|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Upcoming Session of Economic and Social Council
Emphasizing that gender equality and women’s empowerment lay at the heart of achieving all the other Millennium Development Goals, Hamidon Ali (Malaysia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said today that the Council’s upcoming session would aim to capitalize on those links to improve the socio-economic lot of women everywhere.
“We hope to promote long-term commitments and share lessons learned on successful practices and approaches to advance on gender equality and women’s empowerment, with a view to how these can be replicated and adapted in other regions and countries,” he said at a Headquarters press conference.
The Council’s substantive session, scheduled from 28 June to 23 July, is intended to build on the momentum generated during the 2009 15-year review of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to guide women’s development globally. It will consist of the Annual Ministerial Review of progress in implementing the gender-related Millennium Goals and proposals for action, as well as the Second Development Cooperation Forum to review progress and trends in international development cooperation, particularly policy coherence, mutual accountability, aid allocations, and South-South and triangular cooperation in times of crisis.
He said the session would emphasize, among other things, that women were powerful agents of change and that expanding their economic opportunities was vital for national development. Women performed 66 per cent of the world’s work, but earned just 10 per cent of its income, making up 60 per cent of its poorest people. They were widely unemployed, underresourced and excluded from decision-making, he said, stressing the necessity for that to change. The session would stress that ending gender-based violence — which thwarted poverty reduction and development efforts and was among the most widespread of human rights violations — should remain a top priority, as should enhancing development cooperation and giving a voice to a wide range of development actors.
At the closing of the session’s high-level segment on 2 July, he said, the Council would adopt a ministerial declaration or road map, pulling together concrete recommendations on how to achieve international goals and commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The segment would contribute to the General Assembly’s September High-level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals.
Asked whether the United Nations initiatives had really improved the lot of women and what more was possible, he said women’s advancement was an ongoing process and changing societal attitudes took time. “Countries have to bring women upfront to be equal partners and be integrated into the development process and planning,” he said, noting that some countries had scored successes, with women holding half of their parliamentary seats and leadership roles.
Nikhil Seth, Director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said that, despite the dismal progress made o the advancement of women, the United Nations had made gains in focusing international attention on the issue, encouraging country-level action and strengthening the relevant global policies and institutions.
Regarding the most significant area in need of progress, he pointed to violence against women, where there was a real need to change societal mores, educate law-enforcement agencies, strengthen judicial institutions and address intractable issues such as domestic violence. The United Nations was doing a lot in that regard, he said, citing the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign.
As to whether the United States and European countries would be included in discussions on trafficking in women and other issues, he said seven developed countries would present their own struggles in women’s empowerment during the Annual Ministerial Review.
Concerning the purpose of the recent trip by the Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, he said it was focusing on advocacy, promoting a long-term development perspective in the earthquake-devastated country, and coordinating the myriad development actors there. It would present a report to the Council later this year to guide future action and priorities.
Regarding the creation of a new United Nations gender entity, Mr. Seth said the co-facilitators intended to conclude discussions on that matter today. The new body’s Executive Board — in whose election the Council would play a role — would report through the Council to the General Assembly, he said, adding that he was optimistic that the new entity’s creation would result in a greater commitment of political, analytical, financial and operational resources at the country-level.
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