Next Session’s Agenda Approved, Vice-Chair Elected by Acclamation
Gender equality and women’s empowerment must be achieved in order to realize the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals and accelerate sustainable development beyond 2015, the Commission on the Status of Women declared today as it concluded its fifty-eighth session by recommending the adoption of agreed conclusions outlining the most pressing areas for action.
The 24-page text, presented after a round of last-minute negotiations, outlined ways in which to realize women’s and girls’ enjoyment of human rights, to strengthen the enabling environment for gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to maximize investments in those priority areas.
By other terms of the agreed conclusions — recommended for approval by the Economic and Social Council and eventual adoption by the General Assembly — the Commission urged States to build on the lessons learned from implementation of the Millennium Development Goals as the new post-2015 development framework took shape, and to tackle critical remaining challenges through a transformative and comprehensive approach.
The Commission also called for gender equality, women’s empowerment and the human rights of women and girls to be reflected as a stand-alone goal, and to be integrated into all goals of any new development framework through targets and indicators.
In other action, the Commission recommended that the Economic and Social Council approve a draft resolution on women and children hostages — including those imprisoned, in armed conflicts (document E/CN.6/2014/L.3) — condemning all violent acts against civilians and called for an effective response, particularly their immediate release. It also strongly urged all parties to respect international law fully, and to take all measures to protect civilians, including preventing and combating the taking of hostages.
Concerned that hostage-taking by terrorists and armed groups persisted, and had even increased in many regions, despite international efforts, the Commission stressed the need for greater accountability and responsibility on the part of all States to prosecute or bring to justice those responsible for war crimes, including hostage-taking and sexual violence.
By a draft resolution on gender equality and the empowerment of women in natural disasters (document E/CN.6/2014/L.4), the Commission recognized the vital role of women in disaster risk reduction, response and recovery. It also recognized that natural disasters and the ability to recover from them could affect men and women differently, and that a gender-responsive approach during recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction could potentially address underlying social issues that created vulnerability to disasters.
Following protracted debate and separate votes on three operative paragraphs, the Commission recommended — by a roll-call vote of 22 in favour to none against, with 16 abstentions — a draft resolution entitled “Women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS” (document E/CN.6/2014/L.5), as revised, and introduced by Malawi’s representative.
By that text, the Commission stressed the need for a significant increase in political and financial commitments to addressing gender equality and equity in national responses to HIV and AIDS, and to address the specific needs of women and girls.
In a related provision, it urged Governments to create an enabling environment for empowering women and girls, including through access to sexual and reproductive health. It also urged them to ensure that national HIV strategies targeted women and girls at higher risk of infection, scale up efforts to address their vulnerability to HIV during armed conflict situations and to strengthen initiatives to increase the capacities of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves against infection.
Before action on the text, the Commission held separate votes on proposed amendments to operative paragraph 11 — approved by a recorded vote of 18 in favour to 15 against, with 3 abstentions (Philippines, Switzerland, Thailand); operative paragraph 20, approved by a recorded vote of 20 in favour to 9 against (Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Liberia, Pakistan, Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe), with 3 abstentions (Belarus, Indonesia, Switzerland); and operative paragraph 35, approved by a recorded 20 votes in favour to 13 against, with 3 abstentions (Belarus, Liberia, Switzerland).
The Commission also recommended approval of a draft titled “Situation of and assistance to Palestinian women” (document E/CN.6/2014/L.6), by a roll-call vote of 22 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 10 abstentions. By its terms, the Economic and Social Council would reaffirm that the Israeli occupation remained the major obstacle to the advancement, self-reliance and integration into society of Palestinian women.
Further, by that text, the Economic and Social Council would urge the international community to sustain its special attention to the promotion and protection of the human rights of Palestinian women and girls, and call upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes. It would ask the Commission to continue its action in connection with the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women.
Making a general statement after the vote, the observer for the State of Palestine said that Palestinian women continued to suffer under foreign military occupation by Israel. From raising their children to taking them to school, and sometimes to medical facilities, they faced obstruction and faced unprecedented hardship, he said, expressing his delegation’s gratitude to those who had voted in support of Palestinian women.
In other business, the Commission approved the provisional agenda for its fifty-ninth session (document E/CN.6/2014/L.2) and adopted the draft report of its session (document E/CN.6/2014/L.1), presented by Rapporteur Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed Elbahi (Sudan).
Briefly opening its fifty-ninth session, the Commission elected Pille Kesler (Estonia), by acclamation, as Vice-Chair for that term. It deferred the election of the Commission Chair, pending submission of the nomination by the Group of Asia-Pacific States, until a later date.
Libran N. Cabactulan (Philippines), Commission Chair made closing remarks.
Also speaking today were representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), United States, Japan, Malaysia, Libya, El Salvador, Iran, Argentina, Liberia, Russian Federation, Sudan, Pakistan, Brazil, China, Finland, Belarus, Djibouti (on behalf of the African Group), Mexico, Egypt, Qatar, Malta, Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Costa Rica (also on behalf of Chile, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Peru), South Africa, Australia, Norway, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Peru, Iceland, Paraguay, Pakistan, Malawi (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Comoros, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Burundi, Gabon, Kenya and Thailand.
Representatives of the European Union Delegation and the Holy See also delivered statements.