Adopting Agreed Conclusions, Commission on Status of Women Urges Global Action to End Pervasive Violence against Women, Girls

15 March 2013

Adopting Agreed Conclusions, Commission on Status of Women Urges Global Action to End Pervasive Violence against Women, Girls

15 March 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-seventh Session

15th Meeting (PM)

Adopting Agreed Conclusions, Commission on Status of Women Urges

Global Action To End Pervasive Violence against Women, Girls

UN-Women Chief Bachelet Hails Agreement

But Says:  “We Cannot Stop Here”; Also Announces Decision to Step Down

Ending all violence against women and girls “must be a priority, not an option” for achieving human rights, social cohesion and sustainable development, declared the Commission on the Status of Women this evening, capping its fifty-seventh annual session with the adoption of a set of much-anticipated agreed conclusions that outlined a strong global framework for prevention and response.

Hailed by many delegations as a “balanced” compromise that turned the page on the 45-member body’s inability to reach agreement in 2012, the Commission’s text, presented following a round of last-minute negotiations, condemned all forms of violence against women and girls and urged United Nations Member States to do the same.  It further urged them to refrain from invoking any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to ending such violence, as set out in the General Assembly’s 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

By other terms of the agreed conclusions, which were adopted by consensus, albeit with reservations by some States, the Commission stressed the pervasive nature of violence against women and girls, of which “intimate partner violence and domestic violence remain the most pervasive forms”.  All countries were urged to meet their obligations to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and girls, and to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and eliminate impunity.

To those ends, the document outlined a set of recommendations related to:  strengthening implementation of legal and policy frameworks and accountability; addressing ingrained discrimination and other structural causes and risk factors to prevent violence against women and girls; strengthening multisectoral services and responses to such violence; and improving the evidence base.  For example, in the area of services and responses for victims, the Commission urged, among other things, the establishment of judicial access, shelters, legal aid, health-care services and 24-hour hotlines.

The adoption of the text, which was met with boisterous applause and a standing ovation, was welcomed as “one step more for realizing the rights and dignity of girls and women”, by Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (UN-Women).  “The calls of countless human beings were heard,” she continued, praising delegations for their hard work and determination to “put aside differences [and] live up to the spirit of the United Nations Charter”.

The Commission had stepped up to its obligation to act on behalf of millions of women and girls around the world.  “We have not failed them,” she said, adding that “the world has been watching us”.  Never before had the Commission been so prominent in so many media headlines, nor had participation in the session — including attendance by 131 Member States and more than 6,000 civil society organizations — been so robust.  Indeed, that was a tribute to the Commission, and reflected the urgency of ending all forms of violence against women and girls.

Ms. Bachelet also made the unexpected announcement that for personal reasons, she would be leaving her post with the UN-Women and returning to her home country of Chile.  “Be sure that I will continue working for women’s empowerment and gender equality,” she said.

As for the work of the Commission, she said the current session was marked by “vibrancy, relevancy and substance”, and important and timely matters had been addressed, including ending child and forced marriage, addressing the rights of women with disabilities and ending violence against women in times of conflict.  The voices of countless women and girls had been heard.

Nevertheless, more must be done, she said, adding:  “We find ourselves at a tipping point in history; we cannot stop here.”  Words needed to be matched with deeds and actions, and the international community must continue moving forward with “courage, conviction and commitment”.  UN-Women looked forward to working with countries and partners on ways to enhance the Commission’s work, and it would continue working hard to ensure that key gender equality issues, such as ending violence against women, were included in the post-2015 development framework.  “There can be no peace, no progress, as long as there is discrimination and violence against women,” she stressed, concluding that there was no turning back — only moving forward — in keeping pace with the aspirations of the world’s people.

Commission Chair Marjon V. Kamara ( Liberia) also made a brief statement, stressing that, with the adoption of the agreed conclusions, “we arrived today”.  What was achieved was what was meant to be achieved.  “It doesn’t happen before its time, we have to continue to be patient and continue working outside the Commission,” she added.  The most important thing was what was done with the agreement, indeed, how it was translated on the ground to positively impact the lives of women and girls.

Also today, the Commission approved a draft resolution on “Future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of women” (document E/CN.6/2013/L.2), submitted by the Commission’s Vice-Chair Filippo Cinti ( Italy), to be sent to the Economic and Social Council for adoption.

By its terms, the Council would decide that at the Commission’s fifty-eighth session in 2014, it should review the functioning of its methods of work.  The Secretary-General would be requested to submit a report on ways and means for enhancing the Commission’s work.  It would decide that in 2015, its fifty-ninth session, the Commission would review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.

It also would decide that, in 2016, at the Commission’s sixtieth session, the priority theme would be “Women’s economic empowerment and the link to sustainable development”.  The review theme would be “The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”.  It would request the Commission, at its sixtieth session, to decide on its future multi-year programme of work.

In other business today, the Commission approved a texton Palestinian women, to be sent to the Economic and Social Council for adoption, introduced a day earlier by the representative of Fiji, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China.

By a roll-call vote of 25 in favour to2 against( Israel, United States), with 10 abstentions ( Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Spain), the Commission approved the text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (E/CN.6/2013/L.4).

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 before the vote, Israel’s delegate said the resolution under consideration had no place at the Commission on the Status of Women.  “It is one-sided, it is biased and it is unhelpful,” she said in that regard, adding that it was the only resolution before the Commission that was focused on a specific situation.  Indeed, by giving attention to Palestinian women and only Palestinian women, the Commission would be sending a message that other women who were victims of violence around the world were less important.

Moreover, the draft presented a “distorted and inaccurate” version of the reality on the ground.  Living in a patriarchal society, Palestinian women were all too often the victims of domestic violence, discrimination, stereotypes and honour killings, which continued to occur in the West Bank and Gaza with little oversight or repercussions.  Protection systems there were weak or non-existent.  Citing a specific example of a woman who was stabbed and killed by her abusive husband after having been forced to return to him, she said that, in Gaza, Hamas had also imposed its extremist ideology on women.  There, “morality police” were harassing and jailing women for so-called violations such as walking the streets unveiled or riding a bicycle in public, she said.

The resolution currently before the Commission only “ran away” from those problems, she continued.  For a document claiming to give a “bird’s-eye view” of the situation, it suffered from severe selectivity.  The suffering of Palestinian women was prolonged by the refusal of some delegations to acknowledge publically a truth that they acknowledged privately.

Making a general statement after the vote, the representative of the Observer State of Palestine expressed her appreciation to all those who had voted in favour of the resolution.   Palestine believed that the resolution and others before United Nations system entities continued to be essential, and that, in light of the grave violations of rights perpetrated by Israel, the services provided by the United Nations and the international community were essential.  Indeed, the resolution just adopted had been necessary because Palestinian women still bore the brunt of the Israeli occupation.

Respect for international law was what would bring true change and a just, lasting and peaceful end to the suffering in the region, she continued, adding, “we look forward to the day when Palestine does not have to put forward a resolution such as this”.  However, as long as Israel continued to violate international law, it would continue to do so.

The Commission also approved the provisional agenda for its fifty-eighth session, as contained in document E/CN.6/2013/L.3.  In other action, It adopted the draft report of its session (document E/CN.6/2013/L.1), which was presented by Vice-Chair Filippo Cinti ( Italy).

The Commission also briefly opened its fifty-eighth session, electing by acclamation two Vice-Chairs:  Christine Loew ( Switzerland), for the fifty-eighth and fifty-ninth sessions, and Neli Shiolashvili ( Georgia) for the fifty-eighth session, on the understanding that Pille Kesler ( Estonia) would be elected Vice-Chair for the fifty-ninth session.  The Commission had not yet received a nomination from the Asia Pacific Group of a candidate to serve as Chair of the fifty-eighth session.

Also, Galina Khvan ( Russian Federation), Noa Furman ( Israel) and Bernadette Ntaba-Kadyamusuma ( Zimbabwe) were appointed to the Working Group on Communications for the Commission’s fifty-eighth and fifty-ninth sessions.

Making statements prior to, or immediately after, the adoption of the agreed conclusions were the representatives of Libya, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Holy See, Chile, United States and the Dominican Republic.

Making a general statement before action on the draft resolution on Palestinian women was the representative of Italy (on behalf of the European Union).  Speaking in explanation of vote before the vote was the representative of the United States.

Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote was the representative of the Russian Federation and Japan.

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