5 March 2002


Press Release

Commission on Status of Women

Forty-sixth Session

3rd and 4th Meetings (AM & PM)



Redressing the unbalanced "power equation" between women and men, placing poverty eradication at the centre of national and international strategies, and including women from the outset as planners in the environment and sustainable development fields would do much to improve the situation of women worldwide, the Commission on the Status of Women was told today, as it concluded its general discussion.

The current session, due to wrap up on 15 March, has as its two themes:  the integration of a gender perspective in environmental management and the mitigation of natural disasters, and the eradication of poverty through women’s empowerment.  Established in 1946 as a functional commission of the Economic and Social Council, the Commission seeks to promote gender equality.  The current session will also consider the situation of Palestinian and Afghan women.

Improving the status of women in all spheres of social life and on a global scale depended on the resolute determination of the entire human community, the representative of Iran said.  Poverty must be the focus of all national and global strategies, as that was the most pervasive violation of human rights and the right to development.  Women, as particular victims of natural disasters and environmental degradation, must become involved in related decision-making, planning and management, and scientific and technical consultation locally.

The representative of Brazil said a successful agenda for eradicating poverty through women's empowerment meant dismantling the values, structures and processes that maintained women's subordination and justified inequality.  Implicit in that substantive debate was that the struggle against poverty was not only a struggle against hunger and deprivation, but that was a battle against powerlessness, and for autonomy, dignity and respect for all human rights. 

Guatemala’s representative said in her country, where more than half the population was impoverished, the peace agreements had recognized that the poverty and social exclusion of the majority of her country’s population was one of the root causes of the conflict.  There were also profound economic inequalities between men and women, but recent events had shown that women played a key role in crisis prevention and management.  A social development law had been approved in which equality was a priority. 

“Empowerment begins with poverty eradication”, asserted the representative of Bangladesh.  For women, the first hurdle in equality was often the problem of

gaining access to services.  Cooperation between the government and non-governmental organizations had improved that situation, and micro-credit had been made available to women, thereby leading to additional concrete changes.  Women’s voices now mattered in Bangladesh, not just in the home, but also in society.

The United States representative defined one goal in her country as the creation of a climate that allowed all individuals to go as far and as fast as their energies and talents would take them.  On the subject of women and girls in Afghanistan, she would introduce a revised draft resolution this year welcoming the developments there and encouraging the Interim Authority to ensure respect for the equal rights of women.  At the present critical juncture, it wasimportant for the international community to pledge its commitment to Afghan women.

There was no more blatant example of human rights abuse than that of Afghan women, the Deputy Director General of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) said.  But participating fully in their country's reconstruction meant first overcoming the numbness of isolation and years of oppression.  The IOM felt it could help through its programmes that helped qualified nationals of developing countries residing abroad return home if they wished.

Statements were also made by the representatives of China, Argentina, Chile, Croatia, Liechtenstein, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cuba, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Burundi, Dominican Republic, Syria, Romania, Kenya, Turkey, Mexico, Namibia, Malaysia, Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania, Indonesia, Pakistan, Lithuania, Angola, Ecuador, Fiji, Australia, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Gabon.

The observer for Palestine addressed the morning meeting.  The representative of Israel spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Representatives of two non-governmental organizations also addressed the Commission today:  the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU); and On the Status of Women.

The Chief of the Women in Development Section, Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) spoke for her own and the following regional commissions: the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA); Europe (ECE); Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and Western Asia (ESCWA).

The Chief of the Gender Issues Branch, Technical Support Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also spoke.  Other speakers were the Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality, International Labor Organization (ILO); and Sector Manager for Gender and Development of the World Bank.

The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 6 March, to convene the first of two panel discussions on, respectively:  eradicating poverty, including through women's empowerment; and the gender perspective of environmental management and mitigation of natural disasters.


The Commission on the Status of Women began its forty-fifth session yesterday morning with a high-level segment from the heads of related United Nations bodies and departments, including the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and the Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women. 

The general debate, begun in the morning, heard several speakers, including at the ministerial level, press for implementation of the Millennium Development goals and outcomes of the world conferences of the 1990s.  The thematic issues of the current session, which is due to conclude on 15 March, are:  the integration of a gender perspective in environmental management and the mitigation of natural disasters, and the eradication of poverty, through women's empowerment. 

(For background on the reports and the Commission, see Press Release WOM/1321 of 1 March.)


WANG YINGFAN (China) said that last May his government had formulated a Program for the Development of Chinese Women (2001-2010) in line with the latest ten-year national development plan.  The programme for women took into account the periodic and long-term goals for women’s development in six priority areas.  Those centred on issues related to women and their relationship to the economy, their role in decision-making and management, their education and health, their standing with the law and their role in management of the environment.  The objectives of the new programme were being integrated into local economic and social development plans with adequate financing, which would be increased as the local economy developed.

He said the two thematic issues of women’s role in poverty eradication and in environmental management were of great concern to the entire international community.  The Commission should focus on making practical recommendations on those issues to better follow up on relevant United Nations conferences.

LAURA ISABEL VELASQUEZ (Argentina) said against the background of, among other things, 6 million people not meeting their basic food needs and 20 per cent unemployment, there was a need to ensure that women were not once again victims of the reform process and that their basic rights were respected.  There was also a need to ensure that the platform of the conference was followed and that a gender perspective was implemented.  Women could be the focal point for change in achieving sustainable development and creating new models for sustainable production.  Women sustained their families and communities.  It was, therefore, important that women could increase their productivity.

In her country, businesswomen in small- and medium-sized companies could participate in a programme for export for businesswomen, she said.  In recent years, together with Brazil and Paraguay, groups like labour would include gender mainstreaming. In the framework of national emergency policies, a programme of heads of households was created to ensure that children would get to schools and women heads of households would get training to join the workforce.  There were also programmes to combat domestic violence.  More than a third of Congress members were women.  Argentine women were taking on an increasingly important role in the country, becoming more prominent in legislative bodies and civil society. 

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said his country developed and actively supported efforts to implement gender equality and gender mainstreaming.  The two thematic issues being considered by the Commission were important elements in his country’s own programme.  Empowerment of women, however, did not occur in a vacuum.  It required successful strategies at the national level, which provided for such basic needs as social services, effective fiscal policies and social networks.

Also, “empowerment begins with poverty eradication”, he said.  For women, the first hurdle in equality was often the problem of gaining access to services.  Cooperation between the government and non-governmental organizations has enabled the spread of vital services.  Micro-credit had also been made available.  Those initiatives had led to concrete changes.  Women’s voices now mattered in Bangladesh, not just in the home, but also in society.  Policy and action had gone together to prove an important point, that the empowerment of women could transform a society for the better.  Further, their empowerment led to societies that were at peace and stable.  Bangladesh was ready to share its experience.

FERNANDO ESTELLITA LINS de SALVO COIMBRA (Brazil) said that once again the Commission had focused on thematic issues that were directly related to the outcome of two of the most important upcoming international conferences:  the Johannesburg Summit; and the Monterrey Conference.  The Commission would forward its contribution to their preparatory processes.  The Secretary-General's analysis of the session's themes and his recommendations were an insightful contribution and source of inspiration.  On the question of natural disasters, one of the session's themes, the increased frequency of small- or medium-impact disasters, as well as land degradation and drought, had resulted in losses and costs that might exceed those associated with large, but relatively infrequent disasters. 

Gender-based inequalities and women's socio-economic vulnerabilities were exacerbated by the possible environmental impacts of climate change, as well as by natural or technological disasters, he continued.  Women's full enjoyment of their human rights was a necessary condition to reduce the risk associated with such situations.  Furthermore, he supported the recommendations contained in Agenda 21, the action plan of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), which called for increased representation of women as decision-makers, planners, technical advisers and managers in the environment and sustainable development fields.

A successful agenda for eradicating poverty through women's empowerment, the other theme of the session, meant dismantling the values, structures and processes that maintained women's subordination and justified inequality.  Implicit in that substantive debate was that the struggle against poverty was not only a struggle against hunger and deprivation, but was a battle against powerlessness and for autonomy, dignity and respect.  In Brazil, some of the most important current social programmes had recognized the positive socio-economic impact of women's empowerment, including the newly established social protection network focused on low-income families.  That network would allow for the direct transfer through the banking system of $10 billion to the mothers in those low-income families. 

J. GABRIEL VALDES (Chile) said a Department of Participation by Citizens had been set up in 1997, in which women participated, but specific gender mainstreaming programmes had not been set up. The Government was planning to correct that state of affairs.  Opportunities had been created in Chile to achieve sustainable development with social equity.  The Beijing Platform for Action had established that poverty affected women most, due to hunger, malnutrition, limited access to education and lack of involvement in the political process.  His Government had managed to reduce the number of households living in extreme poverty.

Gender issues had not been mainstreamed in macroeconomic policies, he said. Social policies in the poorest sections had not incorporated gender measures either, but a programme had been created to ensure jobs for women, particularly those who were heads of households.  There had been an increase of jobs for women and an income increase in the poorest sector.  Twenty per cent of households in the poorest sector were headed by women.  Women were characterized by the lowest level of job participation.  In efforts to eradicate poverty, it was vital to empower women to participate in the economy.  A change was needed in the power equation, in which women were currently treated as objects.  Women were involved in employment policies, but much remained to be done.  The contributions of non-governmental organizations were invaluable in that regard.

ELLEN SAUERBREY (United States) said that empowering women through equal access to education and economic opportunity was essential for the eradication of poverty.  That also enabled women to participate effectively in the decision-making processes that shaped their communities and their lives.  But, equality and empowerment did not exist in a vacuum.  Those were built upon respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, observance of core labour standards, property rights, democratic governments, and the rule of law.  The goal in the United States was to create the climate that allowed all individuals to go as far and as fast as their energies and talents would take them.

She said that education was increasingly essential if individuals were to succeed in a global and technologically advanced economy.  The United States also remained dedicated to eliminating domestic and other violence against women.  One of the greatest challenges in the areas of human rights and law enforcement was trafficking in persons.  Based on reliable estimates, at least 700,000 persons, especially women and children, were trafficked each year across international borders.  Her Government was strongly committed to combating that "modern day form of slavery" both at home and abroad, and it pledged to continue to work individually and collectively to eliminate that horrible crime. 

Disaster preparedness should be included in overall development plans, and gender should be integrated into all aspects of the development process, she said.  On the subject of women and girls in Afghanistan, she noted that her delegation had introduced resolutions in the Commission for the past four years on the status of women and girls there.  Those texts had condemned the grave violations of their human rights, including restrictions on their access to education, health care, employment outside the home, freedom of movement, and freedom from intimidation, harassment, and violence.  At the present critical juncture, it was important for the international community to pledge its commitment to Afghan women.  She would introduce a resolution welcoming the developments there and encouraging the Interim Authority to ensure respect for the equal rights of women.

NANA EFFAH-APENTENG (Ghana) said mainstreaming a gender perspective in all international policies and programmes was a key to the advancement of women.  Last year, Ghana elevated its national machinery for advancing women to a full-fledged ministry to ensure a government-wide mainstreaming of a gender-equality perspective in all policies and programmes.  Gender desk officers had been established in all ministries, departments and agencies.  Guidelines had been developed based on a two-day workshop.  Quarterly meetings will be held between the officers and the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs.

Ghana was also taking steps to close the widening economic inequality between men and women.  A National Development Fund with an initial seed capital of 21 billion cedis had been set up, with 500 million earmarked in each region for providing women with credit to finance economic activities.  A fund had also been launched to combat the spread of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  The disease itself was being managed at the national, regional and district levels.  Workshops were being held to sensitize women, girls and youth about the disease.  The focus was on preventing mother-to-child transmission of the virus and increasing the access of pregnant women to confidential counselling for the child’s protection.    

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, observer for Palestine, noted the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of women in Palestine and highlighted elements in it.  Since 28 September 2000, she said, 980 Palestinians had died, including women and children.  Tens of thousands had been injured, many of them permanently disabled.  In addition, the oppressive policies and measures imposed on Palestinian women had seriously hampered efforts to promote a viable and comprehensive plan of action.  It had deprived them of an opportunity to develop their socio-economic potential and had impeded their advancement and empowerment.

The Secretary-General’s report described in detail the difficulty that Palestinian women faced under Israeli military occupation, she continued.  The situation had affected all aspects of their daily life.  Severe restrictions on their movement had caused a severe breakdown in health care, particularly that of women.  On countless occasions, women had died as ambulances were prevented from reaching hospitals and pregnant women delivered at checkpoints, as they too were prevented from reaching hospitals.  The Secretary-General had concluded that the situation of Palestinian women could not improve without an end to the occupation under which they lived and a realization of the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights.  The moral and financial support provided by the community of nations was deeply appreciated.  It was a show of faith in the justice of the struggle.  

LILY CARAVANTES (Guatemala) said the peace agreements had recognized the serious poverty and social exclusion of the majority of her country’s population as one of the root causes of the conflict.  Fifty-six per cent of the population lived in poverty, and 16 per cent in extreme poverty.  There were also profound economic inequalities between men and women.  Only 28 per cent of the workforce consisted of women, and the average income of women was 53 per cent lower than that of men.  The poor had an average schooling of 1.9 years.  Households in the poor sector tended to be large, with about six members.  The role of women in national disasters continued to be traditional -- helping in the aftermath.  But, recent events had proven that women could play a key role in crisis prevention and management.

Her Government intended to overcome those inequalities.  In compliance with peace agreements, a social development law had been approved in which equality was a priority.  Special maternity provisions had been included.  As part of a strategy to reduce poverty, some areas of gender equality had been included such as literacy campaigns and training campaigns for women.  Women’s organizations needed financial and technical support.  There was a need to move from a political will to action in ensuring that gender mainstreaming was included in all levels of Government.

MIRJANA MLADINEA, Deputy Minister for European Integration of Croatia, said the most important element in the process of women’s empowerment was to strengthen their role and contribution to the national, regional and international economy. In the context of globalization, a number of policy issues must be resolved to eradicate poverty and avoid marginalization of some countries.  The role of women was crucial in tackling those issues.

Gender equality was a fundamental value in a genuine democracy, she said. Croatia had signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union last year.  According to that agreement, gender equality had been identified as one of the 12 priority areas for legal harmonization.  Progress in the promotion of gender equality in Croatia had intensified since the political changes in 2000 and also after “Beijing + five”.  The Government’s Commission for Gender Equality had been re-established and reshaped and a new National Policy for the Promotion of Gender Equality 2001-2005 had been prepared.  She anticipated that the second and third report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which were overdue, would be prepared by June.

She said that particular focus had been put on measures against all forms of violence against women.  Although the number of women in Parliament had increased to 23.5 per cent, women representation at the local level was still insufficient. Special attention had been given to the establishment of commissions for gender equality at the local level.

CLAUDIA FRITSCHE (Liechtenstein) said, as issues of international peace and security were more than ever in mind, the role of women in the maintenance of international peace and security must be given high priority.  She welcomed in that regard Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  That resolution was one of high relevance for the daily work of United Nations peacekeeping missions in the field.  The particular vulnerability of women in armed conflicts had to be taken into account, but it must also be emphasized that women had to play an active part in conflict resolution and peace-building.  She called for more appointments of women as special envoys and special representatives of the Secretary-General.

She said there were two developments which seemed particularly noteworthy regarding emerging issues and trends.  First, the phenomenon of multiple discrimination, which had been addressed by the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa.  Second, the language on the empowerment of women in matters relating to their sexuality in the Declaration of Commitment of the Special Session on HIV/AIDS.  For both Durban and the Special Session, implementation must now be the key issue.

ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, Minister for Community Development, Women’s Affairs and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the two thematic issues before the Commission this year were mutually-reinforcing and complementary.  They were also propitious in light of preparations for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development.  The Commission’s deliberations should provide the basis for an important contribution to it.

She said the expert group on empowering women had asserted that gender inequity in the distribution of income, and in lack of control over assets, increased women’s vulnerability to poverty.  Global efforts to eradicate poverty couldn’t succeed without addressing the specific problems related to women’s poverty.  Her government had put in the machinery to ensure that women benefited equally from policies, strategies and programmes aimed at eradicating poverty.  Those included a Women and Gender Development Policy, a Poverty Reduction Strategy and a Rural Development Strategy.  The role of women in environmental management was being recognized, after having gone unnoticed for many years.  It was also critical to understand the gender dimension in the disaster management process, so as to address root causes and take risk reduction measures that were equitable and efficient.

TITIEK SUYONO (Indonesia) said it was encouraging to read in the relevant report that progress was being made in gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system, and that it was widely recognized that the institutional capacity for implementing the strategy needed to be strengthened.  The Organization must make an appropriate commitment to gender equality, as a foundation of other initiatives for women’s advancement.  If the Organization couldn’t succeed in achieving gender equality, how could it maintain its moral force in calling for such action throughout the world? she asked.

Describing the work of her country’s State Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, she said 12 areas critical to women’s empowerment had been clustered into six major programme areas.  Those concerned the improvement of women’s life in such areas as:  education and access to resources; dissemination of information about gender equality; elimination of violence and protection of women’s rights; children’s welfare; and strengthening the sustainability of women’s organizations.  However, the reference to East Timorese women and children in the report on hostages was a simplification of the situation.  It was regrettable that the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET) had failed to recognize that family reunification involved many factors specific to each individual case.  The Government provided the proper mechanisms and channels for resolving problems and it had shown its responsiveness. 

PAIMANEH HASTEI (Iran) said achieving real, meaningful and substantive improvement in the situation and status of women in all fields of social life, on a global scale, depended on the resolute determination of the entire human community.  While women were the beneficiaries of opportunities, they suffered from deepening miseries as a result of globalization.  As the middle of the first Decade for the Eradication of Poverty had almost been reached and implementation issues continued to be a major stumbling block, he reiterated that poverty constituted the most pervasive violation of human rights and the right to development.  Poverty eradication must be placed at the centre of national strategies and international cooperation.

Natural disasters, deterioration of resources, war and civil war were interrelated in their destructive effects on ecosystems, she said, and had a particularly harmful impact on women and girls.  Women had already demonstrated their leadership roles in promoting environmental ethics, and the role of women was crucial to the provision of food and nutrition and the preservation of the environment.  Women should, therefore, be encouraged to become involved in decision-making, planning, management, science and technical consulting, especially at the local level.  Iran had continued to take numerous measures for further improvement in the situation of women.  The literacy rate for women had increased to 80.5 per cent and maternal mortality rate had decreased to 37 per 100,000 live births, among other things.

VALERY YANVAREV, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Development of the Russian Federation, said his country had adopted a long-term strategy for social development, as well as a medium-term programme to establish and promote the development of a dynamic market-based economy, taking into account the social interests of the most vulnerable groups.  The potential of women in that regard had to be taken into account.  The new labour code permitted choice of profession for women, to enable them to respond better to the economic challenges.  His Government was seeking to strengthen measures for the social and legal protection of women and children.  It prosecuted individuals who engaged in transnational crimes, such as trafficking in women and children.

His country had also adopted a national plan of action for the period 2001-2005 to improve the status of women and envisaged specific measures to provide health for women in the labour force.  His country’s fifth periodic report had been considered by the Committee and its recommendations would be taken into account by the authorities.  He trusted the Commission would avoid undue politicization of issues. 

MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ (Cuba) described her country’s programmes for advancing women’s rights, which covered areas from research to education and delivery of health care.  Those programmes had led to evident improvement in the situation of women.  They now made up 44 per cent of the labour force, 66 per cent of the technical or professional force, 33 per cent of those in the highest paying positions and nearly 28 per cent of Parliament. 

In addition, she said, the infant mortality rate was the lowest ever, while the life expectancy of women had increased.  Maternity leave time had been increased from 18 weeks to one year.  However, the economic blockade by the United States had a particularly negative impact on women, impeding their economic, commercial and financial opportunities.  Still, they were advancing their participation in the social, economic and political life of their society.  Their advancement was not a matter of making a political statement.  It was a realization of their rights by virtue of justice, in Cuba’s ongoing revolutionary process. 

ZIZIEN FATI OUEDRAOGO (Burkina Faso) said the Commission’s two theme issues were of particular importance for overall global development, particularly since women were those most negatively affected by globalization.  Their limited access to credit was a major drawback to their advancement.  Her country had taken steps to remedy the situation, including by developing indicators for evaluation and follow-up purposes.  Civil society actions had been strengthened.  The standard of living had been improved.  However, AIDS and sexual diseases continued to afflict many women.

She said her country appreciated the emergency assistance being given to Palestinian women.  Yet, more could be done on an international level to further women’s development, particularly that of African women.  For example, governments should nominate more women candidates for United Nations positions and the Special Adviser on Gender should hire more African women in her Office.  

PAK GIL YON (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said efforts to resolve the issues of women were still confronted with serious challenges, such as armed conflicts, negative impact of globalization, and poverty and foreign debts.  Women had been the primary targets of death and violence during the world wars and had become the first victims in the areas of dispute and foreign occupation, even today.  Women also became the first victims of such unjust international relations as unilateral sanctions.  Only when all sorts of discriminatory laws were abolished and the rights of women firmly guaranteed, legally and institutionally, could women participate in the main fields of social activities and enjoy life as genuine human beings.

An international environment favourable to the rights of women must be created, he said.  To that end, acts of aggression, occupation and coercive sanctions should be stopped.  The developed countries should make financial contributions through increased official development assistance and reduction of external debts, to prevent the negative impact of globalization on developing countries and help them achieve economic growth, thus eradicating the poverty of women.  He once more drew attention to the criminal act of “comfort women” committed by Japan in the last century, saying the Korean people knew well enough the ulterior motive of Japanese authorities in attempting to avoid addressing past crimes.  Japan’s attitude towards those crimes were a precursor of its current and future political and military orientation.  He urged Japan to recognize State responsibility, apologize and pay due compensation for its past crimes, including the issue of “comfort women”.

NDIORO NDIAYE, Deputy Director-General, International Organization of Migration (IOM), said in recent years more and more women had been migrating independently, in order to find better opportunities abroad.  Increasing the opportunities for regular migration was one of many ways to reduce pressure for illegal migration, but it was also a particularly viable “win-win” solution for women who were most often subject to difficult or abusive migration conditions. Migration, therefore, not only contributed to alleviating poverty, but was also an opportunity for migrant women to gain autonomy and self-esteem.  Those two concepts were the basic ingredients for empowerment.

She said there was no more blatant example of human rights abuse than that of Afghan women.  After more than two decades of conflict, a glimmer of hope had, at last, appeared.  But, to participate fully in the reconstruction of their country and be included in every aspect of life, they must first overcome the numbness of isolation and years of oppression.  The IOM felt it could help through its programmes helping qualified nationals of developing countries residing abroad who expressed a desire to return home.  In the past few years, such programmes had been developed successfully in countries emerging from conflicts.

She said the situation in Africa was different, in that permanent return programmes had demonstrated their limitations, except in post-conflict situations. The programme, thus, aimed more at attenuating the effects of the brain drain, than at eradicating it.  Further, it allowed for the mobilization of skills and resources in the diaspora to support the development of the country of origin, thereby eliminating the need for migrants to give up the rights acquired in their host countries.  Women were particularly involved in the dynamics of their community of origin and many had been registered in existing databases.  A first programme in the three countries of the Great Lakes region was being implemented and several geographical components were at an advanced stage of negotiation. Those glimmers of hope could only become a reality if they were further developed in concert with local associations.

YOUYUN ZHANG, Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality, International Labor Organization (ILO), reviewed the work her organization had done since last reporting to the Commission.  She said senior management had enhanced its commitment to gender equality and mainstreaming.  Institution-wide gender audits were being carried out and more systematic efforts were being taken to ensure that the gender perspective was integrated into flagship programmes.  That included a programme that focused on developing a life cycle approach to gender equality from childhood to old age.  Finally, a comprehensive communication strategy on gender equality had been developed last year.  The ILO would continue to build on that progress this year.

CECILIA VALDIVIESO, Sector Manager for Gender and Development, World Bank, said large gender disparities in basic human rights, economic opportunity and political power continued to be pervasive worldwide.  Further, gender disparities were closely linked to poverty, in that poverty exacerbated gender inequality, which in turn hindered development.  It was also known that inequalities between girls and boys in gaining access to schooling or health care was more acute among the poor than others.  In addition, women’s access to agricultural resources could increase productivity in sub-Saharan Africa by 20 per cent and ensuring equal schooling there for boys and girls could lower child mortality by 25 per cent.

The central message was clear, she said.  Ignoring gender disparities came at a great cost to people’s well-being, to a country’s ability to grow and govern, to the effectiveness of development assistance and, ultimately, to poverty reduction.  The Bank had implemented three developments that gave hope for an unprecedented opportunity to “walk the talk” on gender.  First, the management and executive directors had strongly endorsed the Bank’s new gender mainstreaming strategy.  Further, it had been decided to make gender mainstreaming part of the corporate priorities recently adopted.  And, finally, it had been decided to closely integrate the Millennium Development Goals into the Bank’s work.  The strategy rested on conducting gender assessments in countries where the Bank had an active lending programme.  It would allow a redoubling of efforts in putting gender issues squarely into poverty reduction and country assistance strategies, for the simple reason that it made sense.     

WARIARA MBUGUA, Chief, Gender Issues Branch, Technical Support Division of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said it was a sad fact that today levels of poverty among women continued to expand and intensify, despite the fact that there were proven methodologies to halt such a trend.  Women raising children were especially susceptible to poverty, and within that group young mothers were in the most critical need.  Given low age at marriage and near universal childbearing, the majority of women in developing countries were therefore at risk of being among the very poor.  Female-headed households were also highly vulnerable to poverty and the proportion of such households was rising dramatically in many countries.  With the HIV/AIDS pandemic, women were increasingly becoming the backbone of the long-term healthcare economy, which added another dimension to the poverty.

It was, therefore not surprising that among the key indicators of poverty were such measurements as maternal and infant mortality rates, she continued.  Such indicators suggested that today it was no longer sufficient to wait for economic growth to happen, and then to depend on redistribution of growth revenues to decrease poverty among women.  Unfettered access to factors of production, such as credit and technology, as well as clear ownership of land was necessary. Establishing linkages between women producers, traders and the formal markets was also essential in order to increase women’s income.  Women should also be assisted in transforming their resource-based microeconomies into knowledge-based economies, she said.  It was access to education, especially for girls, that enhanced women’s ability to increase household income.

She said efforts to eradicate poverty among women were, among other things, contingent on their ability to access timely and high quality reproductive health services.  It was important to link economic development opportunities with access to education and health care, by ensuring that services and supplies were within reach of the majority of women -- in the rural areas.  As long as the current gender division of labour prevailed, where families, communities and nations depended on women as the primary provider of care to children, it was imperative that families, communities and nations invested in the protection of women’s health, including their reproductive health.

To mitigate the effect of natural disasters, UNFPA supported local efforts for the economic and political empowerment of women, with special emphasis on poor women, indigenous women and girls, she said.  Activities included provision of timely services and supplies to meet the special needs of women in emergencies, as well as capacity building for governments and national non-governmental organizations to establish crisis management preparedness and ensure that essential services were provided.

THELMA KAY, Chief, Women in Development Section, Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), spoke for her own and other regional commissions.  Those were the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), for Europe (ECE), for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and for Western Asia (ESCWA).  She said much progress had been made in implementing the Beijing Platform and the special session outcome at the regional level in the areas of poverty alleviation in a globalizing world, gender indicators and gender mainstreaming.

Detailing those advances, she then described the regional programmes being implemented by each of the commissions.  She said a significant institutional feature of the commissions was an intergovernmental structure that enabled cross-cutting issues such as gender to be mainstreamed into specific sectors, including into the non-traditional sectors.  During the forthcoming global conferences on financing for development, sustainable development, ageing and information, every effort would be made to work with Member States in incorporating a gender perspective into the events and implementing it in the outcomes.  

GAUDENCE RWAMAHEKE (Burundi) said women in her country were subject to great poverty.  One reasons was that many women were involved in the agricultural sector, but laws restricting their rights in such areas as inheritance and ownership were also responsible.  Since the Arusha accords, steps had been taken to remedy the situation.

A national strategy for including women in society and for balancing their rights had been instituted, she said.  It included the formulation of political, social and macroeconomic strategies.  As a result, gender equality was being advanced in schools, the workplace and the media.  It was being recognized as a cross-cutting theme and was incorporated into other strategies.  The purpose of the campaign was to end the female face of poverty.

MARIEKE KONING, representative of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), said that in a globalizing world with its increasing inequality and poverty, women made up 70 per cent of the world’s poor.  Work was a central dimension in their daily lives.  It was often unrewarding, poorly remunerated or unremunerated altogether.  They worked in precarious, insecure and low-paid jobs without access to social protection or opportunities to advance through education and training.  Working in sweatshops without safety standards, they received no health care and could be subject to harassment.  Those in the informal sector had no means of escaping poverty.  Organizing women into trade unions was an excellent strategy for empowering them and eradicating poverty.

Trade unions were the place for women to fight together to break down the social, structural, racial and ethnic barriers to empowerment, she said.  Organized as a collective, they were stronger for the work to end exclusion.  They were empowered and could exercise leverage over their income and the conditions of their work and life.  They were in a position to get decent work, wages and conditions.  To bring women into unions, the ICFTU would launch a three-year international campaign in New York on 7 March, the eve of International Woman’s Day.  The theme would be “Unions for Women, Women for Unions”.  Its aim was to double to number of women workers in the trade union movement.

RIMANTAS KAIRELIS (Lithuania) said that in the two years since “Women 2000”, his country had taken many steps aimed at implementing the commitments reached there, as well as the overall commitments made at Beijing.  Most importantly, “Women and Democracy”, an international conference conceived as a follow-up to the Reykjavik Conference on Women, was held in Vailnius, Lithuania last June.  More than 500 participants at Vailnius, hailing from more than 13 countries, discussed key issues related to ensuring the full participation of women and men in the democratic process. Some of the important outcomes of that Conference included identifying the importance of projects related to women’s entrepreneurship and the development of leadership skills.

He said that the most constructive way to implement gender mainstreaming was for governments to work constructively with non-governmental organizations.  Shared activities aimed at implementing governmental policies on gender equality were now common in Lithuania.  Constructive debates between non-governmental organizations and the Government were taking place in order to monitor progress and to set deadlines and benchmarks for achieving specific gender equality goals. Lithuania had also developed a Law on Equal Opportunities, the first such legislation in Central and Eastern Europe.  The country had also created an Equal Opportunities Ombudsman and an Office of Equal Opportunities.  Still, such areas as equal pay, involvement of women in civil initiatives and violence against women remained a concern.  Those and other issues should be adequately addressed in the future, for women to enjoy full human rights and economic independence.

CANDIDA CELESTE DA SILVA (Angola) said addressing poverty and its impact on women should be a central focus of the international community.  That fact could be borne out by briefly scanning some recent World Bank statistics, which indicated that 24 per cent of the world’s poor, struggling to survive on less than $2 a day, lived in sub-Saharan Africa.  Armed conflict also affected the situation of the world’s women, forcing displacement and exacerbating existing problems related to sanitation, health and nutrition.  Studies had highlighted the increase in the number of most vulnerable internally displaced populations, primarily street children, widows and the handicapped.

She went on to say that, in Angola, the number of people that could be categorized as “extremely poor” had risen exponentially over the last six years.  To address that issue, the Government had placed a priority on achieving and maintaining peace and creating a viable socio-economic environment.  In addition, to enhance the gender equality aspects of that goal, the Government had devised a gender equalization strategy to be implemented through 2005.  It was also preparing an interim poverty reduction strategy plan.  She added that the Government, in collaboration with the Pan-African Women’s Organization would hold an African conference on the Feminization of Poverty in Angola during the second half of 2002.  She invited all interested governments, non-governmental organizations and donors to actively participate in that event.

RAMONA ROJAS (Dominican Republic) said implementation of gender equality was a challenge to her Government, because it required coordination of public policy in many areas.  It also involved macroeconomic policies, such as control of inflation.  The Government’s priority was to proceed along a strategic perspective on women’s empowerment.  There had been social mobilization on behalf of women in terms of legal and financial equality, although many national and international mechanisms remained to be implemented.

Achieving gender equity was a challenge not only for women, but for all people, she said.  It was unfortunate that the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) was not participating in the Commission’s work this year.  The research institute was the only organization of its kind with its headquarters in the developing world.  It had been suffering financial difficulties and a director had not yet been named.  A noble institution such as INSTRAW should not be allowed to die.

MILAD ATIEH (Syria) said the Commission’s work was basic to the aim of empowering women.  His country believed in equality of rights for men and women.  The national conference had adopted a policy, as part of the national development programme, which involved women in such development activities as environmental protection.  The living standard was being raised for both men and women and technical capabilities were being expanded to provide work for both.  Educational and cultural advancement was being undertaken to enable women to participate in the country’s development.

Still, he said, poverty continued, in a large part because of the region’s occupation by Israel.  In a statement that had been repeated frequently -- talking about equality and freedom for Arab women was fruitless while their occupation by a foreign power continued.    

VICTORIA POPESCU-SANDRU (Romania) said that during the past few years, global conferences on development, peace and democracy had all highlighted the promotion of gender equality as a cross-cutting issue and a prerequisite for society’s progress as a whole.  To that end, a gender perspective should be implemented in forthcoming conferences in Monterrey, Madrid, Rome and Johannesburg, as well as at the General Assembly’s Special Session on Children. The strong potential of women as agents for change should also be encouraged through the promotion of female entrepreneurship and political empowerment.

She said that poverty eradication had become the most urgent global challenge of today.  In light of rapid globalization, the goal of poverty eradication and ensuring sustainable development was directly linked to the critical need to ensure gender equality and the empowerment of women.  The democratic transformation in Romania during the 1990s had provided increased opportunities to ensure the promotion of women’s human rights and equality.  At the same time, the subtle side effects of ongoing economic reforms had resulted in increased unemployment and a reduction of social security for many women.  Romanian authorities had reacted quickly to counter that trend by placing poverty reduction high on the country’s development agenda, and the National Commission for Poverty had designed a national strategy and launched numerous programmes to that end. 

BOB JALANG’O (Kenya) said that, despite laudable efforts to increase the presence of women throughout the United Nations system, it was sad to note that there were currently no women special representatives of the Secretary-General or special envoys on peace support operations.  As for his own country, many efforts had been made to mainstream the recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action.  A national policy on gender and development had been approved and now provided a framework for mainstreaming gender in all development policies and programmes in Kenya.  A gender and development bill, which aimed to establish an autonomous structure for gender mainstreaming was awaiting discussion in Parliament.

He went on to say that the Government had also appointed several women to senior management positions, increasing the number of women holding senior administrative positions to 23 per cent and increasing their number to 30 per cent within the country’s judiciary.  Most notable had been the appointment of a women to head the Public Service Division.  Further, increased participation of women in the current Constitutional review was a clear indication of the Government’s commitment to ensure a national framework that upheld the dignity of all Kenyan people, including women.  He added that the Government had also consistently reiterated its commitment to poverty alleviation.  Indeed, poverty eradication was the key to building a strong and prosperous nation.  The Government was currently reviewing policy guidance and finance measures to ensure support for poverty reduction mechanisms that took into account the special circumstances of women.

YAKIN ERTURK (Turkey) said that recent developments in Afghanistan indicated that the suffering of the people was about to be relieved, in particular that of women.  It was widely known that Turkey was helping in the reconstruction of that country.  The Government and civil society were both ready to take part in any international initiatives the Commission would deem appropriate for extending assistance to Afghan women and building a just society there.  At the same time, the unfortunate events of 11 September and ensuing developments were threatening a constructive dialogue among the international community.  A joint European Union-Organization of the Islamic Conference Forum had been held on 12 to 13 February this year in Istanbul.  It had been a good example of how to keep the dialogue open, in order to prevent the reversal of progress in civil liberties and international cooperation that had thus far been achieved.

That was important for women, he continued, because of the reality that when liberties were curtailed the first to lose out were women.  Poverty had not been included in the Turkish National Action Plan.  The recent economic crisis in the country had brought poverty to the forefront of challenges for the entire society and not just those living below the poverty line.  And, while women were disproportionately absorbing the consequences, their experience in coping with such crises could be channeled into national policies.  Turkey’s own policies in line with the Beijing programme had resulted in great progress in achieving equality between women and men.  A new Turkish Civil Code on November

2001 eliminated the last few discriminatory clauses with regard to marital and ownership statutes.

ROBERTA LAJOUS (Mexico) said that urgent action was needed worldwide to combat poverty, empower women and close the large gap between the rights of men and women.  The welfare of future generations was at stake.  The children of better educated mothers would grow up to be more productive to their societies.  Of special concern to her country was the question of whether governments had the resources to implement equality measures for their people.  That’s why it was hosting the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development.

Her country was actively seeking to improve the amount of resources for such development activities by increasing direct foreign investment.  A first step in the direction of ensuring women’s equality was to make sure the Monterrey summit was a success.  The Johannesburg conference on sustainable development was equally important for closer involvement of women in the two future priority areas -- the involvement of women in eradicating poverty and managing natural disasters.

MARIA MUNGUNDA, Deputy Minister of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare of Namibia, said poverty was a terrible disease.  Indeed for nations “on the run”, counties which never seemed to experience peace, the eradication of poverty was critical.  It was incumbent upon the entire international community to unite to ensure that all human beings could enjoy the benefits of peace and security.  Her Government had, through the First and Second National Development Programmes, highlighted poverty reduction as a national priority.  It had identified the need for sector-specific initiatives that could be underpinned by a common framework shared by all national ministries through which poverty reduction efforts could proceed.

On the management of the environment and the mitigation of natural disasters, she pointed out that Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism had been working actively to develop options for community-based tourism and environmental protection through tree planting projects aimed at reversing desertification and environmental degradation.  Implementation of the countries overall gender agenda was coordinated by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Child Welfare.  Her agency had taken the lead in raising the awareness of researchers, policy makers and other personnel to make them sensitive.  It was currently working on the establishment of the National Council for Women in Development, in conjunction with the University of Namibia and the National Youth Council.

DATIN FAIZAH MOHD TAHIR (Malaysia) said women were an important national resource that could be mobilized to achieve the goals of the international as well as national development agendas.  More importantly, women should not be left out of the overall development process.  In that regard, Malaysia was strongly committed to gender equality, as evinced by several national initiatives, including the Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women and the National Policy for Women.  A recent milestone was a constitutional amendment to prohibit laws or policies from discriminating against women.

She said the Ministry of Women and Family Development had set the goal of achieving gender equality and stable family institutions as a basis for ensuring social development.  To that end, it had established international ministerial committees and technical working groups to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the National Action Plan.  The Ministry’s strategy was two-pronged:  to provide day-to-day assistance for women and families; and to ensure the implementation of longer-term development strategies, including integrating women and family perspectives into all levels of Malaysian society.  She went on to discuss global initiatives undertaken by the United Nations system to eradicate poverty among women worldwide.  Malaysia fully supported such efforts and would continue to place special emphasis on the overall empowerment of women, particularly through micro-credit and training programmes.

REEHAM KHALIL (Egypt) said poverty was a major factor obstructing women’s development.  The global priority should be on combating poverty by putting women’s concerns at the front of the development agenda.  The betterment of their condition should factor into the economic and social policies being implemented at all levels.  The upcoming conferences were good opportunities to further that aim by highlighting the importance of women’s empowerment.

Reviewing her country’s initiatives for advancing the equality of women, she said there were two aspects to consider with regard to women’s relationship with the environment.  One, she must be enabled to assume a role in managing it.  Second, she must be protected from it, in certain circumstances.  On all development issues, the gender perspective must be mainstreamed into all policies.  That should include mechanisms to measure the impact on women of both conditions and implemented solutions.  Finally, it should be noted that the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) had expressed concern over the deteriorating situation of Palestinian women.  Reviewing the situation, she reiterated that the situation would not change unless occupation ceased.

ZORA BEN ROMDHANE (Tunisia) said her country had instituted a national plan focusing on developing women’s capacities and extending financial resource options for them, including micro-credit arrangements.  Further, a National Council for Rural Women had been established.  It was run with the special interest of Tunisia’s head of State, since it coincided with the national priority for overall development of the rural areas.

Poverty had been reduced in her country, she said.  The methods used and the lessons learned could be applied elsewhere.  Her country had proposed the establishment of a World Solidarity Fund.  It would focus on the concerns of women, to address family needs while respecting the environment.  In ending, she said she supported the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian women and people.       

FAQIR HUSSAIN, Acting Chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women of Pakistan, said women’s development was a high priority for the Government of Pakistan.  It was firmly committed to improving the status of women, as stated in the Beijing Platform for Action.  Empowerment was both a goal and a process.  With a view to enabling women to participate in policy making processes, the Government had encouraged increased induction of women in its various departments and federal and provincial cabinets.  The constitution and international instruments aimed to ensure gender equality.  A two-year project had been launched to increase women’s political training and a programme had been launched to make senior government officials sensitive to women’s issues.

He also said that Pakistan was planning a gender empowerment and poverty reduction plan.  The programme included training, legal counselling and tax assistance.  Besides enhancing income-producing powers, that plan would also promote concrete measures for women in such areas as education.  He added that Pakistan was also instituting a family court initiative to address women’s issues.  Women’s rights were human rights, and women’s rights were the concerns of all humanity he said, welcoming the cooperation at regional and international levels, and throughout the United Nations system to create a just, fair and democratic society.

NATALIE GORDON, Co-Chair of the Sub-Committee on Elder Women of the non-governmental organization On the Status of Women, stressed that issues of older women were seldom addressed.  Her organization was aware of the feminization of poverty and the need to address inequalities affecting women of all ages.  Poverty in old age was caused by a lack of access to resources throughout the life cycle, she added.  Older women often became invisible and, in too many cases, they became ineligible to receive financial support.  The assumption that their families would care for them left them open to abuse or neglect.  All that was particularly sad when, in reality, older women contributed significantly to all levels of society.

She went on to say that older women were mindful of the fact that disasters were physical and sociological phenomena that affected all levels of society.  Efforts to address disasters must include appropriate provision of concrete social services, as well as mental health services for women and their families.  All efforts should take into consideration age and cultural factors.  In both developing and developed countries, existing structures favored men over women, despite the fact that older women were most often called on to support families in times of disaster.  She recommended policies and programmes to address gender and age stereotypes of women during times of disaster.  

SILVIA ESPINDOLA (Ecuador) said the Millennium Declaration had expressed the international community’s concern for women.  One of the greatest forms of inequality against women was violence against them.  Ecuador had made changes in 84 of its constitutional statutes to protect women’s rights in all areas of their lives from marriage to ownership of property.

Poverty was the greatest challenge facing women, she said.  Because of it, migration was becoming its equal in scope, particularly in situations where women were forced to abandon children and families in order to provide for them in distant places.  She called on the international community to take collective actions to ease the situation by implementing the Beijing Platform.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) said gender must be included in all deliberations leading up to and during the upcoming conferences, if there was serious interest in implementing the Millennium Development goals.  Both poverty eradication and gender equality were universal concerns.  One could not be achieved without the other.  Neither peace and security, nor sustainable development could be achieved independently of the others.

As a small island developing State, he said, Fiji was acutely aware of threats due to climate change and rising sea levels.  It was also familiar with the important role of women in managing the environment.  The knowledge, contribution and specific situations of indigenous and rural women must be sought and applied when considering the gender dimension of environmental management and the mitigation of natural disasters.  Further, gender mainstreaming was a process for achieving gender equity that promised transformative change, because, for example, it focused on analysing how men and women were affected differently by globalization.  That allowed for specific change in response to today’s world, when gender mainstreaming was shifting its focus from women’s vulnerabilities to women’s abilities and capabilities.

ROSEMARY CALDER (Australia) outlined some of her country’s efforts to ensure the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of Beijing + 5 to advance equality for women in Australia and around the world.  The National Office of the Status of Women had begun a three-phased implementation strategy which targeted government departments, businesses and local communities.  That strategy, aimed at furthering Australia’s Beijing + 5 action plan, included round tables for senior officials from all Government departments to raise awareness and encourage new actions to reduce gender inequality, and the distribution of a Beijing + 5 Kit to help Government departments integrate gender in their work.

She went on to highlight Australia’s efforts to address such issues as violence against women, gender mainstreaming and women in leadership roles.  On indigenous women, she added that Australia was implementing new initiatives to address the significant disadvantages faced by such populations and to reduce and better respond to incidents of family or domestic violence in some indigenous communities.  To increase information sharing and participation in national policy formulation, the Australian Government had funded a national women’s conference -- “Australian Women Speak” -- last October.  Her country was also strongly committed to achieving greater involvement of men and boys in the promotion of equality for women.

SARAH PATERSON (New Zealand) said increased global attention on the situation in Afghanistan had resulted in a welcome focus on the particular plight of the women of that country.  It was her sincere hope that now, with the fall of the Taliban regime, there would be an opportunity to improve the lives of Afghan women.  She was pleased that the Secretary-General’s report made concrete recommendations regarding the involvement of women in the governance and reconstruction of the country.  In its response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, New Zealand had recognized the special needs of women as well as children -- funding four non-governmental organization projects targeting infant and maternal mortality, education for girls, income generation for women and food security for rural, female-headed households.

She went on to acknowledge the United Nations work to promote the links between gender equality and the achievement of peace and security, as well as Organization-wide efforts to mainstream the gender perspective in its work.  New Zealand’s national steps to improve its own efforts in that regard included the development of gender analysis tools such as seminars and policy papers that could be used by ministers in such key areas as income, education, health and employment.  She concluded by stressing the central importance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, recommending that efforts be made by the Committee to clear its backlog of reports, to prepare for the new responsibilities it would face as the Optional Protocol entered into force.

MOMINAT OMAROVA (Azerbaijan) recalled the changes her country had undergone in the 10 years of independence it had celebrated last year.  A new constitution had laid the cornerstone for new legislation that had advanced the rights of women and girls, while also protecting them from discrimination and violence.  The conditions had been created for a gender-balanced policy and for the elimination of gender-asymmetry.  That had been implemented by close coordination and regular reporting between the State structures to monitor and report on mainstreaming the gender perspective.  The upshot was that a woman had been elected the vice speaker of the national parliament.

She said the progress in her country was important not just in its own right, but because it served as a basis for analyzing the process of incorporating multifaceted gender mainstreaming into the structure of national mentality.  That process in itself brought about a mental shift.  It changed stereotypes and entered public awareness.  Non-governmental organizations were crucial to the process, as was the linking of actions in gender mainstreaming with other development goals, such as poverty eradication.

EINAS MOHAMED (Iraq) said her country used its vast resources to advance the equality of women.  A national committee had been set up to promote the advancement of women at the official level.  Non-governmental organizations were actively involved in the implementing the government’s work toward advancing gender equality.  Much progress was being made, but it was being derailed by the economic blockade against her country.  Detailing the effects of the chemical and nuclear materials being unleashed on her country by the coalition against it, she said women were becoming ill from the effects.  She expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people and called on the international community to step in and assist her own people and its women. 

IRMA LOEBMAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) said violence against women, including young women, girls and babies, deserved the Commission’s special attention as serious cases of abuse were constantly being reported.  For its part, Suriname had adopted the Inter–American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women last December.  Violence against women was violence against the dignity of all humankind, she continued.

Addressing the issue was particularly important because it exacerbated other problems, such as poverty and the lack of access to basic needs and services.  Further, condemning physical violence should not be the international community’s only concern.  Ensuring freedom from all forms of abuse and violations of human rights should be considered a global priority.  Indeed, a human-rights-based approach to the development of women and the promotion of their overall rights was essential.  To that end, human rights education was the key to social transformation.

ALFRED MOUNGARA-MOUSSOTSI (Gabon), speaking on behalf of Angelique Ngoma of Gabon’s Ministry of Family, the Protection of Children and Promotion of Women, said following “Women 2000”, Gabon had set up programmes to provide micro-credit to women had been instituted.  That pilot project had been launched primarily to tackle problems rural women faced when applying for credit.  The Government had also resolutely pledged to support single mothers by instituting programmes to not

only increase their earning power, but to assist them in rearing their children.  To that end, day-care centres had been set up in many communities. 

He went on to highlight the importance the cooperation with women NGOs played in the Gabon’s overall efforts to achieve the recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action.  He said legal and political framework of the Government favored equality for both men and women.  It was very important to maintain the human development components of sustainable development in order to ensure the emancipation and total integration of women as called for in the Millennium Declaration.

Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

ELI BEN-TURA (Israel) said it was unfortunate that the Palestinian representative had used another international forum for the purpose of smearing his country through her statement this morning.  The tragic facts were very clear.  Israel has been risking its own forces in trying to fight the Palestinian terrorists.  It was taking great pains to only target terrorists because ordinary Israelis were being murdered by Palestinians, including recently by women.  Enumerating instances of ordinary people going about their business and being killed in pizza shops and shopping malls, he said the cynical smearing of Israel by the Palestinians in the international forum was unproductive and inappropriate.

SOMAIA BARGHOUTI, observer of Palestine, said the charge that she was exploiting the agenda was incorrect.  Her statement reflected the situation of Palestinian women.  That situation was a United Nations mandate.  Palestinian women would continue to express the true view.  They would not keep quiet or go away until they achieved the goal, which was independence.  Further, the Palestinian people’s struggle would continue until independence was achieved. 

As to Israel’s reference to terrorists, she said, “they dare speak of terrorists?”  Last week the Israelis had carried out two massacres.  The Palestinian position on terrorism was clear.  The Palestinians had condemned it.  But Palestinians also rejected any confusion of the terrorism issue with the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people for independence.

Mr. BEN-TURA (Israel) said the Palestinian representative had repeated the usual practice.  Instead of calling for understanding and tolerance, the situation had again been compounded by references to violence and bloodshed.  A more constructive approach should be adopted.

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For information media. Not an official record.