PERMANENT MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS
H. E. Zeljka Antunovic
Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia
Twenty-third special session
Gender equality, development and peace for the 21st century
Agenda item 8:
Review and appraisal of progress made in the implementation of the twelve critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action
United Nations, New York
June 7, 2000
It is a pleasure and a privilege to address the Special Session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century". Five years after the Fourth World Women's Conference is an appropriate time to reflect on the current status of women and further actions for achieving gender equality, to asses the progress achieved at all levels, and to reaffirm our commitments for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
The Republic of Croatia would like to commend the work of the Commission on the Status of Women on the follow-up to, and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which has been intrinsic to the preparation of the Special Session. Equally important has been the Work of the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session, which will provide us with the outcome document on Further Actions and Initiatives to Implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
During the lengthy preparatory process leading up to the Special Session, we have seen that much has been accomplished worldwide, yet much remains to be achieved.
On this occasion I would like to mention some of the progress in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action which has been achieved in Croatia. The must substantial achievement has been the significant increase of the participation of women in Croatia's political arena. Back in Beijing, my country reported that women comprised 5.4 % of MPs in the Lower House of Croatian Parliament. Since the recent elections earlier this year, the percentage of women MPS is now 21% while women make up 13% in the new Government. Taking into account past trends, we can view this as a significant step towards our ultimate goal of full political participation of women.
Gender equality plays an important part in all aspects of the democratization process currently underway. Indeed, endeavors made by almost all the political parties to include a significant component of women-as their-electoral-candidates; has proved to be the best recourse to bring about change. Equally important, as an essential strategy in the quest for adequate participation of women in political life, is the role played by NGOs and the media in raising public awareness.
In order to further enhance implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women nationally, I have the honour to announce that Croatia signed the Optional Protocol on CEDAW on the opening day of this Special Session, and will take the necessary steps towards its speedy ratification.
Turning to the role of women in the economy, the Republic of Croatia has attached special importance to the need to analyze current obstacles and to identify measures and good practices to formulate and promote new opportunities, which could improve women's access to self-employment and entrepreneurial work.
The Croatian Parliament has recently mandated the elaboration of a strategy for promoting women's entrepreneurship in close co-operation with the non-governmental, academic and business communities. Croatia also hopes to establish a comprehensive system for monitoring and evaluating progress made in the equal participation of women and men in the economy, labor market as well as in family life.
The globalization of the economy as the most salient feature of today's world has caused the most profound economic and social transformation in every society. This fact imparts an additional challenge for us and raises a number of fundamental policy issues that cannot be left unresolved, such as avoiding marginalization of some countries; particularly those bearing the scars of armed conflicts. In the Republic of Croatia women represent 46,2 of the total employed workforce and 52,4 % of the workforce employed in informal sectors of the economy. Eliminating discrimination against women is this area has become one of Croatia's primary concerns. To this end, the Government is supporting several national programs, which amongst other things, assist enterprises with labor surpluses to avoid targeting women and older persons.
The globalization of the economy ultimately requires an enlargement of markets through sub-regional cooperation. I am pleased to report to the Special Session that within the Central European Initiative (CEI), which encompasses 16 Central European countries, the Republic of Croatia hosted and organized in co-operation with the Economic Commission for Europe and OECD, an international conference on "Women Entrepreneurship East-West Cooperation". The event witness intensive follow-up by the participating countries. Concerted efforts are equally being made to introduce women related issues into the projects presently administered under the Stability Pact for South-East Europe.
The Republic of Croatia is fully committed to the observance of women's human rights elaborated and adopted within the United Nations. In our pragmatic approach, particular attention is being given to measures preventing all forms of violence against women. Successful cooperation has been achieved between government and NGOs in preventing violence against women. My Government has taken steps to adopt requisite legislation, which awards due protection to victims of domestic violence. In our deliberations, greater focus needs to be given to the ideas of prevention and education, strengthening cooperation between governmental and non-governmental institutions, efficous networking of victim-support services, and stronger attention should be given to working with offenders, as well as raising public awareness and establishing a comprehensive system of cooperation
at all levels.
With the benefit of hindsight, taking into account Croatia's recent past, the role of women could prove intrinsic to conflict resolution and reconciliation processes and should be treated accordingly. Yet it is perplexing that they remain an untapped resource. Such activities launched by Croatian women's organizations during the war should be reinforced through programs aimed at economic reintegration, supported by international assistance and investment in war-torn areas.
Ensuring and protecting the equal human rights of women and men as well as the mainstreaming of gender perspective in all governmental policies is seen as the only way forward for my Government. From our experience, we think that role of education aimed at eliminating stereotypes regarding gender roles, strong participation of women in the economy with equal pay for equal work, and reconciliation between family life and work as well as partnership in parenthood, all leads to a welcomed increase of participation of women in decision making processes and in turn, helping to advance the status of women in society as a whole.
Croatia's has established its own national machinery namely, the Commission of the Gender Equality Issues, which I have the honour of presiding. The Commission includes a broad cross-section of representatives from all government ministries, as well as nongovernmental and academic organizations. Although the Commission still lacks the appropriate resources, by joining forces with all segments of civil society we hope to achieve some tangible results in implementing the Commission's central objectives. Following this Special Session, the Commission, in cooperation with NGOs, will proceed to elaborate the national plan of action further in order to ensure the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Outcome Document of the Special Session. The greatest importance should be attached to the availability of gender desegregated statistical data, as well as to research and other methods geared towards the advancement of women, which still remain far from adequate.
Furthermore, it is important for all of us to enhance existing institutional frameworks both at the international and national levels to ensure that our work takes account of the outcome and targets of this process. Croatia fully supports the role of the Commission on the Status of Women and as a member, will work towards improving its working methods to monitor the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. In trying to identify an appropriate mechanism, under which a comprehensive review process could be carried out,
the regular sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women could also serve as ministerial high level meeting forum. In this way it could significantly facilitate our work on gender equality issues by providing us with the requisite opportunity to exchange lessons learnt at the national level and so allow replication of best practices. The advances in communication technology have also opened new possibilities for networking and I hope that this Special Session will provide new initiatives on how to reinforce it in the near future.
In closing Mr. President, it should not be overlooked that the women's movement successfully launched a multifold of activities, which ultimately guaranteed the emancipation of women throughout the 20th century. Our task in 21st century is to take the fight for women's empowerment further, by creating an environment in which women's equality will be guaranteed to all as an inherent human right in every society.
Thank you Mr. President.