportunities in the labour market, there was a simultaneous increase of informal work and migration among them. That trend was not necessarily negative, but a high degree of insecurity had been associated with migrant workers in the informal sector. This was particularly true for women, who were more susceptible to acts of violence.
Several other speakers underscored the dangers facing women migrant workers. The representative of the Philippines noted these women, who often worked at the lowest ends of the labour spectrum, were among the first to be laid off, as a result of the economic and financial crisis. Further, violence was also being reported in free trade and export-processing zones, where many young women migrants were hired on temporary or insecure contracts. In light of such information, her delegation planned to table a draft resolution on violence against women migrant workers, bringing attention to this phenomenon and calling for attention to the problems this subset of women faced.
Sri Lanka’s representative expressed strong support for efforts by United Nations agencies to promote targeted measures to protect women migrant workers. Those notable measures included strengthening contractual agreements, control over recruitment agencies and information campaigns, in addition to general efforts to encourage Member States to implement relevant legislation. For its part, his Government had negotiated with several countries to which migrant women were sent to ensure their welfare and protection.
Throughout the day, many delegations also highlighted the increased participation of women in both the public and private sector. Others pointed to ongoing legislative and judicial reforms that were expanding social protections to women and eliminating traditional barriers to their advancement.
The representatives of Kazakhstan, Iran, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Republic of Korea, Liechtenstein, Russian Federation, Colombia, Monaco, Venezuela, Senegal, Syria, Côte d’Ivoire, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Jordan, Australia (also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Sri Lanka, Namibia, El Salvador, Slovenia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Swaziland, India, Kenya, Israel, Singapore, Poland, San Marino, Yemen, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahrain, Libya, Maldives, Dominican Republic and Djibouti also spoke during the general discussion on the advancement of women. A youth delegate from the Republic of Korea also spoke.
Delegates from Japan, United States, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Cuba spoke in exercise of the right reply.
Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of draft resolutions on youth, cooperatives, social development, family, ageing and the African Institute on the Prevention of Crime. The representatives of Portugal, Mongolia, Sudan and Uganda introduced the drafts.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Wednesday, 14 October, to conclude its discussion on the advancement of women and to take up issues relating to the rights of children.
The Third Committee met this morning to continue its general discussion on the advancement of women. (For more details see Press Release GA/SHC/3949 of 12 October.)
It was also expected to hear introductions of six draft resolutions under the agenda item on social development and one draft resolution under the agenda item on crime prevention and criminal justice.
Introduction of Resolutions
The representative of Portugal introduced the resolution on policies and programmes involving youth (document A/C.3/64/L.4), explaining that the text was based on several previous related resolutions (Assembly resolution 62/126 of 2007 and the Commission on the Status of Women resolution 47/1 of 2009), and on information contained in the Secretary-General’s report on progress and constraints faced in ensuring the well-being of youth and encouraging their participation in society. The report addressed 11 of 15 priority areas in the Programme of Action for youth, including, among others, situations of armed conflict, girls and young women, HIV/AIDS, information and communications technology, intergenerational issues, delinquency, and leisure activities. The other 4 areas -- education, employment, globalization, and hunger and poverty -- were addressed in a report published in 2007.
She said the proposed resolution would emphasize that all 15 areas were interrelated, and would call on States to consider the goals and targets of the Secretary-General in his report at the national level, so as to facilitate the monitoring of progress towards the goals set out in the Action Plan. It would request the Secretary-General to develop indicators related to the World Programme on Youth to assist States to assess the situation of youth. As in the past, the text would acknowledge the contribution of youth, and have Member States consider including youth representatives in their delegations. The youth added value to debates by suggesting new wording and bringing an enthusiasm that invigorated discussions. Member States were currently in the process of merging their different proposals. The text was not a procedural resolution, but a complex one. But, she harboured a firm belief that States could overcome any difficulties and arrive at a consensus text.
Next, the representative of Mongolia introduced the resolution on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/64/L.10). She said cooperatives as business enterprises offered a model that was particularly relevant in difficult economic times and instances of market failure. They supported entrepreneurs, raised participants’ incomes and helped to enhance social inclusion and community building, among other things. The current food, financial and fuel crises, along with climate change, posed tremendous challenges to the income and food security of millions of people. Taking into account the Secretary-General’s recommendations, her country was planning to propose 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives to encourage Governments to establish policies conducive to the growth of cooperatives, raise awareness of cooperatives and their contribution to development, and to encourage people to organize cooperatives to address their economic needs. The Year was not envisioned as a year of celebration, but a year of productive work towards the promotion of cooperatives. Passage of the draft resolution would not lead to budgetary financial implications.
In light of the ongoing crises, she said agriculture and financial cooperatives deserved attention. They contributed to long-term solutions and more resilient and inclusive financial systems, helping farmers improve their earnings and lowering credit costs, and promoting better marketing and distribution of products. They improved farm productivity. Access to credit was one of the challenges to farming, and cooperatives were more involved in financing, both directly and indirectly. The text invited Governments and others to promote the growth of cooperatives through: affordable financing; the provision of new farming techniques; investment in infrastructure, such as irrigation; strengthening marketing mechanisms; and promoting women in agricultural activities. The current financial crisis had led to greater appreciation of the role of international financial institutions, such as financial cooperatives, which contributed to poverty reduction by providing savings products and access to credit to small enterprises and small depositors. The text would invite Governments and international organizations to promote the growth of financial cooperatives to meet the goal of inclusive finance. She expressed hope that the resolution would receive unanimous support.
The representative of Sudan introduced the draft resolution on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly (document A/C.3/64/L.9). He said the draft aims to highlight all three pillars of the Copenhagen summit, namely, poverty eradication, achievement of full and productive employment, and social integration. It further emphasized that all three were mutually reinforcing and should be pursued to guarantee social development. It takes into account the February 2009 discussion in the Commission on Social Development, which took social integration as its theme. Accordingly, it also includes language from the Secretary-General’s report on social integration (document A/64/157). It further takes into account the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on social development, and invites the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session a report on the world crises and its impact on social development. Finally, it incorporates the concerns of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, vis-à-vis social development.
He next introduced a draft resolution on follow-up to the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond (document A/C.3/64/L.7). He said the Group of 77 and China was submitting this draft, as it had in recent years, to urge Member States to continue to integrate a family perspective into national policymaking. The text highlights as a major objective of the International Year of the Family the strengthening of the capacity of national institutions to formulate, implement and monitor national laws that further the needs of the family. Moreover, it seeks to encourage the incorporation of family-oriented policies into national strategies aimed at social integration. Recalling the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014, it asks the Secretary-General to recommend to Member States the appropriate ways to mark that anniversary.
He then introduced a resolution on 2010: International Year of the Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding (document A/C.3/64/L.8), saying it was a new text. The Group of 77 and China had noticed that the current world situation had widened the gap between North and South, with growing manifestations of poverty and marginalization. There seemed to be a growth of hatred and xenophobia and widened misunderstandings between different “systems of human civilization”. Youth represented a vulnerable group facing multiple socio-economic challenges, with the potential to play an important role in the development of their countries. To guarantee their active integration into society and international life, including United Nations forums, there was a pressing need to formulate a new approach for encouraging their participation in areas such as health, education, work, culture, entertainment, security, and the family environment.
In addition, he said too many youth were falling into poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and becoming HIV positive. The world needed to renew its commitment to address youth issues. It needed, more than ever, to promote among youth universal values, such as tolerance, moderation, respect of others, rejection of all violence and extremism, and a culture of citizenship, solidarity, peace and dialogue. The text would call on States to proclaim 2010 as the International Youth Year, and to organize under the auspices of the United Nations and its partners a world youth conference. Informal consultations on the draft were ongoing.
He also introduced a resolution on follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing (document A/C.3/64/L.6), tabled annually by the Group of 77, building on previous resolutions on the same theme. It incorporated recommendations of the Secretary-General, as contained in his report on the issue. The text would have nations build the capacity, and promote the inclusion of, the ageing population through specific, ageing mainstreaming efforts. Its provisions would ensure that older persons had access to information on their rights, and would stress a gender perspective in all policy areas of ageing. It would have States eliminate discrimination on the basis of age, and address cases of neglect and abuse of older persons. It would invite States to consider how best to improve international norms and standards pertaining to older persons. It would request the Secretary-General to submit a report at the next session of the Assembly on the current status of the social situation and well-being of older persons, taking into account observations from the conference relating to ageing due to take place early next year. Informal consultations on the text were ongoing.
Turning to the agenda item on crime prevention and criminal justice, Uganda’s representative introduced the draft text on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/64/L.14). She said it sought to update General Assembly resolution 63/196 on the Institute, drawing from the Secretary-General’s report on it and its work. She noted that the draft text would be undergoing informal consultations to ensure that areas of concern were addressed. This year, more amendments to the preambular paragraphs reflected some of these emerging areas of concern. Moreover, several new preambular paragraphs were added. They included paragraphs 4, 6, 8, and 9. Preambular paragraph 4 was added to address the link between climate change and poverty, as well as the link between poverty and crime. Other preambular paragraphs recognized initiatives undertaken by the Institute to ensure that it serviced needs in the region, despite its crippling lack of resources. The African Group recognized that Africa could not afford to ignore the impact of new and growing crime rates, she said. It, thus, called on the General Assembly to recognize the necessity of continuing to support the Institute as a matter of international crime prevention.
BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) said her Government attached great importance to the recent General Assembly resolution on a more effective United Nations entity focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Her country had actively engaged in informal consultations on the issue and would welcome the establishment of the composite gender entity. Given adequate institutional capacity, the entity would become a stronger advocate for gender-based rights and women’s empowerment, promote effective system-wide gender mainstreaming and be a better fund-raiser for that aspect of human development. Kazakhstan supported a well-balanced organizational structure, avoiding duplication and unclear terms of reference. Having fully endorsed the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign, Kazakhstan saw the importance of channelling all stakeholders’ efforts into practical measures “on site”. It made its first contribution to the Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women and, nationally, had intensified implementation of gender equality laws. It aimed to adopt a domestic violence law in 2009.
She remarked on the international community’s intense focus on modern forms of slavery, seen in the trafficking of human beings, and instances of sexual and labour exploitation, particularly towards girls and women. Kazakhstan welcomed the numerous initiatives in that area, and nationally was paying great attention to modernizing its legislation to ensure an adequate response. It was also improving its criminal justice system to close loopholes that would set violators free. Non-governmental stakeholders had an active voice in hosting regular training for potential victims of trafficking and/or sexual exploitation. The economic and financial crisis tended to promote trafficking in human beings, and so improving “social determinants” was considered integral to preventing that disgraceful activity from happening. Kazakhstan was using a dual approach to provide economic security to women, by maintaining its high level of maternity care and childcare, and guaranteeing equal opportunities for both women and men in the area of economic development. It was working to build women’s capacity for entrepreneurship, especially those living in rural areas. Indeed, achieving gender equality was no less important than meeting the goals of global safety and sustainable development.
MOHAMMAD POURNAJAF (Iran), recalling the meaning of “gender mainstreaming” as defined by the Economic and Social Council in July 1997, said the Commission on the Status of Women had conducted, in 2005, a review of the commitments made in Beijing and found that women did not yet enjoy human rights on the same basis as men. While 2005 had been a target date for the revocation of discriminatory laws, that date had come and gone with many of them still in force. It was high time to repeal them as a long overdue remedy to women’s plight, and a response to the pleas of women’s advocates around the world. Action, not words, was needed to mainstream “gender justice”, and, in this, mentoring programmes could be extremely helpful in putting the plan of action on the right track. A gender-perspective approach was needed, but finding the right balance remained a challenge. Team-building skills that aimed to foster cooperation in familial relations, rather than antagonism or a hierarchical approach, should be advanced.
He stressed that climate change’s link with poverty eradication was another unresolved issue. Adapting to climate change would affect agriculture, food security and water management in rural areas. Since most rural livelihoods were traditionally “women’s tasks” in developing countries, policies that affected them had to be considered for their impact on women. This was also true in terms of human trafficking. Preventive activities should include education about the dangers of trafficking, in combination with economic opportunities at home and the establishment of legal migration channels for women. Armed conflicts, natural disaster and other crises had created new vulnerabilities for women. While often full of promise, post-conflict and post-crisis processes often failed to address the prevailing gender, class and ethnic imbalances and tended to deepen existing disparities, or create new ones. Accordingly, all States should recognize that economic and social security was crucial to advancing women’s capabilities. The linkages between violence to women and their access to economic and social rights should also be considered. Still, formulating universal law on preventing and combating domestic violence was the most promising legal measure, and the gap between the normative framework and practice should be bridged.
MARIAM MWAFFISI (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country was committed to the attainment of gender equality and women’s empowerment. She thanked Tanzania’s bilateral donors, as well as the European Union and various specialized organs of the United Nations for their support to its national gender machineries and gender mainstreaming efforts. Notable examples of achievement included the achievement of gender parity in education enrolment and the formation of science camps for girls. The gender dimension programme at the University of Dar es Salaam had greatly contributed to the increase in women in tertiary institutions taking science subjects. The Government had surpassed the 30 per cent threshold for women in public service and parliament; it was now reaching 50 per cent.
To enable the economic empowerment of women, she said the Government had actively promoted savings and credit societies in both rural and urban areas. Women benefited from the Tanzania Social Action Fund, while a women’s bank established by the Government provided training, in addition to credit. The bank complemented microfinancing and entrepreneurship development programmes being provided by grass-roots organizations. But, violence against women continued to be a challenge, leading the Government to establish a national action plan on the prevention and eradication of violence against women and children. In addition, the President had launched a campaign to “say no to violence” against women in Tanzania.
In rural areas, she said the Government had enacted laws to ensure women’s access to, and ownership of, land. This was important, given that a majority of rural women depended on agriculture for their livelihood. It was imperative to “reverse the neglect” in official development assistance and government spending on rural women. She was encouraged by the attention paid at the United Nations towards gender equality, and believed that a stronger gender entity with a strong field presence would enhance the cause. She looked forward to forthcoming negotiations on that issue.
MARIA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua), endorsing the statements made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said the revolutionary struggle to transform society, as elaborated in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, had provided a framework for her country’s domestic legislation and the drawing up of national plans and programmes. At present, a national development plan, a social welfare system, a 12-part gender policy and an institute for women sought to promote a gender perspective in all of Nicaragua’s institutions. A 50 per cent quota for women had been established for all Government positions. A gender violence unit had been set up to ensure that justice was sufficiently enacted for women and girls. The national police force was headed by a woman and, through its units for women and children, the force worked to provide preventive and rehabilitative care for victims of sexual violence. The judiciary had also been organized to allow for sexual crimes to be addressed.
Ensuring that women’s rights were respected was not just a matter of social policy for Nicaragua, she said. Rather, it extended to development and other policies. Women were active participants in the national literacy campaign. Regarding health, maternal mortality had been significantly reduced through training of expectant mothers, better follow up and early identification of risks. To ensure that rural women received proper care for a safe birth, a system of maternal houses had been set up to provide care 24 hours a day. To prevent sexual discrimination in the workplace, women were being trained to recognize their labour rights. Still, Nicaragua’s Government regretted the fact that violence against migrant women continued at the international level. Those who perpetrated this violence should be brought to justice. Nicaragua was also promoting global action to prevent human trafficking.
INGRID SABJA ( Bolivia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said women in Bolivia’s rural areas, particularly indigenous women, were still subject to discrimination and sex segregation. She remarked that what women did in their homes could cushion the effects of the economic crisis. It was time to revise the idea that only paid work was productive work; household work should be recognized as real work, as well. Recognizing that fact was the first step in achieving the principle of shared responsibility between women and men.
She said Bolivia’s new political constitution recognized that women’s rights were part and parcel of universal human rights, and the gender perspective was all-pervasive in that text. The constitution incorporated principles of gender equality as a means of dismantling an old system replete with discrimination, and of allowing women to participate more actively in political life. It provided for their access to education at all levels, extended health care and social security to them, as well as their rights to land. A new quota law in public service required that the lists of candidates put forward by political parties were 50/50 men and women. Around 34 per cent of the seats in the Constituent Assembly were held by women, many of whom were indigenous. The President had indigenous women in his cabinet. In addition, the national plan for equal opportunity sought to bring people of different communities together to promote a life without power imbalances. She added that the new constitution indicated that women had the right to free maternal care of an “inter cultural nature”. Women were given a mother-child allowance to reduce maternal and infant mortality, and to boost infant nutrition.
She looked forward to meeting with other States on system-wide coherence, including on defining the new gender architecture. It was essential to ensure “cross-cutting inclusion of gender perspectives” in all agencies at the United Nations.
HONG WOOK-JIN ( Republic of Korea) said her Government was particularly focused on women migrants seeking jobs and new lives through international marriages. It had established social mechanisms for securing those women’s rights, especially in the face of discrimination or violence, and to support their full integration into Korean society. It had established the “1577-1366 Centre” that provided emergency assistance services and ordinary counselling in eight different languages for women migrants married to Korean men. The centre provided 24-hour service all year round. Turning challenges of a global nature, she expressed concern over violence against women, and voiced support for Security Council resolutions calling for increasing the number of women in senior positions at the United Nations. On climate change, she urged that gender considerations be included in the climate change agreement in December. The success or failure to overcome such gaps depended on the United Nations’ capacity to pursue gender equality and women’s empowerment and, to that end, her Government looked forward to the early establishment of a composite gender entity.
She then ceded the floor to a youth delegate from the Republic of Korea, who suggested solutions focused on three main topics in the World Programme of Action for Youth: the environment, employment and the empowerment of girls and young women. She said, with environmental degradation threatening the lives of women, international collaboration should be made to recognize gender equality as an integral part of creating an environmentally sustainable society. Also, in light of the global financial crisis -- in which women faced higher projected rates of unemployment and higher vulnerability to losing jobs in industries and services where they could practice a decent profession -- the international community must find ways to prevent women from turning to unpaid or unstable jobs. The Government of the Republic of Korea currently had a basic plan for equal employment and a work-family life reconciliation programme to help women handle their multiple responsibilities, and had designated 50 support organizations as “new occupation centres for women”, which were one-stop shops for employment services.
BARBARA STEFAN ( Liechtenstein) said that investing in gender equality meant investing in progress. The empowerment of women was a precondition for development and was also reflected in Millennium Development Goal 3. However, due to ongoing discrimination and inequality, women remained disproportionately affected by poverty, hunger and food insecurity. In that context, she recalled that achieving the Millennium Development Goals and the advancement of women were mutually reinforcing, and immediate action should be taken accordingly. Liechtenstein looked forward to the early establishment of the new composite gender entity, which would help consolidate existing strengths and create synergy to improve the contribution of the United Nations to gender equality.
She welcomed United Nations efforts, campaigns and initiatives aimed at eliminating violence against women and its devastating social, economic and humanitarian consequences. States had an obligation to protect women from all forms of violence, hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice and remedies for the victims. Although the development of national and international legal norms, standards and policies was progressing, they had to be fully implemented around the world. Indeed, Liechtenstein was deeply concerned about the shocking increase of sexual violence in conflicts around the world. Even after conflicts ended, high levels of sexual violence could persist, meaning that women remained excluded from formal decision-making processes in post-conflict environments. It was, therefore, essential to increase the participation of women in conflict resolution and peace processes. To this end, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s appointments of more women to senior positions, generally, and field missions particularly.
She also expressed support for Security Council resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008) which emphasized the responsibility of all States to put an end to impunity and to prosecute those responsible for war crimes, including acts of gender violence. But, formal justice systems often lacked the required resources to prosecute perpetrators. Thus, she welcomed the call of resolution 1888 (2009) for the Secretary-General to offer expertise to national authorities to strengthen the rule of law. Protection and support to victims should also be provided, particularly to ensure they can testify freely and without fear of retaliation.
EKATERINA LAKHORA ( Russian Federation) said the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the outcome documents of the four world conferences on women and the Millennium Development Goals had been the starting points for a reformation of Russian society. The principle of gender equality was gaining traction and, pursuant to federal law, justice was administered in an equal way regardless of gender. Government programmes contained many initiatives that promoted the issues most pressing for women, including comprehensive family support and protection of motherhood and childhood. Even the financial crisis had not changed this priority. Indeed, today, for the first time in Russia’s history, demography was regarded as of equal importance as security. This instilled hope and confidence in Russian women.
She said there had been a significant change in the scope of voluntary organizations being involved in elections. As a result, women were gaining increasing numbers of elected positions. In the Duma, they now held 14 per cent of the seats. Women were also heading up a number of important ministries. This often meant that women were better accounted for in public policies. Women were also enjoying progress in the private sector, and the Russian Federation now ranked third in terms of women employed in business. Moreover, gender equality was impossible without the active participation of civil society. Broad scale gender awareness programmes had been held in all parts of Russian society. Many women’s organizations also had activities to promote equal rights and to draw the attention of Government authorities to social ills that particularly affected women. In her country, it was recognized that only by cooperating with international organizations and sharing experiences could progress be made.
CLAUDIA BLUM (Colombia), aligning herself with the Rio Group and the Group of 77 and China, said her country’s 2006-2010 national development plan was gender sensitive. Various affirmative action programmes benefited women in specific ways to: prevent violence against them; improve employment and development prospects; improve political participation; and provide access to education and culture. Laws covering violence and discrimination against women were strengthened in 2008 by the passage of a new law. At the same time, the Government sought to improve women’s access to justice through education and awareness-raising strategies targeted at women, as well as improved training among public officials. Colombia also agreed with the Secretary-General on the importance of including a gender perspective in humanitarian assistance; in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration; and in assisting victims of violence. Its budget for reparation to victims of violence had been strengthened in 2009 by a new budget plan.
On poverty eradication, she described various strategies adopted by her country to promote microcredit among rural women, and to improve child nutrition and education through cash transfers. In addition, the country would tackle gender discrimination at work through the equal employment agenda signed by major business associations earlier in the year. A gender affairs observatory was developing a database, by which the Government would evaluate its gender policies. Turning to the protection of migrant workers, she pointed to two resolutions that her country, with others, had promoted at the Human Rights Council. One related to maternal mortality and morbidity and promoted further action on that issue. The second dealt with the elimination of discrimination against women. International cooperation was important to support national efforts to advance gender equality. To that end, Colombia had great hopes for the new gender architecture at the United Nations, and would support the process of establishing the composite gender entity.
ISABELLE PICCO ( Monaco) said the Secretary-General’s global campaign was a first step in eliminating violence against women around the world. The Security Council’s recent adoption of resolution 1888 (2009), which recognized the link between the maintenance of peace and security and the prevention of the sexual violence that was often used as a war tactic against civilians, should bring an end to the impunity that many perpetrators of that sexual violence enjoyed. Monaco wished to join its voice with those supporting the appointment of a Special Representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict and coordinate all United Nations activities, in that regard. It should be underlined that progress made in implementing the global strategy to aid and support victims of sexual violence committed by United Nations personnel was part of a broader context. The increase in the number of women in peacekeeping missions helped ensure this work. Monaco welcomed the ministerial debate held at the beginning of the General Assembly’s sixty-fourth session that was headed by Hillary Clinton.
She went on to welcome the General Assembly’s decision to reinforce the institutional mechanisms in ways that favoured gender quality. The education of girls and boys was still the cornerstone of prevention. Monaco was convinced that the Secretary-General was in the position to appoint an Under-Secretary-General to head up the Organization’s work to promote gender equality and women’s advancement. Monaco’s Government had, for several years, undertaken a campaign to combat all forms of violence. It had set up programmes throughout Africa to promote women’s empowerment and the equal representation of women.
JORGE VALERO ( Venezuela), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said women were the invisible sex in many parts of the world. They were victims of oppression and stereotypes. His Government had launched a new development model guaranteeing equality between men and women and respect for the human rights of all. The Constitution used neutral, non-sexist terminology. In it, domestic work was recognized as a wealth-creating activity that added value to society. Women took part in decision-making and contributed to the building of the new social order. The Government delivered assistance to women with disabilities, indigenous women and women of African descent through local community organizations.
Gender mainstreaming was part of government policy, he continued. The country’s legal framework ensured the protection of all women’s rights, and the incorporation of women in society and the “production system”. The Ombudsman’s unit had established a special unit on women’s rights. There was a labour law covering working conditions relevant to women, such as protection for mothers, security for women at work, and health leave. Social service law looked at protecting the family and women with children, as well as the care of older persons. Maternity and paternity policies were in place to promote joint responsibility of raising girls and boys. Other laws were in place to help the unemployed, including women heads of household and victims of gender violence.
He said the country practiced a policy of 50/50 parity on electoral lists, leading more women to stand for political office. It had new institutions with innovative programmes to overcome inequalities, such as the ministry for the empowerment of women and gender equality, the development bank for women, and others. Subsidized loans had led to the emergence of women’s cooperatives. “Mothers’ missions”, a group of grass-roots organizations, provided social coverage to women and promoted inclusivity. There were laws designed to bring about a violence-free environment for women, including the Inter-American Convention on Violence against Women. The Government was also taking preventive action against trafficking in women.
LEYSA SOW ( Senegal), endorsing the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said there was growing awareness of the crucial role of women in development and the need for their participation in decision-making processes to ensure sustainable development. Women were still underrepresented in economic life. Democracy and good governance were broadly subject to the gender dynamic, which also affected the development progress. It was increasingly clear that the changes in mindset and behaviour that were needed for gender equality would not be achieved by 2015, and more action was needed. Through Millennium Development Goal 3, which addressed gender equality and women’s empowerment, the international community had highlighted the need for policies and programmes that had a gender component. A cross-cutting approach should be taken in relation to the issue, especially in African countries, where women typically supported the family and often supported the man, even though he acted as head of the family.
She said this meant, in broad terms, that the gender differences of men and women had resulted in social inequality. Although there were policies that sought to rebalance the relationship, they were often just band-aids. Senegal had, however, made some developments in advancing the situation of women. It had ratified all the relevant instruments. Provisions in the new constitution guaranteed equality. In 1999, Senegal had voted against female genital mutilation. A national action centre for women had been set up to build capacity for women’s issues. A women’s credit programme provided accessible management mechanisms for women. Girls’ school enrolment had increased and a cross-sectoral policy for families had been enacted, as had a family rights monitoring body that included a women’s rights unit.
VANASSUDA SUDHIDHANEE ( Thailand) declared her country’s commitment to its obligations under the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention, the Beijing Declaration, and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on women. It looked forward to the review of the Beijing Platform next year. Thailand’s candidate to the Convention’s monitoring Committee, Saisuree Chutikul, was also an adviser to the working group on the establishment of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) commission on the protection and promotion of the rights of women and children. Thailand’s own women’s development plan aimed to protect the rights of, and promote opportunities for, women to participate fully in the economic and social development process. As in many other countries, women were the primary contributors to the country’s economic growth. But, poverty had a feminine face. The Thai Government was working to reverse the feminization of poverty, embarking on strategies to improve women’s education, health and empowerment.
Continuing, she said Thailand had laws in place to strengthen gender equality, including giving women the right to retain their own surnames and titles after marriage. The Government was seeking to address cultural barriers that prevented women from stepping outside prescribed roles. Today, it was more common for Thai women to make career choices across a wide spectrum of jobs, including medical doctors, judges, engineers, peacekeepers and peacebuilders and so on. Thailand looked forward to negotiations on the new United Nations gender architecture, noting that now was a good time to ask, “Have we achieved the ideal launched 15 years ago?” Gender equality was not only a woman’s concern, but must be addressed by society as a whole.
WARIF HALABI (Syria), joining the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reasserted her country’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, among other documents related to women’s advancement. Noting that these documents called for serious and intensified strategies to promote gender equality, she said that Syria worked to implement their provisions by, among other things, consolidating measures already adopted leading to the political, economic and social empowerment of Syrian women.
She said Syria’s State planning department had drawn up a national plan for eradicating poverty and eliminating the discrimination against women. This map, which was created by the Department of Agriculture, assessed the needs of women. Syria also sought, each year, to implement the current version of its 5-year plan. As a result, a reduction in the social gaps between men and women had been seen, as had an increase in women occupying leadership posts. The earmarking of budgetary resources to promote social development and women’s interests were the main means of achieving the State’s objectives, and the national budget made a priority of social and economic development. Under its tenth 5-year plan, a budget had been drawn up that took the general needs of improving society into account.
The Government had been working to free up the occupied Syrian Golan and to enact a lasting solution that would end women’s suffering under Israeli occupation, she said. Yet, it should be noted that these efforts impeded development, since resources were sucked into the effort, as well as into the defence budget. Finally, she emphasized that eliminating violence against women was critical. Yet, all approaches towards that goal should take into account national circumstances.
EMILIENNE BOBI ASSA ( Côte d’Ivoire), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said, as the international community cast its eyes on the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, it was important to take stock of the situation facing women today. She thanked the United Nations system for its support in helping her country implement the Beijing Declaration. As a result, significant progress had been made in gender equality and women’s empowerment. This was reflected in the country’s constitution, which prohibited gender-based discrimination and called for equality between men and women. A Ministry of Family, Women and Social Affairs was established in 2006 to coordinate implementation of the Beijing Declaration. Further, Government ministries had established “gender cells” to strategize the implementation, follow up and assessment of gender policies. The Government was also working towards a model law to codify the principles enshrined in a Presidential Declaration on equality of opportunity, signed in 2007, and a poverty reduction strategy paper with a gender dimension, covering the period from 2009 to 2015, had been adopted in January.
She noted that fighting violence against women was central to the Beijing Declaration, and welcomed the Security Council’s adoption of resolutions on women, peace and security with provisions to protect civilians against any form of sexual violence. Those resolutions also contained provisions to punish the perpetrators. To encourage women’s participation in line with resolution 1325, the Government ran workshops out of which it hoped to design a five-year national action plan, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Its first report to Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women began this year; the country now had a platform to combat gender violence and a system for providing assistance to victims. A group of women lawyers had formed a grass-roots organization to provide advice and legal support to victims of violence.
NURBEK JEENBAEV (Kyrgyzstan), stressing that his country was combating forced marriage, said the Government had adopted the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1996 and was taking all measures to eliminate discrimination against women. However, like many countries, it had reservations. He further noted that there was a practice in Kyrgyzstan of women being abducted and forced into marriage. Indeed, when Kyrgyzstan submitted its report to the Convention’s monitoring Committee, among the Committee’s final observations had been a note on the problems of forced marriages.
He said that, according to sociologists, there were cases where women were abducted to marry men whose name they did not even know. Typically, these women were under 18. Kyrgyzstan’s parliament had studied the issue and recently held hearings, generating a great deal of interest in the issue within Kyrgyz society. Most political parties said they were in favour of changing the legal age for marriage to 18. Of course, a court decision could mean that the age requirement was decreased to 17.
He went on to say that Kyrgyzstan had a legislative basis for protecting women’s rights, particularly in the family code. Thus, the equal rights of spouses were guaranteed. To implement its obligations and to foster the principle of gender equality, the members of parliament had initiated a package of bills for gender quotas. Happily, these laws had come into force. Moreover, as Kyrgyzstan had already mentioned at the Third Committee’s last session, quotas allowed women to have posts in the Government. Concluding, he affirmed that all parts of civil society and Government were carrying out awareness-raising work to address the issue of bride abductions.
GRATA WERDANINGTYAS (Indonesia), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, noted that, beyond commemorating the establishment of the Beijing Declaration, it was important to produce concrete strategies and actions based on lessons learned. It was also important to ensure that efforts to promote the aims of the women’s anti-discrimination Convention did not distract from meeting the burden of multiple crises. It was crucial for the international community to systematically link women to development, and ensure women were a part of decision-making. At the national level, Indonesia had produced a gender responsive budget in its Government agencies. Gender focal points and working groups had been set up to strengthen coordination among them. The number of women in parliament rose from 11 per cent in 2004 to 19 per cent in 2009. The number of women entrepreneurs was also growing, with 35 per cent of small- and medium-sized enterprises being run by them. The Women Cooperative Programme for Family Welfare provided women with greater access to credit in rural areas.
She said, as women gained more opportunities in the labour market, a related phenomenon had arisen: the simultaneous increase of informal work and migration among women. While the trend was not necessarily negative, a high degree of insecurity had been associated with migrant workers in the informal sector, and more so for women. They were susceptible to violent acts from others. The Government was conducting advocacy and mediation, as well as providing legal counsel, for migrant workers abroad. It was engaging with the Governments of other countries to formulate mutually beneficial agreements on the protection of migrant workers. It was also working with the International Labour Organization to train Government officials on protection of migrants and collecting data.
She ended by emphasizing the need to accentuate the role of women in the world’s efforts to reset the global economy on a more equitable path. In the long term, women’s full potential could be better realized with more education and other resources at an early stage. To promote their role outside of agriculture, the world would need to promote access to credit. Further, collaboration among countries to fight violence against women migrant workers should be strengthened.
SALAMATU HUSSAINI SULEIMAN (Nigeria), aligning her statement with the one made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said her country believed that full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the other relevant international instruments was necessary to advance the national, regional and global agenda for women’s empowerment. It had consistently been committed to gender mainstreaming through administrative and legal measures, as well as through the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Also, gender-responsive programmes were constantly being strengthened to address emerging challenges. Poverty reduction strategies had also been put in place, including the Women’s Fund for Economic Empowerment. To boost women’s entrepreneurship, a business development fund for women had also been established, which served as a soft-credit facility. A progressive improvement had been seen in literacy rates among women, as well as in school enrolment rates of girls and women. Among other initiatives, she highlighted a “second-chance” programme that allowed girls who had dropped out due to pregnancy to return to school.
She stressed that women continued to play an increasing role in Nigeria’s ongoing political reform. Currently, the number of senior female civil servants was judged to be 22.5 per cent, while judicial appointment across the 36 States constituted about 30 per cent. A national action plan on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nigeria had been deposited with the United Nations Human Rights Councilin Geneva in July 2009. A chapter was devoted to the rights of women and children. A National Policy on Sexual Harassment in Educational Institutions had also been put in place. Free medical treatment was provided for victims of domestic and sexual violence at temporary shelters that were being established nationwide. Nigeria was also working to improve the education of girls by recruiting more female teachers, creating skill acquisition programmes for girls and women, and providing textbooks at subsidized rates, among other measures. Judges and magistrates were continuously being trained on gender and women’s rights. Health system facilities were being scaled up.
Notwithstanding these achievements, a number of challenges remained, she said. Many involved the health sector, particularly in the area of ante- and post-natal care. Global partnerships and effective national coordination were critical. While a national strategy had been created to this end, improved technical and financial support from development partners remained key to improving the interest and welfare of women and girls. Nigeria supported the creation of a composite gender entity, in that regard.
SAMAR AL-ZIBDEH (Jordan), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed support for the formation of a new gender entity and said her country would work actively to define its shape, which should perhaps be headed by an Under-Secretary General. She said her country’s national priority was to promote the participation of women in politics and society. In addition, it supported the Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women. Jordan aimed to tackle the inhumane phenomenon of trafficking in persons and had set up an ombudsman to oversee questions of discrimination and violence. It had signed 30 memorandums of understanding with various Governments and non-governmental organizations on that issue.
She said notwithstanding the thirtieth anniversary of the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention, fifteenth of Beijing, and the tenth anniversary of the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), the world still had a long way to go in advancing the rights of women. In addition, the fifteenth anniversary of the Cairo conference on population and development should be commemorated in such a way to shed light on women with disabilities, women living in rural areas, women who were displaced, and those living under foreign occupation. Indeed, the issue of gender equality was multisectoral; it attracted tremendous attention from all United Nations organs. Her Government looked forward to the appointment of a Secretary-General’s Special Representative on combating violence against women.
HELEN HORSINGTON (Australia), speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, reaffirmed those countries commitments to, and support of, gender equality as a fundamental human right. The full participation of women in economic, social and political life was key to reducing poverty and enhancing growth and governance. It was important to enhance the life of women, girls and their families. She reaffirmed her commitment to the Beijing Platform, the forthcoming outcome of Beijing +15, the Cairo Programme of Action, and the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention. She noted the international community’s recognition of gender equality through the Millennium Development Goals, and added that gender equality and women’s empowerment were goals in their own right, as well as a means to achieving the Millennium Goals.
She noted that Millennium Development Goal 5, on maternal health, was one in which countries had made the least progress. Most maternal deaths were preventable. She reminded States of their collective commitments in Cairo in 1994. Australia, Canada and New Zealand supported the recently adopted Human Rights Council resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights. She welcomed increased coordination between donors on that issue, and the positive role of the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in that area. In March 2010, the Commission on the Status of Women would undertake a 15 year review of Beijing, embodying the international commitment to the advancement of women. She asked States to seize that opportunity to renew their commitment to the Beijing Platform and ensure equal rights for men and women. She supported the system-side coherence resolution calling for the creation of a composite gender entity, and expressed hope that it would be led by a strong and competent Under-Secretary-General. Equality was not yet won; it was time for States to take more measures to secure women’s safety, economic well-being and status in society. It required active participation from both men and women.
MAHINDA SAMARASINGHE, Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka, said the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women were major achievements in global efforts to empower women. The Millennium Development Goals set a deadline of 2015 for providing equal opportunities for women. The Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign added impetus to efforts to ensure the protection of women in vulnerable environments. Still, violence against women remained a global challenge. For its part, Sri Lanka’s constitution guaranteed equal rights to all, irrespective of gender. The Convention had been ratified and a women’s charter implemented. A ministry for women’s empowerment had also been established to formulate policies for social and economic empowerment programmes. Impressive gains had been made, with Sri Lanka being ranked 36 out of 155 in the Gender Development Index. Women’s life expectancy rates had risen to 79 years and more women were being elected to legislative and judicial bodies.
He said programmes had been initiated to encourage women to generate income for their families by developing skills, including self-employment schemes. Today, 35 per cent of Sri Lanka’s labour force was comprised of women. The Government considered combating violence against women migrant workers to be a matter of high priority. Roughly 48 per cent of the country’s migrant workers were females and violence against them persisted, with undocumented women migrant workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation and discrimination. Sri Lanka strongly supported efforts by United Nations agencies to promote targeted measures, including strengthening contractual agreements, control over recruitment agencies and information campaigns, in addition to general efforts to encourage Member States to implement relevant legislation. Sri Lanka had negotiated with several countries to which migrant women were sent to ensure their welfare and protection.
As a country emerging from conflict, the Government was initiating special post-conflict programmes in its northern and eastern provinces. Many women were currently in internally displaced persons centres, where they formed over 50 per cent of the population. A National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was being developed and would place special emphasis on women. Counselling centres had also been set up to provide psychosocial support to displaced women and girls.
KAIRE M. MBUENDE (Namibia) began by highlighting the significant strides his country made in promoting and protecting the rights of women, citing the National Gender Policy of 1997, which served to enhance the participation of women in political and decision-making processes. Women in Namibia had 30 per cent representation in Parliament, surpassing the 2005 target that was set for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States. The country also had 45 per cent representation of women in all regional Government councils and was working towards achieving 50 per cent female representation in parliament.
Legal reforms were made in order to address gender inequalities and redress issues of economic and social injustice brought about by discriminative cultural practices, patriarchal ideologies and historical imbalances, he said. Some of the laws included the Married Persons Equality Act, which specifies equality of persons within civil marriage and does away with the legal definition of man as head of the house. The Act also provided married women equal access to bank loans and equal power to administer joint property. The Affirmative Action (employment) Act identified affirmative action as a set of measures to ensure that all Namibians had equal employment opportunities and were equitably represented in the workforce, focusing on previously disadvantaged groups such as women and the disabled.
In terms of the Communal Land Reform Act, Namibia had made remarkable improvements in the area of the development of women in rural areas, he said. Under this law, land was to be allocated equitably and widows were given the right to remain on land allocated to their deceased husbands in rural areas, and the right to remain on the land was not affected by remarriage. On the issue of violence against women, the law entitled the Combating of Rape Act gave greater protection to young girls and boys and gave stiffer minimum sentences for rapists. The Combating of Domestic Violence Act made domestic violence a specific crime that includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment and emotional, verbal or psychological abuse. Those measures, including the establishment of the National Gender-Based Violence Database System, had been put in place to curb the situation.
In 2008 alone, there had been over 11,600 acts of violence against women, including assaults, attempted rape and rape, bodily harm and murders, he said. Namibia joined the international community in participating in the Secretary-General’s campaign to “UNITE to End Violence against Women” and the Government also launched a media campaign on zero-tolerance against gender-based violence. Finally, Namibia had adopted other instruments to promote gender equality including: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Declaration on Gender and Development; The Beijing Platform for Action; the African Charter on Women’s Rights; The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; and the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to prevent trafficking in persons.
JOSÉ MARIA MONTERREY SUAY ( El Salvador) stressed the importance of protecting the human rights of women migrant workers, including El Salvadorian women. Improving their situation was essential to development, poverty reduction, reducing infant mortality and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Around 53 per cent of the population in El Salvador were women. The country had achieved gender parity in enrolment at the primary school level, and enrolment of women in secondary school and higher was higher than that of men. However, more adult women suffered from illiteracy. In the labour market, new areas had opened up for women. They were occupying higher management posts, including within the civil service. But, more domestic workers and factory workers were women, earning less than men for similar work.
He said the El Salvador Government recognized the fact that gender equality and women’s empowerment were essential for attaining development. It was engaged in combating violence against women at the workplace, and was taking action against trafficking in persons. But, effective implementation of United Nations conventions and other international instruments required that State officials be properly trained. The country was currently working to ensure that was the case. Believing that gender equality was essential for democracy-building, he urged States to double their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and ensure effective compliance with international accords.
He urged the Secretary-General to continue to strengthen the role of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) by naming a new Executive Director as soon as possible. There was a “solid correlation” between gender equality and social progress. If women did not have the same access to social, economic and cultural life, it made economies less competitive and deprived nations of essential talent.
SANJA ŠTIGLIC ( Slovenia) aligned herself with the statement of the European Union and commended the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for excellent work done in increasing the value of the anti-discrimination Convention as a most critical accountability mechanism. There had been many failures in living up to agreed upon commitments since the original adoption of the Convention thirty years ago, she said. She welcomed discussions on women’s rights in the Human Rights Council and its consensually adopted resolution on the elimination of discrimination against women.
She drew attention to violence against women and girls, noting that gender-based violence was a human rights violation and had serious social and economic costs. She welcomed Security Council resolutions 1888 (2009) and 1820 (2008), specifically addressing sexual violence in the context of armed conflict and the consequences of using rape as a weapon of war. She encouraged all States that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which identified sexual violence in a time of war as a crime against humanity and as a war crime.
While there had been advances in addressing gender equality legislatively in Slovenia, she said, practice did not always match national standards. Ensuring a life free of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, was a substantive part of national policy. She said that domestic violence was defined as a separate criminal offence in the new penal code and that a Domestic Violence Prevention Act had been adopted last February. There were also numerous training and awareness-raising activities being developed and implemented to make violence against women socially and morally unacceptable.
MARIE YVETTE BANZON-ABALOS ( Philippines) said, in August, her Government had passed the Magna Carta of Women, through which it recognized the role of Filipino women in nation-building and promoted the equality of men and women. The Magna Carta protected and promoted the rights of women in terms of political participation, economic development, justice, peace and security, as well as domestic and private life. It provided for the protection of women from all forms of violence and ensured mandatory training on human rights and gender sensitivity by all Government agents involved in the protection and defence of women against gender-based violence. Through that law, women could make legal claims against their violators and offenders.
On the subject of women migrant workers, she said a bulk of them worked at the lowest ends of the labour spectrum, often in informal manufacturing and service sectors, domestic work and entertainment. There, they suffered from gross human rights violations. Women, and migrant and domestic workers were among the first to be laid off as a result of the economic and financial crisis. Violence was being reported in free trade zones and export-processing zones, where many young women migrants were hired on temporary or insecure contracts. In light of such information, the Philippines planned to table a draft resolution on violence against women migrant workers, bringing attention to such new challenges and calling for attention to the problems of women migrant workers. She commended the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women for its General Recommendation on women migrant workers, which recognized three categories of migrant women at high risk of abuse: women who migrated independently; women who joined their spouses who were also workers; and undocumented migrant workers. She encouraged States to report on their experience of the situation of women migrant workers, and to take heed of the Committee recommendation.
She ended by mentioning the typhoon that hit the Philippines on 26 September, pointing out the importance of gender-sensitivity in the response to emergencies and natural disasters. Also, the Philippines was committed to active participation in a discussion on the composite entity, which should provide leadership in channelling resources for gender concerns.
PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), aligning his statement with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, with women comprising half of the world’s population, it was important to bring about a proper solution for the promotion and protection of their human rights worldwide. It was particularly significant to have an in-depth deliberation on the issue of women on the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. His country had passed a Decree on Sex Equality in July 1946 -- long before the September 1948 founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea -- which ensured that all women enjoyed equal rights with men. Today, women exercised their full-fledged rights in all spheres of State and social life. Their status and socio-economic rights were improved each passing day under the Government’s special care.
He said his delegation could not help but mention that Japan had carried out the worst kind of sexual slavery in history. It had been “hell-bent on aggression” and war in the Asian continent in the first part of the twentieth century, taking away almost 200,000 teenage girls and married women from Korea and other Asian countries as sex slaves for the Japanese army and robbing them of their human rights, chastity, and, in some cases, their lives. As that was an undeniable historical fact, it was a historical, legal and moral obligation for Japan to apologize and make a settlement for humanity. However, it had not truly reflected on, nor duly compensated, its victims. That shameless act stood in sharp contrast to the attitudes of other countries. It was not incidental that some Western countries adopted resolutions criminalizing Japan’s use of “comfort women”. He strongly urged Japan to make a sincere apology and a clear settlement of its dirty past.
JOEL M. NHLEKO (Swaziland), aligning his remarks with those made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, said his country was committed to the realization and full implementation of the relevant international instruments for women’s empowerment, as well as regional agreements, particularly the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which emphasized the role women played in any society’s development. Swaziland’s own 1997 National Development Strategy, which was referred to as “Vision 2022”, promoted gender equality as a necessary ingredient for sustainable national development. The Government recognized that rural women played a significant role in the country’s socio-economic life. It further recognized the disproportionate impact on them caused by the global economic, financial, energy and food crises and by climate change. Several programmes were dedicated to empowering rural women. One example was the handcraft business Gone Rural, which employed nearly 800 women. The natural products company Swazi Secrets similarly generated income for rural Swazi women. A number of savings and credit cooperatives also catered to women.
Turning to violence against women and girls, he emphasized the huge cost of such violence to society. Physical consequences included injuries to the body, and even disability. Psychological consequences could include substance abuse, depression, anxiety, developmental delays, and eating disorders, among others. Swaziland welcomed the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign, which aimed to end violence. A domestic bill against domestic violence would soon be passed by Swaziland’s parliament and a Sexual Offences Unit had been set up in the Government. The rights of persons with disabilities were also being protected in development efforts. Further progress was needed in the areas of poverty and HIV/AIDS, particularly since women carried a triple jeopardy when it came to AIDS: as people infected with HIV, as mothers of infected children and as caregivers for those with AIDS. Swaziland was also working with its partners in SADC to combat human trafficking and supported steps taken toward the establishment of the United Nations global action plan to combat human trafficking.
SHRI BHARTRUHARI MAHTAB ( India) said that the global crisis had had a disproportionately adverse impact on developing countries, even though they had not contributed to it. Within that disproportionate impact, women had been most seriously affected. Although countries had undertaken domestic responses to tackle that situation, the need for international cooperation and increased bilateral and multilateral financial assistance programmes for developing countries could not be overemphasized. Empowering women politically, educationally, economically and legally had been a major objective of India’s Government. The Ministry of Women and Child Development was trying to achieve holistic empowerment of women through microcredit and support systems, such as working women’s hostels. One particularly successful scheme had been the “self-help” programme, which helps create economically sustainable self-help groups. More than 2.2 million such groups, covering 33 million households, had been created.
Since its independence, India had given women equal voting rights, the representative continued, and 33 per cent of the seats in urban and local self-government had been reserved for women. In that way, more than one million women had been given a voice at the grass-roots level. Most ministries and departments had put in place gender budgeting, which helped monitor and implement policies and programmes meant to benefit women. The flip side of empowerment of women was the rampant problem of exploitation and violence against women. Apart from efforts to punish the perpetrators of such crimes, India was also taking steps to rehabilitate victims and strengthen the legal system to prevent such crimes. The most recent initiative was the “National Campaign on Prevention of Violence against Women (2009-2015), launched on 2 October, the 140th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.
ANTHONY ANDANJE ( Kenya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, underscored the pivotal role played by women in the country’s development. The Government had created a Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development, as well as a National Commission of Gender and Development, to implement the national policy on gender. It had also appointed gender officers in ministries and State corporations. Through the national strategic plan -- Vision 2030 -- the Government had set out a strategy to increase opportunities for women’s participation in economic, social and political decision-making. There was a 30 per cent quota on women’s participation in political parties. A Women’s Enterprise Fund provided women with access to financial services. The Government was enacting laws to counter cultural attitudes, such as the law of succession act, which provided for the right of women to inherit property that was inaccessible under customary law.
He said the sexual offences act and the family protection bill both provided women with protection against violence. The Government was also working with civil society and community-based organizations to foster a change in the attitudes that condoned the abuse of women’s rights and inequalities between men and women. A witness protection programme provided immunity to witnesses in legal proceedings, in light of the fact that many female victims of violence did not seek legal recourse for fear of reprisals. A forthcoming marriage bill and matrimonial property bill would further promote women’s rights. Efforts were also being made to eradicate female genital mutilation, with the Government making interventions through community elders to declare support for the abandonment of that practice. Also, because two-thirds of people infected by HIV were women, the Government was working to ensure that women had equitable access to anti-retroviral treatment, while at the same time making sure to stem mother-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. He ended by calling for “expedited intergovernmental discussions” on the new gender architecture at the United Nations, acknowledging the invaluable work of UNIFEM, UNDP, UNFPA and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Kenya.
SANDRA SIMOVICH (Israel) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on violence against women, singling out it’s initiative “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” as well as others concerned with capacity-building for States that might be willing to fight gender based violence, but lacked expertise and resources. She also praised recent Security Council resolutions concerning sexual violence against women in conflict situations, the most recent of which Israel had co-sponsored. The appointment of a Special Representative on the issue should help focus the international community on those abhorrent acts. She further expressed support for the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 63/311 calling for the creation of a single, coherent gender entity, which had resulted from consultations on system-wide coherence.
Noting a number of achievements by Israeli women stemming from guarantees of social and political rights in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, she said that the greatest advancements for women were in the legislative field. As an example, she cited a 2007 law requiring that all proposed legislation be examined for potential gender implications, as well as one passed last year providing financial incentives to employers who modified work conditions to meet the needs of women and parents, among other legislative activities. She further noted the advancement of Arab women in Israel that had resulted, among other things, in increased enrolment of Arab women in higher education from 40 per cent of all Arab students a decade ago to 60 per cent in 2006.
For societies in conflict, women often provided continuity and sanity, she said. In that spirit, some Israeli and Palestinian women were working to bring peace closer through a series of seminars entitled “Women Building a New Reality: a Dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian Women,” which brought together some 25 Palestinian and Israeli women at each event for intensive programs of debate, discussion, soul-searching and forging friendships. Eighteen such seminars had taken place to date. “These seminars might seem small steps,” she said, “but in the area of confidence building, perception changing, and women’s empowerment, every step counts and no step is too small,” she said.
GERARD VINLUAN ( Singapore) said Singapore’s Women’s Everest team climbed Mount Everest this year, which was a testament to their courage, determination and empowerment. The climb was also a mirror of the journey through life for many women in Singapore. The Government had put in place legal and institutional safeguards to ensure that women were able to access education and health care, and contribute to the nation in an atmosphere that was safe, stable and supportive. The Government regularly reviewed the employment act, penal code and women’s charter to improve the position, rights and protection of women, and it demonstrated its support of women’s advancement by acceding to the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention in 1995.
He noted that Singapore ranked 16 out of 182 countries in 2007 in terms of equality of opportunity for men and women, rising from 18 in 2006. It had a high literacy rate for women, and more women were going to university. Representation in parliament had risen for women, and Singapore was ranked 21 out of 187 countries in terms of percentage of women in the lower house of Government. There were 5 female political office-holders and 17 female members of parliament. More women in Singapore were climbing the corporate ladder, with three of them listed in the Financial Times’ Top 50 women business leaders in the world. To empower women, the Government was creating viable work options that harmonized women’s family and work commitments. Among its initiatives was the “30 Minutes to Work” programme, which matched non-working women with jobs located close to home. The income gap had narrowed in Singapore, with women now earning 91.8 per cent of what men earned.
MAGDALENA GRABIANOWSKA ( Poland) said her Government aligned itself with the statement by the European Union. But, she wished to reiterate the understanding that references to the sexual and reproductive rights of women in the statement by the European Union did not constitute “an encouragement of the promotion of abortion.”
DAMIANO BELEFFI ( San Marino) said his country attached great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights, with special attention to the most vulnerable groups of persons, such as children, disabled persons, older persons and women. It endorsed the United Nations’ commitment to women’s rights and strongly supported the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign.
He recalled his country’s active participation in debates on the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, an issue that included the responsibility to protect women and girls from mass rapes and mutilations. Nationally, the Government was part of the Council of Europe’s campaign to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. It sponsored a television spot about violence against women. A special hotline, Telefono Rosa, provided legal, medical and psychological support to victims of violence. At the international level, the United Nations was essential for promoting the advancement of women as a matter of principle and a matter of economic growth, poverty reduction and development.
ESRAQ ABDULLAH HAMMAD ( Yemen) said the third Committee represented an important forum for discussing challenges facing women and fashioning solutions to advance their situation. She noted the various relevant international agreements and outcome documents that guided the Committee’s efforts and stressed that national, regional and international efforts must be rededicated and redoubled to improve the status of women. In this regard, Yemen reaffirmed its obligations. It had been one of the first countries to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and continued to submit its country reports. At the same time, it had introduced a number of amendments to national laws related to women to align them with its international commitments. Most recently it had, with the passage of the personal status law, raised the national age for marriage to 17.
She said a number of departments were also set up to deal with women’s rights. National strategies and development plans, particularly one aimed at advancing women during the period from 2006 to 2016, had been created. Overall, these steps testified to Yemen’s commitment to furthering the advancement of women. Yemeni women had already achieved success at all levels and all areas of society. The promotion and participation of women in public affairs had been standardized within the President’s political initiative for reform, which will be implemented beginning next year. Among other things, that initiative aimed to raise the proportion of women in Parliament to 15 per cent. Concluding, she reiterated her country’s concern for the suffering of Palestinian women.
OLHA KAVUN ( Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, said gender equality was not only an end in itself, but also a means to development. The principle of gender equality was exercised when ensuring equal representation of women and men in decision-making, the representation of women at senior levels of legislative and executive bodies, and in outlining and implementing policies and programmes at the United Nations itself. The Ukraine would submit its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2010, in which it was expected to report on progress in establishing mechanisms to ensure equal rights and opportunities for both sexes. She encouraged other States to submit overdue reports, but also added that the Committee should produce “combined documents,” particularly when dealing with “non-initial reports”.
She noted that 95 per cent of the victims of family violence were women, and that, in the Ukraine, there were 150 Governmental and non-governmental organizations devoted to assisting victims. Ukraine was a strong supporter of the Secretary-General’s UNiTe campaign, and was running its own campaign against violence towards women called “Stop Violence!” From 1 to 4 million persons fell victim to human trafficking, among them the women and children of Ukraine. Its Government was deeply concerned about the links between organized crime and human trafficking, drug trafficking and terrorism. The Government strongly supported the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking, and stood ready to enhance its cooperation with others to fight that scourge. She noted that trafficking flourished in areas of armed conflict, where the majority of refugees and displaced persons were women and children.
A. K. ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, flagged several issues of importance from his national perspective. Bangladesh had always been at the forefront of gender mainstreaming, gender equality and the advancement of women. It was a State Party to almost all the major international instruments relating to women’s rights. In 1998, a national plan of action was drawn up for 15 ministries, departments and agencies, with progress monitored by the Women’s Development Implementation Committee, headed by the Minister of Women and Children’s Affairs. The Government had invested heavily in women’s education, resulting in gender parity in primary and secondary school enrolment.
The situation of women in rural areas had improved dramatically as a result of Bangladesh’s successful microcredit programme, with women becoming agents of change, he continued. In urban areas, women pursued jobs in the garment or ceramics industries, thus achieving financial freedom. In terms of political empowerment, women in Bangladesh enjoyed prominent representation in various decision-making posts in important ministries, such as the ministries of defence, energy, foreign affairs, home affairs and agriculture, which were all headed by women.
Achieving gender equality was an agonizingly slow process, he said, since it touched on one of the most deeply entrenched human attitudes. Changing those attitudes required beefing up public awareness on discriminatory behavioural patterns and stereotypes. He encouraged the United Nations to mainstream a gender perspective into actions relating to climate change, the food and energy crises, food security and all deliberation at major United Nations conferences and summits. In that respect, Bangladesh welcomed the adoption of the decision to establish a composite gender entity. His Government had integrated a gender perspective in United Nations peacekeeping, by committing to provide a female formed police unit. The Peacebuilding Commission had considered human rights and gender equality in its country-specific work, which was encouraging. The Commission should also implement Security Council resolution 1325 fully. He also urged developed countries to fulfil their official development assistance commitments, a due portion of which was used for activities relating to the empowerment of women.
ONON SODOV, Director of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia, aligning her statement with the one made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed her country’s strong commitment to fully implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The issues of gender equality and women’s empowerment, including access to education and skills training, full employment, affordable pubic health care services and ending all forms of violence against women were key factors for social development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
She said Mongolia had taken comprehensive measures to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment. Several key policy documents had been approved and substantial progress had been made in implementing them. The establishment of the National Committee for Gender Equality, which was headed by Mongolia’s Prime Minister, was particularly important, in that regard. However, much more needed to be done in the areas of poverty reduction, decreasing urban and rural disparities, reducing violence against women and girls, and increasing the leadership capacity of women. The situation of women in rural areas also deserved special attention. Efforts had been made to support them through income generating activities, including the provision of small, low interest loans, better health services and skills training. In this, particular emphasis was given to poor women and female-headed households.
G. SEDDIQ RASULI ( Afghanistan) noted that eight years had passed since the signing of the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan. In that time, the Government had made advances in various sectors, including education, health and institution-building. Since the collapse of the Taliban, Afghanistan had seen the re-employment of women in Government and the resumption of female education. Women had also begun participating at broad and unprecedented levels in the political, social, economic and cultural life of Afghanistan. The country had a Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and was fully committed to human rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality, which were provided for in the Constitution.
As part of Afghanistan’s national development strategy, launched in June 2008, the Government had established benchmarks to measure progress on the advancement of women, he said. It had set a deadline of 2010 to achieve gender equality, including the participation of women in politics and society, providing legal privileges for women, and implementing a national action plan for women’s development. In the most recent elections, two women ran for President and seven ran for Vice President. Some 328 women ran for provincial council seats. Of the 4.5 million new voters, 38 per cent were women. About 41 per cent of students enrolled in primary and secondary school were girls, 20 per cent of those enrolled at universities were women, and 75 per cent of students attending literacy courses were women. But, the “enemies of the people and Government” were burning down schools and insecurity was affecting the engagement of women in education and other productive activities. The Government had criminalized violence against women. Working with UNIFEM, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs reviewed cases involving violence against women to better address claims of violence.
GUSTAVO MENES ( Argentina), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said the elimination of violence against women was indispensable to the full and equal participation of women in society. In March, the Argentine Congress enacted a law on the eradication of violence against women, with sanctions against perpetrators. That law was in line with recommendations by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The national campaign for gender equality -- under the slogan “Another life is possible; we have the right to a life without violence,” -- saw the participation of Government, international organizations and non-governmental organizations. National programmes also existed to protect migrant workers from gender-based violence, irrespective of their migrant status. The Government was conducting training and awareness-raising among members of the security forces on how to handle violence against women.
He said Argentina attached special attention to improving the situation of women in rural areas. The countries of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) had convened a thematic group on gender, in the context of the special meeting on family agriculture. That group would work to ensure that rural women had equal access to land, and would be educated on their rights. Argentina’s laws guaranteed unrestricted access to education, justice and other forms of protection to migrants, as well. Indeed, its Constitution declared that “all inhabitants are equal before the law and have to be accepted for employment based solely on capabilities”.
On the new composite gender entity, he expressed hope that debates on that would be open and transparent. The four gender entities should be allowed to actively participate in defining the parameters of that entity, so that the new mechanism would reflect the capabilities, knowledge and resources inherent in each of them.
MANAR YACOUB BAHLIJI ( Bahrain) stressed that the empowerment of women was a main goal of the Millennium Development Goals. The international community was exerting efforts to this end, thereby underscoring the statement made during the Beijing conference that advancing the status of women was a collective responsibility. Bahrain had a special interest in granting women all their political rights, particularly by allowing them to stand for political office. Great achievements were made in that regard during the 2002 and 2006 elections. Moreover, Bahrain was chosen for the establishment of a centre to promote women’s economic leadership, which allowed it to make greater progress in advancing women’s empowerment.
She stressed her Government’s wish to further the status of women in all fields. It had taken the Millennium Development Goals as a framework for that effort. Most recently, the rehabilitation of women had been called for in building up the State. Moreover, a national strategy for the promotion of women was raising awareness of women’s rights. Other tracks aimed to increase women’s economic empowerment and protect the family. On 27 May 2009, Bahrain’s king issued Act 19 of 2009 on family provisions, as part of the national campaign to preserve that social institution. A symposium was also held on family law. Bahrain had made strides to provide better access to education and health services, which was reflected in the analysis of the country in the Human Development Report from UNDP.
NAZEK SHAWISH ( Libya) reaffirmed her country’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and other agreements whose objectives were related to the advancement of women. Libya believed in equality between male and female citizens in their duties and responsibilities. Its law was based on Qur’anic tenets stressing the importance of freedom from slavery. Education was considered a ticket to paradise. A woman had a right to choose her husband, and she did not have to change her name upon marriage. She came with a dowry and had the right to an independent sum of money. Women carried out responsibilities just like men. Libyan women had made progress in protecting rights and participating in decision-making. They had posts in the legal field, police, army and other occupations. Women were present at all levels of education. The number of students at university in 2007-2008 was 1.93 million, of which 500,000 were women. The number of girls exceeded the number of boys in secondary and primary education.
She expressed concern about the situation of Palestinian women under Israeli occupation. She condemned the ongoing violations of the Zionist occupying forces for the psychological suffering they inflicted on Palestinian women, and for the crimes they had committed in Gaza, and elsewhere in the occupied territory, as described in the recent report to the Human Rights Council. She also expressed concern over the worsening situation of African women, due to poverty, hunger, illnesses and armed conflict, which had hampered their participation in development. Libya was enabling women in African countries through a health care programme it had established with Nigeria and Cuba. She urged the international community to seriously condemn the trafficking of women, which was a crime against humanity. She expressed satisfaction with UNIFEM’s efforts to bring its activities in line with the Millennium Development Goals.
ABDUL GHAFOOR MOHAMED ( Maldives) said his country was encouraged by the increased attention given to addressing gaps in gender equality by the United Nations. He welcomed the recent statement from the Security Council calling for the full participation of women in all stages of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. More importantly, by unanimously adopting resolution 1888 (2009), it had called for immediate action to protect civilians, including women and children from all forms of sexual violence. At the national level, the Maldives continued to empower its women, and its attempts to institutionalize gender equality in recent years had proved successful. The traditional gender bar that had prevented women from competing for the office of president had been removed in the new constitution. The equal-pay-for-equal-work policy ensured that wage gaps did not exist.
He stressed, however, that the journey to full institutional and de jure equality for women in all aspects of life looked long and daunting. Mainstreaming gender equality in the development agenda required extensive institutional advancements. Although women in the Maldives were among the most emancipated in the Muslim world, the mixed effects of globalization on the island nation’s fragile economy had widened gender disparities. For example, geography and culture posed challenges for women in taking up employment in the booming tourism industry. Moreover, the Maldives was starting to experience the negative effects of extremism. The marriage of underage girls was now an emerging issue in society. Economic and social constraints still restricted women from simultaneously pursuing the dual worlds of private and public life.
Against that backdrop, and as the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was celebrated, the Government of the Maldives was focused on erasing laws that prevented women’s advancement and enacting judicial reform, he said. International technical cooperation would, however, be needed. Additionally, a concerted effort to reform the global economy was needed, to ensure the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
FEDERICO ALBERTO CUELLO CAMILO (Dominican Republic), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Rio Group, said it was not possible to achieve development or to raise the level of welfare of society without improving the health, education, social and political participation and economic development of women. In terms of health, his Government had a strategic plan aimed at reducing the incidence of HIV/AIDS, and reducing maternal mortality was a national priority. It had several laws, plans, programmes and projects giving special attention to the advancement of women in education, social, health, political participation and economic empowerment, with a view towards achieving true equity and equality between men and women.
He said the Dominican Republic was the host country of INSTRAW, which was a research and training centre on gender issues. Only INSTRAW had that mandate within the United Nations. Research and training on gender issues was pertinent to a developing country such as the Dominican Republic. It was in that spirit that the Assembly selected a developing country as the location of INSTRAW’s headquarters. Moving the tasks of research and training to a developed country would deviate from the Assembly’s mandate. He said he trusted that intergovernmental negotiations on system-wide coherence would conclude with the establishment of a solid entity that “fully gathered” the mandate of each of the four gender institutions at the United Nations. The new entity should preserve the mandates of those institutions, and in that way, preserve the specific and unique mandate of INSTRAW as a tool for advancing the status of women.
ROBLE OLHAYE (Djibouti), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, noted, like others, that despite impressive progress, women continued to be disproportionately affected by food insecurity, hunger, poverty, disasters and crises. They also suffered from unspeakable violence. It was perplexing that an increasing number of peacekeeping soldiers, sent to restore law and order, were themselves responsible for such criminal behaviour. There was an urgent need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for violence perpetrated against women by United Nations peacekeepers. Gender-based and sexual violence must be eliminated from situations of armed conflict and in times of humanitarian emergencies.
He said the international community needed to examine the positive role of women in economic development. Investing in women and girls had a multiplier effect on production, efficiency and sustained economic growth. It was difficult to point out any country that had achieved development without the strong participation of women at all levels. Policies aimed at decent work and full employment for each citizen should include measures to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. That included removing structural and legal barriers, and promoting equal pay for equal work. In that respect, he welcomed the adoption of a resolution on system-wide coherence that included a provision for the establishment of a single gender entity. Equally, he welcomed Security Council resolution 1888 (2009) that called on the appointment of a Special Representative on sexual violence in armed conflict. He encouraged States to meet the goal of funding the United Nations Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply to the statement made by the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan’s representative said the remarks had been unclear. It sounded as if Japan refused to face its past. But that was not true. Regarding comfort women, the Government had extended in a statement made on 4 August 1993 its sincere remorse. Moreover, in the Japan-Pyongyang Declaration of 2002, it was clearly mentioned that the Japanese side acknowledged that it had caused suffering on the Korean peninsula during its colonial past.
Regarding the settlement of the issue between Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan had held talks on this as part of the broader talks on normalizing relations between the two countries. It would continue to do so. Further, Prime Minister Hatoyama had stated, in his remarks during the General Assembly’s general debate, his Government’s desire to settle all issues with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Today, the Japanese delegation wished to remind the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take steps toward the normalization of relations, which would include an acknowledgement of the past.
The representative of the United States said his delegation regretted the use of the word “genocide” by Cuba yesterday to describe his country’s actions. This was an inappropriate use of the term. While the United States had a blockade against Cuba, it was also the largest provider of food to Cuba. It also exported medicine and medical equipment to that country and was Cuba’s fifth largest trading partner. The United States had taken a number of steps in recent months to facilitate family travel, and to lift restrictions on remittances. It had also resumed talks on migration and the resumption of mail services with Cuba. Further, the United States had issued over 120 visas to persons visiting the intelligence operatives mentioned by the Cuban delegation.
Responding to Japan, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his statement had been based on historical facts and there should be no lack of clarity. Indeed, all of those facts showed that Japan had not sincerely admitted its past crimes, particularly with respect to the 200,000 women it had abducted. Japan’s position concerning this issue differed from time to time and place to place. All the words and acts of the Japanese concerning the comfort women showed that they refused to admit their responsibility. Over the years, various officials had made “reckless remarks” that there was no evidence proving the forcible recruitment of these comfort women or statements that there had been no comfort women, only prostitutes sold by their parents. More recently, on 23 July 2009 in this very room, the Japanese delegation had said, during its presentation to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, that the comfort women issue had been settled.
He said his delegation was concerned about how Japan would present itself in the future when no witnesses were living. Indeed, there was no assurance that the shameful past would not be repeated in Japan’s case. He urged Japan to address its past wrongdoings, for its own sake.
The representative of Cuba, replying to the representative of the United States, said she had thought he would announce the granting of a visa to the wife of Gerardo Hernández, one of the Cuban Five detained in America. She had thought that he would announce the immediate lifting of the trade embargo on Cuba. It was unfortunate that no such announcements had been made. In fact, the United States Department of State had never granted a single visa to Adriana Pérez O’Connor. She had never visited her husband, detained since 1998, and had been denied visas on 10 occasions.
United States authorities alleged that Ms. Pérez was a threat to national security, she said. And yet, they allowed Luis Posada Carriles, a terrorist, to freely walk the streets of Miami. An ex-CIA agent, he had admitted responsibility for an airplane attack that killed 63 passengers and crew, and a hotel bombing attack where one Italian had died. He had conspired to blow up an auditorium at a university in Cuba where President Fidel Castro was to have delivered a speech. Indeed, the delegate had not sought to explain the reason why a visa had not been granted.
As for the embargo, it remained in place, she said. Trade restrictions on Cuba remained. It was an act of aggression and genocide, according to the Geneva Conventions, and needed to be lifted. If the United States President were to do so, funds in Cuba belonging to third party countries would no longer be forfeited or frozen. Ships that had been to Cuba would cease to be seized. Financial entities would begin trading with Cuba. As recently as a few weeks ago, a Dutch company, Phillips, was informed that it could not sell medical products to Cuba due to the embargo. She urged other States to support Cuba’s upcoming resolution aimed at ending the embargo.
The representative of Japan, replying to the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, repeated once more that his country was facing up to its past with sincerity and consistency. It felt remorse for its actions and had been offering apologies since the end of World War II. It had devoted 60 years to the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights. As for the issue of comfort women, his country recognized that their existence was an act involving military authorities of the day, and which injured the honour and dignity of many women, for which Japan apologized. On that issue, his country’s stance remained unchanged. No country had a perfect record for its human rights situation, and Japan was no exception. But, it was unfair for it to receive criticism from a country that had no regard or respect for human rights at all. It was not possible to justify the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ongoing violations by hiding behind the past. That country must face the reality of its human rights situation, which continued to be serious. It should protect its people’s right to food, and not punish those who had left the country once they had returned. It should end public executions.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea asked again how long it would take for Japan to sincerely redress its past crimes. To honestly settle its criminal past meant to win the world’s trust and to become a member of international community with clean hands and a clean conscience.
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