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GA/9030
8 December 1995

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENDORSES DECLARATION, PLATFORM FOR ACTION ADOPTED BY FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN

8 December 1995


Press Release
GA/9030


GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENDORSES DECLARATION, PLATFORM FOR ACTION ADOPTED BY FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN

19951208 The General Assembly this afternoon endorsed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women, which was held in China's capital city from 4 to 15 September 1995.

By means of a resolution adopted without a vote, the Assembly also called upon members of the international community to take action for the effective implementation of the Beijing agreements.

The Beijing Platform for Action establishes a basic group of priority actions to be carried out over the next five years in twelve critical areas of concern: poverty; education; health care; violence against women; armed conflict; economic inequality; power-sharing and decision-making; mechanisms to promote the advancement of women; human rights; stereotyping and communications; the environment; and the girl child.

Recommendations in the Platform for Action are addressed to various elements of the international community, particularly governments, international financial institutions, bilateral donors, the private sector, academic and research institutions, non-governmental organizations and the mass media. The text is comprised of six chapters, with the bulk of the recommendations concentrated in chapter IV, on the "critical areas of concern". Chapter V deals with institutional arrangements, while chapter VI addresses financial arrangements.

Speaking in the debate on the item, the representative of the United States said the universal Declaration was not a document of the East, West, North or South. It found its spiritual and moral roots in all cultures and at its heart was a fundamental distinction between coercion and freedom. "We must affirm that no mother should feel compelled to abandon her daughter because of a societal preference for males. No woman or girl should be forced to undergo genital mutilation, or to have abortion, or to engage in

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prostitution, or to enter into marriage or to have sex", she said. Every woman should be free to make her own decisions about health, including her own fertility.

The representative of China said his country had "not forgotten the understanding, cooperation and support rendered to us by an overwhelming majority of countries, the Group of 77 in particular, relevant international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the press in the course of our preparations". He urged the international community to adopt concrete measures to earnestly implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

The representative of Tunisia said United Nations organs and bodies could provide useful support to the efforts individual States were making to improve conditions for women. He hoped that budgetary restrictions would not affect the social sectors of the United Nations, particularly those dedicated to women and children.

The representative of Pakistan introduced the draft resolution. Also speaking in the debate were representatives of Philippines, Spain (speaking on behalf of the European Union) and Japan. The representative of Saudi Arabia spoke in explanation of position following adoption of the text. The Observer for the Holy See made a statement concerning the World Summit for Social Development.

The General Assembly will meet again on Monday, 11 December, to take up the reports of its Sixth (Legal) Committee. It is also expected to take action on a draft resolution concerning the restitution of cultural property to the countries of origin.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its consideration of implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and to take up implementation of the World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace. (For background on reports before the Assembly, see Press Releases GA/SHC/3319, issued 14 November, and GA/9028, issued 7 December.)

Also before the Assembly is a draft resolution on the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/50/L.46). Under its terms, the Assembly would endorse the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Conference on 15 September. The Assembly would also call upon all States and all bodies of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations, to take action for the effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action.

Statements

RENATO R. MARTINO (Holy See) said that since the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen the concept of development could never again be separated from its human and social dimensions. "We can speak of true development only when the rights of all are respected and when all persons and communities have access to what they need to exercise their rights effectively," he said. Unlike other international conferences, the Copenhagen Summit did not have one clear focal point within the United Nations system. It touched on areas that are the competence of various bodies and specialized agencies and also recognized the special contributions of non-governmental organizations and "civil society".

Development and peace depended on the ability of peoples and persons to establish bonds of solidarity, he continued. The ideas of family and family of nations evoked something more than simple functional relationships or mere convergence of interests. The same spirit of solidarity must mark relationships within nations. "The spirit of solidarity must be a mark of economic systems", he said. The Summit itself had stressed the importance of the free market, but also recalled the need for appropriate intervention to counter market failure, promote stability, long-term investment and ensure ethical conduct.

He drew special attention to the commitments and promises made at Copenhagen concerning the question of external debt, especially that of the poorest countries. There was a need for greater cooperation between nations and international organizations to monitor, and alleviate, the effects of debt burden, especially on the ability of countries to dedicate the necessary funds to social needs.

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Introduction of Draft Resolution

MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan) introduced the draft resolution on the Fourth World Conference on Women, saying that it was very short, but important. The Member States today were assembled to endorse the commitments they had made at the Beijing Conference, which had been a leap forward towards the empowerment of women. The draft resolution was the outcome of open-ended consultations attended by many States, including the "Group of 77" developing countries and China, the European Union, United States, Japan and the Russian Federation. On the behalf of the co-sponsors, he said he hoped the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus.

He added the following co-sponsors: Albania, Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Greece, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kazakstan, Krygyz Republic, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Rwanda, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela and Zambia.

RUTH S. LIMJUCO (Philippines) speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the Conference in Beijing was the culmination of a long and arduous fight to give women their rightful place in the sun. While recognizing the advances made in the status of women, the Beijing Declaration decried the persistent inequalities between women and men and the increasing feminization of poverty as major reasons for the uneven progress. The Platform for Action had prescribed the action to be taken by governments, the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations and civil society for the empowerment of women. The Group of 77 now called for the full implementation of the Declaration and the Programme for Action.

AURELIO FERNANDEZ (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said he was very encouraged by the solidarity achieved among women from different regions of the world throughout the preparations and at the Conference itself. The Union was strongly committed to the Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the Conference and to its full and effective implementation. Women all over the world must be able to participate fully on an equal basis with men in economic, political, social and cultural decision- making processes in all fields of society, for their own benefit and for the benefit of society as a whole.

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Participation in the political and economic fields was of particular importance, he said. The responsibility for the implementation of and follow- up to the Platform for Action lay primarily with governments. He called upon all actors, at all levels, to support and contribute to that common effort.

JEANNE MOUTOUSSAMY-ASHE (United States) said the Platform of Action adopted at Beijing would serve as a blueprint for efforts to enable women to participate fully as citizens in societies around the globe. Consensus in Beijing revolved around the basic principles that: violence against women must stop; girls must be valued equally with boys; women must have equal access to education, health care and the leavers of economic and political power; and family responsibilities should be shared. The human rights of women were an integral part of all human rights and were neither different nor separable from those of men.

The universal Declaration was not a document of the East, West, North or South, she said. It found its spiritual and moral roots in all cultures. At its heart was a fundamental distinction between coercion and freedom. "We must affirm that no mother should feel compelled to abandon her daughter because of a societal preference for males. No woman or girl should be forced to undergo genital mutilation, or to have abortion, or to engage in prostitution, or to enter into marriage or to have sex", she said. Every woman should be free to make her own decisions about health, including her own fertility.

Women were often barred from owning land, excluded from schools, denied financial credit, provided less nourishment and permitted little or no voice in government, she said. While governments would have the principal responsibility in accomplishing the Platform for Action, the United Nations could perform three vital functions. First, it could serve as an example, by according women fair and equal treatment within the Organization. Second, it could coordinate actions to advance the status of women by making an inventory of the recommendations made at Beijing and related conferences and setting priorities for their implementation. Third, it could monitor progress on the implementation of the Platform for Action around the world.

WANG XUEXIAN (China) said the Beijing Conference had been of far- reaching importance to the advancement of women and the promotion of peace, development and human progress. It would surely go down in the annals of the development of world women as another important milestone. "While sharing the joy of success of the Conference, we have not forgotten the understanding, cooperation and support rendered to us by an overwhelming majority of countries, the Group of 77 in particular, relevant international organizations, non-governmental organizations and the press in the course of our preparations."

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Although the success of the Conference had created momentum, the genuine achievement of gender equality on a global scale remained an arduous task, he said. The international community should adopt concrete measures to earnestly implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

SHUNJI MARUYAMA (Japan) said the Beijing Conference lent greater momentum to efforts of achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. He noted the crucial role of the non-governmental organizations in promoting the advancement of women and said they clearly constituted a driving force for Conference follow-up activities. However, the primary responsibility for implementing the Platform for Action lay with the governments, which should mobilize all actors in civil society to work jointly to those ends.

SLAHEDDINE ABDELLAH (Tunisia) said his country was particularly interested in the participation of women in development and in that area international solidarity was essential. United Nations organs and bodies could provide useful support to the efforts individual States were making to improve conditions for women. He hoped budgetary restrictions would not affect the social sectors of the United Nations, particularly those dedicated to women and children. As for the Assembly's role in the follow-up to the recommendations of the Beijing Conference, he particularly supported the creation of national means to promote women, the integration of all elements of civil society in contributing to the objectives of the programme of action and a biannual review of implementation of the programme.

The President of the General Assembly DIOGO FREITAS DO AMARAL (Portugal) announced that Angola, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mongolia and Viet Nam had joined as co-sponsors of the resolution.

The Assembly adopted the draft resolution on the Fourth World Conference on Women without a vote.

ABDULRAHMAN AL-RAASI (Saudi Arabia) said his country associated itself with the draft resolution on the Fourth World Conference on Women. It believed in the central role of women in every society. However, it did not consider itself bound by any part of the Beijing Declaration that did not confirm to the Islamic sharia.

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For information media. Not an official record.