Statement by Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs


48th session of the Commission on the Status of Women

1 March 2004



Madam President,

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished delegates,


Ladies and gentlemen


It gives me great pleasure to address the Commission on the Status of Women for the first time in my capacity as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. I would like to begin by congratulating you, Madame Chairperson, and the other members of the Bureau, on your effective inter-sessional preparations for the forty-eight session of the Commission, which I am sure will be highly successful. I extend my warmest greetings to the distinguished Members and Observers of this important body. Please be assured of the fullest cooperation and assistance of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in your work.


This Commission has had a long and distinguished history in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, dating back to its creation in 1946. It played a critical role in preparing for and following up the four global conferences on women, in Mexico in 1975, in Copenhagen in 1980, in Nairobi in 1985 and in Beijing in 1995, as well as in the special session of the General Assembly to follow-up on implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 2000. The Commission will have an important role in the review and appraisal of implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, mandated as part of its multi-year programme of work at its forty-ninth session in 2005.


I would like to congratulate the Commission on the considerable attention given to enhancing the opportunities for interactive exchange on national experience in promoting gender equality during its sessions, as evidenced in the two expert panels on the themes before the Commission, as well as the High-level Round Table organized in collaboration with the Statistical Commission. I also note the keen interest in the work of the Commission with the high levels of participation from Capitals, the significant representation of United Nations entities and the large numbers of non-government organizations participating in your work. The almost 170 panels, workshops, exhibitions and other events in the context of the Commission over the coming two weeks illustrates the relevance and importance of your agenda at global, regional and national levels.


In the context of its catalytic role on gender mainstreaming, the Commission on the Status of Women has over the past decade made a significant contribution to the preparatory processes of international conferences that have led to the development of a  comprehensive and holistic global development agenda. As a result of the work of the Commission, the contribution of the global conferences on women, as well as the efforts of civil society, gender perspectives have become increasingly recognized as integral to development efforts in all areas. The effectiveness of these efforts can be seen in the outcomes of some of the recent major events, such as the Second World Assembly on Ageing in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002), and the International Conference on Financing for Development (2002) as well as the World Summit on the Information Society (2003). Having made progress in bringing attention to gender equality in the outcomes, the challenge now is to ensure that in the implementation and follow-up consistent attention is given to gender perspectives, and that the agenda for gender equality in these areas is further advanced. In addition, despite the significant advances in these and other areas over the past decade, the gaps and challenges to gender equality and the empowerment of women in many other areas remain extremely serious.


The opportunity for review and appraisal provided in the forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women should be utilized to assess progress in implementation, through exchange on achievements, good practice and lessons learned at national level, with involvement of all relevant stakeholders, in keeping with the General Assembly resolution 57/270B on coordinated and integrated follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields. A challenge will be to link the review and appraisal in the Commission with the review of the overall framework of the Millennium Declaration, also planned for 2005. The Millennium Declaration identified the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease and to stimulate development that is truly sustainable. It is positive that gender equality has been highlighted as one Millennium Development Goal, but it is critical to ensure that gender perspectives are identified and addressed in all the Millennium Development Goals. This is not only important for the promotion of gender equality but also essential for the achievement of all other goals. The review of the Millennium Declaration in 2005 provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the focus on implementation, targets and indicators in the area of gender equality, within the framework of the global commitments made in the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. This Commission should play a key role in ensuring the gender perspectives are integral to the review process in 2005.


The Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), which I head, has a critical role in relation to intergovernmental processes, as it services several functional commissions of the ECOSOC, including the Commission for Sustainable Development, the Statistical Commission, the Commission on Population and Development and the Commission on Sustainable Development. I will be working to ensure greater collaboration between the secretariats of the functional commissions. An important part of the mission of DESA is to promote an integrated and coordinated approach to economic and social development. A critical element is clearly integrating the social objectives into economic policy-making, as key to achieving inclusive development. As I pointed out in my statement to the Third Committee last year, the challenge is to ensure that growth is equitable, inclusive, pro-development and supportive of equality between women and men. In order to reduce extreme poverty, enhance social integration and achieve gender equality, we must be able to reconcile economic growth, employment generation and social and gender equality policies, within a consistent macroeconomic framework.


I would like to commend the efforts of the Commission on the Status of Women to work collaboratively with other functional commissions. The High-level Round Table at this session is a good example of such collaboration. The Commission has also had the practice over the past few years to provide an input to the ECOSOC high-level segment and the Commission has before it a Note by the Secretariat on Resources mobilization and enabling environment for poverty eradication in the context of the implementation of the Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010, which could be used as an input to the high-level segment of the 2004 session of the Economic and Social Council. Such coordination and collaboration, as called for in General Assembly resolution 57/270B, is critical for the dynamic development of intergovernmental processes.


The Commission has before it at its forty-eighth session, a broad range of issues, including the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality; the equal participation of women in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building; gaps and challenges in relation to statistics for measuring progress in implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly; and communications on the human rights of women. You will also be considering a number of important aspects related to the future work of the Commission, including working methods, the preparations for the review and appraisal in 2005 and the future of the communications procedure.


The two themes under consideration by the Commission are critical for the future work in promoting gender equality. Gender equality concerns women and men and the relations between them and cannot be achieved by women alone. Men need to be actively involved in the processes of change for gender equality and should provide strong leadership in all the areas to be discussed over the coming two weeks. It is important to identify the positive efforts already made by men and boys in many contexts and to find ways to encourage and support other men to understand the value of gender equality and to become active in its promotion.


Conflict and insecurity have devastating consequences for women and girls and for gender equality, as was well outlined in the Secretary-General's study on women, peace and security and the Secretary-General's report presented to the Security Council in 2002. Security Council resolution 1325 has been path breaking in clearly setting out the gender perspectives on peace and security and identifying an agenda for change. This Commission will make an invaluable contribution and complement the work already done, by focusing on the two critical areas of peace accords and peace processes and women's participation in elections in post-conflict situations.


The Department of Economic and Social Affairs will endeavor to incorporate the outcomes of the Commission into our ongoing work and will support the efforts of our partners at national level in this regard. We will also encourage other United Nations entities to give full consideration to the recommendations of the Commission in their work, including in the context of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs which I chair.


I believe the discussions at this Commission will be very interesting and the outcomes relevant and useful. I wish you success in your deliberations, and reiterate the full support of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs to your important work.