|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
73rd Meeting (PM)
Women’s Empowerment Key to Long-Term Development, Social Advancement for All,
General Assembly Told, as It Marks Beijing Declaration’s 15th Anniversary
As the General Assembly gathered to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action ‑‑ which remains the most far-reaching international commitment to women’s rights ‑‑ senior United Nations officials today told hundreds of women delegates that the fight against the disadvantages they still faced must continue, because gender equality and empowerment of women and girls was not just a goal in itself, but a key to long-term development, economic growth, and social advancement for all.
General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, who opened the meeting alongside Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, said the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing had moved the global push for gender equality and women’s empowerment into the twenty-first century. Further, the adoption of the Platform for Action and the political statement that accompanied it, known as the Beijing Declaration, consolidated five decades of legal and policy advances, aimed at securing equality of women in law and in practice.
“The [Declaration] expanded and deepened previous political agreements, and chartered a results-oriented way forward,” he said, adding that, in doing so, the Conference had built on the rights, gains and new opportunities that women in all parts of the world had worked so hard to acquire. Yet, since Beijing, while the situation of women and girls had changed for the better, new challenges had emerged. Indeed, the recent economic and financial turmoil, food crisis and challenges posed by climate change were having a disproportionate impact on women.
Mr. Treki was also concerned about age-old issues such as the scourge of violence against women, which remained pervasive, both in times of peace and in situations of conflict. He commended United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for launching two years ago the global, multi-year campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women, and he joined the urgent call for committed action. “Ending violence against women is our shared responsibility,” he declared.
The Assembly itself had been increasingly recognizing the gender difference in many areas of the Organization’s work. This coming September, he said, a high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals would be a test case for demonstrating commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action. Without progress on gender equality, there could only be limited progress towards achieving those Goals, he said.
“Let us commit ourselves to the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action at national levels, and make this a better ‑‑ and more equal world ‑‑ for all women and girls,” he said.
Ms. Migiro said the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were at the heart of the United Nations normative and policy framework to promote the rights and empowerment of women worldwide. Fifteen years on, the international community could learn from significant progress in such areas as education, participation in decision-making, maternal health and ending violence against women.
“The challenge is to expand and apply such practices more systematically, replicate them wherever possible and use them as the basis for better policies and programmes,” she said, adding that the international community must also be self-critical. “We need to close the gap between law, policy and aspiration on the one hand, and the daily realities for billions of women and girls on the other,” she declared.
She urged promoting women’s economic empowerment by increasing women’s access to economic and financial resources and social protection systems, increasing women’s participation in decision-making, repealing laws and eradicating discriminatory policies and practices. Gender sensitivity must be part of policymaking, budgeting and data collection. Echoing president Treki’s sentiments, she called violence against women “the most common, most shameful and least punished crime in the world”, and said the scourge must be eliminated.
This year, the Assembly was working to realize a long-held dream: creation of a composite entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment. A new, well-funded entity would allow the United Nations to better help Member States in that regard. “The Secretary-General and I are encouraged by your strong support and urge you to move swiftly,” she said, and added that: “We are all determined to finish the task set out in Beijing.”
Garen Nazarian of Armenia, current Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, which opened its fifty-forth session yesterday, thanked the Assembly for providing an opportunity to confirm the role the Platform of Action had played, and continued to play, at all levels, in ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment. The challenge now was to close the gap between commitment and action, and policy and implementation, he said.
While the Commission had welcomed achievement in that area over the past 15 years, it had also recognized that much remained to be done to ensure equality, development and peace for women everywhere. “The time for action is now,” he declared, urging all Member States to work together by galvanizing their efforts towards more strategic cooperation that would yield solid progress for women and girls everywhere.
The meeting opened on a sombre note, as Mr. Treki extended the world body’s deepest sympathies to the Government and people of Chile following Saturday’s massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake. He expressed the hope that the international community would show its solidarity with Chile and respond promptly and generously for any request for help.
Also addressing the commemorative meeting were representatives of the major regional groups, including Equatorial Guinea on behalf of the Group of African States; Afghanistan on behalf of the Asian Group; Ukraine on behalf of the Group of Eastern European States; Panama on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States; and Germany on behalf of the Group of Western European and Other States. The representative of the United States spoke on behalf of the host country.
Their impassioned statements highlighted the international community’s shared determination to work harder to advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women and girls everywhere. The speakers echoed the Platform for Action’s call to protect and promote women’s rights as human rights, and to end dehumanizing discrimination and violence against women and girls. They also recognized that celebrating the landmark action plan adopted at Beijing must be accompanied by Herculean efforts by all nations to bolster women’s voices in Government and village-level decision-making processes, especially in peacebuilding and peacemaking arenas.
Also high on the speakers’ agendas was the need to improve access to education, vocational training and health services for women and girls, as part of an overall push to re-energize women’s social and economic empowerment. As one delegate warned that persistent inequalities between men and women could have dire repercussions for societies in both rich and poor countries, another proposed a remedy: ensuring equal employment, equal pay for equal work, and enabling women and men to share responsibilities and to balance work, family and private life. While that agenda might seem daunting, another speaker offered: “We need strong political will to move it forward, to demonstrate that empowering women not only means a better life for women, it means a better life for everyone on the planet.”
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