ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN
Permanent Mission to the United Nations
H.E. Mrs. Zahra Shojaie
Advisor to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Head of Center for Women's Participation
Twenty‑Third Special Session of the General Assembly
"Women 2000: gender equality, development
and peace for the twenty‑first century"
7 June 2000, New York
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The five‑year review conference is indeed a very propitious opportunity to take stock of the implementation of the "Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action", evaluate the accomplishments made thus far and obstacles encountered along the way, identify the challenges ahead, and look for further initiatives and measures to meet these challenges and ensure sustainable progress of women in the years and decades to come. Looking back at Beijing, it can hardly be disputed that the Conference addressed and dealt with a wide range of important and extremely sensitive issues, many of which are shared by all and some others not so.
The intensity of the still on‑going negotiations on the text of the final outcome of the review conference is, if nothing else, a vivid reminder to all of us in the international community of the fact that we still have to deal with the same important issues and also that our common effort towards achieving consensus should continue. Moreover, the state of negotiations is also indicative of the formidable challenges the international community is facing in grappling with the question of how to better implement the Beijing outcome and commitments, at both national and international levels. This daunting task is being rendered much more difficult due to the negative aspects of the globalization process, particularly in the developing world, thus making implementation more exacting.
The Beijing Conference was a significant and substantial step forward in our collective endeavours to address various areas of women's issues and agree on a set of practical actions and measures. Its outcome represented the delicate compromise among competing value systems and outlooks on, inter alia, such sensitive concepts and issues as family, marriage, sexuality and reproduction which play a central role in the life of all societies.
Since these concepts involve long‑established universal fundamental ethical principles and values, they simply cannot be subjected to a post‑modern "laissez faire, laissez passer" mentality and approach, particularly when eschewed by the smaller part of the human community. On this specific point, I want to be absolutely clear. Given the existing differences on the definition, interpretation and application of fundamental concepts as regards the status and rights of women, as individuals, in the family and in the society, future success on a global scale towards further progress of women and their situation requires honest collective efforts towards a common normative framework. Such a common normative framework should derive from various living value systems and should ensure the fundamental human rights of women and their equity and equality with men.
From an Islamic perspective, traditional outlook, based on the erroneous notion of superiority of men over women, does injustice not only to women but to men and humanity as a whole. Equally nefarious is the view that disregards the differences in creation between men and women. Both men and women are valuable components of humanity, each possessing equally their respective characteristics and potentials for intellectual, social, cultural and political development, which are complimentary and mutually reinforcing, certainly not competing, let alone antagonistic. Definition and construction of relationships between men and women, both at the level of family and the society at large, on the basis of complementarity of respective functions and roles, cooperation and participation, is certainly conducive to the realization of their innate potentialities and development of a more humane order. Within this perspective, the centrality of family as the basic unit of society should be emphasized and accorded due attention. It is from this vantage point that we approach various issues on the agenda and formulate our position on the specific provisions being negotiated.
A realistic assessment of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action indicates that despite progress in some areas, many of the agreed targets and set objectives have yet to be achieved, both at national and international levels. The situation needs to be redressed. Over and above articulation of positions and exchange of polemics, necessary and even inevitable as they may be considered, however, the present conference should devote itself to devising practical ways and means to promote respect for women's rights and elevate their status in a real sense, facilitate and institutionalize their empowerment, ensure their meaningful participation in all aspects of the social life, and effectively prevent violation of their rights and dignity, both within the family and at the level of the society. Achievement of these objectives, needless to say, requires the adoption of initiatives and measures towards creating an enabling and mutually supportive environment at the national as well as the international level.
Let me now turn to the national scene. Having actively participated in the Beijing Conference and made its contribution to the final outcome, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has since vigorously pursued the implementation of the Platform for Action. Nevertheless, difficulties and challenges in various areas are yet to be addressed and overcome. Promotion of the status and rights of women and their empowerment has been an integral part of the policy of President Khatami's Administration since it took office in August 1997. The concurrent policy devoted to the expansion of civil society and institutionalization of its role at the national level has also contributed to a more active engagement and participation by women in different walks of social and political life. The still on‑going popular reform process within the Iranian society, which aims at transforming various aspects and dimensions of our social and political life within the framework of the Constitution, has, inter alia, much to do with the women's question. In fact, Iranian women, along with the youth, played a paramount role in the 1997 presidential elections; a critical role further continued in the nationwide elections of the city and village councils in early 1999 as well as recently in the parliamentary elections in February 2000, where the reform platform gained the majority seats.
Our overall policy towards women, based on the exalted Islamic precepts and values as well the letter and spirit of the Constitution, has been pursued through the following measures: appointment of women to decision‑making posts including two at the Cabinet level; promotion of education at all levels; provision of necessary services particularly in the area of health and family planning; establishment and promotion of commissions for women's affairs; identification of the problems and obstacles to the women's advancement; and in this regard, promulgation of necessary legislation. As recent as last week and for the first time, a woman deputy was appointed to the Bureau of the new Parliament. Another important measure relates to the inclusion of gender perspective in the Third Five‑Year National Development Plan (2000‑2004). Within the framework of the Plan, special attention has been paid to the objective of the promotion of women's status, including through increased allocation of annual budget to women's affairs at national, provincial and local levels. Provision of financial support to women heads of household and rural women has also been another measure in this respect.
Betterment of women's situation in various fields, in all societies and on a global scale, calls for the resolute will and determination of the entire human community. Effective combating of different forms of violation of women's rights and their protection against all forms of violence and abuse, requires action at the national level and cooperation at the international level. Conflict resolution and promotion and establishment of peace and tranquility in the first place and achievement of long‑term, comprehensive and humane development are among the requisite conditions to this end. It should be further underlined that effective and meaningful empowerment of women in all societies, particularly in the developing world, depends, first and foremost, on the achievement of development and eradication of poverty.
If history is any indication, long‑term peace and stability cannot but be achieved through tolerance and understanding among all societies, cultures and peoples. We believe Dialogue Among Civilizations, as proposed by President Khatami and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly and as premised on the central notion of cultural diversity, constitutes the suitable framework towards arriving at such an understanding.
To close my statement, may I avail myself of the unique opportunity of the historic occasion of the review Conference in the Millennium year to appeal to you all, Ladies and Gentlemen, to join hands in solidarity to rise to the challenge and commit ourselves, individually and collectively, to make the life of all women across the globe, in the years and decades ahead, a humane and fulfilling experience. Let us resolve not be found wanting in this solemn commitment.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.