Commission on the Status of Women

Acting as the Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly:
Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the twenty-first century

Statement by Ms.Yakin Ertürk
Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women

3 - 17 March 2000

Madam Chairperson,
Distinguished Delegates,
Friends and Colleagues from the
UN System and the NGO Community,

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to present under agenda item 2 three main documents before the Committee on the Status of Women acting as the preparatory committee for the special session. These are:




I shall start with the first, which is commonly referred to as the review and appraisal report. This document was prepared in response to ECOSOC resolution 1996/6 of 22 July 1996. In that resolution, the Council requested a report on the implementation of the Platform for Action, on the basis of national reports. This request was reaffirmed in GA resolution 54/142 of 17 December 1999. Accordingly, a note verbal was sent to governments with a questionnaire in October 1998. The Secretariat received replies from 133 Member States and 2 Observers. Since the finalization of the report on 30 December 1999, the DAW has received seven more national reports from Costa Rica, Haiti, Ireland, Turkmenistan, Bulgaria, Thailand and Cyprus, bringing the total number of replies to 142. Such a high number of replies and the richness of information contained in them is indicative of the strong ownership that Governments have towards the Beijing commitments. In 1989, for the preparation of the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies, the Secretariat had received 55 replies and considered this as an indication of the difficulties encountered, both in implementing the strategies and in reporting on their implementation (E/CN.6/1990/5). In the course of 10 years, the process has gained greater momentum. Although difficulties in implementation continue, there is a marked improvement in reporting . This gives us reason enough to have high expectations of the special session.

We would like to express our gratitude to all the Member States and observers who have responded to the questionnaire and will welcome the reports of the remaining 49 Member States. These reports are invaluable sources of information for policy makers, researchers and activists alike. They are being put on the DAW website as they become available to us from Governments in electronic form.

In order to have a holistic assessment of the implementation of the Platform for Action, the Secretary-General’s report on review and appraisal should be read in conjunction with several other reports, namely; the report on the assessment of the System-Wide Medium-Term Plan (E/CN.6/2000/3), the forthcoming publication on "The World’s Women 2000" prepared by the Statistics Division of DESA (as requested in GA resolution 52/231), the 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, NGO alternative reports and numerous other reports prepared by various UN entities.

The present report consists of three parts. Part one provides the background to the Beijing Conference, its context, the intergovernmental process since Beijing, and an overview of the major trends in implementation of the Platform for Action. Part two consists of an analysis of implementation of each critical area of concern, and the institutional and financial arrangements as called for in the Platform for Action. Part three focuses on some of the trends of change identified in the Platform for Action that have become particularly pronounced since the Beijing Conference, creating new challenges for the further implementation of the Platform.

A major issue that emerges from the national reports on efforts to implement the Platform for Action is the challenge posed by the multifaceted impact of globalization. The reorganization of world economic order, new structures of macro-economic decision-making and international finance that transcend national borders, and resulting financial crises, have seriously challenged the ability of Governments, particularly those in the least developed countries, to direct financial and human resources to the implementation of Platform for Action. This situation presents a challenge to the international community to make available financial resources required to enable governments to implement the commitments to the promotion of gender equality made at Beijing and other United Nations conferences.

The frequent references in Government responses to a lack of national resources to implement the Platform commitments and declining development assistance, make it imperative that innovative approaches to the allocation of existing resources be employed, not only by Governments, but also by their partners in the non-governmental organization, the private sector and within the international community. Gender analysis of national budgets, including national security and defence, needs to be carried out to determine the differential impact of budget expenditure on women and men. Such analyses are necessary if budgetary processes are to promote gender equality, and existing resources are to be utilized in a gender-sensitive manner.

The current challenges associated with poverty, increased female migration, conflict, environmental degradation, natural disasters and epidemics, often overshadowed the progress made with regard to the strategic objectives of the 12 critical areas of concern. Perceptions regarding male and female identities and roles pose persisting obstacles to the achievement of gender equality in all regions of the world. Yet, as the review and appraisal report shows, much progress has been achieved. Women have entered the labour force in unprecedented numbers, actually or potentially increasing their ability to participate in economic decision-making. There have been improvements, although uneven, in terms of benchmarks of women’s status, including fertility rates, rates of infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy, immunization rates, women’s literacy and school enrollment. There has also been increased recognition among Member States that the promotion of gender equality is an integral part of solutions for development and peace. However, improved understanding of gender equality has not automatically translated into practice. There is much more to be done.

Madam Chairperson,

The Secretariat was faced with a formidable challenge in synthesizing the replies, and categorizing the findings in the 12 critical areas of concern within the limits of its existing financial and human resources. I must thank all the DAW staff and interns who have contributed to this document and to

Ms. King and her office, who have not only provided guidance but worked side by side with us. We are also appreciative of your support and the constructive comments we received from delegations on an earlier version of this report.

The second document before the preparatory committee is (E/CN.6/2000/PC/4) on emerging issues. According to its multi-year programme of work in the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/6 of the 2 July 1996) the Commission had been tasked to identify emerging issues, trends and new approaches to issues affecting the situation of women or equality between women and men that required urgent consideration, and make substantive recommendations thereon. The General Assembly, in its resolution 52/231, requested the Secretary-General to provide in the report on emerging issues to be submitted to the Commission at its forty-fourth session, additional material on further actions and initiatives for the preparation of the outlook beyond the year 2000. The present report was prepared in response to this mandate and contains the outcomes of an international workshop on "Beijing +5 – Future Actions and Initiatives" which was convened by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and hosted by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) at the United Nations House in Beirut, Lebanon, from 8 to 10 November 1999. The Workshop was attended by international experts from all regions, and observers from the United Nations system who discussed the progress and constraints of implementation under the broad themes of the world conferences on women: Equality, Development and Peace.

The experts felt that the themes equality, development and peace which had been adopted over two decades ago have undergone considerable shifts in meaning over those decades and that human rights evolved as an overarching approach embracing issues of equality, development and peace. Consequently, in view of the trends in the implementation of the Platform for Action and the changing global context since the Beijing Conference, including the process of globalization, the experts formulated their recommendations under five categories: attitudes and practices related to gender identities and roles; issues of governance; alliances and coalitions among all relevant actors; social and economic justice linking social goals with macro-economic policies and finally peace-building in a conflict ridden world. These action-oriented recommendations are forwarded for discussion to the preparatory committee.

Now I would like to bring to your attention to document E/CN.6/2000/PC/CRP.1, which is a summary of the on line conferences held via the WomenWatch website which is the gateway to UN information on women, an interagency initiative. Approximately 10,000 individuals from 120 countries participated in the WomenWatch on-line working groups and discussed the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. The on-line conferences represent a true collaborative effort of UN partners, mainly DAW and UNIFEM, women’s organization and individuals around the world who care. I thank them all for their commitment and participation in this innovative activity. This report provides a summary of the discussions on good practices, obstacles and recommendation of further actions for the full realization of the strategic objectives of the 12 critical areas of concerns.

Madam Chairperson, the Preparatory Committee also has before it document E/CN.6/2000/PC.6 with addenda 1-5 containing the results of the regional meetings convened by the UN regional commissions, each adding important dimensions to the global review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.

Finally, I would like to refer to the second outcome document on "Further actions and initiatives to overcome obstacles and to achieve the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action" (E/CN.6/2000/PC/L.1/Rev.1). During informal consultations held late last year, delegations adopted the current structure of the second outcome document, and mandated the Bureau of the Prepcom and the Secretariat to prepare a short draft document. Delegations provided the Secretariat with specific inputs for each of the four sections of the document. The Division also received inputs from NGOs. On the basis of the information available from regional meetings, the SWMTP, the review and appraisal document among others, and under the guidance of the Chair and the Bureau, the Secretariat prepared a draft which was reviewed by delegations at informal consultations early last month. The present document incorporates the revisions and amendments made after the consultations.

This document was prepared under severe time constraints and initially had to be kept within the limits of 15 pages. This has meant, in order sufficiently to focus on future oriented actions under section IV, sections I, II, III should be brief and selective. As a result, section II on progress made in the 12 critical areas of concern could only reflect the general trends emanating from national reports, and was required to sacrifice the details contained in the review and appraisal document. Let me give you an example here: paragraph 8 refers to the achievements in reduction in maternal mortality with regard to the implementation of the critical area health. Indeed an overwhelming number of national reports cite a decrease among their achievements. This does not, however, mean that maternal mortality has been sufficiently curbed, on the contrary, increase has been reported in some situations.

Madam Chairperson, we are confident that under your leadership the outcome document can be fine-tuned and in the next two weeks this Committee will come up with an action oriented text with time-bound targets to guide governments, the UN system and all relevant actors in their effort to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action beyond the year 2000 and well into this new century.

In closing my statement, I would like to thank Ms. Kate Starr Newell and all her colleagues at the Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services. Without them these meetings would not be possible.