Commission on Status of Women Takes Action on Resolutions on Climate Change, Gender Dimensions of HIV/AIDS, Assistance to Palestinian Women

4 March 2011
WOM/1850

Commission on Status of Women Takes Action on Resolutions on Climate Change, Gender Dimensions of HIV/AIDS, Assistance to Palestinian Women

4 March 2011
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1850
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-fifth Session

15th & 16th Meetings (AM & PM)

Commission on Status of Women Takes Action on Resolutions on Climate Change,

Gender Dimensions of HIV/AIDS, Assistance to Palestinian Women

 

As Ongoing Negotiations on Agreed Conclusions Force Suspension

Of Work, Body Looks to Resume Fifty-Fifth Session at Later Date

The Commission on the Status of Women today adopted two resolutions on mainstreaming gender equality in climate change policies and strategies, and women and the girl child and HIV/AIDS, and approved one text, by roll-call vote, on Palestinian women, to be sent to the Economic and Social Council for adoption.

The 45-member Commission had been scheduled to conclude its fifty-fifth session today, but due to ongoing negotiations on its agreed conclusions, it was forced to suspend its work.  The Commission Secretary announced that the body intended to conclude its current session in a resumed meeting once that text was finalized and prepared in all six official languages.  However, the Commission adopted the provisional agenda of its fifty-sixth session.

As for the resolutions under consideration today, the Commission, by a roll-call vote of 26 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 8 abstentions (Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Niger, Republic of Korea, Sweden), approved the text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women.

Deploring the dire economic and social conditions of Palestinian women and girls in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the systematic violation of their human rights, the Commission would have the Economic and Social Council affirm that the Israeli occupation remained the major obstacle for their advancement, self-reliance and integration in their society’s development.

By further terms, the resolution would have the Council demand that Israel comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among other treaties.  Israel would be called upon to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties.

Speaking after the vote, a representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine expressed gratitude to the Commission for approving the text.  Women bore the brunt of Israel’s policies and practices.  Adherence to international law, as affirmed in the text, could only promote peace efforts, not undermine them. 

Speaking before the vote, Israel’s representative said the text, which was the only resolution before the Commission that focused on one specific situation, was nothing but a “politically motivated, factually flawed exercise”.  While the challenges facing Palestinian women were significant, the resolution was inadequate and misleading.  It would not advance the situation of Palestinian women, nor promote informed and responsible debate.

Turning to women’s empowerment in the area of climate change, the Commission adopted a consensus text expressing deep concern that the adverse impacts of climate change on women and girls could be exacerbated by gender inequality and discrimination.  “[G]ender equality and the effective participation of women and indigenous peoples are important for effective action on all aspects of climate change,” the Commission stated in its resolution.

In that context, it called on Governments to integrate a gender perspective into their environmental and climate change policies and to provide adequate resources to ensure women’s full and equal participation in decision-making at all levels on environmental issues.  Governments were also urged, in their efforts to deal with climate change, to encourage women’s equal participation in training and capacity-building, and to integrate a gender component into their periodic reporting as States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

By a consensus text on women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS, the Commission stressed the need to “significantly increase and coordinate” political and financial commitment to address gender equality and equity in national HIV and AIDS responses, urging Governments to reflect in their policies and budgets the gender dimension of the pandemic.  It also emphasized the need to strengthen policy and programme coordination between HIV and AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health, and include those issues in national development plans.

Introducing that text, the representative of Namibia, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that, for the most part, it contained technical updates of drafts from previous years and substantive updates would be made next year, after the General Assembly adopted a new political declaration at the upcoming high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS, which would be held from 6 to 8 June.

In other business, the Commission also approved the nomination of Noa Furman (Israel) by the Western European and Other States to an open seat on the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women for the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions.

The Commission on the Status of Women will reconvene to conclude its fifty-fifth session at a time and date to be announced.

Background

The Commission on the Status of Women, on the final day of its fifty-fifth session, met this morning to hear the introduction of three draft resolutions on “gender mainstreaming, situations and programmatic matters”.  In the afternoon, delegations were expected to take action on those texts, as well as the agreed conclusions on access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.

Introduction of Texts

LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN (Philippines) introduced the draft text on mainstreaming gender equality and empowerment of women in climate change policies and strategies (document E/CN.6/2011/L.1).  More than the issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate change was about people, he said.  It was a question of how the citizens of nations both rich and poor would be impacted by its effects, and how that impact would be differently distributed among various groups.

Making up the larger share of the agricultural work force and tending to have less access to income-earning opportunities than men, women were the most vulnerable to climate change, he continued.  As the principal managers and caretakers of their households, women’s mobility was often limited and their vulnerability to sudden weather-related disasters thereby increased.

Stressing that climate change was a challenge that urgently called for greater global cooperation, he said the resolution called for the need to facilitate and ensure women’s effective participation in the crafting and implementation of climate change policies, strategies and programmes.

Next, MARCELO CARLOS CESA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2011/L.2), saying that the economic and social crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had significantly affected the situation of Palestinian women and the need to provide them with assistance was critical.

He said the majority of the paragraphs were identical to last year’s text on the same matter, with some additions to reflect changes in the situation on the ground in the intervening time.  The text reaffirmed the Israeli occupation as the main obstacle to Palestinian women’s advancement, self-reliance and integration, and stressed the importance of their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution, and to ensure their equal participation and involvement in all efforts for the achievement, maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

The draft, he said, called on the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and requested the Commission to continue to monitor and take action on the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, in particular paragraph 260 concerning Palestinian women and children; the Beijing Platform for Action; and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.

WILFRIED INOTIRA EMVULA ( Namibia), speaking on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC), introduced the draft resolution on women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS (document E/CN.6/2011/L.3), which he said had been technically updated from previous years.  Substantive updates would be made next year.  In that regard, he further noted the negotiations in the General Assembly on a new political declaration to be adopted at the upcoming high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS, which would be held from 6 to 8 June.  Member States would be able to make substantive inputs during those negotiations, he said.

Turning to the current draft, he said it highlighted major factors, including the call by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission by 2015, as well as the need for commitments by Member States to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015.  He hoped the draft would be adopted by consensus.

Action on Drafts

The Commission first turned its attention to a resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2011/L.2)

Making a general statement before the vote, Argentina’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the text was important because it addressed the hardships faced by Palestinian women as a result of Israeli occupation.  He hoped the resolution would be approved by consensus, which would send a message to Palestinians on the importance the Commission placed on the needs of Palestinian women.

Hungary’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, attached utmost importance to the situation of Palestinian women, expressing concern on impacts of the conflict on women and their families in the region.  While the text addressed a range of issues, her delegation believed that country-specific issues should be dealt with within the framework of the General Assembly.  Her delegation had expressed that point repeatedly over the years.  She also stressed that any text dealing with the situation should adequately include the findings of the relevant report by the Secretary-General.

The Chair informed the Commission that a roll-call vote on the draft resolution had been requested.

Argentina’s delegate then asked which delegation had called for a roll-call vote.

The Chair responded that Israel’s delegate had requested the vote.

The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, expressed her disappointment with the text and said her delegation would vote against it.  The United States, along with its international partners, continued to support the Palestinian people, including Palestinian women.  Her Government had a deep interest in addressing the humanitarian conditions of Palestinians, as reflected in its support for ongoing gender programmes, and in creating environments that enabled women to lead.

Moreover, she said, the United States was the largest bilateral donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provided education, health and social and relief services to more than 4.7 million refugees in the region.  Her Government had contributed $247 million to the Agency in 2010, and $30 million in 2011 thus far.  The United States also contributed to bilateral assistance and other United Nations programmes.

She went on to say the United States was deeply engaged on the situation in Gaza and would continue to work with the Palestinian authorities, Israel and other partners to improve peoples’ lives.  Noting with deep concern that Hamas had taken efforts to narrow women’s freedom of public appearance, among other liberties, she was troubled at the Commission’s insistence at adding in the text one-sided condemnations that detracted from the real challenges.  Instead, energy should be redirected towards the future.  The United States would continue to pursue a comprehensive peace, and was committed to working with the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process and regional States to return the parties to direct talks that would lead to an agreement producing a just and lasting peace.

Israel’s representative said the text was nothing but a “politically motivated, factually flawed exercise”, and it stood out as the only resolution before the Commission that focused on one specific situation.  Such resolutions had no place in an important forum like the Commission.  Yet, as in past sessions, a group of Member States had again chosen to politicize a professional body by exerting pressure on the Commission’s membership to approve the one-sided resolution.

“This resolution clearly has no place in this hall,” she said, asserting it would not advance the situation of Palestinian women nor promote informed and responsible debate.  If its authors were genuinely interested in improving the situation of Palestinian women, they would not have omitted crucial factors significantly contributing to their plight, in particular a multitude of alarming internal social conditions.

Living in a patriarchal society, Palestinian women were all too often the victims of restrictive gender stereotypes, domestic violence, severe oppression and honour killings, she said.  As the Secretary-General’s report cited, Palestinian laws relieved rapists who married their victims of any criminal responsibility.  Those findings were supported by numerous studies conducted by Palestinian non-governmental organizations, such as the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling.  That group had conducted focus groups of Palestinian women for a 2009 study, which found that Palestinian women believed that “silence is the only way to protect themselves in such a patriarchal culture.  This belief is also compounded by the opinion that society and social institutions cannot protect [them] or prevent the injustice, and even, to the contrary, may increase it.”

Israel saw an even more oppressive environment for Palestinian women in Gaza, where the Hamas terrorist organization continued to rule, she said.  Hamas’ “morality police” had taken on an expanded role there, while Hamas itself continued to attack Palestinian non-governmental organizations that promoted civil society and worked to ensure the protection and empowerment of women.  Yet, the resolution read as if those realities did not exist.  While the challenges facing Palestinian women were significant, the resolution was inadequate and misleading.  She called on all Commission members committed to upholding the integrity and professional nature of the forum to join Israel in voting against the text.

The Commission then approved that resolution by a roll-call vote of 26 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 8 abstentions (Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Niger, Republic of Korea, Sweden).

Speaking after the vote, the representative of Japan expressed hope that the situation of Palestinian women would be significantly improved by the assistance of the international community.  Her delegation would have preferred to see a text that was more balanced and had abstained because it was not.  Japan would continue to contribute to efforts to improve the situation of Palestinian women.

Spain’s delegate said her country would have abstained had it been able to do so.

Speaking after the vote, a representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine expressed her gratitude to the Commission for approving the text.  She said United Nations resolutions remained necessary in light of the ongoing need for the international community to provide essential services and the grave violations being committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The text was especially important, as women bore the brunt of Israel’s policies and practices.  Adherence to international law, as affirmed in the text, could only promote peace efforts, not undermine them.  Respect for international law would bring about a change in the negotiating environment towards achieving a just and lasting settlement to all core issues.

Explaining that she would not respond at length to the Israeli delegate’s comments, which were replete with “distortions”, she said nothing affected Palestinians “more destructively” than Israel’s occupation, its illegal policies and its dehumanizing treatment of the Palestinian people.  Israel’s delegate should focus on the actions of her own Government, which had obstructed the resumption of peace negotiations.  Surely, illegal policies — not the approval of the current resolution — were the real problems facing the region.  In sum, she looked forward to the time when her delegation did not have to put forward resolutions.  Until that time, it would continue to look to the United Nations as the protector of those most in need.

Rwanda’s delegate regretted he had not been able to participate in the vote. Had he been present, he would have voted in favour of the resolution.

Next, the Commission took up the draft resolution on women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS (document E/CN.6/2011/L.3).

Speaking before action, Namibia’s delegate said the resolution was important to SADC and he encouraged that it be adopted by consensus.

The representative of Chile welcomed the text, as it would help achieve the goals of the high-level meeting next June.  She supported the text and emphasized her delegation’s understanding that operative paragraph 15 in no way implied an endorsement of abortion.

An observer of the Holy See, reaffirming the importance of providing adequate care to all sufferers of HIV and AIDS, said much more could be done to ensure access to effective, affordable care.  The Catholic Church provided one quarter of all care for those persons.  In the area of prevention, she said more attention and resources should be allocated to support a value-based approach to sex education and to sexuality.  Indeed, the spread of AIDS could be stopped effectively when respect for the dignity of human nature, and inherent moral law, was included in HIV prevention efforts.

In that context, she insisted on the necessity of distinguishing between health care for HIV/AIDS victims and prevention methods that ran counter to a woman’s dignity.  Reaffirming all reservations with regard to the term “sexual and reproductive health and services”, she said her delegation did not consider abortion a dimension of that term.  She also said the Holy See did not endorse family planning or condom use as part of any HIV/AIDS prevention programmes.  As for youth education, she said parents’ rights must be fully respected, as affirmed in international instruments.

The Commission then decided to reconsider the text at a later stage.

The Commission next decided to transmit the summaries of three panel discussions (documents E/CN.6/2011/CRP.3, 4 and 5) to the Economic and Social Council’s 2011 Annual Ministerial Review.  Those documents included the Chair’s summary of the Commission’s high-level round table on “access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work” and the moderator’s summaries of the two panel discussions on key policy initiatives and capacity-building on gender mainstreaming that focused on “science and technology” and “education and training”.

The Chair said four moderator’s summaries on panel discussions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child; gender equality and sustainable development; elimination of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity, and the empowerment of women; and the empowerment of women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges, would be included in the Commission’s report and available on the website of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

The Commission then took note of four of the Secretary-General’s relevant reports (documents E/CN.6/2011/3, E/CN.6/2011/5, E/CN.6/2011/7 and E/CN.6/2011/8), as well as his note transmitting the report of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) on the activities of the United Nations Trust Fund to eliminate violence against women (A/HRC/16/34-E/CN.6/2011/9). 

Azerbaijan’s delegate then said that, had his delegation been present, it would have voted in favour of the draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women.

Turning to the issues of the outstanding members of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women for the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions, the Commission decided to appoint Noa Furman (Israel) on behalf of Western European and Other States.  Action on the remaining outstanding appointments was deferred to the fifty-sixth session next year.

The Commission next took note of the report of the Executive Director of UN Women (document E/CN.6/2011/2).

Niger’s representative said her delegation’s vote on the draft text regarding the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women had been registered as an abstention, but she had actually voted in favour.

After a brief suspension, the Commission considered the resolution on mainstreaming gender equality and promoting empowerment of women in climate change policies and strategies (document E/CN.6/2011/L.1).

Speaking before action, the representative of the Philippines, the main sponsor, said the draft was a timely one and he thanked all delegations that had participated in the negotiations.

Asked by the Chair to read aloud the revisions, he said the word “promoting” had been added to the title.  Explaining that revisions throughout the text were marked by additions in bold and deletions by strikethrough, he said changes had been made to preambular paragraph 7.  Preambular paragraph 8 had been added, while preambular paragraph 9 contained additions and deletions.  Preambular paragraphs 11 through 13 also contained changes.

Moreover, the first operative paragraph was new, he continued, saying that changes had been made to operative paragraph 2.  The third operative paragraph was new, while operative paragraphs 4 and 5 contained changes, as did paragraphs 7 and 8.  Operative paragraph 9 was new, and operative paragraphs 10 and 11 contained changes. Operative paragraph 12 was new.

The Commission then adopted the resolution by consensus as orally revised.

Explaining his position after action, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had participated in negotiations and would not break consensus.  At the same time, the talks had not always shown an “objective approach”, and as a result, the text had not reached a “balanced approach”.  Too much micromanagement and too many attempts to manage events had been seen in various positions.

Specifically, the Russian Federation seriously objected to preambular paragraph 8, he said, as there was no scientific evidence attesting to what was stated in that paragraph.  He also objected to operative paragraph 1, in that it exemplified a selective approach to the issue in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Indeed, there had been no desire to acknowledge the fundamental principles of that Convention.

Continuing, he said operative paragraph 3 was not in line with the issues addressed and seriously “twisted the general trend” of the document.  Further, his Government had not agreed to the inclusion of operative paragraph 6, as it showed an “extremely selective approach” to the serious issue of climate change.  The Russian Federation also objected to operative paragraph 7, as it was not accurate on the most important issues related to, among others, Government activities.  Noting that his Government had been flexible in agreeing to operative paragraphs 10, 11 and 12, he said it would not participate in references to language in the resolution, as if the text reflected a consensus view.

The representative of Venezuela expressed concern over the negotiating process and the “manipulation and lack of flexibility” of some delegations during those discussions.  Her delegation was extremely disturbed to see the inclusion of paragraphs that changed and distorted the nature of the Beijing Declaration, particularly the chapter on women and the environment.  Venezuela was also disturbed by the argument used by some delegations that the Declaration was an outdated document, merely because it had been adopted in 1995.  It was true that the Declaration should evolve, but neither the framework of that text, nor the international legal framework, should be changed.

She expressed distress over the insistence of many delegations, as well as the text’s facilitator, on taking up the matter of climate change and deliberately disregarding specific reference to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Tackling climate change required the broadest participation of all countries in respect for their differentiated responsibilities, and it was only in that context that the gender perspective could be included.

The Commission then turned to the provisional agenda for its fifty-sixth session (document E/CN.6/2011/L.5), approving it by consensus.

When the meeting resumed following another brief suspension, Filippo Cinti (Italy), Commission Vice-Chair and Facilitator of the negotiations on the agreed conclusions, announced that while delegations were working hard, they still had not been able to agree on a text.  He had received a commitment that they would work to finalize the text by day’s end.  As such, he recommended that the Commission reconvene in a resumed session to complete its work.

Following that recommendation, the Commission’s Secretary said he would seek an additional meeting from the Secretariat of the Committee on Conferences.  As no budgetary provisions had been made for a resumed session, he would request that an additional meeting be accommodated on an “as-available basis”, at a time and date that would allow for conference services.

The Chair then requested that negotiations be concluded as soon as possible and that a text be submitted to the Secretariat for preparation in all six official languages.  He then suspended the Committee’s 2011 session.

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