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GA/9725
10 June 2000

GENERAL ASSEMBLY REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO 1995 BEIJING CONFERENCE GOALS, AS "WOMEN 2000" SPECIAL SESSION CONCLUDES AT HEADQUARTERS

10 June 2000


Press Release
GA/9725


GENERAL ASSEMBLY REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO 1995 BEIJING CONFERENCE GOALS, AS ‘WOMEN 2000’ SPECIAL SESSION CONCLUDES AT HEADQUARTERS

20000610

Adopts Political Declaration, ‘Further Actions and Initiatives’; Assembly President Notes ‘No Backward Movement’ on Language of Beijing

The twenty-third special session of the General Assembly “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century” concluded today, with governments reaffirming their commitment to the goals and objectives contained in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.

Adopting its outcome document, containing a Political Declaration and “Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action", delegates agreed that, although significant positive elements could be identified, barriers remained, and they pledged to take further action to ensure the full and accelerated implementation of the Platform.

In his closing statement to the session, the President of the Assembly, Theo Ben-Gurirab (Namibia), praised the outcome and noted that there had been "no backward movement on any of the Beijing language" in the final document. The Platform remained fully valid for national and international actions. Further, the new text updated the Platform in the areas of violence against and trafficking in women, health, education, human rights, poverty, debt relief and globalization, armed conflict, sovereignty, land and inheritance rights for women, political participation and decision-making. If governments demonstrated the necessary political will and allocated required resources, the goals of gender equality, development and peace would become a reality very early in the twenty-first century, he said.

On the issue of violence against women, governments agreed to establish or strengthen legislation to handle all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape and sexual abuse of women and girls. The delegates agreed that violence against women and girls was a human rights violation, noting that many governments had introduced educational and outreach programmes, as well as legislative measures criminalizing that practice. Meanwhile, many of those measures in the criminal justice area to eliminate forms of violence against women and children, including domestic violence and child pornography, were weak in many countries. Prevention strategies also remained fragmented and reactive.

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Among the goals set by the text in terms of women's education is the time- bound target of the year 2015, set for a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy, as well as ensuring free compulsory primary education for both girls and boys. Also, governments agreed to develop gender-sensitive curricula to address gender stereotyping as one of the root causes of segregation in working life.

The governments further agreed to develop and fully implement laws, policies and educational programmes to eradicate harmful customary or traditional practices, including female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage and so- called honour crimes. There was also agreement to work towards the elimination of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as economic exploitation, including, among other things, trafficking in women and children and female infanticide.

On the issue of women and armed conflict, it was agreed that women's contribution in peace-building, peacemaking and conflict resolution was increasingly being recognized, and that progress had been made in disseminating and implementing guidelines for the protection of refugee women. It was also agreed that women were increasingly participating in the labour market and that there was increased awareness of the need to reconcile employment and family responsibilities.

Regarding women’s health, it was decided that the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality was a priority and that women should have ready access to essential obstetric, post-partum and maternal care. Priority attention should be given to prevention, detection and treatment of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention of unwanted pregnancies and the health impact of unsafe abortion. Every attempt should be made to eliminate the need for abortion.

At the international level, the document stresses the need to ensure and support the participation of women in development activities and peace processes, including conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building, and to support the involvement of women’s organizations and community-based organizations. Women should also be included as special envoys and special representatives of the Secretary-General in those matters.

The Assembly also reached agreement on issues governing women and the environment, the media, institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women and on their human rights. It also made recommendations for actions to be taken at the national level by governments and at the international level by governments, regional and international organizations, including the United Nations, as well as international financial institutions and other actors.

Prior to the adoption of the final document, 50 speakers took the floor on Friday afternoon and evening, stressing the importance of the Beijing review process and stating that improvement of the situation concerning the attainment of equal rights for women was a universal issue of great importance. Many speakers

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said that a valuable contribution of the special session would be creation of a conducive environment for the promotion of gender equality and that new partnership was needed for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.

Taking the floor in the afternoon session were Ministers of Mauritius, Niger, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Peru, Cameroon, Morocco, Sao Tome and Principe, and Chad, as well as the Director-General of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Manpower Development of the Seychelles, Director of Women’s Affairs of Vanuatu, Vice-Ministers from Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Bahrain; Assistant-Secretary of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Samoa; Chairperson of the Women’s National Committee of Yemen; and representatives of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marshall Islands and Nauru.

Speaking in their observer capacity were the Head of the Federal Office for Equality between Women and Men of Switzerland, Minister for Internal Affairs of Cook Islands, Chargée of the Mission for the Advancement of Women of the International Organization of La Francophonie, Head of Gender Affairs of the Commonwealth Secretariat; Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs of the European Community (on behalf of the European Commission); Secretary of the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men of the Council of Europe; Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity; and representatives of the Holy See, Organization of the Islamic Conference, International Organization for Migration, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, representative of the League of Arab States, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, and the African Development Bank.

The following representatives of the United Nations also spoke: Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Executive Directors of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); and the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Speaking on behalf of non-governmental organizations were the Chairperson of Women in Law and Development in Africa; Vice-President of Mahila Dakshata Samiti; representative of Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women; President of the Centro De La Mujer Peruana “Flora Tristan”; and Chairperson of the Alliance for Arab Women.

Also during the afternoon meeting, delegates were informed that Bosnia and Herzegovina had reduced its arrears to the United Nations according to the provisions of Article 19 of the Charter. (Article 19 states that any Member State in arrears to the United Nations for two years would lose its right to vote in the Assembly.)

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When the meeting was resumed on Saturday, after a lengthy suspension to conclude negotiations on the final document, statements in explanation of position were made by the representatives of Honduras, Qatar, Poland, South Africa, Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Nicaragua, Nigeria (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Malta, Argentina (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), Rwanda, United States, Gabon (on behalf of the African Group), Senegal, Colombia (on behalf of several Latin American countries), Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Libya, Bahrain, El Salvador, Kenya, Sudan, Indonesia, Cuba, Algeria (on behalf of the Arab Group), Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Philippines, Portugal (on behalf of the European Union and associated countries), Canada, New Zealand, Oman, Mauritania, Iraq, Norway, Iran, Jordan, Syria and the Russian Federation, as well as the Observer for Holy See.

At the beginning of the resumed meeting, the President expressed condolences to the people of Syria on the death of the President of that country. In his honour, the Assembly observed a minute of silence. All the speakers joined in expressions of sorrow at his passing. The representative of Syria thanked all those who had spoken in sympathy.

Round-up

The special session, entitled "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century", reviewed and appraised progress and identified current challenges in the implementation of the Platform for Action. The final documents of the Beijing Conference set the goals reflected in the title of the special session and constituted an agenda for the empowerment of women. Recognizing that the commitments of the Platform for Action had not been fully implemented, the participants of the special session agreed upon further actions and initiatives at local, national, regional and international levels to accelerate its implementation.

Held at Headquarters this week, the session enjoyed a high level of participation: 207 speakers addressed the Assembly in the course of 10 plenary meetings, including 178 Member States, three non-Member States, 16 observers, four heads of United Nations programmes and specialized agencies, one United Nations Committee and five non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Seventy-seven per cent of the speakers were women.

Apart from the staff of the Permanent Missions, some 2,300 delegates participated in the New York session. Both the Beijing Conference and the special session benefited from NGO participation: 1,036 accredited NGOs were represented by 2,043 delegates. Special events and panels this week were devoted to many specific issues related to gender equality, including good practices in gender mainstreaming; training of women; micro-credit programmes; protection of internally displaced women and girls; sexual and reproductive health; emergencies affecting women; gender perspective in various international activities; and gender awareness.

Speakers in the general debate stressed that the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing outcome was occurring in a rapidly changing global

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context. Among the new challenges to the full implementation of those documents, they cited globalization and increased disparities in the economic situation among and within countries, coupled with a growing interdependence of States. Structural adjustment programmes and high costs of external debt servicing had worsened the situation in many developing countries. Women and girls were increasingly involved in internal, regional and international labour migration. Technological advances could have an impact on the position of women, and the impact of armed conflicts on women could not be ignored.

At the opening of the session, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the international community should put the world on notice that "the future of this planet depends on women". Focusing on the importance of education, he stressed that it was both the entry point into the global economy and the best defence against its pitfalls. There was no development strategy more beneficial to the society as a whole -– women and men alike –- than one involving women as central players, he said.

Most speakers agreed that Member States should make full use of the tremendous human resources that women represented, overcoming the traditional stereotypes that women were inferior to men. They agreed that allowing women to take power positions in society would benefit country's economies, and that it was essential to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The need to speedily conclude negotiations on the additional protocol to the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime concerning the trafficking of human beings was emphasized as a future tool of fighting against the spread of trafficking in women. Speakers also stressed that the pandemic of HIV/AIDS was taking a heavy toll on women.

Describing their national programmes of action, representatives of many countries outlined their governments' legislative efforts to ensure gender equality, as well as steps to empower women, which included affirmative action quotas for elections to local structures. Among economic measures implemented by States, micro-credit programmes and development of labour standards to achieve equality in the workplace were mentioned. Governments pledged their commitment to the inclusion of women in decision-making processes and promotion of their human rights.

Overview of Special Session Outcome Document

The document is organized into four parts: the Introduction; Achievements and Obstacles in the Implementation of the 12 Critical Areas of the Platform for Action; Current Challenges Affecting the Full Implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action; and Actions and Initiatives to Overcome Obstacles and to Achieve the Full and Accelerated Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. (See documents A/S-23/2/Addendum 2 (Parts I-IV) and Corr.1 to Part IV, as amended by documents A/S-23/AC.1/L.1/Adds.1 to 42 and Corr.1 to Add.16)

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In its assessment of the gains made and the obstacles encountered in achieving objectives in 12 areas critical to women’s advancement as identified in the 1995 Platform for Action, the outcome document notes that even though there were significant positive developments, barriers remained to a full implementation of the goals and commitments made in Beijing.

The 12 critical areas identified in the Beijing Platform are: women and poverty, education, health, violence, armed conflict, the economy, power and decision-making, human rights, the environment, the media, the girl child, and institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women.

The document states that, although there was increased recognition of the gender dimensions of poverty, there was a widening economic inequality between men and women. In response, governments are called upon to incorporate a gender perspective into the design, development, adoption and execution of all budgetary processes and undertake socio-economic policies promoting sustainable development and ensuring poverty eradication programmes specially formulated for women.

The document notes that, while globalization has brought greater economic opportunities and autonomy to some women, it has further marginalized others. While there has been increased participation of women in the labour market, many women still work in rural areas and the informal economy as subsistence producers and in the service sector with low levels of income and job security. In that light, governments agreed to create and ensure equal access to social protection systems and to provide safeguards against the uncertainties and changes in work conditions associated with globalization and strive to ensure that new, flexible and emerging forms of work are adequately covered by social protection.

To address the challenges of globalization, they agreed to take effective measures, including through the enhanced and effective participation of developing countries in the international economic policy decision-making process, in order to guarantee the equal participation of women, in particular those from the developing countries, in the process of macroeconomic decision-making.

It was agreed that measures would be taken at the national and international levels, to avoid any unilateral measures, not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, that impedes the full achievement of economic and social development by the population of the affected countries and take measures to alleviate the negative impact of economic sanctions on women and children. Governments should take steps to review and implement macroeconomic and social policies and programmes through, among other things, the analysis of a gender perspective of structural adjustment programmes,

Advances had also been made in the growing acceptance of the importance to society of the full participation of women in decision-making and power at all levels. Despite that acceptance, though, a gap between de jure and de facto equality persisted. The document calls for the creation of favourable conditions to encourage the entry of women into politics through such means as their nomination through political parties, quotas or other appropriate means for

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election to parliaments and other legislative structures, to increase their share and contribution in the formulation of public policy.

At the international level, it was agreed to ensure and support the participation of women in development activities and peace processes, including conflict prevention and resolution, post-conflict reconstruction, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace-building, and to support the involvement of women’s organizations and community-based organizations. Women should also be included as special envoys and special representatives of the Secretary-General in those matters.

Among the goals set by the text in terms of women's education is the time- bound target of the year 2015 set for a 50 per cent improvement in adult literacy, as well as ensuring free compulsory primary education for both girls and boys. Also, governments agreed to develop gender-sensitive curricula to address gender stereotyping as one of the root causes of segregation in working life.

After accepting that violence against women and girls, whether occurring in public or private, constituted a human rights violation, governments agreed, as a matter of priority, to review, where appropriate, and introduce effective legislation on violence against women and to take other necessary measures to ensure that all women and girls are protected and have recourse to justice. They also decided to treat all forms of violence against women and girls of all ages as a criminal offence punishable by law.

They further agreed to develop and fully implement laws and such other measures as policies and educational programmes to eradicate harmful customary or traditional practices, including female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage and so-called honour crimes. There was also agreement to work towards the elimination of such other forms of violence against women as commercial sexual exploitation, as well as economic exploitation, including, among other things, trafficking in women and children, female infanticide, crimes committed in the name of honour or passion, racially motivated crimes, abduction and sale of children, and dowry-related violence and deaths.

Governments agreed to establish or strengthen legislation to handle all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape and sexual abuse of women and girls.

Regarding women’s health, it was decided that the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality was a priority, and that women should have ready access to essential obstetric, post-partum and maternal care, as well as effective referral and transport to higher levels of care, when necessary. Priority attention should be given to prevention, detection and treatment of breast, cervical and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, as well as prevention of unwanted pregnancies and the health impact of unsafe abortion. Every attempt should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Also, universal and equal access for women and men throughout their lives to social services related to health care, including education, clean water and safe sanitation, nutrition, food security and health education programmes should be ensured.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this afternoon to conclude its twenty-third special session -- "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty- first Century" -- which is reviewing implementation of the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995).

Statements

INDIRA THACOOR SIDAYA, Minister of Women, Family Welfare and Child Development of Mauritius: Five years later, the march continues as we are gathered here to measure progress, learn from mistakes and successes and to chalk out our common future. Gender equality has been integrated into Mauritius’ national legislation through the introduction of a Protection of Human Rights Act, amendments to the Criminal Code to make penalties against sexual abuse and family abandonment more severe, and to create the offence of sexual harassment and the introduction of a Protection from Domestic Violence Act. Institutional mechanisms have been strengthened for more effective service delivery and support to women. Mauritius has a full-fledged ministry for women headed by a cabinet minister. It also has a gender bureau to ensure the implementation of a gender management system.

Economic empowerment has been one of the main thrusts for action, as Mauritius believes that without the means of livelihood, no woman can enjoy her rights fully. In 1998, the Government introduced a micro-credit scheme, based on the Grameen model of Bangladesh, to provide loans to women without collateral for income-generating activities. Violence against women and children is an unacceptable form of human exploitation. In that regard, Mauritius introduced the Protection from Domestic Violence Act. It also offers equality of opportunity and access to education, health, social services and employment, and there is no disparity in the enrolment rates of girls and boys. However, problems such as sexual exploitation have retained our attention, as they mostly affect the girl child.

Women’s access to information and technology has been improved with women and family centres in under-served regions and the opening of an information technology centre exclusively for women. As for political participation, despite some improvement since 1995, women’s participation is still relatively low. Leadership training programmes are being conducted to encourage self-assertiveness and confidence-building among women. It has been gratifying to prepare a national gender action plan, which outlines our vision for the attainment of gender equality by the year 2005. The plan was formulated after wide consultation with all stakeholders, including women at the grass-roots level. Advancing the cause of gender equality is not without its difficulties. The special session is a unique opportunity to reverse negative attitudes, to think of a new world order based on partnerships and participation within the country and beyond national frontiers. Women have to develop a new sense of leadership and responsibility and create a true culture of peace.

NANA AICHA FOUMAKOYE, Minister for Social Development, Advancement of Women and Child Protection of the Niger: Like other members of the international community, the Niger has committed itself to implementing the Beijing Platform, but progress in the 12 areas it recommends has not been linear. In 1996, the Government adopted a policy to guide work for the promotion of the status of women. That policy enjoys participation by all partners, including civil society and non-governmental organizations. Furthermore, the Constitution of the Niger provides for equality of treatment for all individuals regardless of race and gender, in addition to other factors. Also, the Fifth Republic has adopted other legislation which ensures women’s rights.

While some rights are difficult to enjoy because they are not combined with the necessary objectivity, since the Niger became a signatory of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, several issues came to the public attention, even some that had been considered taboo beforehand. The economic recovery programme of the Government has, as one of its major campaigns, the issue of poverty alleviation. A very large majority of women in the country are poor. Social and economic schemes have been established to assist them out of that situation. In 1996, the Government set enrolment quotas for girls to go to school and the present trend encourages them to remain in those institutions. Illiteracy affects 80 per cent of the population, and more than 90 per cent of those are women. Therefore, the issue of literacy has become an essential component in all of the Government’s social programmes.

Many women in the Niger are also victims of violence, and that is a source of real concern. Under the impetus of the Government, a broad national campaign has been embarked on to erase all forms of violence against women and girls. The media has also become an important lever for the necessary social mobilization and for disseminating the priorities the Government has set. As part of that venture, traditional chiefs are also being educated, as they can contribute to removing certain social impediments. The health sector has been achieving modest results, and women do not participate much in decision-making forums. However, they have been attaining improvements in certain spheres, such as diplomacy and public administration. In the public sector, they are favoured for promotion if their diplomas are of equal status to men’s qualifications. Recently, a law instituted a quota system for women and 25 per cent of each list of electoral candidates must be women.

KHOFIFAH INDAR PARAWANSA, State Minister for the Empowerment of Women of Indonesia: As a developing country contending with formidable social, economic and political challenges, Indonesia has not found it easy to translate global concepts on women’s rights and gender equality into practical country-level strategies. In 1999, Indonesia’s People’s Assembly adopted its new policy guidelines that, among other things, identify gender equality and gender justice as one of our national development objectives. Moreover, the newly reconstituted State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment conducted an internal reorganization and policy review that resulted in far-reaching changes on how it defines its mission.

Gender mainstreaming is one of the main strategies for achieving the national development goals of gender equality and gender justice. Presidential instructions are now being drafted to affirm the joint roles and responsibilities for gender mainstreaming. In order to obtain nationwide support for the effort, a Bureau of Women’s Empowerment has been established in 14 out of 27 provincial government offices. Also, there are numerous institutions to end violence against women and promote women’s human rights, such as the National Commission on Human Rights, the National Commission on the Protection of Children, and the National Commission on Violence against Women. In February of this year, Indonesia signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Government is now reviewing from a gender perspective all of Indonesia’s laws and regulations.

The financial crisis had a profound impact on the quality of life of all Indonesians, and hit women particularly hard. The crisis increased maternal mortality rates and the incidence of poverty among women, as well as increasing drug abuse. In response, Indonesia is carrying out various programmes, including the strengthening and revitalization of community service centres. There are some 200,000 such centres spread out in urban and rural areas, and they provide integrated services for health, nutrition, family planning and activities aimed at generating income for women as part of poverty alleviation. From my own position as Chair of the National Family Planning Coordination Board, I intend to launch a social education campaign to further reduce maternal mortality, and to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted disease, including HIV/AIDS, through promoting a more active role of husbands in reproductive health.

Early-age marriages are still common in many parts of the country, and it exposes the girl child to health risks. It also stands in the way of attaining sufficient formal education, knowledge and skills, so that she can improve her life. It is essential that the social and cultural barriers to proper education of women and girls, including early age marriages, be eliminated. The Government is also helping to uphold the human rights of women in the workplace. Having ratified the core conventions of the International Labour Organization(ILO), including Convention Number 182 on the worst forms of child labour, Indonesia is embarking on a programme to reform labour laws. Further, Indonesia is committed to removing entrenched barriers preventing women’s full participation in political life and economic development. We are also taking immediate and vigorous action to stop such ruthless practices as trafficking in women and children, child prostitution and pornography.

SHIRLEY GBUJAMA, Minister for Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs of Sierra Leone: In Sierra Leone since Beijing, considerable strides have been made through the combined efforts of Government, United Nations systems, bilateral and multilateral donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and women themselves in the effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. In 1996, with the first democratically elected Government in more than two decades, the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs was established, not only to advocate and ensure a more equitable distribution and rational use of public financial and organizational resources particularly for women and children, but to coordinate and develop strategies for cementing the interrelationships between Government and private institutions, and international agencies that address the issues covered under the 12 areas of concern.

For its part, the Government of Sierra Leone appointed women to the important Ministries of Gender and Children’s Affairs, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Housing and Country Planning and lately the Ministry of Development and Economic Planning. Women were made heads of important commissions like the National Commission for Democracy and Human Rights. The number of women also increased in junior ministerial positions, and even though men continue to dominate parliamentary representations with 92.2 per cent, women’s representations at 7.8 per cent marks a modest improvement, when compared with the situation before Beijing. Regrettably, in the course of the brutal rebel war, women and especially young girls were abducted, raped and used as sex slaves. Despite that, women remain undaunted. They have encouraged and participated in settlement of disputes through negotiations, mediation, dialogue, arbitration and reconciliation. One of the most remarkable contributions that women have made to the consolidation of peace in our country since the 1998 Lomé Peace Agreement, was the massive turn out of women several weeks ago to protest the illegal detention of some 500 United Nations peacekeepers by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels. Two days later, the women came out again and joined in a mass demonstration for peace. The result? Twenty-one people were shot dead, including women and many wounded by rebels in the capital Freetown. That was a turning point in the current search for peace.

To help maintain commitment with action on the Beijing Platform, I take this opportunity to appeal to the international community to devise some action plan against all those who in the international community have contributed directly or indirectly to the prolongation of the conflict in Sierra Leone; to take action against the illegal sale of Sierra Leone diamonds, which have fuelled the conflict and have brought so much pain and suffering on our people, particularly women and children; and to help us strengthen the government machinery for more effective coordination of women’s matters.

RACHEL DEA, Minister for Social Affairs, Advancement of the Family and Disabled Persons of the Central African Republic: Five years after Beijing, we are gathered here to assess the efforts made towards putting into effect the commitments made at the Beijing Conference to advance the status of women. The Government of the Central African Republic participated in the Beijing Conference and subscribed to the recommendations adopted there. After Beijing, the Government began to strengthen its institutional machinery, including decentralization of the ministries to advance women’s issues and the establishment of a national council to include high-level State officials, representatives of NGOs, and United Nations agencies. Strengthening NGOs is also envisaged to improve the success of the national strategy.

The awareness of the need to improve the status of women, including the improvement of their living conditions, has grown. Non-governmental organizations are very active, but they are confronted with the enormous challenge of financing their activities. I would like to ask my partners in development to lend a hand to their sisters in the Central African Republic, so that they can fully assume their role not only there, but throughout the world. A clear advance of women in the national political sphere can be seen in the number of women deputies in the National Assembly. This advance is due to massive participation of women in political parties.

On the issue of health, many studies explain the vulnerability of women, including the arduousness of their jobs, lack of health information, malnutrition and traditional practices deleterious to their health. Great attention has been granted to maternal and child health. In terms of violence, women of the Central African Republic are exposed daily to practices that were dangerous to their health. These acts are committed in the view of everyone and despite the law. A national committee to combat those practices was established in 1996 by the Government, yet its activities are limited, due to a lack of financial resources. LUISA MARIA CUCULIZA, Minister for the Advancement of Women and Human Development of Peru: The Peruvian Government reasserts that women should control their own destiny. It, thus, created the Ministry to identify government and gender-specific policies for national priorities. The country was the victim of terrorist attacks that created uncertainty for the future. The Government, therefore, has set as its priorities for the next five years the alleviation of poverty, economic recovery and regulations in employment and education, among others. Policies governing those areas also target women.

Legal standards for employment have been established, and a law providing for quotas in the government and municipal elections was established in 1997. That measure has allowed female leaders from urban and rural areas, sportswomen and others to attain high levels of power. In Peru, women do have access to decision-making posts and occupy positions of power. It must be noted that the elimination of family violence is a condition for creating a stable society. Therefore, in its attempts to halt the incidence of violence, the Government has decentralized its services into one location and is encouraging more women to break their silence. The Government of Peru believes that the elimination of family violence has implications for the country’s social and economic development, because democratic respect for others must begin in families. Hence, this year has been designated the year to eliminate family violence in Peru.

Health is another basic human right, and programmes to guarantee that right include reproductive health initiatives and several to regulate the treatment of pregnant women in the workplace. As education is the key instrument for building a democratic society, mass education campaigns have been undertaken and one of the major results has been the reduction of the gender gap in schools, due to the change of attitude by fathers who heretofore placed emphasis on the education of their sons.

JULIENNE NGO SOM, Minister for Women’s Affairs of Cameroon: The Beijing Platform for Action has been implemented under a macroeconomic context characterized by a severe economic and financial crisis, which has affected our country for more than half a decade. As a result, the Cameroon Government was obliged to reduce public expenditure in social sectors. This has led to the deterioration of the living conditions of most Cameroonians, especially women. There is no doubt that the Cameroon Government has the requisite political will and is committed to the advancement of women. This political will was reaffirmed by the adoption in July 1999 of the National Policy Declaration for the Integration of Women in Development. The general objective of this policy is to create a national framework for the implementation of the priority areas as defined in the Beijing Platform for Action.

The Government has increased and reinforced the number of technical organs for the promotion of women socio-economic activities. As a result, more and more women are getting involved in income-generating activities. Credit schemes are being developed at the grass-roots level to help women finance their income- generating activities. Special attention has been paid to advocacy and social marketing towards parents, cultural and religious leaders. The aim is to create public awareness on the need to treat boys and girls equitably when it comes to schooling. As a result, girls’ enrolment in primary schools has gone up with respect to non-formal education, and the literacy rate of adult women has also improved. Government policies and strategies following the Beijing Conference have created a strong public awareness on the need to tackle women’s health problems. Several health and nutrition surveys have been carried out to show the scope of these problems. Sensitization campaigns have been carried out on violence against women, and information has been circulated to the public with respect to the consequences of violence. Some NGOs and professional associations have created health centres to care for women victims of violence.

From 1995 to date, some progress has been made, though not without significant difficulties, and a lot has yet to be done. The major obstacle encountered by my country in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action has been the lack of financial resources. A substantial amount of money that could have been allocated to women’s promotion projects has been used to service the heavy debt Cameroon owes to international creditors.

NEZHA CHEKROUNI, Secretary of State to the Minister of Social Development, Solidarity, Employment and Professional Training of Morocco: Some of women’s legitimate aspirations have materialized. However, the advancement of women still suffers from many setbacks, particularly in the area of education and training. Some major problems also persist in the area of health care. The rate of infant and maternal mortality keeps increasing, and women continue to suffer from physical and mental destruction brought on by violence and the spread of AIDS.

In Morocco, political will manifested itself in the involvement of women in decision-making. Their participation in public and political life increased. Women have also been integrated within the representative institutions, as members of local, regional and parliamentary councils, and, for the first time in the history of Morocco, as cabinet members. Building on the legacy of his father, His Majesty King Mohammed VI gave women’s issues utmost importance to ensure their promotion and to defend their rights. In that respect, His Majesty King Mohammed VI appointed a woman as Counsellor.

Convinced that all mechanisms and charters will remain meaningless if the respect of women’s rights does not become a common culture, Morocco did not limit itself to institutional, legislative and procedural measures. Instead, Morocco’s efforts extended to the inclusion of teaching programmes on human rights and the creation of university chairs on human rights. Following directives by His Majesty the King, the Moroccan Government elaborated a global strategy based upon programmes that put women at the centre of its priorities. A permanent ministerial commission was established, and women’s promotion was placed among the top priorities of the five-year plan (1999-2003) for economic and social development. The first national campaign against violence and its impact on women was organized. Morocco also undertook tremendous efforts to increase the rate of school enrolment among young girls. All countries were facing challenges at all levels, including the globalization of the economy and new information technologies. These new technologies will have a serious impact on women. How can third world countries participate in globalization when they suffer from debt? she asked.

ALBERTO PAULINO, Minister for Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Deputy Minister, Office of the Prime Minister of Sao Tome and Principe: The population, in general, including women, are facing the problems of the changing global economy. The national authorities of Sao Tome and Principe have become more aware that women need to participate more actively in finding solutions, which would enable them to play a greater role in easing their burdens. Great disparities still exist in the country that attribute “superiority” to men, but it is undeniable that new vitality has been given to the cause of women. The Government has established a structure to govern the role of women in society. Its main purpose is to follow up as the work undertaken for the development of the women of Sao Tome and Principe.

After the Beijing Conference, a commission was set up and it produced a proposal, which was further validated and enriched by civil society. Also, several provisions were made and projects designed to facilitate women’s participation in decision-making forums in the country. Health and education have been given the highest priority among the programmes designed to empower women. Those include a reproductive health scheme, which was outlined for women and children, in particular. Furthermore, different NGOs have integrated and founded a federation of Sao Tome women. However, the Government is aware that those general positive achievements do not indicate that the task is over -- more work still needs to be done. It has committed itself to the further empowerment and participation of women, who constitute half of the population of Sao Tome and Principe.

FATIMÉ KIMTO, Minister for Social Action and Family of Chad: This session for us is of major importance, because of its subject the equality of women. It is no secret that Chad has undergone many problems since it gained independence. Our President has done his utmost to ensure that Chad takes its rightful place on the international arena. The establishment of a multi-party system and a free press are among the conditions created by our President, in order to give people the freedom to express freely, rather than through the language of weapons.

Although women make up 52 per cent of the population, the enrolment of girls in school is still very low. In order to remedy this problem of the absence of women in prominent positions, the Government has established a National Programme of Action, as well as a national policy for integrating women into all levels of society. In order to improve the living conditions of women, the Government has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, a draft code on the family has been adopted and it has integrated the gender concept into national policies. It is now in the process of preparing a strategy for reducing poverty by establishing a pilot project to this effect.

The Government has also trained women, to encourage them to gain access to economic power. It has also involved all levels of civil society in the quest for peace by establishing women and students peace networks. Despite the political will on the part of the Government, progress remains low. When you consider the representation of women in decision-making bodies, we know we have a long way to go, but we know this will improve. I want to end by thanking the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), whose help have made it possible for our delegation to participate in these deliberations.

ANA ELISA OSORIO GRANADO, Vice-Minister of Health of Venezuela: Beijing marked a fundamental landmark for the advancement of gender equity. In Venezuela, the adoption of a constitution with a gender perspective was a tremendous success. Venezuela was beginning the new millennium with a new Constitution with gender vision. A National Institute for Women was created. That Institute enjoyed a great increase in financial resources allocated to it. Another achievement was the formulation and entry into force of a law to protect children in adolescence. Within the framework of the reform of the health sector, a centre for reproductive health was established. A priority issue has been the prevention of adolescent pregnancy. To tackle that situation, a national plan for 1999 to 2004 was created. Health and education have been priorities. The adverse effects of globalization have also been studied.

Within the framework of health-care reform, the Venezuelan Constitution stipulates that health is a right. We are faced with the growing commercializing of health-care sector and we have begun the establishment of a management model in ambulatory health care. We have also set goals for maternal mortality and the prevention of the spread of AIDS. We have also incorporated sexual education and advice in textbooks. With respect to prevention of violence, the law punishes all forms of violence against women. A series of activities to disseminate knowledge about the law was undertaken. Some NGOs have made important efforts in organizing groups, as well as training programmes for health-care personnel.

At Beijing, Venezuela promised to reduce poverty. The political participation of women is still an area where major work needs to be done. Venezuela has played an active role in the negotiating process to ensure that achievement and obstacles were reflected in the Platform for Action. It urges governments to recognize the potential of women to achieve gender equality.

ISABELLE MACHIK RUTH TSHOMBE, Vice-Minister for Social and Family Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo: This special session provides the international community with a unique opportunity to combine efforts to assure their commitments to the Platform for Action, as well as the quest for solutions for the 12 priorities of the Beijing Conference. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has always given particular importance to the equality of men and women. That is why we set up a national action programme, which is a great source of inspiration for the promotion of women, without negating our cultural values.

A three-year plan has been developed which includes the following objectives: assuring the economic promotion of women; the cultural promotion of women; improving the nutrition of women and children; and helping women in rural areas. To strengthen institutional mechanisms for the promotion of women, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has set up national and provincial councils for women, which include NGOs and religious organization. We have also begun a national dialogue to look at policies to promote equalities for men and women.

Given the difficult economic situation, worsened by war, the programmes are not developing in the way we hoped. We appeal to the international community for assistance. The important role of women in the development process is clear to all. We must all make a firm commitment in the quest for sustainable development and assure women full participation in economic life. For many countries, inadequate means are major obstacles causing delays in achieving the goals of the Platform. Active partnerships between all components of the society are part of the solution.

We cannot have development or equality without peace and justice. The coalition of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi are waging war on Congolese soil. Human rights violations are committed against women and children. We abhor the absence of international condemnation for the burying alive of 15 women Rwandan troops. The Democratic Republic of the Congo has recognized the valuable contribution of women in peace. Women have to be involved in the settlement of conflicts and in peacekeeping. The international community must enhance their cooperation in conflict prevention and peacekeeping. Peace is prerequisite for effective implementation of the Platform for Action.

SHAIKHA HIND BINT SULMAN AL-KHALIFA, Under-Secretary and Assistant of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs of Bahrain: Sustainable development can only be achieved through the improvement of the social and economic status of women. There has been a recognition of the fact that the problems of women are the problems of society, in general, and that mankind cannot perform at his best in isolation from the rest of the world. Progress can only be achieved when everyone plays their part. Coinciding with this vision, many charters were issued promoting the ideas of equality among men and women. Now, five years after Beijing, we believe that a careful look at issues affecting women should be seen in the context of globalization, liberalization and the development of new technologies, which present new challenges for the Platform for Action from Beijing.

We should recognize that there is an urgent need to expand cooperation between governments and NGOs and civil society, to follow up on achievements in a centralized manner. We should be working together to raise new generations and prepare them to face these challenges, without ignoring the different cultural backgrounds.

Bahrain has realized the importance of the role of women and has invested great efforts in improving women’s economic and social status. We have worked to secure their present and prepare for their future. The government programme of 1999, in which women’s issues took their proper place, is an indication of this. The role of women cannot be limited to development, but should be extended to shape the future. Bahrainian women would be able to participate in the next Shura Council. In this important place in Bahrain society, special attention is paid to the family as the basis of society and a means to protect its moral values. This was also reasserted through various acts that have given women all their rights based on the Islamic Shari. We hope that the final document from this important session will represent a new era in the field of helping developing countries secure their present, as well as their future.

RASHIDA ALI AL-HAMADANI, Chairperson of the Women’s National Committee of Yemen: Among Yemen’s most significant achievements, the fact that women’s issues have received greater emphasis should be noted. It has moved towards democracy and a multi-party system. Non-governmental organizations play an important role in the follow-up to the Beijing Conference. Women participate fully in elections at all levels, with more than 1 million female voters participating in a recent election. Recently, a number of women have assumed leading positions in various parties and institutions. The national committee for women that was established to prepare for Beijing has been restructured in recognition of the need to continue its important work.

Regarding poverty, the Yemeni Government has redoubled its effort to fight poverty. In education, the Government also took several actions to address illiteracy by drawing up special strategies for girls. The Government also adopted strategies for the teaching profession. The saying “If you teach a women you teach a whole generation” was true. It was noteworthy that both the Constitution and laws guarantee equal rights of men and women. Having considered these significant achievements, I must also acknowledge certain obstacles in improving the status of women, including, for example, the inadequacy of educational facilities and the lack of teachers in education and health. The lack of physical infrastructure and financial resources also affect the advancement of women.

Yemen hosts a large numbers of refugees, mostly women and children from the Horn of Africa. Despite its limited means, Yemen is providing social and health care services to accommodate those refugees. Yemen is deeply grateful to the donor community, and wishes to single out the Government of the Netherlands for supporting women in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration.

DENNIE M.J. WILSON (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines): While five years ago there was much planning to address the negative effects of structural adjustment programmes, my Government had not envisaged the obstacles that the negative impact of globalization and trade policies would place in the path of implementation of the high goals of the Platform for Action. The decline in the banana industry due to challenges from "friendly" countries and the subsequent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling has impacted not only on women, who comprise a large segment of the agricultural sector, but also on large numbers of the population. Living conditions of rural women have deteriorated, which led to the increased feminization of poverty. My Government has moved to provide credit facilities for women in addition to subsidies, public assistance and employment schemes in collaboration with the private sector. My Government is encouraged by the new policy direction of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank towards poverty reduction measures at the micro-level, and has introduced a gender focus in poverty reduction programmes.

HIV/AIDS is having a devastating effect on the world. In the Caribbean, women in the 15 to 29 age group are most affected. As developing States without adequate access to advanced medicine and without resources for such critical health needs, the cooperation of the international community is essential to assist efforts to control this scourge. My Government is committed to collaborating on a regional plan of action to deal with the AIDS pandemic. In the interim, it is allocating resources for the care of affected persons and to adolescent reproductive care, as well as a strengthened family life education programme in schools.

We have passed progressive legislation eliminating all forms of discrimination against women, thus, establishing gender equality. Legislation to address the increasing violence against women was also enacted. The Government also adopted Caribbean Community (CARICOM) model legislation and was the first in the Caribbean to establish a family court. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines joined 16 other regional countries in implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol.

We are committed to creating an enabling environment to encourage women to seek and win election to Parliament. The Government has also targeted education as a vehicle for change. To further these efforts, my Government will participate in a regional programme for sex-disaggregated data on functional literacy, school attendance and subject selection. We have been taking concrete steps to ensure the elevation of women, and have certainly been learning from the best practices of other countries.

JANICK BRU, Director General, Ministry of Social Affairs and Manpower Development of the Seychelles: The Seychelles had long ago adopted a policy of gender mainstreaming. It had, 10 years ago, established a National Gender Steering Committee to promote gender equality and equity. It's constitutional charter of fundamental human rights and freedoms, while applying to all citizens, contained provisions that protect women's rights.

The Government acknowledges that good education empowers men and women, and compulsory free education means 100 per cent of boys and girls were enrolled in school. Last year, 46 per cent of overseas training scholarships were awarded to women. Her Ministry was also working towards removing stereotypes through education, sensitization and career counselling. Teaching materials had been examined to remove stereotypes, and teachers underwent systematic gender sensitization programmes.

Maternity health care is provided in all districts and prenatal care coverage is now 98 per cent. Women also play a key role in national decision- making, and represent 21 per cent of elected and nominated officials, and 28 per cent of cabinet ministers. Sixty per cent of local government councilors are women. Campaigns are currently directed at domestic violence and violence against women, and a National Family Tribunal set up two years ago was an important step in the protection of women and children's rights. While laws and policies have contributed to the advancement of women, stereotyping still exists, and women are still over-represented in low paid employment and as victims of domestic violence. Changes will take time. It is imperative that the environment promoted self- esteem, confidence and independence of the female half of the population. The right legal environment and the educational system were key to this.

ROSELYN TOR, Director of Women’s Affair of Vanuatu: The Government believes that the key to development and success is through education. However, because of limited financial and human resources, education is neither compulsory nor free. While the number of primary and secondary schools has increased, less than one third of the former would find a place in the latter and even less in tertiary levels. The Government and NGOs have established vocational schools in various provinces, but most of those cater to males. Also, with over 100 languages and schools scattered over 80 islands, there is need for finance, material and human resources and easier access to communication technology.

In addressing the issue of poverty and economic empowerment for women, Vanuatu has embarked on a micro-finance scheme for disadvantaged women. The first of those women received their loans in February 1997. The Government has also made progress in its national health programme. Infant and maternal mortality has decreased and life expectancy for women has risen. The State is still free from HIV/AIDS, but mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever, need further resources for their eradication. A women’s centre was established to cater to victims of domestic violence, and women are being allowed to participate in decision-making processes. The State has a female Auditor-General, Public Prosecutor and Chief Registrar. In addition, one of the major issues of a comprehensive reform programme that was embarked on in 1997 is gender equality in all spheres of life.

Women's rights are human rights, and the Constitution of Vanuatu recognizes the right to equality under the law. However, implementation is still far from satisfactory. The country's legislation has been reviewed to ensure that they are all gender-based. Recommendations for amendments have been presented to the relevant authorities. A system has also been introduced that allows girls to enter non-traditional professional areas, such as mechanics, electronics, construction and carpentry.

RAVAN FARHADI (Afghanistan): It is with bitter regret that I make this statement, unable to give the kind of encouraging information that other speakers have given regarding progress made in the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action. The war imposed on us by our neighbours in the South has had a tragic impact on the civilian population, particularly on women and children. We think that world conferences offer Member States the gathering place where they can elaborate initiatives to combat the problems that they share. Therefore, we want to avail ourselves of this opportunity to explain the problems of Afghan women and girls in the part of our country that is occupied by mercenaries, called Taliban, recruited and sent to Afghanistan by the secret military intelligence service of Pakistan, the ISI.

After the occupation by this group and their extremist allies, women are deprived of their right to work, causing ever widening poverty. Since September 1996, more than 40,000 widows have lost their work. Violence against women under the occupation of the Taliban is rampant. In a systematic way, discriminatory restrictions are imposed on women and girls, promulgated by edict by the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and the Promotion of Virtue. Some women have been beaten in public for leaving their homes without being accompanied by a male member of their family. There are also medical restrictions for women. The prohibition of education for women and girls is another negative aspect of the occupation of Taliban mercenaries.

Armed conflicts inflict specific suffering among women and children. Of the internal refugee population in Afghanistan, forced to displace by the Taliban in July 1999, more than two thirds are women and children. Displaced girls fall victim to forced marriage to the Taliban. Women are separated from their husband and family. All those barbaric acts were reported by human rights organizations. The crisis in Afghanistan imposed by Pakistan must be condemned by the international community. Pakistan must stop sending extremist mercenaries. Only in a situation of peace and security can the human rights of women and children be respected. With a view to strengthening solidarity the world over with Afghan women, we appeal to the international community to put pressure on the Pakistan junta to stop the expansionist war in Afghanistan. Respect for human rights, those of women and children included, must be part of the peace accord between the parties and must be part of any future arrangement.

LIDIJA TOPIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina): The State has only recently begun to address the implementation of the Beijing Plan of Action, because of post-conflict society rebuilding. As a first step, the Declaration has been translated into the national languages, which has enabled wider distribution of the document and its principles. Currently, women hold 29 per cent of the seats in the Bosnia and Herzegovina House of Representatives. Those women, in collaboration with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), have initiated the establishment of permanent commissions within the Parliaments to promote the status of women, implement the Beijing Platform and establish gender-specific government services. As a result, the Centre for Gender Equality was recently opened in the country.

Forty per cent of the workforce is made up of women, and girls have the same access as boys to education. While more male students enrol in universities, more female students graduate. The women of Bosnia and Herzegovina have undergone many hardships and are still searching for their missing fathers, brothers, husbands and other members of their families.

Rape as a weapon of war should never go unpunished, and the country's delegation to the Preparatory Committee of the International Criminal Court played a unique role in, for the first time, including gender-based crimes in its Statute. A recent conference shed light on the scope of the placement of women and girls in appalling conditions of slavery and servitude. Governments have to work together to identify the victims of those circumstances and traffickers must be prosecuted. The causes of such trafficking, such as economic impoverishment and disruption of social norms -- both consequences of societies in transition -- must be taken into account. Gender focus is more than an ideological and moral issue. A common ground for progress is improvement of the principles governing the attainment of equal status of women.

MARY NOTE (Marshall Islands): As we begin the twenty-first century, our small island nation, along with all developing countries, faces fragile economic and institutional structures that affect our lives and influence our actions. Inadequate representation of women in government, few opportunities for employment of women, materialism and waste, alcoholism and abuse, breakdown of the support structure from the extended families and the deteriorating traditional culture are among the challenges facing us today.

The Marshall Islands recognizes the important role and potential of women as an integral part of the overall development of the country, and the traditional respect for their social status has long been imbedded in the cultural thinking of the peaceful people of this country. The active and equal participation of women in national development has never been alien to the people and Government. Yet, it is felt that programmes aimed at providing women with opportunities for education, involvement in political and productive economic process and developing their cultural awareness are still inadequate and limited. Further, the national Government recognizes that the increased and active involvement of women in the economic, political and social life of the country is most desirable and advantageous to the entire nation.

The Government has taken significant steps and measures to integrate women by formulating policies to involve women as equal partners at all levels, upgrading their skills and training to improve their employment opportunities and to strengthen the coordination of women’s activities. To seal our commitment, a National Women Convention is scheduled for September 2000, where women from all over the Marshall Islands will gather to review the National Women’s Policy and map out our course of action in the twenty-first century. I would like to invite the international community to join us in our endeavour. PALANITINA TOELUPE, Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Samoa: Samoa is an independent sovereign State in the Pacific region, and our culture is central to our way of life. Our Government believes that human rights and freedoms are best nurtured in the context of our culture and traditions. The Constitution of the country represents a strong commitment to human rights and freedoms, with particular reference to equality of opportunities for all citizens, irrespective of gender. The Samoan way of life recognized the value of every Samoan person, as he or she is an heir to a family chief title, land and the Samoan language. The national economic strategy emphasizes the essence of "partnership for a prosperous society", hence, acknowledging women as equal partners in every way.

Women in Samoa have equal access to education and health services, employment opportunities, protection of the laws and decision-making positions at all levels. There has always been recognition of the multiple roles women perform in the home, community, church and their professions. In 1990, the Ministry of Women Affairs was established. Samoa also has a national holiday for women. The country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The country has prepared a national policy for women, which is now awaiting approval by the Cabinet. The vision of the policy is for all women to be productive contributors to and beneficiaries of national development for the attainment of quality of life for all. The Ministry of Women's Affairs' Corporate Plan for 2000-2003 identifies key areas of both the Beijing Platform and the Pacific Platform for Action for implementation in partnership with NGOs. Samoa also advocates health promotion concepts, reaffirming the principle of "healthy homes and healthy villages". We believe that the emphasis that our Government has given to improving health and education in Samoa will further enhance the efforts of all women and men in translating the Beijing Platform for Action into expected outcomes.

VINCI NEIL CLODUMAR (Nauru), speaking on behalf of the South Pacific member States of Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu, as well as the observer States of the Pacific, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands: The South Pacific region, and women in the region, face unique challenges in achieving the goals of Beijing. The particular economic and environmental vulnerability of the island nations in the region influence strategies for achieving gender equality, peace and development. Health and education of women and girls are of particular importance for the Pacific. Within the region, there has long been recognition of the connection between the health and well being of women, and the overall economic and social growth and development of countries.

Of particular concern are continued high rates of non-communicable diseases, maternal deaths and related illnesses among women in most island countries. The basic health needs of women must be addressed if they are to contribute their maximum potential at all levels, from the family to the region and beyond. Urgent actions must be taken to combat the growing spread of the AIDS epidemic. Education and recognition of the specific situation of women and girls must form an essential part of these strategies. Men and women must be equal partners in contributing to, and benefiting from, sustainable, people-centred development. The importance of education for women and girls cannot be overstated. While the last five years have seen significant improvements in girl’s access to formal education in the Pacific, the range of subjects of study available to girls remains limited.

The environmental vulnerability of small island developing States, as well as their contribution to global sustainability, makes women’s involvement in this area particularly important. There is also a chronic lack of access to new and emerging technologies in the Pacific and this is felt even more acutely by women. The Internet provides a powerful tool for women entrepreneurs in isolated areas like the Pacific to access hitherto unattainable markets for their products. The entrepreneurial skills of Pacific women are a key resource for the region. Gender mainstreaming has been an effective strategy for Pacific island countries in making progress since Beijing, and must be supported.

KATHRYN HAUWA HOOMPKWAP, representative of observer delegation of the Holy See: The “living heart” of the initiatives called for in the Beijing Platform for Action correspond to the multiplicity of services the Catholic Church has historically provided to women, demonstrating its belief in the importance of the education of girls and women, an access for women to education, and the basic social services which they need to pursue their own life and family goals.

My delegation strongly supports the provisions condemning all forms of violence against women, upholding women’s rights to economic and political empowerment, its measures against poverty, and its references –- brief though they are -– to high mortality rates among girls and women, due both to chronic illness and to widespread infections. My delegation is particularly pleased to see in the final document a clear acknowledgement of the need of all women for access to basic social services, including education, clean water, adequate nutrition, and safe sanitation. However, the “Women 2000” document, like the Beijing Platform, would emphasize seemingly endlessly one issue -– sexual and reproductive health -– to the detriment of a holistic view of the health of women and their families which is so desperately needed.

The Holy See delegation wishes to state that nothing that the Holy See has done in the “Women 2000” process should be understood as an endorsement of concepts it does not support for moral reasons. Nothing is to be understood to imply that the Holy See endorses abortion or has in any way changed its moral position concerning abortion or contraceptives. The Holy See reaffirms its belief that life begins at conception and that every human life must be protected from the earliest moments to the end of the life cycle.

PATRICIA SCHULZ, Head of the Federal Office for Equality between Women and Men of Switzerland: Five years after Beijing, some of the key points still remain very much disputed, specifically everything concerning the right of women to make independent decisions and their human rights. In spite of the decisions made before the extraordinary session, there have been attempts to reopen the Platform for Action and to move backward with respect to our commitments made in Beijing. Everywhere, women have too little participation in decision-making. Their absence or under-representation in all places of power implies that their needs and interests are not sufficiently taken into account. Institutional mechanisms -– when they exist at all -– in charge of achieving equality continue to lack the necessary resources to accomplish their task.

We have learned about everything that has happened over the past five years in the accounts presented to the General Assembly, in the accounts given in the parallel activities, and especially and above all in the meetings and discussions during the negotiations. It is the United Nations, this irreplaceable universal forum, which has made it possible for us to participate in this vital sharing, despite any difficulties in the negotiations. We know that the commitment to equality between women and men is the pivotal point for the fight for peace and against poverty. This commitment remains difficult and demands patient work. It is obvious that we cannot address and accomplish this work successfully without collaborating closely with NGOs. We know that a real policy of equality cannot be improvised. It requires precise skills and instruments that make it possible to measure whether the actions taken have been successful and -- above all -– it requires a clear political will to be able to turn words into actions. It is our hope, but above all it is our responsibility, to achieve this.

NGAMAU MUNOKOA, Minister for Internal Affairs and Public Works, Energy and Physical Planning of the Cook Islands: Like many other countries, women in the Cook Islands traditionally raised children and performed domestic duties. Gradually, however, recognition that women were capable of broader contributions and had a right to make them had been acknowledged. Since the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action was adopted, the situation of women in the Cook Islands has improved considerably. Noteworthy progress had been made in four areas.

Women have played a key role in protection of the fragile and vulnerable ecosystem of the Cook Islands. They had pushed for the establishment of traditional marine conservation reserves, called "raui", to ensure fish and shellfish in sufficient numbers were available for future generations. These reservations were not enshrined in legislation, but were community-based and managed through the exercise of trust and responsibility. Regarding violence against women, government agencies had come to recognize this was a community problem. Mechanisms for collaboration between Government and NGOs have been improved, and donor-supported training of the judiciary and probation, health and police officials have been undertaken. Victim support is now readily available, and the Government was reviewing sex crime legislation.

Regarding women's participation, two women were recently elected to Parliament for the first time and nine women were elected to local government positions. In addition four women had been appointed to head important government agencies and ministries. And finally, since economic reforms in 1996, statistics indicated that 50 per cent of government-assisted small business start-ups were by women. In 1999, 77.8 per cent of available funds went to small businesses owned by women.

There is still work to be done. Further support is needed for government and civil society training on the issue of violence against women, and domestic implementing legislation and training must be undertaken concerning the various international agreements on women to which the Cook Islands was a party. Progress has been possible, thus far, because of the close working partnership between Government and civil society.

ALIMATA SALAMBÉRÉ, Chargée of the Mission for the Advancement of Women, International Organization of La Francophonie: From our point of view, the Beijing process is still evolving. The topics for the 1990s international conferences were highly complementary, and their dynamic was to deal with all major challenges before humanity. The Francophonie had taken an active interest in the work of those conferences. The role and place of women were duly noted there. The two critical areas identified in Beijing were the advancement of women and promotion of their role in development. It is essential to ensure full participation of women in the policy-shaping processes and governmental decision- making.

Peace is an integral part of development, and let me recall that members of our community represent almost a quarter of humankind, united by the same language. The Declaration of the first Conference of Women of the Francophonie, which took place in Luxembourg last February, was devoted to the problems of development and empowerment –- the same priorities as those identified in Beijing. The Conference invited members of the organization to include women in decision- making processes and strengthen the institutional mechanisms for gender equality. Members were also invited to participate in the settlement of disputes and promotion of peace.

Another aspect of the problem is that discrimination against women is felt at various levels. In Vienna, it was reaffirmed that women’s rights were an integral part of human rights. We cherish the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Francophonie is committed to the promotion of women’s rights, which is reflected in the Luxembourg Declaration. New challenges demand more of us every day. We should demonstrate solidarity and forge new and effective partnerships to promote women’s issues. It is essential to create favourable circumstances to achieve the goals of Beijing.

VALENCIA MOGEGEH, Head of Gender Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat, speaking on behalf of DONALD McKINNON, Secretary-General of the Secretariat: Much progress has been made in achieving gender equality between women and men since the United Nations Decade for Women (1975-1985), when the issue was first put on the agenda of global governance institutions, such as the Commonwealth Secretariat. However, gender inequalities continue to persist in Commonwealth countries, as they do globally. The Commonwealth remains committed to its endorsement and support of the Beijing Platform for Action and this Beijing + 5 review process, and hopes that the newly formulated Update to the 1995 Commonwealth Plan of Action on Gender and Development, which will serve to guide the work of the association from 2000 to 2005, will contribute to strengthening the global agenda for gender equality, development and peace into the twenty-first century.

Within the framework of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action, the Update to the 1995 Commonwealth Plan of Action sets priorities for four major areas for action based on the fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth. These are: gender mainstreaming through the gender mainstreaming system; integrating gender into national budgets, macroeconomic policies and globalization processes; promoting women's rights as human rights, using an integrated approach to combating violence against women, with an inclusion of the impact of HIV/AIDS on women; and increasing women's participation in political and public policy agenda setting, as well as in processes of peace building, conflict mediation and resolution.

The Update also addresses gender inequalities such as poverty alleviation and violence against women, and critical emerging gender issues such as globalization and trade, armed conflict and peace processes. Further, it targets strengthening of national women's machineries, through providing responsive policy advice, developing innovative methodologies, tools and publications, an interactive gender and development Web site, and promoting learning through the sharing of best practices. Finally, it promotes a synergistic approach that should strengthen partnerships, promote pooling of resources and enhance the achievement of intended targets.

JACQUES FORSTER, Vice-President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): Two years ago, the ICRC initiated a study to examine how women are affected by armed conflict around the world and how ICRC's activities are responding to the needs engendered by armed conflict. Some of the findings of this research have already led to a renewal of ICRC activities. This study, which will conclude this year, will form the background for the formulation of guidelines for the protection and assistance of women and girl children in armed conflict. This ICRC initiative was introduced to States and the members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held in November 1999.

Furthermore, during this Conference, the ICRC President renewed the institution's commitment to the effective protection of women through a four-year pledge. This pledge specifically focuses on dissemination to parties to an armed conflict of the protection accorded by humanitarian law to women and girls and the issue of sexual violence. During its inception, international humanitarian law has accorded women general protection equal to that of men. At the same time, the humanitarian law treaties accord women special protection according to their specific needs. Both the general and special protection are enshrined in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 1977.

The ICRC acknowledges as a positive development the fact that the ad hoc Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, consider sexual violence a war crime. The ICRC hopes that its recent initiatives will lead to a better understanding of the impact of war on women and a more effective implementation of the protection conferred upon women by humanitarian law.

ANNA DIAMANTOPOLOU, European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs of the European Community (on behalf of the European Commission): Over the past few days, we have seen a renewal of the commitments made five years ago in Beijing. The European Community welcomes this reaffirmation of the goals set out in the Platform for Action. We strongly support its three underlying principles, including the recognition that women’s rights are human rights; the empowerment of women; and the gender mainstreaming approach. The point is now to act. The real value of this special session derives from the discussion and formulation of policies, strategies and practical measures that will bring us closer to gender equality.

The deepening of the European Union has fostered the exchange of good practices between member States and cooperation between governments and civil society. A wide body of legislation firmly established gender equality and rights as key principles in our democracy. Gender equality is integrated in the Community’s development cooperation and human rights policies. Just a few days ago, the European Commission reaffirmed its political commitment by adopting a new framework strategy for gender equality, with implications for every area of Commission policy. It also put forward a programme to support gender mainstreaming over the next five years.

Listening to the proceedings, I have noticed a paradox that at the dawn of the twenty-first century, millions of women around the globe -– including in the European Union -– are trapped in situations that would have been all too familiar 200 years ago. A whole generation of women is currently deprived of enjoyment of their fundamental rights and suffers the indignities of the misunderstood religious fundamentalism, as it is practised by the Taliban. Women and girls continue to be trafficked. The traffickers take advantage of the new communication technologies, the ultimate irony being that the perpetrators are the ones to benefit from the trappings of modernity.

Much of the responsibility for addressing and redressing the old and new forms of discrimination lies with governments, regional and international institutions. Equal representation is a key issue here. Participation of women in political and civil life is fundamental to good governance.

OLOF OLAFSDOTTIR, Secretary of the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men, Council of Europe: The Council of Europe, the natural home of human rights, has long been actively engaged in the promotion of equality and the protection of women’s human rights, not least in recent year. Particular progress has been made in the legal field. The European Social Charter now comprises a specific provision on the right to dignity at work, which covers the prevention of sexual harassment and all types of recurrent reprehensible or offensive acts, as well as protection from this type of behaviour.

In connection with the European Convention on Human Rights, a draft additional protocol has been prepared to introduce a general prohibition of discrimination, above and beyond the rights and freedoms set out in the Convention. Three weeks ago, the committee of Ministers of the Council adopted a recommendation combating trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Europe, in particular, has seen a recent intensification of this modern form of slavery, which has become a highly profitable criminal trade continent wide. A further recommendation is being prepared to protect women and girls against all forms of violence in both the private and public spheres.

In the Council, apart from the constant concern to protect women against all forms of violence, the active and full presence of women in all decision-making bodies, not the least in those dealing with peace-building, constitute clear priorities. Gender mainstreaming also appears as a major priority, connected with the need to integrate men more effectively in the equality debate. Equality between women and men means valuing equality and diversity, accepting that women and men are, at the same time, similar and different. This idea should, in particular, permeate our education systems.

MOKHTAR LAMANI, Permanent Observer of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC): I speak on behalf of the Islamic Group at the United Nations, which comprises fifty-six member States and represents about 1.4 billion people of diverse ethnicities, languages and cultures. Islam promotes peace, tolerance and cooperation among all human beings. It accords human dignity, fosters human rights, emphasizes family values, and prescribes equality of all before Almighty God, regardless of sex, geographical origin, colour, class or creed. Islam assigns an important, indeed pivotal, role to women in society

Throughout the Islamic world, governments, supported by emerging societal institutions, are now endeavouring to support, within their means, social development programmes that cover, among other things, the provision of education and health-care services, including reproductive health, to women so that they may be empowered, sustainably, to exercise all the rights Islam has bestowed upon them in society, and be equipped also to fulfil their role as companions, thinkers, supporters, educators and managers within the sacred institution of the family.

The strong resolve with which the OIC member States are participating in this special session has been demonstrated by their active collaboration in all the preparatory phases. A further indication of our collective identification of the cause and purpose that have united us in this worthy effort is the fact that the delegations of 40 OIC member States and observers here are headed by women, out of which two are the First Ladies of their respective countries, two are Vice- Presidents, two are Deputy Prime Ministers, 23 are Cabinet Ministers and two are Deputy Ministers. A large number of NGOs from the Islamic countries are also attending this special session and have contributed actively to its work.

ROBERT G. PAIVA, Chairman of the Observer Delegation of the International Organization for Migration (IMO): Five years ago, the IMO made a four-point appeal to the international community: to recognize the trend towards the feminization of migration; to improve awareness and understanding of the conditions and needs specific to migrant women; to promote equal access to projects and services; and to design and implement, where appropriate, programmes designed specifically for migrant women.

Advances concerning migrant women in some areas are not matched in others. This is particularly true with respect to trafficking in women and girls. No one is able to quantify the exact magnitude of trafficking today, not least because of its frequently clandestine nature and the lack of international agreement on how it is defined. However, there is steadily growing anecdotal evidence to indicate that this has become a multi-billion dollar business often linked to organized criminal networks. The IOM has been heavily involved in efforts to counter trafficking in women, beginning with research in countries of origin, transit and destination, in order to better understand how women enter into trafficking networks and what conditions they face before, while, and after they are trafficked.

The IOM has focused on three areas of programme activity. The first is help for trafficked women: finding safe houses, providing counselling and medical attention, and assisting in return and reintegration. The second is capacity- building, a significant component of which is contributing to and fostering dialogue among governments, regarding their needs and experiences in combating traffickers, and assisting trafficking victims. The third area is mass information campaigns about the realities of trafficking. These campaigns have the benefit of reaching both potential targets of traffickers and the general public, raising awareness of the ruses used in the trafficking trade and the abuses waiting on the other end. Success in dealing with trafficking in women will require strong and sustained international cooperation. MARY REINER BARNES, Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta: Founded in 1099, the Order has served others who need us, regardless of nationality or opinion. Women are fully included in our programmes for individuals with special needs, such as in our autism centre in France and the homes for the elderly in Austria, Germany, Chile and the United States. We also have programmes specially designed for girls and women. The Maternity Hospital in Bethlehem also targets the needs of women. Other facilities include women's clinics in Lebanon and El Salvador. The Order is seeking to assuage the pain resulting from the worldwide scourge of AIDS.

Educational opportunities are provided by the Order in several countries. Besides seeking to improve the health care of women and girls and supporting motherhood by assisting unwed mothers, the Order of Malta worldwide supports their education and the resultant improved employment opportunities and poverty eradication. We also address the needs of women suffering as a result of armed conflicts. It is one of the groups that has implemented programmes to help the traumatized women in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. Our programmes in Africa include refugee field hospitals in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and many other places.

Asian projects include refugee camps on the border between Cambodia and Thailand and a women-oriented project in Kerala, India. Supporting motherhood, the Order sponsors a number of homes for unwed mothers in the United States. Within itself, the Order sees an increased presence of female members. It has actively supported women in the development of society and the social significance of maternity. The Order calls on all member States and observers, the United Nations, NGOs and other interested parties to support all efforts to eradicate societal injustice and poverty by promoting the role of women and motherhood.

MARIAPIA GARAVAGLIA, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, speaking as an observer: It is obvious from this review session that much stronger will to put the theory of gender equality into practice is needed. In this regard, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies fully support the proposed framework for further actions and initiatives submitted by the Commission on the Status of Women to the special session, in particular the commitment to create an enabling environment to implement the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action. The framework also recommends the application of a holistic approach, which would not only ensure better interlinkages between the 12 critical areas of concern, but would also bring the more fundamental changes required to achieve concrete results.

Last year, the General Assembly of my organization adopted a special policy on gender issues. Our goal is to ensure that our programmes benefit men and women equally, according to their different needs. Natural disasters, conflicts, social and political instability may affect men and women differently, and Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency response and long-term humanitarian assistance may also have a different impact on men and women. Therefore, we will continuously review our own system to incorporate gender analysis in the programmes, including our disaster response, preparedness and provision of community-based health services. New initiatives must be taken to ensure well-balanced participation by men and women from all ages as volunteers in service delivery and leadership.

Further actions and initiatives to emerge from this session should pay special attention to the operational tools, skills and knowledge necessary for capacity-building for advancement of women and gender mainstreaming. They must also ensure high quality of humanitarian assistance. It is necessary to apply minimum practical standards for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, such as those endorsed by the twenty-seventh International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent last year. It is also important to strengthen mechanisms of cooperation and coordination among States, United Nations agencies and the Red Cross, Red Crescent and other NGOs.

FRANCESCA COOK, Development Cooperation Directorate, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): The OECD is an intergovernmental organization concerned with promoting the triangular paradigm of good governance, social cohesion and economic growth. Its member countries also produce more than 60 per cent of world economic output. On that basis, the OECD has a key role to play in the promotion of gender equality worldwide. We strive to ensure that our members’ policies provide incentives to equalize access, by women and men, to productive resources and to the opportunities offered by globalization.

Though gender gaps vary from place to place, these are not dependent on whether a country is rich or poor, whether its economy is industrialized, in transition or developing, or whether it is at peace or in conflict. In fact, some developing countries outperform OECD countries in the opportunities they make available to women. These inequalities represent the loss of important human and economical potential on a global scale. We hope to increase awareness of the importance of gender in policy-making and to act as a catalyst for change towards the promotion of greater equality between women and men worldwide. The OECD has launched a renewed initiative for active gender mainstreaming throughout the substantive work of the organization and for improved career opportunities for women and men within its secretariat.

When the struggle for gender equality that so many men, as well as women, are waging, finally succeeds, it will mark a great step forward in human progress. We at the OECD are working, with renewed determination, to provide the necessary attention and resources to ensure that today’s women, as well as men, will contribute their full potentials to the prosperous, safe and equitable societies of tomorrow.

HELLE DEGN, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE): This special session is taking place in a markedly different ideological environment than that of the Beijing Conference. Liberal consensus is in disarray in the wake of the recent financial crises. Simultaneously, human rights are viewed as an inseparable part of the quest for stable democracies, and a significant number of governments have committed themselves to that ideology. Political changes, as well as new legal instruments, have provided new opportunities for civil society organizations to bargain for the implementation of formally acquired rights, and that has also led to a shift in the priorities and practices of many NGOs. However, in spite of the dynamism of human rights movements, a wide gulf remains between the articulation of global principles and their application in many countries.

The OSCE promotes gender mainstreaming among its participating States and is particularly active in several areas included in the Platform for Action. It is especially concerned with violence against women, women and armed conflict and in decision-making, as well as with their human rights. The organization is effectively working with host countries and NGOs in the host countries of its field operations to develop activities to combat trafficking against women. An action plan has been issued to that effect. On the issue of women and armed conflict, the OSCE is committed to the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and to the International Criminal Court. Efforts at the international level to bring the perpetrators of war-related gender-based crimes to justice and accept rape as a war crime have been agreed upon. The organization calls for increasing willingness on the part of men to share power and for adaptation to organizational and political structures which make institutions women friendly.

Since 1998, the OSCE has increasingly brought gender issues to the forefront of its activities and has influenced public awareness and support for the protection of all human rights, including those of women. One important consequence of the ongoing debate has been the appointment of gender advisers by two major OSCE institutions. The Parliamentary Assembly is also incorporating the priority areas of Beijing in its work and calls for stronger incorporation of gender perspectives into the work of the organization’s missions in the areas of conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation.

HUSSEIN HASSOUNA, Chairman of the observer delegation of the League of Arab States: The implementation of the Platform for Action in the region has brought Arab women closer to their aspirations. Considerable achievements have been made and positive steps taken to improve their status. The Department of Women’s Affairs, part of the Arab League, is responsible for implementing relevant decisions and national strategies, such as the recruitment of women to decision- making positions. However, in spite of those gains, the progress of Arab women has had some failures. A number of global political, economic and social factors have affected governments, and certain objectives to ensure the equality of women have not been given international priority.

Under those circumstances, necessary measures to safeguard women and to create an enabling environment for them must be adopted. Attempts must be made to alleviate poverty and to create decent living standards. Attempts must also continue towards the achievement of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. All prisoners of war and conflict must be freed. Furthermore, a successful outcome of this event must be achieved while respecting differences between cultures and values.

MAHAMAT H. DOUTOUM, Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU): From its inception, the OAU has been committed to socio- economic progress and advancement of the peoples of Africa. However, 37 years later, Africa still faces complex and daunting challenges, and it is beleaguered by seemingly intractable conflicts. Peace is a prerequisite for development, its absence of results in disorganization, disorder and misuse of resources, as well as gross violations of fundamental rights. In addition, the oppression of women, a violation of fundamental human rights, is not conducive to peace and development.

The latter is inextricably linked to the issue of gender because it leads to the improvement of the conditions of life and work for all society. It also requires the development of human resources through the provision of education, training and access to new technology and information. Therefore, success in the economic sector will make the struggle for the equality of women much easier. However, women are usually excluded from development processes and that creates a paradox because society must emancipate women to be able to develop.

A major proportion of the organization’s time is used up in conflict prevention, management and resolution. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in situations of conflict and displacement. Hence, the establishment of the African Women Committee on Peace and Development in 1998 to ensure effective participation of women in continental peace and development processes. The OAU has also adopted a declaration on the AIDS pandemic in Africa, as well as a declaration on the situation of women in Africa in the context of family health. The organization has been working with African women entrepreneurs to ensure women’s economic empowerment and full integration into economic processes and has declared an OAU decade for education in Africa from 1997 to 2006. It is also actively engaged in ensuring women’s legal and human rights.

AKIKO DOMOTO, Chairperson of the observer delegation for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN): Increased gender equality certainly enhances the participatory processes that are required to solve environmental, economic and social problems threatening peace and human well-being in the new millennium. Studies have shown that improving women’s education, income and status enhances their families’ food security, health and well-being. It also has an impact on fertility reduction and the capacity of a community to respond to the environmental and social challenges.

The IUCN is the world’s largest conservation-related organization, bringing together 76 States, 11 government agencies, 732 NGOs, 36 affiliates and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries. Its mission is to encourage and assist societies in conserving the integrity and diversity of nature and ensure ecologically sustainable use of natural resources. Concerns for social and gender equity have been of fundamental value to the Union.

In 1998, the Union adopted a policy statement on mainstreaming gender, recognizing that a gender perspective means focusing on both women and men and their relationships with each other and natural resources. It means working with gender relations and the environment. The Union rationale for integrating a gender perspective is based on the recognition of the fact that equal rights and responsibilities are a precondition for sustainable development and use of natural resources.

This year, the IUCN has also adopted a policy statement on social equity. Aware of its role and capacity, the Union has developed tools and protocols to integrate gender within the field project cycle and within environmental policies. Because of its experience and success in addressing gender issues, the Union will be glad to support others in mainstreaming gender within national environmental policies and sustainable development initiatives.

AMABEL ORRACA-NDIAYE, Chief Cooperation Officer, African Development Bank (ADB): The mandate given to financial institutions at Beijing to provide opportunities for the economic empowerment of women and eliminating gender biases in economic operations has acted as a catalyst for a number of activities undertaken by the ADB. At the policy level, ADB's New Vision Statement clearly identifies poverty reduction, a major concern of the Platform for Action, as the primary development challenge facing Africa.

Thus, the utilization of the Bank's resources are crystallized around four themes that are central to women's empowerment, namely, agriculture and rural development; human capital development; private sector development; and good governance. Furthermore, the lending policy and guidelines adopted to operationalize the vision statement underscore mainstreaming a gender perspective in order to facilitate a dynamic and central role for women.

In promoting gender mainstreaming, the ADB has adopted a two-pronged approach, namely, through sectoral interventions and through financing for women in development projects. Thus, between 1990 and 1998, a total of 134 gender- related projects in sectors such as agriculture, health and public utilities were financed. Since 1997, a new generation of poverty reduction projects has been designed to be participatory and demand-driven and pay special attention to reducing poverty among women.

In addition, 12 women-in-development stand-alone projects have been financed in Senegal, Malawi, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana, to name a few. These projects address issues such as women's lack of education, access to production tools and social services. Altogether, these poverty reduction projects amount to $17 million or 11 per cent of the Bank Group commitments for the period 1990-1998.

Although we are happy to report the progress made by the ADB, the Bank recognizes that there is still room for major improvements. Consequently, a steering committee for gender issues was recently established with a clear mandate to determine and prioritize gender reforms, formulate an action plan and develop gender targets. In addition, the Bank is in the process of reviewing and elaborating its policy on gender equality which will guide its lending activities. We fervently hope that the priorities and new perspectives arising from this conference will be reflected in this gender equality policy.

AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women, which has been ratified by 165 States, is the only international instrument which sets out human rights norms for women and girls in the whole range of civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres, in both public and private life.

Since its inception, the Committee has conducted its work parallel with the intergovernmental process. Gradually, further political goals for ending discrimination against women and achieving de facto and de jure equality between men and women have been established by this means. The Fourth World Conference on Women was a crucial event. Twenty years after the Convention was adopted, Copenhagen marked the culmination of the intergovernmental process for the development of women's human rights as recognized in the Platform for Action. It is most fitting that the Platform reaffirms that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent. It also emphasizes that the human rights of women and the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights. For that reason, the Platform also urges Universal ratification of the Convention and withdrawal or limitation of any reservations. In essence, the Platform is supported by a human rights framework of which the Convention is the central element. The Convention has had an impact on the formulation and implementation of government policy and the development of national jurisprudence. This, in turn, has strengthened the close relationship between the Convention and the Platform for Action.

The Platform has entrusted a very important role to the Committee. It invited States parties to the Convention to include in their reports information on measures taken to implement the Platform. This has enhanced the Committee's ability to monitor more effectively women's capacity to enjoy the human rights guaranteed by the Convention.

In fulfilling this responsibility, the Committee has asked States parties to take into account both in their reports and in their supplementary oral or written presentations the 12 critical areas of concern identified by the Platform. The Committee has also emphasized the compatibility of those critical areas with the articles of the Convention. This has given the Committee a detailed and substantive overview of the situation of women throughout the world, the progress made in implementing the platform, and the continuing challenges to its implementation.

NAFIS SADIK, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund: The lack of agreement on segments of the final document is puzzling. Is there anyone who is in favour of rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy or sterilization? Does anyone support their use as weapons of war? Why is the language of the document still being negotiated? The negotiations are based on the sovereignty of nations and on countries’ acceptance of human rights. The document can in no way infringe on any State’s sovereign right to make its own laws within the international framework of human rights, which countries themselves have constructed.

The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform are firmly rooted in universally accepted values and ethical principles. Their recommendations are being successfully implemented in countries and among people of all religious beliefs. A common regard for morality unites everyone. Ideology should not be used as a tool for division. This process offers an opportunity to assess recommendations which are both eminently practical and completely ethical, and which reinforce the rights of individuals, both men and women, and encourage the development of nations with justice and equality.

CAROL BELLAMY, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): For all the inspirational power of events such as this one, they are not, in themselves, what we need most of all to sustain the struggle. They cannot close the gap between the legal recognition of the rights of women and girls and the real-life discrimination and marginalization and outright violence that they still endure day in day out in every corner of the world. The realization of women’s rights will come only through action -- action to implement programmes that will improve the daily lives of women and consolidate their equal status. It is a process that must begin with steps that will ensure the survival, protection and full development of the girl child.

The UNICEF remains convinced that the goals of development, equality and peace are within reach. If women are to enter and participate in government bodies, then we must free girls to expand their capacities and horizons. Fulfilling the right of every girl to education is the key to promoting true equality between boys and girls and men and women. We must break the inter- generational cycle of discrimination and disadvantage, and we must begin by creating environments where girls and boys are respected and cared for equally in early childhood.

We must ensure that they are breastfed, that they have access to unpolluted air, safe drinking water and uncontaminated food, that they live where there are adequate sanitation facilities, and, above all, that they have the time and place to play, to interact with others, to learn, and to be loved. And we must involve fathers in the care of young children.

If girls are to realize their rights to education and prepare for adulthood, they must not be deprived of schooling for reasons of domestic labour and poverty. At the same time, schools must be transformed into safe places where girls can learn, participate, feel respected and develop confidence and self-esteem. That means eliminating all forms of gender bias and discrimination. And we must aim for socialization of girls and boys in a culture of non-violence and respect for each other’s rights, inherent dignity, and equality. To achieve these ends, new collaborative relationships are needed within communities and between communities and policy- and decision-makers at all levels.

MARK MALLOCH BROWN, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): The agency is striving to move beyond treating gender issues simply as a set of concerns and is mainstreaming them in all its policies and internal working practices and across country offices. That was being done through advocacy in raising awareness of issues, helping to mainstream sound and sensible policies relating to women, and making use of strategic partnerships to assist in implementing them.

Suitable tools that can be used to monitor and advocate for policies and processes for women’s empowerment are needed. Tools are also needed to measure progress and accountability. Hence, the introduction in the 1995 Human Development Report of a set of key indicators specific to gender, development and empowerment, which have become the benchmark by which the impact of development initiatives are measured. Through that instrument, the UNDP can also campaign with its partners in civil society, government and the media.

The UNDP also has a policy advisory component which assists governments to craft the policies and institutions that drive gender equality and women’s empowerment, including those that address property rights, credit, communications and learning. The UNDP is also particularly interested in helping governments forge the right response to the information technology revolution, so that through public/private partnerships, they harness its transformative power to the credit, market access and learning needs of poor women.

NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM): The UNIFEM has already begun to map out the next steps to follow up on Beijing + 5 in our new Strategy and Business Plan, 2000-2003, in which we will continue to focus on our three main areas: economic capacity-building; engendering governance and leadership; and promoting women’s human rights and eliminating violence against women. Within each of these areas, we are proposing a number of innovative programmes and strengthened approaches to existing work, in line with what has emerged from the consultative process stimulated by the five- year review.

The UNIFEM has a unique position from which to envision a world free from gender-based violence, poverty and inequality. We are privileged to work with creative and innovative partners in governments and NGOs in over 100 countries. The promising strategies that we have supported, if scaled up through increased resources and political will, could make a significant difference on the path towards gender equality. The challenge that we face is to build on the good practices and advances that have been made in countries worldwide, focusing on those that have generated significant benefits towards women’s empowerment. These successful strategies need investments that will allow us to scale up and turn innovations into standard practice.

The General Assembly established in UNIFEM a Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence against Women. Since 1997, we have provided $5 million to over 80 initiatives worldwide. Together with UNIFEM’s work to stimulate inter-agency campaigns to eliminate violence against women, we have seen the emergence of numerous legal reforms, strengthened capacity of justice and law enforcement officials, and the emergence of a movement of men against violence in different parts of the world.

GLADYS MUTUKWA, Chairperson, Women in Law and Development in Africa: The African women wish to state that great concern over the deterioration of the situation of women in Africa inspires and influences all their work on the ground in the various villages, towns and communities of Africa, as well as their participation in this and other conferences. The African women NGOs state categorically that there should be no going back on Beijing. At the dawn of the new millennium we should be looking towards even stronger commitments and better implementation.

Our participation and expectations are also influenced and guided by the following, among others: recognizing that institutionalized patriarchy, structural inequality, deep-rooted prejudice and misogyny continue to firmly entrench themselves in all African societies; in spite of efforts made by civil societies, governments and other actors, the situation of women continued to deteriorate in all sectors of development; and the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic is completely eroding even the minimal gains women and girls have made in the past decade and is destroying the social fabric of the African continent.

We call on all governments and development partners to reinforce their commitments to and collaborations with local, national, regional and international African women’s NGOs, in order to promote a transformatory development agenda for Africa. From the African regional preparatory conference, we set five regional priorities: women in decision-making; women’s human rights; globalization; HIV/AIDS; and conflict.

PAM RAJPUT, Chairman of Asian Pacific Women’s Watch, also speaking for Mahila Dakshata Samiti: While acknowledging some gains since Beijing, particularly a growing acceptance and commitment towards addressing women’s needs, the past few years have been particularly difficult for our region. The challenges include the negative impact of globalization, the Asian financial crisis and the intensification of armed and other forms of violent conflict. The region has seen an increase in the number of women living in poverty. Unemployment and deterioration of wages and working conditions are being witnessed in the area. There is reduced access to affordable quality health care and increased struggle for means of livelihood. Food security is endangered.

It is equally important to take note of the increasing culture of violence, trafficking, forced prostitution, honour killings and violation of women’s rights. Women’s access to all means of communication and public expression is essential for their equal and democratic participation in the development of their communities and societies. To guarantee women the fundamental human right to communicate, civil society must be empowered to hold national and international media accountable. Codes of ethics must be articulated respecting the vital norms of pluralism, human rights and gender balance.

As we from the women’s movement commit to translate our vision into reality, we strive for societies based on individual and social dignity in which women feel strong, active, creative and empowered. We call upon governments, the United Nations, international agencies, non-State actors and civil society to have the courage and commitment to translate the high hopes of the Platform for Action into concrete actions that help us to move from conflict, inequality and injustice towards the principles of mutual respect, equality and justice.

FRANÇOIS DAVID, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women: I am here to represent the women of North America and both Eastern and Western Europe. We are proud of our diversity, but we are aware that it is also a source of discrimination and inequity between women. Therefore, we have decided that we will work together for change. We demand that our governments and all the governments of the world commit wholeheartedly to adopting concrete measures that will ensure the equality of all women.

We condemn the increasing poverty of women everywhere in our region, especially in Eastern Europe, where economies are in the process of change and their liberalization has caused a brutal downward spiral of people’s living conditions. We, therefore, want jobs for all, a social security net, salaries that allow a decent standard of living, State support of women’s entrepreneurship, and protection of labour laws. We demand that States adopt measures that will put an end to the trafficking of women and girls. We remind our States that women have an inalienable right to make choices about their lives and their sexual and reproductive health. We demand that these rights be recognized.

We need more than empty promises and up-beat speeches. We demand concrete actions, indicators and deadlines. We demand another gathering in 2005, a fifth world conference on women. We are determined and we are strongly committed to fighting until the rights of all women are acknowledged. Next fall, tens of thousands of women will be marching in cities and in villages to demand an end to poverty and to violence against women. The World March of Women in the Year 2000 will culminate here at the United Nations on 17 October. We hope to meet with you again in October and work together towards a world based on equality between the sexes, social justice and the redistribution of wealth.

VIRGINIA VARGAS, President, Centro de la Mujer Peruana “Flora Tristan”: How, after the sorry ineffectiveness of the special session, could governments be trusted with their narrow religious and cultural agendas? What is needed to realize that discrimination has become a phenomenon of the past? How can maternal rights be guaranteed without compromising their underlying factor -– love? What is the religion of words? With what words can the creativity, ideals and dreams of millions of women be realized? How can the value of this session be described? Five years ago, it seemed as if everything had been said, but, at the moment, it seems as if arguing over words will nullify the work of the Beijing Conference.

HODA BADRAN, Chairperson, Alliance for Arab Women: Efforts are still needed to achieve equality in, among others, the following areas: ensuring freedom of NGOs and providing the necessary support for their work; reviewing and changing the existing legislation, including family laws, existing textbooks and media messages to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women; and the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol.

We call for more democracy -- socially, economically and politically -- to allow women to participate effectively in all public decisions. We need protection for women activists and intellectuals against violence and reactionary campaigns, and against intimidation of free-thinking. Resources to address women's needs have to be increased nationally and internationally.

The region has witnessed immense problems causing suffering of its women and affecting governments' efforts to implement the Platform for Action. Palestinian women have suffered and are still suffering from displacement, and along with Syrian women are in distress from Israeli occupation. Iraqi, Sudanese and Libyan women are suffering from economic sanctions and embargoes. We demand the honouring of United Nations resolutions and real, just peace, the lifting of sanctions and freeing of prisoners from Israeli and Arab prisons.

The meeting was then suspended.

When the meeting resumed on Saturday, 10 June, the President of the Assembly, THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), informed the delegates of the death of the President of Syria, Hafez Al-Assad, conveying his condolences to the country and the bereaved family.

The Assembly observed a minute of silence in his memory.

Introducing the final document of the special session, MONICA MARTINEZ (Ecuador), Vice-Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, acting as a rapporteur of the special session, also informed the delegates about some changes in the text.

Explanation of Position before Adoption of Outcome Document

The representative of Honduras reaffirmed satisfaction at the way the special session had been conducted. The principles of the Beijing Conference should be affirmed. However, her delegation had reservations to the text, for her country supported the position on the right to life from the moment of conception. The Constitution of Honduras protected the institution of matrimony, accepting the concepts of family planning, reproductive health, reproductive and sexual rights, when they did not include abortion as a way of regulating fertility or achieving population control. Given the fact that new language had been introduced in the document, which should be further analysed, her delegation could accept such terminology only when it did not undermine its national legislation. Women’s involvement in development should not be in detriment to family or maternity, as guaranteed by her country’s legislation.

The representative of Qatar thanked the Chairperson and the Bureau for their efforts in facilitating the final outcome document. Qatar would implement the outcome document in accordance with its Constitution and laws.

The representative of Poland said her delegation wished to support the consensus reached at the special session and its national law recognized the rights and dignity of men and women, as well as of the right to life and to conscience, especially with regards to health care. She reiterated and upheld the decision that the review conference should not reopen negotiations on the Beijing document. Accordingly, no new wording should be accepted, especially that not defined in United Nations language.

The representative of South Africa said that deliberations on Beijing + 5 had been concluded. Despite tough discussions, negotiations had resulted in the document before the Assembly. The session was convened with the objective of evaluating the commitments undertaken at the Fourth World Conference on Women. She reiterated her country’s commitment to the Beijing Platform for Action, supporting the outcome document. Her delegation wanted to see the Assembly take that Platform even further. All human rights of all human beings in South Africa were protected by the Constitution. The country took an approach of freedom of choice in regard to sexual orientation, reproductive rights and abortion. Full and accelerated empowerment of women was a constitutional priority to her country.

While noting areas of regression, she commended the session for grappling with such issues as globalization. Her country was not absolving itself of the commitments undertaken in Beijing and regarded today’s document as supplemental to the Platform for Action. She was ready to endorse the areas that not only advanced the Platform for Action, but also challenged national goals. Her delegation looked forward to implementing the new document, along with the Platform for Action.

The representative of Suriname, on behalf of the member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said globalization might have presented opportunities for several countries, but it was an added cost to the economies of the countries of the region and its people, particularly women and children. The loss of preferential arrangements, debt servicing, and the limited capacity to overcome the burden of unemployment have had serious consequences and increased the number of poor women in many of those countries.

The CARICOM had been addressing the incidence of violence against women and had undertaken and supported comprehensive measures in an ongoing effort to eliminate this practice. Anti-violence legislation had been enacted, public awareness campaigns had been launched and research promoted on the root causes of violence in the society. The organization had also resolved that the attainment of high educational levels of women in the Caribbean would be complemented by an equally high achievement in the political and economic spheres. The small States of CARICOM could not ignore the contribution of women to their sustainable development and the goals of the conference. Therefore, they remain committed to further implementation of the Beijing Platform and the outcome of the special session.

The representative of Nicaragua supported the consensus won in the review of progress made in the five years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and requested that reservations about the final outcome document will be lodged in the record. Wherever the word commitment was used in the document, it was understood that United Nations conferences were not binding. Nicaragua acknowledged the equality of both sexes and interpreted the word gender in its generally accepted sense, as reflected in Annex 4 of the Declaration of the Beijing Conference.

Nicaragua acknowledged the right to life from the moment of conception to its natural end. Provoked abortion could not be conceived as a way of family planning. Any regulation of that issue was the sovereign right of Nicaragua. When there was mention of contraception, Nicaragua did not take it in any way as a reference to abortion. Nicaragua recognized the right to health to include reproductive and sexual rights. It also recognized that freedom of thought, conscience and religion were inalienable rights of everybody, including health workers. Nicaragua did not recognize any new human right in paragraph 36 of the Action Platform.

The representative of Nigeria, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that after five days of hard work, the women of the world had taken another step forward to consolidate the gains of the past. Now, the march towards gender equality, development and peace in the twenty-first century was irreversible. Achievements had been reviewed, and challenges identified. Important initiatives had been taken on violence against women, and practical steps were being put in place to advance women’s and girls’ education. New programmes and projects were being introduced.

The countries of the Group of 77 had sent out a clear and loud message that for the developing nations, the issue of political will and commitment to gender equality was beyond doubt. Practically all had undertaken policy reforms and established mechanisms to propel gender equality. It was now left for the international community, the developed countries and the multilateral financial institutions to demonstrate their commitment to genuine cooperation with developing countries in the advancement of women. That was the only way the developing countries could reposition themselves for the great tasks ahead.

The representative of Malta welcomed the progress achieved in the implementation of the Beijing Platform and reiterated its commitment to the promotion of gender equality. His delegation wished to reaffirm its reservation made to the Beijing Platform on the use of such terms as reproductive health; reproductive rights; sexual rights; circumstances in which abortion is not against the law; such abortion should be safe; and with respect to those sections of the document that related to induced abortion. The interpretation given by Malta was consistent with its national legislation, which considers the termination of pregnancy through induced abortion to be illegal.

The delegation also reaffirmed its reserved position to those parts of the document that referred to the outcome documents of particular conferences and its reservations that were contained in their reports. Also, Malta reaffirmed its reserved position on the use of the phrases, international human rights instruments and United Nations consensus documents, wherever they were used in the outcome document. Those reservations should be recorded in the report of the special session.

The representative of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that on the occasion of this gathering, the six delegations of the member countries of MERCOSUR had shared a commitment to a common agenda on women’s issues, which should become part of the report. He thanked the President, the Bureau and the entire staff for their efforts and commitment.

The representative of Rwanda said his delegation was disappointed that paragraph 51 of the final outcome document was being adopted without reference to the crimes of genocide. The reason given for the deletion was that there had been a technical difficulty. The majority of delegates did not agree with that excuse. The omission sent a message that the crimes of genocide, which had occurred in previous years, had not been taken seriously by several Members. Rwanda wished to distance itself from the decision to delete the references, because of its experience. The consequences would live for generations and the omission demonstrated a disregard for the suffering of the Rwandan people, particularly women and children. Genocide was one of the worst crimes. He requested that the reservations be placed on the record of the special session.

The representative of United States, expressing satisfaction at the adoption of the final document, she said that her delegation had sent an interpretive document to the special session, which explained the position of her country. Her delegation understood that any commitments referred to in the final document attributed to States -- unless States indicated to the contrary -- were not legally binding. Therefore, they consisted of recommendations concerning how governments could and should promote the rights of women. They constituted general commitments to undertake meaningful implementation of the recommendations overall. She also emphasized that only States Parties were obliged to implement treaties mentioned in the final document.

Regarding the furtherance of women’s rights, her Government had a firm position of non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and considered that omission of such a position from the outcome document in no way justified such discrimination in any country. Her delegation also fully supported the call in the Platform for Action for governments to recognize and address the health impact of unsafe abortions. Governments should recognize the implications of unsafe abortions. Even where abortion was legal, too many countries had not trained the providers to ensure that abortions were safe and accessible. It was a major health concern. On saving and protecting the health and lives of women, her Government would be guided by the consensus language of the document of the General Assembly’s special session on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD + 5).

Regarding the use of the term “foreign occupation”, the United States did recognize that human rights violations did occur in situations of foreign occupation. Nevertheless, her delegation continued to have reservations, as it had during the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, regarding any implication that occupation was a human rights violation per se. For that reason, her delegation wanted to disassociate itself from paragraphs 29, 30 and 135 (i) dealing with globalization and economic issues. Those paragraphs characterized globalization and debt as significant obstacles to achieving gender equality. National governments had primary responsibility for social and economic development and for ensuring the equality of women. Most aspects of equality for women had no direct link to international economic and financial issues.

She also disassociated herself from paragraph 133 m.bis, which concerned disarmament. First, the United States disagreed with the assertion that United Nations established priorities for disarmament. Priorities for disarmament were established by Member States. Also, the paragraph proposed that resources made available as a result of disarmament should be allocated to social programmes benefiting women and girls. The two distinct issues should not be linked in that way. Regarding foreign assistance and official development assistance, her country was one of those that had not accepted the “agreed target” for such assistance.

The representative of Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said she supported Nigeria’s statement on behalf of the Group of 77, and congratulated the President and all people involved on the manner in which the special session was conducted.

Africa had done its utmost in order to help the session come to an acceptable end. Once again, there was support for the outcome of the Beijing and Cairo Conferences. Women could contribute to the development of their country. She asked partners in development to provide the necessary resources to implement the recommendations, but regretted that the outcome document had not been translated into the working languages of the United Nation.

The representative of Senegal endorsed the statement made by the representative of Nigeria, on behalf of the Group of 77, and welcomed the successful outcome of the special session. She had no reservations on that outcome, although her delegation would have wished for the production of a more aggressive document. Furthermore, international cooperation should be reinforced to allow innovative initiatives to be developed, particularly taking into account the constraints that were being experienced by certain countries, especially those in Africa.

The representative of Colombia, speaking on behalf of several other Latin American countries, said she also wanted to place on record the position of Latin American countries that, in the context of the twenty-third special session, the delegations had a shared vision of lessons and good practices in the five years since Beijing. Regional consensus had been guiding the commitments of Latin American governments to the achievement of gender equality. A wide range of positions had been highlighted in search of consensus on the final document. The countries of her region wanted all women, adolescents and children to fully enjoy human rights. She wanted to especially emphasize a women’s right to health within the framework of equality of the sexes. The rights of women who were citizens of the world should be promoted.

The representative of Saudi Arabia congratulated the President on the successful outcome of the special session. He confirmed his country’s commitment to the implementation of the recommendations of the outcome document in a matter that did not contradict Islam and national laws.

The representative of Kuwait noted that the Government of Kuwait was committed to implementing the document in a manner that did not contradict the Islamic Sharia or the Constitution of Kuwait.

The representative of the United Arab Emirates affirmed that his delegation would endeavour to implement the outcome in accordance with Islamic Sharia and the country’s Constitution and laws.

The representative of Pakistan said his delegation was very pleased that the outcome document had been adopted by consensus and the Government placed high priority on achieving its objectives. The implementation process would be guided by the Sharia, as well as by the national Constitution.

The representative of Libya said her delegation had participated effectively in the preparatory process to the special session with the aim of reaching an accurate and comprehensive document for the better future of all women. It was a pleasure to be a part of the consensus today. Her country would implement the document in conformity with its national laws and religious tenets.

The representative of Bahrain wanted to express his delegation’s determination to apply the provisions of the document not contradicting national sovereignty and legislation of his country, as well as the tenets of the Sharia.

The representative of El Salvador said that the special session has reviewed the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. He joined the consensus on the final document and reaffirmed his country’s full readiness to implement its commitments, for his country supported the Beijing outcome. Turning to the paragraphs of the text on abortion and derivative issues, he said that abortion was not permitted in his country, which recognized the right to life from conception. Regarding family planning and reproductive health, his country supported the rights of adolescents to such services with parental consent, provided they did not lead to abortion.

The representative of Kenya was grateful for the work of the Preparatory Committee and the entire Bureau for the work done to make this special session a landmark for women. She joined the consensus in the outcome document and her country would endeavour to implement its recommendations within its legal framework. In that regard, she mentioned that abortion was illegal in her country.

The representative of the Sudan expressed pleasure at the acceptance of the potent final outcome document and renewed Sudan’s commitment to implement the recommendations in a manner that conformed to its constitution, law and national and values, taking into consideration paragraph 2 (bis).

The representative of Indonesia wished to reiterate readiness to work with the international community in ensuring the advancement of women.

The representative of Cuba expressed her delegation’s satisfaction about the steps made to the struggle for women’s equality by the adoption of the outcome of the special session, as that would contribute to the advancement of women, as well as of the girl child. However, it must be placed on record that there were difficult moments during the negotiation process, particularly when discussing certain segments. In that light, Cuba’s contribution to that process must not be construed as setting a precedent for future conferences or similar events.

The Assembly then adopted by consensus draft resolution 1, containing its Political Declaration (contained in paragraph 56 of document A/S-23/2.)

Draft resolution 2, on further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, was also adopted by consensus (contained in documents A/S-23/2/Add.2 (Parts I-IV) and Corr.1 to Part IV, as amended by document A/S-23/AC.1/L.1/Addenda 1 to 42 and Corr.1 to Add.16).

Statements after Vote

Speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, the representative of Algeria expressed satisfaction at the adoption of the final document, which would serve as a foundation for the future empowerment of women. Arab countries had demonstrated a spirit of negotiations and flexibility in the negotiations. They wanted to confirm their willingness to protect the achievements of women in the past years.

The representative of Morocco expressed satisfaction on the adoption of the final documents. Despite the difficulties encountered in the negotiations, it confirmed that dialogue had been very constructive and positive, leading to fruitful results. Her Government would be committed to the implementation of the outcome of the special session in line with its laws, religion and national values. The national project of her Government on gender equality was being developed now with full participation of civil society. It confirmed her country’s commitment to the women’s causes.

The representative of Tunisia, thanking the President of the General Assembly and the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee, expressed his satisfaction with the constructive atmosphere in the Preparatory Committee, especially because the particularities of each country were taken into account. The Conference had not gone back on Beijing. He confirmed his country’s commitment to the outcome of the Beijing Conference, taking into consideration respect for Arab laws. His country would implement all recommendations based on the policies of his country and different mechanisms and institutions to achieve full equality between men and women.

The representative of Egypt thanked all delegations for their cooperation and understanding. The document was a step forward after Beijing and represented the success of the Conference. Conferences had achieved rapprochement between different cultures, and he hoped that social issues would not be used as elements of conflict between cultures.

Egypt would work hard to implement the document, in light of national laws, but he regretted that the paragraphs concerning financial resources were very weak. He hoped that the international community would work hard to increase financial resources needed to empower women. He thanked the NGOs for their participation and efforts, and hoped that, in the future, the United Nations would use the NGOs in a more organized way.

The representative of the Philippines reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to the Platform for Action, particularly in combating trafficking in women and girls, as well as the situation of migrants, particularly women and children living in poverty. The Government intended to adopt an updated plan of action to govern its gender programme and hoped that, through South/South cooperation, further partnerships in realizing the Beijing goals would occur.

Real progress had been achieved for gender equality, development and peace, stated the representative of Portugal, on behalf of the European Union and associated States. The Union was committed to fight discrimination that was based on gender, race and religion. Its States were disappointed that the document contained no reference to the sexual rights of women and hoped that it would soon be reflected in the terminology of the Organization. He also regretted that it was not possible to use the language as had been defined at ICPD + 5 on abortion issues.

The representative of Canada said, while the document reflected what most Member States believed, no gains had been achieved in the outcome on the rights of the woman to make decisions with regard to her reproductive rights. Her delegation wished to express censure for the abhorrent practice of trafficking in women and girls, and that communications technologies were being used to further its cause. Also, the document, as an instrument intended to protect the rights of women and children, did not refer to discrimination based on sexual orientation and to the prevalence of landmines.

The representative of New Zealand said that her delegation was pleased at the outcome of the session. There was still some way to go before full equality was reached, and her country would continue implementing the decisions reached in

Beijing. However, her delegation supported non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. As reference to that issue had not been included in the final document, she hoped it would be referred to in the next review of women’s issues.

The representative of Oman said that her delegation would implement the outcome document in conformity with its laws and religious beliefs.

The representative of Mauritania expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the session and called for more fairness and equality in the field of translation into all working languages of the United Nations. All countries and groups should be treated equally within the Organization. Reiterating her country’s commitment to the goals of gender equality, she said that it would implement the recommendations of the session, provided they did not run counter to its laws and culture.

The representative of Iraq supported the statement of Algeria. He said that Iraq demonstrated maximum flexibility during negotiations in order to reach consensus. His Government would apply provisions of the outcome document in accordance with its national laws and Constitution. There were, however, some reservations about any provisions that might run counter to Islam and Arab values and traditions. He requested that his statement be reflected in the outcome document.

The representative of Norway said that he would have liked certain elements included in the outcome documents, such as discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, sexual rights of women and decriminalization of abortion. He was also disappointed that no agreement was reached on language on landmines, which affected the life of girls disproportionately.

The representative of Iran said that his delegation had joined consensus on the outcome document, and supported implementation of its goals, but had reservations on a number of issues. He said that both men and women were valuable components of humanity, each possessing equally their respective characteristics and potentials. On the basis of that perspective, derived from Islamic values, Iran would interpret the concept of equality embodied in the respective provisions of the final document. On matters relating to sexuality and sexual behaviour, he said that, concerning text that condoned sexual relations outside the framework of marriage and the family, Iran upheld the principle that safe and responsible sexual relationship between men and women could only be legitimized within the framework of marriage. With respect to the issue of inheritance, Iran would interpret the relevant provision of the final document in accordance with the principles of Islam. He requested that his reservations be included in full in the report.

The representative Jordan stated that his Government anticipated the implementation of the outcome of the special session and would do that in accordance with the country’s Constitution.

The representative Syria expressed gratitude for the sincere condolences that were expressed by Members and appreciation for their sharing the difficulties Syria’s citizens were experiencing because of the loss of their great leader. The President was known for his strategic strengths and believed in the principles of

human rights and justice. He stood in defence of his people, and before the special session had begun, had expressed his wish for its success. That confirmed his dedication to the advancement of women.

His delegation agreed with the viewpoint of the outcome, and he reiterated Syria’s commitment to the implementation of the Beijing Platform in accordance with the State’s religion, beliefs, tradition and culture. He hoped that its Government would be allowed to undertake the process with respect for its national sovereignty, Constitution and laws, as had been provided for in paragraph 2 of the document.

While the international community had ensured the advancement of the condition of women through many of the provisions of the outcome, the representative of the Observer for the Holy See said serious concerns remained. From the outset, the Holy See had complied with the decision that the special session would be undertaken on the basis of the Beijing Platform for Action and that no changes would be made to that Declaration. However, many delegations had failed to honour that commitment and had attempted to make a number of changes, particularly in regard to sexual rights. From the inception, the Holy See had expressed serious reservations about the Platform for Action and would continue to uphold those. Nothing must imply that it endorsed abortion or had changed its moral position on contraceptives and sterilization.

He pointed out that, in conformity with its nature, by welcoming the outcome, it wished to express its understanding that the document maintained holistic interpretations of a number of rights, including those to sexual and reproductive health. It did not consider abortion or access to it a dimension to those terms, nor to legal recourse. The same applied to family planning, which the Catholic Church considered morally unacceptable. The Holy See also expressed reservations with the understanding that gender referred to two sexes -- male and female.

The representative of the Russian Federation welcomed the successful conclusion of the special session, which attempted to give an answer to many questions women were encountering around the world. The main thing was to obtain maximum participation in the implementation of the outcome documents of the session.

In his closing remarks, THEO-BEN GURIRAB (Namibia), Assembly President, said the outcome of the special session had resulted in "no backward movement on any of the Beijing language". The Platform, with its numerous proposals for action, remained fully valid for national and international actions. Furthermore, the adopted outcome updated the Beijing Platform in the areas of violence against and trafficking in women, health, education, human rights, poverty, debt relief and globalization, armed conflict, sovereignty, land and inheritance rights for women, political participation and decision-making. If governments demonstrated the necessary political will and allocated required human and financial resources, the goals of gender equality, development and peace would become a reality very early in the twenty-first century.

He called on organizations of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Trade Organization, other international and regional intergovernmental bodies, parliaments, civil society, including the private sector and NGOs, to support government efforts and develop complementary programmes of their own to achieve the goals of the Platform. Everyone was a stakeholder in the process, he stressed.

Attendance at the session was impressive and the number would have been far greater if the Building could accommodate more people, he said, adding that the document acknowledged the role that NGOs must continue to play in the promotion of gender equality, development and peace everywhere.

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For information media. Not an official record.