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Commission on Population and Development
Wednesday, 29 March 2000
Ms Yakin Ertürk
Director, Division for the Advancement of Women
Friends and Colleagues,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today. The kind invitation extended to us is commendable as it provides us with the opportunity to share our experiences and revisit our common areas of concern in the light of lessons learned within the context of the follow up to the global conferences of the past decade. After providing a brief overview of the Beijing + 5 process, I would like to take this opportunity to touch upon some of those common areas.
As you are aware, the Commission on the Status of Women held its forty-fourth session from 28 February to 2 March 2000, followed by third session of the Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century" from 3 to 17 March 2000.
With this session, the Commission completed its multi-year programme of work adopted in 1996. A new multi-year programme of work for the period 2002-2005 will be established after the special session, at the 45th session of CSW in 2001. During this time the Commission will also address two priority themes: (i)women, the girl-child and HIV/AIDS" and (ii)gender and multiple forms of discrimination, in particular issues related to racism and racial discrimination.
The major portion of the three week session of the CSW was devoted to the work of the predatory committee which had before it the review and appraisal report (E/CN.6/2000/PC2) based on a total of 135 national reports. I must acknowledge here that since the finalization of the review and appraisal report on 30 December 1999, the Division has received additional national reports bringing the total of responses to the questionnaire on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action to 145. Such a high number of replies and the richness of the information contained in them is certainly indicative of the strong ownership that has developed around the Beijing commitments.
The current challenges associated with poverty, changing demographic trends, such as, increased female migration and ageing populations, economic instabilities and hardships, armed 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 of the Platform. 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 womens status, including fertility rates, rates of infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy, immunization rates, womens 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.
In order to have a holistic assessment of the implementation of the Platform for Action, the report on review and appraisal of Beijing commitments 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) which reflects the implementation of activities undertaken by the UN system; the publication of the Division for the Advancement of Women - 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development with a focus on Globalization, Gender and Work; the forthcoming publication on "The Worlds Women 2000" prepared by the Statistics Division of DESA; NGO alternative reports; and numerous other reports prepared by various UN entities.
Despite much progress in certain critical areas and the overall improved understanding of gender equality there is much more to be done. In this regard, I would like to congratulate the Commission on Population and Development for choosing Population, Gender and Development as its theme for this session. It is through such collaborative effort that existing obstacles can be overcome and gender mainstreaming strategy can turn into practice.
The review process has also shown us that our basic concepts and strategies need to be reviewed and streamlined. While the goal of women's advancement and gender equality is favorably received there is much skepticism and mis-conceptualization as to what this entails. It is often argued by critics that men face the same problems that women face and that in order to be convincing we must identify problem areas unique to women. It is true that men suffer from poverty, violence, lack of access to health care or education, among others. This is because gender inequality is rooted in patriarchal ideology and institutions that entail relations of domination not only between women and men but also among men themselves. Historically, some men have used power, whether overtly - as in slave society - or more discretely - as in modern times - to control the labour of other men, which is often referred to as class relations. Gender relations are the most pervasive and universal of all forms of inequality which cuts across class, ethnic, racial and national lines. Ms. Mary Robinson, The High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in her statement on the International Women's Day this year that, "We will know that there is equality when women are as free to make mistakes as men, to be as wrong as men and for it not to be blamed on their gender!" This, in a nut shell, summarizes the specificity of women's situation.
Therefore, gender analysis needs to be used to identify how gender inequality is reproduced and how it manifests itself in terms of women's differential access to critical recourses and opportunities to expand their capabilities and choices in life, regardless of their lineage, class or nationality. The interconnectedness of inequalities is the reason why "men" have a stake in gender equality. The role of men in this process is well recognized, both in the Beijing and Cairo Platform. Now, there is need to go further to identify the policy implications of male involvement. It is clear that much collaboration is needed by our respective Commissions to address the current challenges facing us in the area of population, gender and development.
While there are mounting problems ahead of us, we must not forget to celebrate our accomplishments. The prepcom for Beijing + 5 adopted a political declaration which reiterates the commitment of Member States to the principles of Beijing and to move forward for its full implementation; the prepcom extended the participation in the special session to NGOs created since Beijing, whereby reaffirming its commitment to an inclusive and transparent process for State/NGO partnership; the prepcom attracted enormous interest on the part of diverse NGOs, allowing for exchange of ideas, agreements as well as disagreements; last but not least, the prepcom was marked by signature of several States to the optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which is perhaps the most visible example of the translation of Beijing promises into action.
I must also refer to the highly successful regional meetings held in preparation for the special session :
ESCAP (Bangkok, 26-29 October 1999),
ECA (Addis Ababa, 22-26 November 1999),
ESCWA (Beirut, 29 November - 1 December1999),
ECE (Geneva, 19-21 January 2000),
ECLAC (Lima, 8-10 February 2000).
These regional meetings brought together important number of representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations. They examined regional reports on review and appraisal and adopted a plan of action (ECA), recommendations or agreed conclusions (ESCAP, ESCWA, ECE,) or resolutions ("Lima Consensus").
Negotiations on the outcome document (E/CN.6/2000/PC/L.1/Rev.2) have started at the prepcom but have not been completed. Additional informals are scheduled for May and immediately before the special session. I would like to extend my gratitude to the various DESA Divisions for reviewing and commenting on the outcome document.
Thank you again for inviting me to this meeting and we at the Division for the Advancement of Women look forward to working together to achieve our common goals for gender equality.