4-15 March 2002
Division for the Advancement of Women
Representatives of the NGO community and the UN system,
Friends and colleagues,
It is a privilege to address the 46th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in my new capacity as Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women. I join Ms. King in extending my congratulations to the new Bureau and its Chairperson, H.E. Mr. Othman Jerandi, as well as to the newly elected members of the Commission. Let me also thank the outgoing Bureau and its Chairperson, Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, for their unfailing commitment to this Commission.
I am happy to welcome the representatives of the NGO community and of civil society groups and networks. They are pivotal stakeholders in the advancement and empowerment of women. Their role in promoting equality between women and men and their partnership with Governments and the international community remain critical in our continuing work to implement the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly.
In accordance with its multi-year programme of work, the Commission will consider two thematic issues at its present session, in addition to a number of other topics and items that are regularly on its agenda. The thematic issues are the core substantive part of the Commission’s annual work. The topics chosen for this session are both complex and timely.
Through its consideration of the gender dimensions of environmental management and natural disasters, the Commission has an excellent opportunity to contribute to the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, scheduled to take place in August in South Africa. In preparation for your discussion of this topic, the Division for the Advancement of Women convened an expert group meeting last November, in collaboration with the Inter-Agency Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and hosted generously by the Government of Turkey. The results of the expert group meeting formed the basis for the Secretary-General’s report, which is before you in document E/CN.6/2002/9. Gender differences in environmental management, particularly the impact of natural disasters on women, have not previously received in-depth consideration. The Commission has therefore an opportunity to strengthen the policy framework for integrating gender perspectives in environmental management and disaster mitigation, and develop concise and action-oriented recommendations that will also be a valuable contribution to the WSSD process.
The second theme before the Commission this year deals with the eradication of poverty, through the empowerment of women throughout the life cycle, in a globalizing world. The Division is grateful to the Government of India for hosting an expert group meeting in late November 2001, the outcome of which formed the basis for the report that is before you in document E/CN.6/2002/9. The Commission, the Fourth World Conference on Women and the 23rd special session, and many other intergovernmental processes have given, and continue to give, great weight to poverty eradication. Just two weeks ago, the Commission on Social Development considered the critical issue of the integration of social and economic policy in order to eradicate poverty. These processes have emphasized that achieving the goals of poverty eradication and sustainable development cannot be separated from the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, especially in the context of globalization. The Millennium Declaration highlights gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease, and to stimulate sustainable development. These commitments will guide the work of this Commission as it considers how empowerment of women can be a tool in poverty eradication. While an extensive basis for action already exists, better measurements are needed for both poverty and empowerment so as to ensure that the actions taken by Governments and other stakeholders do have the desired impact, and lead to reduction of poverty among women throughout the life cycle, including prevention of intergenerational transfer of poverty.
In considering these two themes, the Commission might wish to focus on strengthening overall implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the 23rd special session. It might wish to further refine the global policy framework for gender equality as it pertains to these two themes, and ensure practical action at all levels. The Commission also has the opportunity to act as a catalyst vis-a-vis other intergovernmental processes, such as those on sustainable development, ageing and children, especially to ensure the formulation of gender-specific recommendations for action.
Together with its responsibilities in supporting implementation of the Platform for Action and the outcome document, the Commission is also called upon to play a catalytic role, in particular in support of gender mainstreaming. We all recognize that progress is being made in integrating gender perspectives in policies and programmes, at intergovernmental level and throughout the entities of the UN system, although the advances made and good practice established are not always sufficiently well documented. The ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions 1997/2 on gender mainstreaming remain a watershed, and continuing active attention to progress in gender mainstreaming, and to remaining constraints and challenges, should therefore be ensured at all levels. The decision by the Council, on the basis of a proposal put forward by this Commission last year, to include on its agenda a regular sub-item on gender mainstreaming is therefore especially welcome. Consideration could be given as to how the Commission could continue to support the Council in this important area. A report before you in document E/CN.6/2002/2 shows progress in mainstreaming a gender perspective within the UN system. Emphasis is placed on policy and strategy development, programme and operational activities, institutional activities, as well as coordination and information-sharing. The report also contains recommendations for further action.
One good example of ongoing attention to gender perspectives is the area of the human rights of women. For a number of years now, the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have prepared annually a joint work plan for the purpose of ensuring collaboration on human rights of women, and strengthening gender perspectives in the area of human rights. The joint work plan is before you in document E/CN.6/2002/6. It assesses the implementation of last year’s plan, and summarizes joint activities for the months ahead, with major emphasis on continued support to the work of human rights treaty bodies.
This leads me to the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, where I have the pleasure of acknowledging the presence of Ms. Charlotte Abaka, the Chairperson of the Committee. Ms. Abaka will address the Commission shortly and provide information on the results of the Committee’s 26th session which took place from 14 January to 1 February this year.
As in past years, the Commission has before it reports on the situation of Palestinian women in document E/CN.6/2002/3, and on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflicts (E/CN.6/2002/4). Both reports have been prepared in accordance with the terms of the respective resolutions adopted last year.
The Commission, as usual, will be called upon to consider a list of confidential communications, in accordance with relevant resolutions of the Economic and Social Council. This list is provided to Commission members only. I should like to note that this year, no non-confidential list of communications has been compiled as no such communications were received.
On a related issue, the Commission will continue to assess the implications of the reforms of mechanisms in the human rights area, notably the 1503 procedure, for communications concerning the status of women. Following its discussion last year, and in accordance with Commission decision 45/103, a report was prepared and is before the Commission in document E/CN.6/2002/12. This report will be introduced separately when the Commission takes up the item later this week.
The report and other documents under item 5, follow-up to ECOSOC resolutions and decisions, will also be introduced later.
Before turning to my last point, may I draw the Commission’s attention to Conference room paper 3, the proposed revisions to the medium-term plan 2002-2005 for subprogramme 2, gender issues and advancement of women, adopted by the General Assembly in its resolution 55/234 of 23 December 2001 and issued in document A/56/6/Rev.1. In accordance with the relevant rules and regulations, the proposed revisions to the medium-term plan for this period are before the Commission for its review and any comments it may wish to make.
Finally, allow me to address the question of methods of work. In the past, the Commission has adjusted its methods of work to ensure responsiveness to new challenges and opportunities for advancing gender equality, and to better carry out its catalytic role. In 1987, in response to the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies, the Commission adopted its first multi-year work programme, long before the Economic and Social Council recommended this step to all its functional Commissions. At that time, the Commission also decided that consideration of its priority themes should be prepared through expert group meetings. Following the Fourth World Conference on Women, the Commission has emphasized implementation, and agreed on the present format for considering the thematic issues, and on the normal outcome of this consideration, namely the adoption of concise, action-oriented agreed conclusions.
Since the Commission last revisited its working methods, the Economic and Social Council has regularly provided guidance to its functional commissions on improving working methods, most recently in resolution 2001/27. The Commission has taken a number of the steps called for by the Council, including harmonization of work programmes with other functional commissions, strengthening of cooperation with other functional commissions through joint bureaux meetings, inter-sessional preparations of annual sessions, use of panel discussions, and preparation of joint reports.
Last year, the Commission embarked on a new phase of reviewing its working methods, and entrusted its Bureau with the task of continuing this work inter-sessionally. The Commission is now in a position to build on the experience gained with its working methods since 1996, the guidance provided by the Council over the years, last year’s preliminary discussions, and the inter-sessional preparations by the previous Bureau. This may be the time to consolidate the gains made, and gradually enhance areas where improvements are called for so as to fully implement the demands placed on the Commission.
One such area concerns the Commission’s ability to be a forum for interactive discussions and the exchange of national experiences among high-level governmental representatives with responsibility for gender equality and implementation of the Platform for Action and the outcome document of the 23rd special session. The outgoing Bureau has suggested that ministerial, or high-level, round tables would be a way to increase free-flowing dialogue among those high-level officials from Capitals already intending to participate in the Commission. Such round tables could focus on, and encourage further implementation, highlighting issues such as institutional capacity building, as indicated in the Commission’s multi-year programme of work, gender mainstreaming, or human resources development, to give some examples. They could identify good practices, lessons learned and case studies for the benefit of the entire membership and observers.
The first high-level round table could be convened next year, and the experience gained would be used to further refine such events in the future.
Secondly, the outgoing Bureau gave careful thought to the format of the Commission’s outcome on the thematic issues. Agreed Conclusions 1996/1 note that the outcome “shall normally be in the form of concise, action-oriented agreed conclusions”. For a number or reasons, including the difficulties in completing negotiations within the allocated time due to the complexity of issues and the length of texts, and questions about the impact of these agreed conclusions on governmental action at national level, the Bureau has placed before the Commission a recommendation to address these concerns.
The outgoing Bureau also prepared for consideration by this session a proposal to change the schedule for the election of the Bureau from the beginning of every other session, to a meeting immediately following the end of every other session, to ensure continuity. A similar proposal was recently adopted by the Council for the Commission on Social Development. Time is set aside for a discussion of these matters later this week.
Let me at this point recall the particular responsibility entrusted to the Commission on the Status of Women in its central role in the monitoring and implementation of the Platform for Action. The Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly also have important roles as together with this Commission they constitute a three-tiered intergovernmental mechanism that plays the primary role in the overall policy-making and follow-up to Beijing, as established in GA resolution 50/203 of 1995. At its annual session in March each year, the members and observers of the Commission have the opportunity and responsibility to bring their full expertise on the advancement and empowerment of women and gender equality to the global level, and to play a catalytic role in gender mainstreaming. This specific expertise distinguishes the Commission from ECOSOC and the General Assembly. The Council has a coordination and guidance function, whereas the Assembly as the chief deliberative, policy-making and representative organ of the United Nations, can ensure that gender equality concerns are indeed part and parcel of the entire spectrum of issues on its agenda. The overarching concern of the Commission is on ensuring progress in implementation of the Platform for Action, and in the achievement of gender equality.
In conclusion, Chairperson,
Together with the entire staff of the Division for the Advancement of Women, I stand ready to support you, and this Commission, in any way we can. I wish you success in your deliberations.