Speakers Call for Prioritizing Education, Health in Quest to Level Gender Playing Field, as Third Committee Holds Debate on Women’s Advancement

GA/SHC/4198
5 October 2017
Seventy-second Session, 7th & 8th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Call for Prioritizing Education, Health in Quest to Level Gender Playing Field, as Third Committee Holds Debate on Women’s Advancement

Delegates in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) debated the international response to violence against women today, opening a discussion on the advancement of women.

The Committee heard from special mandate holders and heads of specialized agencies before opening its general debate on the matter.  Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the representation of women in the wider United Nations system continued to be correlated negatively to seniority.  In the world at large, priority should be accorded to improving access to education and health, investing in infrastructure and promoting property rights, she said, calling upon Member States to catalyse the strengthening of gender perspectives in discussions across the United Nations system.

Education was also a topic addressed by Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, who noted work was continuing on its draft general recommendation on the rights of women and girls in that field.  The elimination of gender-based violence against women was a principal area of the Committee’s broad agenda, and in 2016, the Committee had taken action on 11 individual complaints centred mostly around gender-based violence against women.

The international community’s response to violence against women was the topic of a report introduced by Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.  At issue was the creation of a new treaty on violence against women, with some stakeholders favouring full implementation of existing treaties and instruments rather than a new, stand-alone convention. 

When the general debate opened, delegations addressed a range of issues, including women’s economic empowerment, with Thailand’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noting that countries with greater female involvement in the labour force had witnessed greater economic growth.

Women’s exclusion from economic opportunities and legal impediments to land ownership and access to inheritance were among their most significant challenges, said Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group.  Rural women were extremely vulnerable as they were less able to access land, credit and agricultural inputs or such resources as electricity and water.  Women’s exclusion from social, economic and political opportunities could put them at risk of violence, he said, calling for gender equality to extend to the workplace.  Issues such as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap and gender-insensitive working conditions must be addressed.

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed that violence against women was an obstacle to gender equality and their empowerment, underlining the need for concrete actions to mainstream a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.

Ensuring the well-being of women and girls called for men and boys to be engaged as agents and beneficiaries of gender equality, said the European Union’s speaker.  In a point echoed by other speakers, men and boys played an important role as key agents of change for achieving gender equality, said El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  Another area of focus was in reaching vulnerable groups, with CELAC members recognizing the need to strengthen indigenous women’s economic activities to enhance their empowerment, autonomy and development.

The situation of rural women was addressed by Haiti’s delegate, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  Since they represented a large proportion of his region’s agricultural workforce, it was vital to respond to their development needs, he emphasized.

Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa (for the Southern African Development Community), Australia (for a group of States), Japan, Switzerland, Paraguay, Netherlands, Italy, Finland, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Sierra Leone, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia, Venezuela, Lithuania, Iraq, Russian Federation, Syria, Myanmar, Mongolia, Viet Nam, United States, Jamaica, Norway, Zambia, Iran, Colombia and Egypt.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 October, to continue its debate on the advancement of women.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its general discussion on the advancement of women today.  Before it were reports of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/72/93); adequacy of the international legal framework on violence against women (document A/72/134); improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas (document A/72/207); violence against women migrant workers (document A/72/215); measures taken and progress achieved in the follow-up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (A/72/203); improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (A/72/220); and the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its sixty-fourth, sixty-fifth and sixty-sixth sessions (document A/72/38).

Opening Remarks

LAKSHMI PURI, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said that efforts over the past year had provided clear opportunities to consolidate the implementation of global gender equality commitments.  However, while economic integration lay at the centre of accelerated implementation efforts, women faced persistent challenges as they sought to enter the changing world of work.  Emphasizing that women and girls could not wait until 2030 to realize equity, she said UN-Women had joined forces with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to promote equal pay for equal work and work of equal value in the public and private sectors.  Targeted action in mainstreaming gender into all efforts must drive gender-responsive implementation, she emphasized.

However, mainstreaming remained inconsistent in intergovernmental bodies, and progress within the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) had plateaued, she continued, pointing out that the representation of women in the wider United Nations continued to be correlated negatively to seniority.  Migrant women as well as women and girls in rural communities remained particularly vulnerable, and the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s reports on that question would benefit those marginalized groups.  Priority should be accorded to improving access to education and health, investing in infrastructure and promoting property rights, she said.  To achieve forceful and vigorous implementation of those goals, institutional mechanisms required the authority and capacity to ensure accountability on the part of Governments and other relevant actors, she said, calling upon Member States to catalyse the strengthening of gender perspectives in discussions across the United Nations system.  Funding for organizations working towards gender equality, including UN-Women, must increase at all levels, she stressed.

The representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation supported the pursuit of gender parity in the United Nations system, but emphasized the importance of making concrete progress.

The representative of Guyana said he looked forward to cooperation between UN-Women and countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which had recently endured severe hurricane damage.  Such events tended to affect budget allocations, he noted.

Ms. PURI said that beyond UN-Women, efforts were being made with other United Nations partners to ensure that drivers of gender mainstreaming were highlighted in policymaking, adding that the link with Sustainable Development Goal 5 must be made during implementation.  Thanking Costa Rica for its sponsorship of the issue, she then turned to the question of gender parity.  The Secretary-General had declared that reaching gender parity must be “a game-changing effort” that must break all resistance, she recalled, pointing out that that determination was reflected in his gender parity strategy.  Citing several United Nations entities, she noted that many were very close to the goal of parity.  However, it was not only a numbers issue, she cautioned, explaining that it was about transforming the United Nations into a model for Governments and the corporate sector.  If the Organization could not demonstrate that, who would?

In response to the statement by the representative of Guyana, she said her office enjoyed close cooperation with CARICOM.  Offering her sympathy to those affected by the hurricanes, she noted UN-Women’s support for resilience-building efforts.

DALIA LEINARTE, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, highlighted three issues upon which that body had focused in the past year: furthering the impact of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; gender-based violence against women; and strengthening the human rights treaty process.  She said the Committee had encouraged States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to provide updates on their efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals relating to gender equality and had raised the relevant Goals during dialogues held with State party delegations.  It had also worked with UN-Women, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the OECD to develop methodologies for selected Sustainable Development Goals indicators used to assess gender equality efforts, she said, adding that the Committee had made substantive submissions to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, including by identifying concrete steps that States must take to realize women’s rights and eradicate poverty.

Turning to gender-based violence against women, she said its elimination was a principal area of the Committee’s broad agenda.  In addition to its dialogues with States parties, the issue was also under discussion in various other procedures of the Committee.  Its new general recommendation extended the scope of “violence against women” to all forms “gender-based violence against women”, she said.  That extension “strengthens the understanding of this type of violence as a social rather than merely an individual phenomenon”, she said, adding that it also highlighted the link between women’s exposure to violence and various forms of inequality, and was frequently a consequence of intersecting forms of discrimination.  The Committee also continued to work on its draft general recommendation on the rights of women and girls to education, and was elaborating a draft general recommendation that would reinforce the resilience of women and communities in the aftermath of natural disasters caused by climate change.  In 2016, the Committee had taken action on 11 individual complaints centred mostly around gender-based violence against women, she recalled.

Concerning the strengthening of human rights treaty bodies, she said the Committee had held an informational meeting with States parties to the Convention on November 2016, and had briefed them on implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.  The Committee had also implemented measures set out in the General Assembly resolution 68/268, such as simplifying the reporting process for States parties and formulating shorter and more concrete country-specific observations.  She emphasized, however, that the human rights treaty body system had not received resources commensurate with its growth.  “Should we not receive the needed resources, we might no longer be able to cope with the increased workload,” she noted.

The representative of Japan asked what measures the Committee had taken to build stronger partnerships, and how Member States could better serve it.

The representative of Switzerland asked what mechanisms were available to support and strengthen the role of civil society during Committee sessions.

The representative of Slovenia, noting that gender equality remained a top thematic priority, asked what impact current trends related to women’s advancement efforts were having on the Committee’s work.

The representative of the European Union delegation commended efforts to develop more focused approaches to the pursuit of gender equity, and asked what measures could be taken to increase the impact of the Committee’s work on violence against women.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked how the Committee could amplify gender equality in development efforts.

The representative of the Maldives sought additional information on the working methodology for reporting mechanisms proposed for the open-ended working group.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, asked for an assessment of simplified reporting procedures.

The representative of Spain asked how coordination between the Committee and other United Nations entities could facilitate the implementation of efforts under the greater development agenda.

The representative of Liechtenstein asked how reporting mechanisms could be made more efficient.

Ms. LEINARTE, responding to questions about reporting mechanisms, said they were characterized by a lack of diverse and reliable information because States parties did not prepare elaborate reports.  As a result, the Committee relied on information from other United Nations entities and from civil society.

Turning to coordination with other United Nations entities, she called for closer collaboration with UN-Women to ensure better understanding of Member States’ priorities.  Collaboration should be institutionalized, with possible strategies including the issuance of joint statements on gender and implementation.

Responding to the representative of the European Union delegation, she said talks had begun on a new convention on violence against women, emphasizing that speeding up implementation of existing mechanisms would advance the Committee’s work.

As for the Committee’s role in pursuing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, she said the Committee ensured the fundamental freedoms of women in all fields.  Strong standards in place for the protection of women were intrinsically linked to the 2030 Agenda, and indicators were being developed to ensure progress, she noted.

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, noted that since 2015, she had conducted country visits to South Africa, Georgia, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory/State of Palestine, Argentina and Australia.  She added that she would next visit the Bahamas and Bulgaria, and also planned a visit to Nepal.

She went on to state that her latest thematic report recommended establishing a global database on shelters and protection orders, as well as the collection of data indicators on violence against women and femicide rates.  The latter initiative had been supported by stakeholders, she said, citing preparations by the Ombudspersons of Georgia, Argentina and Croatia to publish data and analysis on that subject on the forthcoming International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Noting that her mandate’s second long-term initiative was to strengthen cooperation with independent global and regional mechanisms on violence against women, she said that it also sought closer cooperation with the United Nations Trust Fund on violence against women and with independent women’s rights mechanisms, especially the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  At issue was the creation of a new treaty on violence against women, she said, presenting her report on the adequacy of the international framework in regard to that issue.  Several stakeholders favoured full implementation of existing treaties and instruments rather than a new, stand-alone instrument, she said, citing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.

However, 291 civil society organizations had also responded, which demonstrated their remarkable engagement on the issue, she continued.  Those supporting a new stand-alone treaty cited the lack of, and need for, a legally binding definition of violence against women, among other factors.  Those opposing a new treaty suggested, among other arguments, that although existing standards needed reinforcement, a new treaty was not necessary.  A third grouping of responses supported the creation of a new optional protocol under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said, describing other proposals calling for the creation of a “femicide watch” as “innovative”.  It was now up to Member States to discuss the report’s contents, implement its recommendations and take positions on several of its other specific proposals.

The representative of Switzerland said the current legal framework had not been fully implemented, and that efforts should be concentrated on the implementation of existing international norms.  States should be encouraged to ratify existing instruments and put them into practice.

The representative of the European Union delegation asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the suggestion to consider a fifth United Nations World Conference on Women.  Which added outcomes could that produce?

The representative of Australia said the architecture for protecting women and children must be less fragmented, and voiced support for the conclusion that violence against women could constitute discrimination and a violation of human rights.

The representative of Lithuania said only women free from violence could contribute to the development of modern societies, and welcomed the examination of violence against women within the broader context of inequality.  Noting that the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the fragmentation of efforts, she asked her to elaborate on the practical difficulties, and on possible solutions.

The representative of Georgia underscored the importance of protecting women’s rights and fundamental freedoms, and noted Georgia’s recent ratification of several international instruments.

The representative of Cameroon asked the Special Rapporteur to clarify which recommendations she would make to the Trust Fund for Women Victims of Violence.  She also sought clarity as to whether the Special Rapporteur would be consulting on the priorities for a potential fifth iteration of the World Conference on Women.

The representative of Estonia noted that the Internet and other technologies had created challenges like online harassment and cyberstalking, emphasizing that the Internet should studied be more closely when reviewing the adequacy of the international framework on violence against women.  She asked the Special Rapporteur about the utility of investigating how the Internet could be used to combat violence against women.

The representative of Slovenia asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on further existing forms of synergy and good practices with relevant partners.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked what the Special Rapporteur was doing to engage men and boys in tackling gender inequality and ending the harmful practices that continued to hold women back while negatively affecting the pursuit of shared development goals.

The representative of Brazil said the current legal framework was complex and fragmented, suggesting that the option of an optional protocol to the Convention could be analysed further.  The idea of establishing a “femicide watch” was also worth a closer look, she added, echoing the European Union’s question about the results expected from a fifth World Conference on Women.

The observer for the State of Palestine thanked the Special Representative for her visit, and informed her that 2017 had seen the launch of Palestine’s National Observatory on Violence against Women.

The representative of Denmark noted that the current legal framework on violence against women and girls still had not been implemented, and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on best practices in addressing gender-based violence against women in order to bridge remaining implementation gaps.  He asked which measures could help to eliminate child, early and forced marriage.

The  representative of Canada, noting that his country had a standing invitation for special mandate holders, agreed that the volume of responses from civil society demonstrated great engagement on the issue. 

The representative of Spain agreed that existing legislation must be implemented, noting that a task force to investigate violence against women was one of his country’s “cornerstones” on the issue.

The representative of the United States said a new international legal instrument on violence against women would divert resources from existing mechanisms.  She sought further information about gaps in legal frameworks covering violence against women, as identified by the Committee.

The representative of Norway asked about the most important issues to consider in relation to violence against rural women and girls, and about online violence affecting women and girls.

The representative of the Czech Republic, noting the relevance of developing law-enforcement capacity to combat violence against women, asked for suggestions on how best to implement “femicide watch” efforts.

The representative of the Maldives sought additional information about the working methodology of the reporting mechanisms proposed for the open-ended working group.

Ms. SIMONOVIC, responding to questions about international cooperation, noted existing implementation gaps resulting from inadequate cooperation between regional and international bodies, emphasizing that meaningful cooperation could result in stronger responses to threats faced by women.  Concerning the “Spotlight Initiative”, she expressed hope that it would include a women’s human rights perspective and pursue integrated approaches based on reliable data.  The collection of data was helping the development of “femicide watch” efforts, she added.

In response to questions about expected outcomes from the proposed fifth World Conference on Women, she said there would be a review in 2020 to monitor progress.  It was necessary to determine what implementation efforts were effective because there were gaps between implementation at the international and national levels.  There was also a need to develop ways to translate progress at the United Nations to the national level, she added.

FABIAN GARCIA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group was concerned that women and girls were disproportionately affected by natural disasters.  Women must be active actors in mitigation and adaptation, he said, calling for their participation in decision-making processes relating to disaster risk reduction strategies.  Violence against women was another issue of concern for the Group, and an obstacle to gender equality and women’s empowerment, he emphasized.  He went on to underline the need for concrete actions to mainstream a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.  The Group of 77 called for gender-responsive budget initiatives that would contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and for the enhancement of political participation by women and their role in promoting peace and security, he said.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the continent had made significant strides on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the political sphere as well as the public and private sectors.  However, women still faced gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices, exclusion from economic opportunities and legal impediments to land ownership and access to inheritance.  Rural women were extremely vulnerable, he said, noting that, compared to men, they were less able to access land, credit and agricultural inputs or such resources as electricity and water.  Women and girls also bore the burden of collecting solid fuels and cooking over open fires, he said they were more susceptible to air pollution as a result.  The elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls must include putting a stop to trafficking, sexual violence and other forms of exploitation, he emphasized.  The Group of 77 also recognized that exclusion from social, economic and political opportunities could put women at risk of violence, he said, calling for States to renew efforts to improve and expand girls’ education.  Gender equality must extend to the workplace, and such issues as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap and gender-insensitive working conditions must be addressed.  The Group of 77 and China had committed itself to creating and mainstreaming mechanisms to ensure women’s access to finance as well as technical and entrepreneurial skills.

DENIS RÉGIS (Haiti), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), associated himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  He said the Caribbean had seen much improvement in the status of women, who now had greater access to secondary education than men.  Despite significant progress, however, challenges remained, particularly affecting rural women.  Since they represented a large proportion of the region’s agricultural workforce, it was vital to respond to their development needs, he emphasized.  The Caribbean Community had undertaken a campaign to raise awareness alongside UN-Women with a view to highlighting issues facing the region’s women.  Human trafficking was another particular issue confronting the region’s women.

Concerning migration, he said many migrant women were contributing to their countries of origin through remittances, and in that context, CARICOM member States would continue their cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  The movement of people should be viewed in a positive light, he said, commending States fighting violence against female migrant workers.  Commitments by Member States to supporting migrant women and girls under the Sustainable Development Agenda were particularly relevant, he said.  CARICOM envisaged continued investment in and mobilization of financial resources through official development assistance (ODA) for the promotion of women’s empowerment.  The recent deadly hurricane season had showed the need for national budgets to be reallocated, he noted.

NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that since inception, that bloc had promoted community-focused economic integration and development.  Identifying women as an essential element of sustainable growth, he noted that countries with greater female involvement in the labour force witnessed greater economic growth.  However, with the regional gender pay gap at 42 per cent, ASEAN was committed to fostering joint efforts to ensure the full socioeconomic integration of women, he stressed, noting that the bloc was working closely with UN-Women and the World Bank to push for women’s empowerment that would integrate the Sustainable Development Goals.

He went on to state that the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and 2030 Agenda formed the roadmap for the implementation of gender mainstreaming and the economic empowerment of women.  Promoting women’s leadership across all pillars of ASEAN was seen as a key strategy for promoting inclusive, balanced sustainable development.  Noting that ASEAN was working closely with United Nations agencies to establish partnerships with the private sector in order to further promote women’s empowerment, he said those efforts also sought ways to leverage information and communications technologies to empower women economically.  ASEAN remained committed to addressing gender inequality in all its dimensions, he said, calling for deeper cooperation with relevant partners.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed the importance of the full, accelerated and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The status of women was a matter of continued concern to member countries because of the feminization of poverty, prevailing gender-based violence and discrimination and structural inequalities.  A priority should be given to the equal opportunities for leadership at the highest levels in all sectors, he said, noting that member States attached particular importance to the protection of female migrants and rural women and girls.

Men and boys also played an important role, he said, as key agents of change for achieving gender equality.  Efforts were being made to address patriarchal cultural stereotypes through public campaigns and to implement policies promoting access to decent work.  Initiatives were also reaching vulnerable groups, with CELAC members recognizing the need to strengthen indigenous women’s economic activities to enhance their empowerment, autonomy and development.  Renewing Community members’ support for UN-Women, he asked for a more robust international dialogue and consensus in support of national gender equality and women empowerment initiatives in developing countries.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), associated himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said policies and programmes that had mainstreamed gender perspectives had been implemented in the region.  Having recognized that the economic empowerment of women and girls was key to achieving gender equality, the Community’s members had taken a number of steps, including introducing gender-sensitive legislation and targeted projects.

Despite the progress made, he said, obstacles to achieving gender equality persisted.  Citing several examples, he said challenges included a lack of access and ownership of resources, social exclusion, gender-based violence and trafficking.  In addition, inadequate social protection among women was a problem that needed to be addressed.  Pointing out that women and adolescent girls were particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDs, he said the Community’s member States had created a programme that included condom promotion, HIV testing, counselling and home-based care.

JOANNE ADAMSON, of the European Union, said one in three women on the planet had experienced physical or sexual violence, with those human rights violations hampering their access to quality education and employment.  The problem had been worsened in countries where child marriage and female genital mutilation persisted.  Violence and exploitation was one of the main reasons women and girls were forced to leave their home countries.  Ensuring the well-being of women and girls called for men and boys to be engaged as agents and beneficiaries of gender equality.  Strengthening networks and partnerships was more important than ever before, she noted, underscoring the importance of civil society organizations.

Noting that the European Union was the top investor in gender equality around the world, she said the Bloc had launched an initiative to end violence against women and girls, providing financial assistance and promoting multilateralism as a way to addressing the global threat of violence against women.  The European Union had also strengthened its legal framework to combat violence against women by signing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), she said, adding that it had also assumed leadership in a global effort to address gender-based violence in conflict situations.  Noting the relevant role played by UN-Women, she called for greater mainstreaming of gender equality within the United Nations.

PENELOPE MORTON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, reiterated a commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  Noting that the 2030 Agenda had set a “new baseline” in sustainable development, she said that despite extensive efforts, women, girls and adolescents continued to be subjected to discrimination, violence and harmful practices and were denied the full realization of their human rights.  Among other things, the targets under Goal 5 related to the elimination of such harmful practices, universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and reforms that would give women equal rights to economic resources and access to control and ownership of land.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said the Sustainable Development Goals would not be achieved without realizing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Citing a number of initiatives Japan supported, she said promoting gender equality in the international arena included providing more than $3 billion over the next three years to push for the advancement of women in developing countries.  In addition, Japan, which had become the second largest donor to UN-Women in 2016, would contribute $50 million to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.

LAETITIA KIRIANOFF CRIMMINS (Switzerland) said the 2030 Agenda represented an unprecedented opportunity to achieve gender equality.  Women and girls played a critical role in rural communities, contributing to food security and resource management.  Still, they faced major gender equity challenges and Governments must reduce the burden of domestic work.  Switzerland was supporting projects to strengthen the role of women within agriculture and was raising awareness about their legal status and social protection.  Access to sexual and reproductive health services would help them end cycles of poverty, she said, adding that Switzerland had incorporated those services into its health-care scheme.  Women and girls with disabilities faced extra hurdles to completing their education and receiving health services, she said, calling for concrete measures to allow them to fully realize their rights.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said the national Constitution protected the rights of all men and women, however, gaps existed to realizing true gender equality.  The Government was targeting gender equity initiatives in the most vulnerable groups, including marginalized rural and indigenous communities.  Highlighting other projects, he said efforts were being made to protect women from all forms of violence, a draft law was being studied to seek gender parity in politics and female heads of household were being given priority financial assistance to promote access to health services and education.  Further, a centre had been opened to provide violence prevention, economic and health assistance to women and girls.  Women and girls must be direct beneficiaries of sustainable development and could not be excluded from fair, democratic societies, he concluded.

JAMILA AANZI (Netherlands), recounting her family’s story of immigrating from a village in Morocco to Amsterdam, emphasized that “a lot can change in one generation” and recalled that the children all now had college degrees and careers.  In the Netherlands, where a family’s wealth was irrelevant to the achievement of a decent education, girls were “doing great”.  Unfortunately, that did not translate to senior-level jobs and positions of power, as the country had yet to achieve wage parity between women and men and had even dropped three spots in the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index.  Solutions to those problems must be based on opportunity, support and commitment from politicians, Governments and employers.  Support from men was also pivotal, she said, adding that within the private sector, strong dedication to gender equality was required “from the top”.  For its part, the United Nations must pursue vigorous efforts, ambitious measures and quotas in order to accelerate progress.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), associating herself with the European Union, said unleashing the potential of girls and women would have a significant positive social impact.  Countries must commit themselves to protecting the rights of women of girls and should focus their efforts on ending all forms of violence against women.  For its part, Italy had made it a priority to help end female genital mutilation by funding programmes to eliminate the practice in Africa.  Other initiatives included programmes aimed at ending sexual violence and at providing financial support to multilateral and bilateral projects promoting the health and safety of migrant and refugee women who were especially vulnerable to trafficking and violence.

KAI SAUER (Finland), voicing concerns about the scale and magnitude of the violation of women’s rights, drew attention to the intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination, especially against women and girls with disabilities.  Calling for a paradigm shift in that regard, he said the individual autonomy of women and girls with disabilities must be guaranteed, adding that the matter lay at the very core of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Noting that Finland was an active supporter of UN-Women, he said many of the recommendations that his country had received in its universal periodic review in 2017 had been related to violence against women.  For its part, Finland was actively involved in the Spotlight Initiative and the She Decides campaign, which was rolling out sexual and reproductive health services on a global scale.

GENIE SUGENE GAN (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed the centrality of gender equality to the achievement of sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.  Singapore’s strong legal framework protected the rights of all people, including women, she said.  Recognizing its people as its most valuable resource, Singapore was prioritizing inclusive education to ensure gender equality, she said, adding that 51.1 per cent of students in Singaporean universities were female.  Those efforts were providing paths for women to enter traditionally male-dominated professions.  Singapore was also promoting increased involvement of women in leadership positions and expected a 20 per cent increase in the number of women in corporate boards.

Ms. TREUNO (Mexico) asked why some delegations were opposed to granting females the same rights as males since human rights were universal.  No country had achieved full gender equality and women were still victims of gender-based violence such as femicide.  The situation was even more serious for female migrants and refugees.  Achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals would require the full participation of women.  To that end, Mexico had earmarked budgets to increase the political participation of women and access to social services.  Better statistics and data were crucial to track progress on gender equality.  Reminding Member States that there were 13 years left to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, she said “we must pull down barriers to ensure that everyone can enjoy their full human rights”.

Ms. KHIABET SALAZAR MUJICA, youth representative from Peru, reaffirmed the importance of international mechanisms that called for the elimination of all obstacles to women’s involvement in political life.  Despite progress in some areas, gender equality still had to be incorporated across all Sustainable Development Goals.  Peru was working to achieve inclusion across all policy sectors.  Gender-based violence remained a clear obstacle to development, she said, noting that Peru was taking a preventative focus to counter hierarchical structures that promoted violence against women and launching programmes to strengthen their economic power.  In addition, Peru remained committed to the monitoring of gender equality plans at all levels of policy-making.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, said that guaranteeing gender equality was a national priority.  In its first action plan to address violence against women, the Government made clear its commitment to achieving full empowerment for women and girls.  Echoing a call to protect the rights of female migrant workers, he said there could be no sustainable development without empowered women.  To that end, gender equity initiatives addressed specific needs of women and girls in rural communities.  Gender policies were seeking parity for all women, particularly those facing discrimination.

Ms. KABIA (Sierra Leone), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77 and China, said discrimination of women was still pervasive, undermining efforts to achieve gender equality.  Pointing out that violence was an obstacle to the advancement of women, she said Sierra Leone would uphold protocols on gender equality and the prevention of violence against women.  The Government had also mainstreamed a gender perspective in policies while introducing legislation to eliminate domestic violence, sexual offences and to protect the rights of children.  Despite the challenges posed by the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the country had continued to implement a free health programme for women and children.  There was a need to renew commitments to achieve economic and political empowerment among women while building structures to speed up industrialization and increase access to markets.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN, announced that his country, along with Indonesia, would submit a draft resolution on violence against women migrant workers.  Promotion and protection of the more than five million women migrants from the Philippines was a top priority.  Filipino workers overseas, 77 per cent of which are women, were being offered comprehensive repatriation assistance including access to capital and training programmes.  The economic integration of women was crucial to breaking the poverty cycle, he said, adding that an empowerment project had been launched to improve female-led micro-enterprises.  Agrarian reform laws had strengthened the property rights of rural and indigenous women.  Infrastructure and technological developments were also identified as means to assist rural women, especially those in the agricultural and fisheries sectors.  The full participation of women and girls in development strategies would help to ensure long-term sustainability.

Ms. YANKSSAR (Saudi Arabia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said women were crucial to national cohesion and the creation of an inclusive environment for them would lead to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  For its part, Saudi Arabia had adopted initiatives to promote flexible employment opportunities for women and was working to end child marriage.  The participation of women in the labour force, including in Government institutions, was increasing, she noted, adding that women were also becoming leaders in the private sector and a department of female police officers had been created.  Gender equity laws were being complemented by the recent decision to give women the right to drive vehicles.  Women across the world were facing clear challenges to equity, as was the case in Palestine, where women could not fulfil their rights due to continued Israeli occupation.

FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) recalled that the member States of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) had presented a draft resolution in the Human Rights Council on “the full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls and the systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals”, which had been adopted at the body’s thirty-sixth session.  In March 2016, the Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Brazil during its sixtieth and sixty‑second sessions, had adopted agreed conclusions on the crucial topic of promoting women’s economic empowerment.  To implement its commitments in that area, Brazil had adopted such national strategies as the programme for gender and race equity, and had also recently established measures to extend paternity leave, provide support to nursing mothers and support the donation of breastmilk.

PENELOPE MORTON (Australia) said access to social services such as sexual and reproductive health programmes and education was crucial to ensure that women could fully participate in the economy.  Australia had worked to boost female workforce participation through a range of initiatives, including increasing access to quality and affordable childcare, flexible work schemes and financial incentives to work.  Those programmes also catered to women from different backgrounds and life stages such as those in rural areas.  At the international level, Australia had contributed to efforts that encourage entrepreneurship among women in South-East Asia.

MARISELA EUGENIA GONZALEZ TOLOSA (Venezuela), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said national programmes aimed at protecting women and ensuring that constitutional and legal frameworks were inclusive and non-gender discriminatory.  Venezuela had made progress in gender parity in areas such as university enrolment and including work and family care in the country’s social security system.  Public policies had also been designed to prevent gender-based violence and centres had been established to provide legal and psychological assistance for women who were victims of violence.

AUDRA PLEPYTE (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, said achieving real gender parity and the advancement of women required “wholehearted actions at a national level”.  Lithuania was determined to fully implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Efforts included developing gender impact indicators and assessments of all Governmental programmes, policies and legal decisions.  Turning to the issue of violence against women, she said it caused physical and psychological harm and impeded women’s economic independence, taking a toll on both victims and society.  With a view to achieving zero tolerance towards domestic violence, Lithuania was focusing on result-oriented measures such as awareness-raising campaigns, competence building and training.  Another priority for Lithuania was ensuring a life-work balance through equal sharing of childcare, parental leave and household responsibilities between men and women.

Ms. AL-NASAIRI (Iraq) said her country’s Constitution had always protected women, who also enjoyed participation in politics and national decision-making mechanisms.  Legislation was enshrined to allow the participation of women in elections and to combat domestic violence.  In addition, community policing was also being implemented to respond to any complaints of violence and social protections were being afforded to single and divorced women.  However, the injustice and persecution of women in regions occupied by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) was a major concern.  Iraq, along with United Nations agencies, was providing assistance to women afflicted by gender-based violence.

Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said UN-Women had to remain the key body within the United Nations system addressing issues of gender, adding that its work could only occur with the permission of Member States.  As such, UN-Women had to play a secondary supporting role to national initiatives, she added.  The Russian Federation’s recent adoption and implementation of a national strategy for women was based on the comprehensive work of Government and civil society leaders.  The principal goals of the strategy were to promote access to health, economic integration, prevention of violence and broader political participation, she said, noting that despite concerted efforts by Member States, no country could declare that equality for women had been achieved.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said Syrian women had had the right vote since 1948 and his was the first Arab country to grant women participation in Parliament.  Syrian women were among the first medical graduates in the country, currently making up about 60 per cent of dentistry and pharmacy graduates.  Syrian women also filled leadership roles such as being ambassadors and judges and had also become award-winning authors.  However, the rise of terrorism in Syria had also meant that women were being killed for acts such as having Facebook accounts and women have also committed suicide to escape forced marriages.

Mr. MYO (Myanmar), associating himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said gender equality and women’s empowerment were at the heart of national development strategies.  Myanmar’s 10-year national strategic plan for the advancement of women covered key areas such as violence against women and girls, women’s participation, gender mainstreaming and women, peace and security.  Through advances in the fields of health care and education, Myanmar was also addressing issues including maternal and infant mortality rates and enhancing access to education.  Regarding the trafficking of women and children, Myanmar paid particular attention to prevention, protection and prosecution, and had formed a central body against trafficking in persons to strengthen counter‑trafficking efforts.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said women’s full engagement and empowerment were prerequisites for inclusive and sustainable development.  Mongolia’s strategy for the future pledged to promote those issues in a comprehensive manner, including through the recent passage of a law criminalizing domestic violence and other new laws addressing women’s equal participation and access to childcare service centres.  Mongolia would in the coming days be submitting a draft resolution on women and girls in rural areas, he said, expressing hope that all Member States would support it.

Ms. NGUYEN LIEN (Viet Nam), aligning herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said Member States’ strong commitments brought positive changes to the lives of women and girls.  Their inclusion was pivotal to ensuring the success of national development strategies.  For programmes to promote empowerment of women, communities and families had to be included in decision-making.  Viet Nam was actively implementing a gender equity strategy to increase women’s participation in political and economic domains and increase their access to public services.  Women held high-ranking Government positions and equality had been reached in secondary education, she said.  Despite progress, rural women remained particularly vulnerable.  Climate change disproportionately affected rural women and they should be identified as key stakeholders to unleash their potential and increase their resilience.

MORDICA SIMPSON (United States) highlighted several Government initiatives to promote women’s success in business, such as a $50 million provision to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative and the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, which helped through financing mechanisms and coaching on efficient business practices.  Business centres established by the United States and private sector partners had helped women business owners through training, mentoring, capacity‑building and technology support.  Enabling women’s economic participation increased economic opportunities for all.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CARICOM, CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, said the advancement of women remained a national priority.  Jamaica boasted the highest proportion of women managers — 59 per cent — in the region and the world.  Citing recent research on the economic potential of achieving gender parity, he said if women’s participation in the economy matched men’s, it would total $28 trillion.  Efforts should be redoubled to translate words into meaningful actions and attain the Sustainable Development Goals.  Addressing the issue of trafficking in women and girls, he said the international community should provide a platform to give visibility to the “voiceless victims”.  For its part, Jamaica was committed to eradicating gender-based violence, protecting informal workers, addressing the needs of women migrant workers and providing women and girls in rural areas with access to health and social services, skills development and training.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) said gender equality had played a key role in his country’s journey from poverty to prosperity.  Women’s work contributed more to Norway’s prosperity than did the oil in the North Sea.  As investing in education was the most effective way of promoting sustainable development, Norway worked hard to promote education globally, doubling its aid in that regard over the past four years to 3.4 billion Norwegian Kroner in 2017.  Violence against women had enormous costs, he said, and the international community had to work to end all forms of violence against women and girls.  Norway could never accept that religion and so-called traditional values were used as an excuse to deprive women and girls of their rights.

Mr. BUKOKA (Zambia), associating himself with African Group, Group of 77 and China and the South African Development Community, cited a number of national efforts, including establishing two courts to handle gender-based violence cases, launching projects reaching more than 14,000 girls from poor families to help them attend schools and providing business skills training and grants to 75,000 vulnerable women.  Other targeted efforts had succeeded in lowering HIV prevalence among the adult population and significantly decreasing the prevalence of early and child marriages.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) said national efforts were making strides in empowering women, including a new five-year plan that required all Government agencies to adopt a gender perspective when shaping policies and legislation had been introduced to protect women against violence.  Boosting education among women was a centrepiece of the Government’s efforts and had led to a doubling of women studying medicine and science.  Those and other initiatives were taking place against a backdrop of sanctions that had prevented women from enjoying their full human rights.  Underscoring the role of civil society in the promotion of women’s rights, she said the number of women non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had increased threefold since 2013.  Women and girls in regions such as the Middle East were bearing the brunt of ongoing armed conflicts, which had led to a regression in progress achieved towards women’s empowerment.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating with herself with CELAC, said countries could not achieve their full potential if half of their population was denied from exercising their full human rights.  Colombia was committed to improving the rights of women, especially in rural areas.  Having recognized that women were protagonists in ensuring lasting peace, the Government had included them in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP).  Efforts also included empowering women by ensuring that they could exercise their rights in areas such as politics and reproductive health.

FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77 and China, said a national strategy to empower women had been recently launched, aimed at ensuring their socioeconomic and political inclusion.  A national council leading the effort was implementing programmes that helped women secure jobs and awareness-raising campaigns had reached more than 1 million women in households across the country to address concerns about discrimination.  Campaigns were also educating people on the threats posed by violence against women and the positive role women could play in conflict resolution and combating extremism.

For information media. Not an official record.