ECOSOC Substantive Session of 2002

1-26 July 2002


Statement by

Angela E.V. King

Special Adviser on Gender Issues and

Advancement of Women


General Segment

Agenda Item 14(a): Advancement of Women

24 July 2002, New York

Mr. President,

Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues and Friends,

            Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council on agenda item 14 (a), advancement of women.  Before doing so, may I express my sincere appreciation for the very useful and interesting discussion held last Thursday on item 7 (e) on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system, and for your constructive suggestions to make gender mainstreaming more effective. I wish to express appreciation for the excellent draft resolution (E/2002/L.14), which the Council will adopt later today, to increase attention to gender perspectives in all the Council's segments and the work of its subsidiary machinery. The draft also includes the recommendation for the Chief Executives Board (CEB) to take gender perspectives seriously in its work.

            At this session of the Council, for the first time, all four segments took gender equality issues into account. Earlier participation in High-level Roundtables on Human Resources Development in Relation to Education and Health, provided a solid preparation for the high-level segment, and the Ministerial Declaration emanating from it stressed the need for gender mainstreaming in all human resources development policies and programmes to be able to effectively address gender inequalities, the Millennium Development Goals and development needs. The humanitarian segment discussed gender dimensions of natural disasters and emergencies based, among other inputs, on the agreed conclusions of the Commission on the Status of Women.  A Panel on Gender Mainstreaming in the Functional Commissions of ECOSOC held in June 2002 jointly by my Office, the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, DESA and a Ministerial Roundtable Breakfast on Gender Mainstreaming, also contributed to discussions at both the coordination segment on the strengthening of ECOSOC and the general segment on gender mainstreaming. And now the final “general segment” takes up gender and advancement of women.

Mr. President,

Under this item (14 (a)), there are a number of reports before the Council, including the report of the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-sixth session, and Part One of the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination for 2002.  The CEDAW Committee's entire report will be before the General Assembly later this year in the usual manner.  Document E/2002/66 was introduced last week under item 7 (e), gender mainstreaming. 

Mr. President,

With regard to the report of the Commission on the Status of Women (E/2002/27), several aspects have already been touched on. Following its five-year multi-year programme, the Commission this year focused on the practical aspects of two thematic issues: eradicating poverty, including through the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle in a globalizing world and environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters. Both of these themes are relevant to the Council's work to the Johannesburg Summit and to the Millennium Development Goals and their implementation.

I would like to mention the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan which remained high on the Commission's agenda for the past three years when it adopted successive resolutions on this issue. With elections to the Loya Jirga where for the first time in Afghan history, 200 women were members, 20 of them through direct election from their community councils, Afghanistan crossed the line from armed conflict into a new era. Two women are ministers and another woman heads the Human Rights Commission. Afghan women and men have every reason to be proud. Schools and universities are open to women and girls and employment opportunities are gradually opening for women.  As you know, the first Minister of Women’s Affairs, Sima Samar, addressed the Security Council on 25 April and the new Minister, Habiba Sarobi will be at the UN on Friday, 26 July.

            Regarding coordinated UN operational activities in pursuit of gender equality, perhaps what is most important is that, in the spirit of the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality, an interagency network was formed in Kabul by the interim Gender Adviser assigned from OSAGI/DAW to work directly with the SRSG of UNAMA. She interacts with the Ministry of Women's Affairs and with gender specialists of other agencies, funds and programmes including UNDP, UNICEF, UNIFEM, UN-Habitat, UNHCR, WFP, OHCHR and OCHA. With them, she is finalizing a joint inter-agency policy framework and implementation steps for assisting the UN system and women in Afghanistan to introduce gender-sensitive policies and programmes in keeping with Afghan women’s priorities. As stressed by SRSG Lakhdar Brahimi in the Security Council on 19 July, the gender agenda “needs to be set by Afghan women and cannot be imposed from outside”. The creation of an Afghan Women Peace Network and career support mechanisms are priorities in our work in Afghanistan. Much generosity has been shown by many donors. The Netherlands, for example, contributed to funding the Gender Adviser post. As this is now part of the regular UNAMA budget, those funds will go to gender-related projects. However, on the whole, pledged resources have not been as forthcoming as hoped.

The Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality currently has on its work programme, gender mainstreaming indicators; gender budgetting; women, peace and security; gender and information and communication technologies; tools and indicators for gender impact analysis, monitoring and evaluation; gender mainstreaming in CCA/UNDAF; gender and forthcoming conferences; and database activities, including WomenWatch. We are planning the second regional symposium for ESCWA later this year. Under the new CEB structure, we have made contact with the Chairs of the HLCP and HLCM and are working out modalities for strengthening working relations with them.

Mr. President,

            As has frequently been said, there is need for greater knowledge of how the UN agencies’ work has a direct bearing on the work of the Council and its functional commissions. In this regard and as the CEB’s reporting structure is much more flexible than ACC, you may wish to request in future, reports of IANWGE to be before the Council when it discusses gender as a cross-cutting issue under the item gender mainstreaming. 

The work of the IANWGE can clearly be seen in the Council 2002 Gender Mainstreaming kit to which 28 UN members of IANWGE contributed, nine specialized agencies, eight programmes and funds, four regional commissions and seven UN Secretariat offices, is one output. I do hope that Member States will review and study this kit for the scope of activities covered and for best practices that Member States may wish to use or adapt at the national level. I also hope that the extensive work of individual members of the IANWGE as well as its collective work since the Council's 1997/2 agreed conclusions, will be recognized.

Mr. President,

I am turning now to the issue of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, INSTRAW.  It is my pleasure to introduce the note of the Secretary-General on the situation of INSTRAW (E/2002/77), and the report of the INSTRAW Board of Trustees (E/2002/70) will be introduced by the Interim Manager/Director.

I am particularly pleased to inform the Council that the Working Group on the future operations of INSTRAW mandated by General Assembly resolution 56/125 was constituted and had an initial organizational meeting on 22 July 2002, and will have a meeting on 24 July. The Group is under the distinguished leadership of H.E. Ambassador Arias, Permanent Representative of Spain and the other distinguished bureau members are Ambassador Pulido (Venezuela) and Mrs. Samina Naz (Bangladesh). While the Working Group has had little time to organize or complete its work, I am confident that the Group will achieve the results expected by the General Assembly and report by its fifty-sixth session. I wish to assure the Council of the full support of my Office and INSTRAW to the Working Group in the discharge of its important task and responsibilities.

I also have the honour to introduce Ms. Juanita Bobbitt appointed by the Secretary-General in response to ECOSOC 2001/40 and General Assembly resolution 56/125 as Interim Manager/Director. She was recently with me in Santo Domingo to meet with government and ministry officials, agency officials and INSTRAW staff. She will be overseeing the work of the Institute and its staff until the outcome of the Working Group is decided on.

            Despite progress in the revitalization of its working method requested in Council resolution 1999/54, the Institute has yet to find its comparative advantage and research and training focus or niche in a world of increasing involvement and skills in communications technology by many actors. It has yet to regain the confidence and support of donors. So far, the GAINS working method has not lived up to its promise, due to the lack of resources, technical expertise and limited time in which to prove itself. Structural changes may need to accompany changes in working methods.

This conclusion was stated in a recent audit of the Institute by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). Among other conclusions and recommendations (A/56/907), OIOS recommended that the GAINS system be evaluated and refocused; and that donor interests and intergovernmental mandates be the primary criteria in developing a more focused plan of action. Other recommendations addressed to the Working Group involved an invitation to consider the option of closing INSTRAW and the feasibility of INSTRAW's autonomous status.

In the meantime, the financial situation of INSTRAW continues to deteriorate. Despite this factor, I would like to affirm on behalf of the Secretary-General, how much the contributions of Member States have been appreciated. We cannot ignore that voluntary contributions are at their lowest level in the past 10 years - $24,300 in 2002. Donor countries, 17 in 2000, now number 9 in 2002. Currently INSTRAW is financed mainly from the $650,000 unspent balance of the one-time, emergency subvention of $800,000 from the regular budget. Together with a balance of $200,000 from contributions left as of 31 December 2001 and the above regular budget contribution, the total budget of INSTRAW for 2002 amounts to $850,000. This amount is sufficient to continue the Institute's operations with a limited staffing one D-1, one P-3, one P-2 and five GS and cover basic programme-related activities until early 2003.

In conclusion, on behalf of my Office and the Division for the Advancement of Women as well as the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality comprising all United Nations agencies and Secretariat entities, I would like to pledge our full cooperation with delegations to re-creating an INSTRAW with a vision - stable, focused and sustainable. We look forward to the Council’s guidance and advice on these reports as contributions to the critical work of this Council and its subsidiary bodies.

Thank you, Mr. President.