|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Commission on the Status of Women
11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)
‘IT IS TIME FOR THE WORLD TO MAKE WOMEN A PRIORITY’ WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD,
AS IT HEARS FROM MORE THAN 50 SPEAKERS IN CONCLUDING DEBATE
Closing Education Gender Gap, Equal Labour Market Access,
Inequality and HIV/AIDS, Global Gender Architecture among Issues Addressed
As the Commission on the Status of Women concluded its general debate today, representatives of United Nations and affiliated agencies urged countries to boost women’s access to education, health care, employment and credit, as a way to narrow the gap between men and women’s economic opportunities, to increase their pace of socio-economic development and, ultimately, consolidate gains in poverty eradication.
“It is time for the world to make women a priority,” said Safiye Cagar, Director of Information, Executive Board and Resource Mobilization Division, United Nations Population Fund, who stressed that “everything possible” must be done to reduce the feminization of poverty and unleash the full potential of half the human race to advance peace, development and human rights. She was among the nearly 55 delegations taking the floor today who discussed action plans to promote women’s advancement, or called on Governments to increase emphasis on the gender dimensions of development.
She recalled that, at the 2005 World Summit, world leaders had agreed to key policy actions to advance women’s empowerment, including increased investments in universal education to close the gender gap in schools by 2015, and promoting women’s rights to own and inherit property and have access to resources such as land, credit and technology. To accelerate action, those leaders had also agreed to increase the representation of women in Government decision-making. Real investment in women could create ripples that brought about waves of positive change, and such change was urgently needed and long overdue, she said, calling on Governments to stand by their commitments.
In the same vein, Evy Messel, Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said decent work was not only about the quantity of jobs. It was also about quality. The struggle for equal labour market access for women was marked by slow progress, and worldwide only 67 women were economically active for every 100 men. Women were more concentrated in less productive jobs, such as the care economy, the agricultural sector and services characterized by substandard terms and conditions of work. That situation was even worse for young women, particularly young educated women.
Gender issues were integrated into ILO’s Decent Work Agenda through the four pillars -- rights, full employment, social protection and social dialogue, she said. Technical, institutional, human and financial resources must be invested to ensure that the gender dimension was given prominence. Specific outcomes with indicators must be developed. Moreover, Governments as well as workers’ and employers’ organizations must increasingly invest in enhancing women’s capacity to organize and to have their collective voices heard at all levels in the world of work.
Highlighting another priority area for action, Pauline Muchina, Senior Women & AIDS Advocacy Officer, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said the links between gender inequality and increased vulnerability to HIV infection among women and adolescent girls were “many and varied”. Where they had less access to education and HIV information, where they did not enjoy equality in marriage and sexual relations, and where they received little support in their roles as primary caretakers, women and young girls were increasingly vulnerable to infection. Further, research showed the women living with the disease experienced HIV-related stigma more frequently than men and were more likely to experience the harshest and most damaging forms of discrimination.
That said, she stressed that there were more resources available for AIDS than ever, adding: “We must now ensure that these funds are used effectively to tackle the underlying societal drivers of the epidemic, including gender equality.” Among other things, UNAIDS urged funding directed at women’s organizations, which were often best placed to reach vulnerable communities. Funding must also be committed to support the capacity-building, so such groups could meaningfully participate in national development planning and in planning national responses to AIDS.
Among the civil society organizations participating today, a representative of women’s groups dealing with global gender architecture and women’s development, said that, while significant advances for women had been made thanks to the United Nations efforts, the Organization still lacked an effective mechanism to deliver on commitments already made during numerous women’s forums.
“There are a few small agencies focusing […] and the larger agencies have limited mandates,” she said, calling on Member States to act now to create a stronger United Nations entity for women headed by an Under-Secretary-General to ensure a high level of decision-making. The new entity required an extensive field presence and programmatic mandate, with substantial and predictable resources, including a minimum of $500 million to $1 billion. Further, it should involve civil society and promote gender mainstreaming by integrating gender equality and women’ rights.
In what he called a “highly informal” summary of the debate, Commission Chairperson Olivier Belle ( Belgium) said that the discussion had been “fruitful and lively” and had been enhanced by contributions from senior ministers, and representatives of United Nations agencies and funds. Representatives of non-governmental organizations had also participated actively. It had been heartening to hear countries share national experiences aimed at improving the status of women in various societies. It had also been interesting to hear legislative measures that had been taken to that end.
He also underscored the appeal made by many delegations for more and better analytical data and statistics. Indeed, figures made it possible to identify problems and create targeted, well thought out policies. He also recalled that many delegations had supported the Secretary-General’s launch of a global campaign to combat violence against women. The statements made on financing gender equality would be helpful in the run-up to the Doha Review of the United Nations International Conference on Financing for Development. To those delegates returning to their capitals, he said now they had ample evidence to convince their Finance Ministers to step up their efforts to finance gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Also making statements were the Minister for Women’s Affairs of Haiti and the Deputy Minister of Afghanistan, as well as a senior Government official of the Gambia.
The representatives of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Guinea, Switzerland, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Cuba, Nicaragua, Jordan, Austria, Qatar, Estonia, Algeria, Liechtenstein, Solomon Islands, Morocco, El Salvador, Lesotho, Croatia, India, China, France, Iran, Italy, Cameroon, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Nepal also made statements. The representatives of Algeria and Morocco also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Observers of the Holy See and Palestine also made statements during the debate.
Also speaking during the debate were representatives of regional organizations, including the African Union and European Commission, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
Also speaking were representatives of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The representatives of several non-governmental organizations also made statements, including the African Women’s Caucus, Western Asia Women’s Caucus, International Network of Liberal Women, Girls Caucus and the World Youth Alliance, American Association of Retired Persons, Latin American and the Caribbean Women’s Caucus, the International Council of Women and Women’s Information Organizations.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 5 March, to hear the introduction of draft proposals and to begin consideration of its agenda item on communications concerning the status of women.
The Commission on the Status of Women met today to continue its discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.
SAN LWIN ( Myanmar) said, according to the 2007 Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific, gender equality cost the region $80 billion annually. The region lost up to $47 billion annually because of restrictions on women’s access to employment, and up to $30 billion annually because of the gender gap in education. Dedicated action was necessary at the national and international levels to bridge the gap between policy and practice and in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. Credit, particularly microcredit, had a positive impact on women’s empowerment. In 2004, an estimated 3,164 microcredit institutions reached 92 million clients, and 83.5 per cent of the poorest clients were women. Credit programmes should be carefully designed to benefit women.
In implementing the key programmes to empower women, the key obstacle was a lack of resources, he said. It was regrettable that the estimated financing gap for achieving Millennium Development Goal number three in low-income countries, concerning gender equality and women’s empowerment, ranged from $8.6 billion in 2006 and $23.8 billion in 2015. The National Committee for Women’s Affairs was charged with implementing the Beijing Platform for Action in Myanmar. Under its umbrella, the Myanmar Women’s Affairs Federation was created in 2003. In order to promote the progress of rural women, the Government had set up 18 special development regions.
ISMAT JAHAN ( Bangladesh) said that his country had always been at the forefront of the international community’s endeavour to establish gender equality and women’s empowerment. Its relevant National Policy and National Action Plan for Women were being implemented, among others, through the incorporation of gender equality concerns in Bangladesh’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. In addition, financing for gender equality remained a top priority and had been integrated into nearly 20 policy matrices. Bangladesh had also embarked on its gender responsive budgeting initiative and had set up a framework for explicit evaluation and monitoring of that initiative. He added that Bangladesh needed to improve the collection of sex-disaggregated data to effectively measure progress and ensure gender equality in allocation of domestic resources.
He went on to say that the education sector received the highest budgetary allocation and, notably, Bangladesh had achieved greater parity in primary and secondary education in line with the third Millennium Development Goal target. He also stressed that climate change was not a gender-neutral phenomenon. Women and children were more vulnerable to its impacts. It was, therefore, imperative to integrate a gender perspective into all aspects of the climate change debate, including adaptation and mitigation.
ALPHA IBBRAHIMA SOW ( Guinea) said that, in his country, where women represented more than 52 per cent of the population, the Government had been striving to ensure a gender-equal framework that would promote the advancement of women in all levels of society. The Government had, since 2005, been implementing a microfinance campaign to help women, especially those in rural areas, participate more actively in the country’s economic sphere. He said that, in its work, Guinea had received the help of a number of United Nations agencies as well as from USAID and several organizations in Canada and Europe. That assistance had not only helped Guinea with its overall efforts regarding the empowerment of women, but also to address human trafficking, which was a particular concern for the Government and wider region.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY ( Switzerland) said investments must be made to structures and mentalities in order to achieve gender equality. It was necessary to promote gender-sensitive training and know-how, civil society activities and public expenditure allocation. Switzerland had set up at least eight gender-sensitive budget projects to ensure that a gender dimension was included in public expenditures. The Canton Basel was a good example. Several analyses had been carried out there, notably on the rate of differential expenditure according to gender and to unpaid work. The results clearly underscored the existing differences in allocating public expenditures to men and women. It showed that public expenditures for training men was 10 per cent higher than that for women and that men demanded far more expenditures for public security. Women over the age of 85 received more public social assistance funds to help them escape poverty.
Nationally, unpaid labour was for the first time measured as an economic factor in the framework of a pilot accounting project by the Federal Office of Statistics. The results showed that the hours spent for unpaid work were far higher than those for paid work and that almost two thirds of the unpaid work was done by women. He supported an increase in funding for gender equality and strengthening women’s position. Financing for gender equality was an integral part of Switzerland’s foreign policy and development aid. Within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, a pilot project for gender-sensitive budgeting was developed to promote peace and for development aid in 2007. It would be implemented this year.
KIM HYUN CHONG ( Republic of Korea) said that the situation of women around the world was mixed. The good news was that women’s average life spans had increased and awareness of women’s conditions had been raised worldwide. The bad news, however, was that women were being adversely affected by poverty, climate change and other trends, such as urbanization. He encouraged United Nations agencies to study such trends and their impact on women. Those agencies should also incorporate their analysis of those matters in policymaking. With that in mind, he urged the creation of a consolidated, strengthened and fully-funded United Nations entity for women, charged with, among other things, mainstreaming gender in the context of the Organization’s “Delivering as One” initiative.
He went on to say that financing for gender equality would ultimately serve as an effective tool for global development and prosperity. The Republic of Korea was endeavoring to implement that strategy not only through its national budget, but also by mobilizing resources in an innovative way. For instance, the Women’s Development Fund, a leading resource for gender capacity, had been an effective instrument for a number of projects aimed at women’s capacity-building in a wide range of areas. Since that Fund had been set up in 1996, its holdings had grown to some $139 million by the end of last year.
AHMED AL-JARMAN ( United Arab Emirates) said the United Arab Emirates had made great strides in gender equality and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women. Women were now represented in some of the highest level legislative, executive and juridical posts. The new Cabinet included four women ministers and women occupied 22 per cent of the seats in the Federal National Council and 20 per cent of the diplomatic field. The law of the judicial system had been amended to allow women to participate in it. The Government had set up seven national mechanisms that were directly concerned with women’s and children’s affairs, including the Family Development Foundation, set up in 2006 to develop and monitor implementation of women’s advancements strategies. The Foundation recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Development Fund for Women to strengthen the Foundation’s capacities and update the National Strategy for Women.
The United Arab Emirates had achieved concrete results in gender equality in many areas, such as education, health care and employment, he said. The percentage of girls enrolled in primary school was equal that of boys. In higher levels of education, girls surpassed boys in terms of enrolment. Women formed 22.4 per cent of the total workforce and occupied 66 per cent of public-sector jobs, 30 per cent of which were leadership and decision-making posts. The Government set up the “Productive Families Programme” to help women who could not work outside the home. That Programme aimed to improve the financial resources of limited-income families. The Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry helped create the Business Women’s Council to promote private investments by women.
MAMA KOITE, African Women’s Caucus, said that her organization was working hard on women’s and girls’ behalf in the African continent. Her organization had seen women’s rights, health and participation eroding. She called on all Governments to recognize the importance of women’s issues when they defined aid modalities and when they implemented plans and programmes. At the same time, it was important to ensure that statistics and data on the situation of women and girls were made readily available. She also called for establishment of gender focal points at all levels to adequately address the needs of women and girls.
SERGEI RACHKOV ( Belarus) said the objectives of the Fourth World Conference on Women still had yet to be met. Greater efforts were needed. Domestic and international channels were necessary to expand gender equality and women’s empowerment. Belarus had already adopted two five-year plans to achieve women’s equality and the State had dedicated substantial resources to that. Belarus ranked twentieth in terms of the number of women that held high-level posts and women held senior posts in large banks and other companies, as well as women had high-level posts in academia. There were 20 public women’s organizations.
To stem the loss of jobs among women, greater action was needed, he said. A great deal must be done to ensure that women’s interests were taken into account in the labour market. In the past year, Belarus officials had worked to reduce women’s unemployment, which fell by almost 0.5 per cent, to 15 per cent. That had been done by promoting and fostering women’s entrepreneurship through training, assistance and 18-month loans. In 2007, financial assistance to organize private commercial activity was given to thousands of women. Further, combating the trafficking in women should be a priority. The United Nations was not paying enough attention to it and must do more.
ILEANA NUNEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) said that it was necessary to combat poverty and protect the environment and, until those goals were achieved, there could be no improvement in the situation of the world’s women. She said that this year her country was preparing for a major review of its national action plan on women, as part of its review of efforts to implement the Beijing Platform for Action. Cuba had also begun to actively examine the recommendations made by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. She said that Cuba had been subject to the world’s longest economic and political blockade, which was the greatest form of violence against the Cuban people, and women and children in particular.
At the same time, Cuba had made significant strides towards the empowerment of women and gender equality, she said. She reiterated that, overall, while Cuba would continue to play its role, the international community must live up to its obligations to eradicate poverty, promote the right to development, and ensure the sovereignty and integrity of all States. Cuba also reiterated that the Commission, as a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, was the appropriate body to consider issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
BARBARA OMEIR ( Nicaragua) said that, despite some progress, little had been achieved. While the challenges were tremendous, especially since it appeared that funding for gender issues was continuing to lag, it was important for all nations, particularly those in the industrialized world, to live up to their development commitments. As for her country and region, she said that the past two decades of globalization had brought with it economic marginalization and huge disparities in wealth distribution that had particularly affected women. Nicaragua hoped to address such challenges as part of its overall effort to make the world a better place for all.
The Government was boosting its investment in the education sectors, and had implemented a “0 Hunger” programme, which helped provide seed capital to women in rural areas. That programme, which also helped with the establishment of cooperatives, had been supported by friendly countries, including Venezuela. She ended by reiterating her call on the international community to work towards a more equal international order and global trading system.
Mr. Al-ALLAF ( Jordan) said Jordan was committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment and to eliminating discrimination against women. Those aims were necessary to achieve sustainable development. In January 2008, the Parliament approved a code on protection for women victims of violence. That was, in addition to the creation of several institutions, aimed at protecting women. Economic empowerment of women was a national priority. Seven women had become members of the House of Representatives, and 33 women had judicial posts. Women represented 43 per cent of law school students and held 25 per cent of the posts in the municipal council. In the formal labour market in 2007, women accounted for 14.7 per cent of workers, versus 13.8 per cent in 2006.
Jordan was adopting economic and social legislation to give equal opportunities to women in employment and investment, he said. It had extended an umbrella to give legal protection to women workers, including loans and microfinance. Women were showing a willingness to benefit from those opportunities aimed at increasing their income and standard of living. The Jordanian National Committee was working to mainstream gender equality and budgeting. Women were contributing to small-scale projects. The Government was trying to include gender projects in the national agendas through 2015. Due to its limited financial resources, Jordan needed multilateral cooperation and funds for those projects.
GERHARD PFANZELTER ( Austria) said that his country’s women’s strategy was a dual one that highlighted the interplay of gender mainstreaming, on the one hand, and the promotion of women, on the other. Austria had set up a Women’s Affairs Ministry in the Prime Minister’s Office. The Government had increased its women-targeted financing by some 35 per cent, which had allowed it to address key areas such as education and violence against women. Now, women who were affected by domestic violence, rape or other violence could now call hotlines for immediate help, or seek refuge in some 30 centres throughout the country. Those centres also opened their doors to children.
He went on to say that Austria was a trailblazer in the areas of gender-responsive budgeting and had, among other things, integrated that principle into the Constitution as a State objective. The Government was pushing to ensure that gender-responsive budgeting and gender mainstreaming were in full effect, including in all legislation, by 2013. In addition, he said that Austria was helping with gender-responsive budgeting initiatives throughout south-eastern Europe, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and planned to put the issue high on the agenda of the Doha follow-up Conference on Financing for Development later this year. Finally, he said that his delegation supported the call for one financially strengthened women’s agency headed by a female Under-Secretary-General.
NASSER BIN ABDELAZIZ AL NASR ( Qatar) said gender equality and women’s empowerment were effective ways to fight poverty, hunger and disease and to achieve sustainable development. It was also necessary to renew commitments to the 2002 Monterrey Conference by stressing gender equality as an important part of development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Preparations for the follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development, to be held in Qatar in November and December, would be crucial in providing an opportunity to review the current situation and give attention to addressing gender perspectives in all six areas for action referred to in the Monterrey Consensus, so that the follow-up processes would promote financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Qatar’s leadership had paved the way for achieving gender equality and creating an enabling environment for women, he said. It had reviewed legislative and executive measures, which was necessary in order to find ways to increase women’s access to Government funds used to finance gender equality and empower women. For example, law number 2 of 2007 on housing, and Cabinet decision number 17 on the Priorities and Controls of Women’s Access to the Housing Benefit System, had provided the opportunity to benefit from Government subsidized housing. Law number 24 of 2002 on retirement and pensions guaranteed the right of working women and provided them and their families with security.
TIINA INTELMANN ( Estonia) said that, in recent years, her country had stepped up its efforts to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women. One reason that solid steps had been taken was that the Government had, in 2004, adopted a relevant plan to that effect. She said that the processes under way had reaffirmed the need for sex-disaggregated and gender-sensitive data. The Government was moving to address that challenge, and, highlighting one example, she said that Estonia was now producing an annual statistics publication on specific topics, such as labour markets and wages.
In 2008, the Government would conduct a nationwide survey on victims that would, for the first time, contain a separate section on violence against women. She went on to say that the Government had set up a national strategy to address violence against women, which included, among other things, the development of services, data collection, and strengthening cooperation between national and local Governments, as well as law with enforcement and civil society groups.
Ms. SENDID-BERRAH ( Algeria) said Algeria was firmly committed to combating violence and all forms of discrimination against women. More budget resources were needed to promote women’s empowerment in many areas, including employment. The lack of adequate funding continued to compromise countries’ ability to achieve the goals set forth in the Beijing Platform for Action. Algerian officials had set up several institutions to ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment. Algeria had made creation of employment and income-generation activities for women a priority. It had financed several mechanisms. More than half of those who benefited from salaried jobs on a national basis were women. Many women had become microentrepreneurs. More than 65 per cent of those taking advantage of microcredit were women-owned businesses.
In enacting policies for macroeconomic development, policymakers were trying to take into account the creation of conditions that would favour women’s development, she said. More than 22,000 women had gotten agricultural jobs by getting training. Programmes for economic recovery and economic support focused on women’s employment. She also emphasized the important role of international cooperation. It was necessary to increase official development assistance and an environment that promoted investments.
FATIMA OUTALEB, Western Asia Women’s Caucus, said that groups in her region praised the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of Palestinian women, as well as his efforts to ensure that assistance was provided to those women. At the same time, the report did not allude to the situation of Palestinian women outside the Occupied Territory and the suffering they faced, namely being denied the right to self-determination and the right of return. In that context, and in the absence of resources targeting those women refugees in the Arab region, she said it was necessary to address, among others, the situation of Iraqi, Somali, and Sudanese refugee women.
It was also necessary to address the situation of Moroccan women of the Tindof camps and Kurdish women. To that end, she called on the international community to, among other things, provide sufficient and adequate resources for building the women’s movements, networks and non-governmental organizations in the region in an independent manner, and called on the respective Governments to remove obstacles impeding the start up and operation of such organizations.
GUNTER FROMMELT ( Liechtenstein) said his country supported gender equality and women’s empowerment through a national mechanism, the Office of Gender Equality, and by financial resources earmarked for that purpose. The Office was renamed the Office of Equal Opportunities in 2005. It offered courses in politics and seminars to strengthen women’s awareness and to oversee implementation of pertinent legislation and information campaigns. The State budget had a regular line item on equal opportunity measures for men and women. The Government had also created an enabling, gender-friendly environment for non-governmental organizations by providing financial support based on performance agreements. Civil society organizations traditionally played an important role in the country’s gender-equality policy and continued to do so.
The Liechtenstein’s Women’s Network comprised 18 organizations focusing on equal opportunities for women and girls, he said. It also met regularly under the aegis of the Office of Equal Opportunities to exchange information. It discussed draft legislation circulated for consultations and it organized projects. The Network had requested that parliamentarians amend the inheritance law to strengthen women’s rights in marriage and partnerships. The Government had set economic policies that had favourably contributed to a strong job market, with very low unemployment rates and good job opportunities for women. Despite strides in the past few years in legislation and the de jure equality of women and men, insufficient levels of practical implementation persisted. Liechtenstein would, therefore, continue investing in de factor equality, which is viewed as an obligation after ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It also regularly contributed to women’s advancement at the international level.
MARY ANN DANTUONO, Observer of the Holy See, said empowerment of women required their participation in the decision-making process to ensure that their views and concerns were taken into consideration. The Holy See also remained committed to participating in efforts to improve the education of women and girls. But, that effort could not exist in isolation, she said, underscoring that women were still being marginalized in other areas, especially regarding their economic empowerment and participation in the workplace. She noted that women’s increased participation in the workplace, however, brought other challenges, including chronic underpayment and exploitation in workshops.
Those facts challenged Governments to do more to ensure that women’s rights at work were not only promoted, but protected, she said. Finally, she said that Governments, civil society and faith-based organizations would do well to work together to find creative ways of promoting full access of women to development programmes and financing schemes. Initiatives such as microfinance programmes for women demonstrated that human ingenuity had the ability to create new and innovative solutions in that area. “This is not merely a struggle to advance equality and empowerment of women,” she said, stressing that, even more fundamentally, it was an integral part of the overall effort to ensure that the equality and dignity of all human persons was fully respected.
HELEN BECK ( Solomon Islands) said the international community must focus on the informal sector, where more than 80 per cent of women lived traditional lives. In that sector, what little that women earned had to be spent on school fees or health needs. The Government had designed robust rural development policies to create opportunities and ensure that women in rural areas participated in decision-making that guaranteed their security. The Pacific subregion continued to be identified by the United Nations as off-track in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The Solomon Islands was emerging from conflict. Holistic post-conflict reconciliation, which cut across all sectors in the framework of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), was ongoing.
The root causes of conflict must be addressed, she said. In doing so, the United Nations system would be more responsive to women’s needs. That could be accomplished through a stronger United Nations presence in countries and streamlining United Nations gender institutions and programmes. For the Solomon Islands, official development assistance, trade and Government taxes were a major source of financing for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. Funds, however, were insufficient, prompting the Government to borrow externally to finance much of its development programmes. It was time to think outside the box to address the problem of heavy debt servicing of countries like the Solomon Islands. In 2005, the Philippines had proposed converting debts into Millennium Development Goals programmes, so that countries could use their domestic resources to carry out gender-related activities. The Monterrey review later this year should seriously re-examine that concept.
HAMID CHABAR ( Morocco) said that gender sensitive investment had a positive effect on society as a whole. With that in mind, Morocco was actively taking steps to achieve the gender target of the Millennium Development Goals through gender-sensitive budgeting, as well as boosting investment in basic services and mainstreaming gender into plans and programmes, especially those targeting women living in rural areas. Despite financial constraints, Morocco was also implementing microfinance plans to improve the economic situation of women. Morocco was also actively promoting the participation of women in the country’s political life. It was also seeking to reduce discrimination against women in the workplace through national efforts to entrench equality and combat illiteracy, especially in rural areas. The Government had also obtained funding for school age girls to enrol in schools regardless of where they were from within the country. The Government was also funding workshops on the empowerment of women, chiefly to eliminate prejudice and stereotypes.
CARMEN MARIA GALLARDO HERNANDEZ ( El Salvador) said gender equality and women’s empowerment were crucial to sustainable development. She stressed the importance of financing for those aims. El Salvador, a middle-income country, had made considerable progress in recent years to combat poverty. That had made it possible for El Salvador to engage in trade liberalization. Investments in human and social capital were crucial to boosting national competitiveness. Training of labour, particularly women workers, and increasing investment in educational programmes for them, was important, as were sustained efforts to promote gender equality.
It was important to create internationally enabling environments to promote the export capacity of developing countries, including middle-income countries, through increased international funding, she said. Although a gender perspective was included in a cross-cutting manner in the Monterrey Consensus, it was necessary to further emphasize women’s contribution to international development and focus on poverty reduction during the review conference. It was not possible to successfully build coherent strategies to use development funding without a human-centred development approach, with the role of women particularly highlighted in that regard. She stressed the need to enhance the role of women in the peacebuilding process and she urged the Commission to set up alliances with the Peacebuilding Commission.
LEBOHANG FINE MAEMA ( Lesotho) said that his country’s Government was working to ensure that gender equality was at the centre of all its development activities and policies, providing a platform for good practices, human development and security for all. That notion was embodied in the country’s Constitution and set out, as well, in its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and Gender and Development Strategy. The Government had put in place gender machinery and had increased its relevant budget allocation by more than 10 per cent this year. To strengthen institutional capacity, gender focal points had been established within line ministries and gender officers placed in all 10 districts of the country.
He said the Government had also implemented a medium-term expenditure framework budgeting system in six ministries. That initiative was still in the pilot phase, but was providing an opportunity for the Government to implement gender-sensitive macroeconomic planning and budgeting. Despite those and other accomplishments, there was, nevertheless, an urgent need to strengthen national forums to coordinate partners’ efforts in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Such coordination would reduce fragmentation and duplication of effort.
LITHA MUSYIMI-OGANA, Director of Women, Gender and Development of the African Union, said the African Union had organized a capacity-building workshop on financing for gender equality and the Paris Declaration that was extremely successful and attended by delegates from 26 Member States, including 10 ministers of women, gender and community, as well as civil society organizations, development partners and United Nations officials. Participants agreed to a joint statement that declared that gender equality and women’s rights were central to development, and that financing for development was the process of mobilizing and allocating resources and must, therefore, be rights-based and recognize all human rights.
It further stated that financing for development must address conditions attached to the funds in accordance with the commitments of the Paris Declaration and that financing methods must take into account women’s contribution to economic processes in various sectors and must reward women, she said. In addition, financing for development should not be limited to aid, but should also encompass domestic resource mobilization, trade and debt relief. The participants also agreed that it was important to integrate social and environmental agendas into the economic and trade agendas, as well as to provide a holistic approach. They also called for corporate social responsibility to finance social development, social entrepreneurship and gender-equality initiatives. The African Union had clearly demonstrated its commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment in its Constitutive Act and by adopting the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa, as well as the Solemn Declaration of Gender Equality in Africa.
FERNANADO VALENZUELA, Observer of the European Commission, said that the European Commission had, among other things, adopted last year a communication on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development Cooperation. That policy statement, which had been endorsed by European Union member States, set the basis for a coordinated European approach for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment in that area. He also noted that the communication also described the different ways of promoting gender equality through new aid modalities, budget support and sector-wide approaches, which were becoming an increasingly preferred mechanism for aid allocation.
He said that the European Commission was well aware that good policies were not enough on their own: they needed to be followed up. In that regard, the European Commission was preparing a planning framework for gender-specific actions that would contain clear and measurable indicators and targets on how to meet its commitments. The European Commission intended to present that framework before the end of the year, as part of a wider initiative to mainstream various priority issues in development cooperation policy.
SANIYE GULSER CORAT, Director for Gender Equality of the Bureau of Strategic Planning of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said UNESCO had recently decided to strengthen its commitment to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality by designating gender equality as one of two global priorities for the Organization in its 2008-2013 medium-term strategy. Its 2008-2013 priority gender equality action plan was being drafted through a consultative and participatory process involving all Secretariat stakeholders. Commitments were reflected in the 2008-2009 programming budget in education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture and communication and information technology. UNESCO would continue to dedicate significant resources to achieve gender equality in basic education and promote women’s literacy. It would focus on scaling up mainstreaming efforts in water sciences, disaster prevention, climate change and work with small island developing States, particularly to ensure a gender balance in networks and experts panels.
Further, UNESCO had set up a clearing house on gender policies of relevance to UNESCO’s fields of competence and would continue to support the Palestinian Women’s Research Centre and work to consolidate the Great Lakes Women’s Research and Documentation Centre, she said. It would continue to mainstream gender equality considerations into tangible and intangible world heritage policies and programmes, and it would work to enable and inform the development of culturally appropriate and gender-responsive policies and programmes to address HIV/AIDS. It would work to create community multimedia centres and open-learning communities aimed at empowering women through information and communication technology and promote their active role in managing the centres. It was smart and just economics to augment funding for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The question now was how to do that. She pointed to the need to look for allies at the top and for outside sources.
AMINATTA DIBBA, Acting Director, Gender Development Centre, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said that much had been done in the 15 member States of the ECOWAS region in the areas of economic integration, peace and security and gender mainstreaming. The Community was also conscious that women’s economic empowerment was a key to development and economic cooperation, and was now placing emphasis on gender equity and equality commitments and fulfilling its relevant obligations under various regional and international agreements. She said that the ECOWAS heads of State had established the Gender Development Centre as a specialized technical agency to assist with the generation of the requisite knowledge and skills training in gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment at the subregional level.
The Centre’s programme components included, among others: enhancing women’s involvement in political participation, socio-economic development and integration; mobilizing civil society, women’s organizations and the private sector to participate in regional post-conflict recovery processes; and promoting regional cooperation to influence programmes and systems that ensured women’s contribution to the economic development of the region. She also said that, since 2004, the Centre had implemented numerous programmes in line with its priority areas concerning all ECOWAS members.
EVY MESSEL, Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said decent work was not only about the quantity of jobs. It was also about quality. The struggle for equal labour market access for women was marked by slow progress. Worldwide only 67 women were economically active for every 100 men. Women were more concentrated in less productive jobs, such as the care economy, the agricultural sector and services characterized by substandard terms and conditions of work. That situation was even worse for young women, particularly young educated women. Gender issues were integrated into implementation of the Global Decent Work Agenda through the four pillars -- rights, full employment, social protection and social dialogue. Technical, institutional, human and financial resources must be invested to ensure that the gender dimension was given prominence. Specific outcomes with indicators must be developed. For example, in Africa and Asia, ILO had, for many years, supported investment in entrepreneurship programmes targeting poor women, with a focus on young women and women with disabilities.
ILO Convention 100 on Equal Remuneration, Convention 111 on Discrimination on Employment and Occupation, Convention 156 on Workers with Family Responsibilities and Convention 183 on Maternity Protection were particularly relevant in the context of promoting women workers’ rights, she said. In Jordan, through an actuarial assessment of social protection systems, ILO examined the feasibility of implementing a maternity cash benefits scheme and showed that it was not only feasible, but also financially sustainable and that the high costs of hiring women workers was nothing but a myth. Moreover, Governments as well as workers’ and employers’ organizations must increasingly invest in enhancing women’s capacity to organize and to have their collective voices heard at all levels in the world of work. Thanks to the efforts of the Tripartite Commission on Gender Equality, in Uruguay an action guide to eradicate discrimination and promote gender equality in the world of work had been adopted.
PAULINE MUCHINA, Senior Women & AIDS Advocacy Officer, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that 15.4 million women worldwide were living with HIV, up some 1.6 million since 2001. While women made up 50 per cent of the global number of people living with the virus, regional trends were equally startling: 61 per cent of adults with the disease in sub-Saharan Africa were women; and the proportion of women living with HIV in Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe was steadily increasing. The links between gender inequality and increased vulnerability to HIV infection among women and adolescent girls were “many and varied”, she said, noting that, where they had less access to education and HIV information, where they did not enjoy equality in marriage and sexual relations, and where they received little support in their roles as primary caretakers, women and young girls were increasingly vulnerable to infection.
She went on to say that research showed the women living with the disease experienced HIV-related stigma more frequently than men and were more likely to experience the harshest and most damaging forms of discrimination. To that end, efforts to reduce transmission of HIV must address social, cultural and economic factors that put women at risk, and that unduly burdened them with the epidemic’s consequences. She said that it was encouraging to note that human rights programmes, such as campaigns against stigma and discrimination, as well as legal aid for people living with HIV, training for health care workers on issues of informed consent, confidentiality and non-discrimination, were now starting to be regularly integrated into national strategic and operational plans on AIDS.
At the same time, programmes specifically addressing women’s rights, such as legal aid services or programmes to enforce and protect women’s property rights in the context of HIV, or women’s economic empowerment -– such as access to credit, land and training –- were generally less well integrated into national HIV strategies, even in countries where women made up the majority of those most affected.
That said, she stressed that there were more resources available for AIDS than ever, adding: “We must now ensure that these funds are used effectively to tackle the underlying societal drivers of the epidemic, including gender equality.” Among other things, UNAIDS urged funding directed at women’s organizations, which were often best placed to reach vulnerable communities. Funding must also be committed to support the capacity-building, so such groups could meaningfully participate in national development planning and in planning national responses to AIDS.
SAFIYE CAGAR, Director of Information, Executive Board and Resource Mobilization Division, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said it was necessary to do everything possible to reduce the feminization of poverty and unleash the full potential of half the human race to advance peace, development and human rights. It was time for the world to make women a priority. At the 2005 World Summit, leaders agreed to seven key policy actions to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality. They agreed to increase investments in universal education and to close the gender gap in schools by 2015, to ensure equal access to reproductive health and to guarantee women’s rights to own and inherit property and have access to assets and resources, such as land, credit and technology. Further, they agreed to promote equal access for women to labour markets, employment and labour protection, and to eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, including by ending impunity. The Secretary-General’s campaign to end violence against women reinforced that priority.
To accelerate action, leaders at the World Summit agreed to increase the representation of women in Government decision-making, she said. Investing in women created ripples that brought about waves of positive change, and such change was urgently needed and long overdue. Poor sexual and reproductive health was a leading killer and disabler of women, robbing them of their potential and reinforcing poverty. Today, more than one woman died every minute from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. More than 200 million women had an unmet need for family planning. And in every region of the world, HIV prevalence was increasing among women and adolescent girls. The new target on universal access to reproductive health paved the way for greater progress to reduce poverty and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Ms. SANABRA, International Network of Liberal Women (INLW), said that INLW supported the Commission’s decision to focus this year on financing gender equality and, to that end, called on Governments and other stakeholders to pursue gender perspective budgets towards the true implementation of the Millennium Development Goals’ gender targets. INLW also proposed that all stakeholders strengthen their efforts to finance women’s empowerment through, among other ways, boosting education for all women and girls, supporting gender–specific health programmes and promoting women’s economic empowerment. It also called for enhanced dialogue between Governments and non-governmental organizations to ensure the accurate allocation of necessary financial and human resources.
PALWASHA KAKAR, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Afghanistan, said that, after more than two decades of conflict, destruction and massive displacement of its population, Afghanistan now faced unprecedented challenges as it began to rebuild its institutions and forge ahead with development. The Government strongly believed that sustainable reconstruction and development of the country required the full and equal participation of Afghan women in the political, social, economic and cultural life. Afghanistan was, therefore, fully committed to empowering its women to enable them to contribute as full and equal partners in rebuilding the country. A strong policy framework had been established to ensure Afghan women enjoyed their fundamental rights.
To that end, she said that the Afghan Constitution, the United Nations-backed Afghanistan Compact, the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy, and the Afghan Millennium Development Goals Report all underscored gender as a core objective. Afghanistan had also ratified the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its two Optional Protocols. She went onto say that, since 2001, significant progress had been achieved to improve women’s participation and reduce gender disparities, including through ensuring that Afghan women now represented 30 per cent of the country’s agricultural workers, and through implementing a basic package of health services, including emergency obstetric care. At the same time, Afghan women still faced challenges, including in the areas of education and low wages.
FATOU JASSEH-KUYATEH, Permanent Secretary of the Office of the Vice President and Department of State for Women’s Affairs of the Gambia, said the National Women’s Council was set up as an advisory body to the Government, with an executive arm, the Women’s Bureau, to help the Council monitor, evaluate and review policies, programmes, projects, bills, legislation, and international treaties and conventions. Gender focal points were institutionalized in all sectors with the objective of ensuring sustained and effective gender mainstreaming. The Government of the Gambia recognized the importance of non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and other development partners in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. It was implementing the first 1999-2009 Policy for the Advancement of Women and Girls, which incorporated all critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other national priorities.
He said a gender policy would be finalized this year with funding from the European Commission, African Development Bank and his Government. It would serve as a point of reference for effective mainstreaming of gender perspectives at all levels, and strategies would be identified for gender financing, as well as the provision of adequate gender disaggregated data, including an effective and well-coordinated monitoring and evaluation framework. In 2007, the Gambia carried out a comprehensive review of national laws related to gender and women, with a view to determining how far they conformed to the Convention and the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa.
NEVEN JURICA ( Croatia) said that gender budgeting entailed the incorporation of a gender perspective into all levels of the budgetary process and restructuring revenues and expenditures in order to promote gender equality. Although global commitments aimed at promoting such budgeting had long been on the table, it was clear that systematic allocation of adequate resources to that end was required. Croatia was aimed to strengthen women’s positions in the country’s business sector. In cooperation with local government bodies and non-governmental organizations, the Government was conducting various programmes to foster women’s economic empowerment. The Government was also working towards the adoption of a national strategy to help development of women’s entrepreneurship.
He said that one of Croatia’s overall goals was to encourage the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises, including creating conditions to specifically target women and to provide them with loan subsidies, among other assistance. A few years ago, the Ministry of the Economy, Labour and Entrepreneurship had begun to develop a project aiming to strengthen women entrepreneurs by providing them with credit interventions and business grants. At the same time, he said that to effectively and systematically monitor progress on all fronts, it was necessary to further develop statistical methodology and sex-disaggregated data and indicators. Croatia’s National Policy for the Promotion of Gender Equality envisaged that statistics on cases of gender discrimination in employment and work, disaggregated by sex, would be systematically collected.
NIRUPAM SEN ( India) said that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal on gender equality and empowerment of women would largely depend on the collective effort of the international community in timely allocation of necessary financial resources. While primary responsibility for the allocation of resources rested with the country concerned, it had been recognised that the international community needed to match up its commitment by the provision of new and additional financial resources, transfer of technology, sharing of experience, expertise, information and data, technical cooperation and capacity-building. The expert group meeting held in September 2007 pointed to shortages of official development assistance flows, and to the concomitant negative impact on financing gender by developing countries, particularly the least developed countries. The twin challenge of decreasing official development assistance flow levels to developing countries and devising mechanisms to bridge the gap between policy and practice at the national level with regard to the financing of gender needed to be addressed by the Commission.
India’s planning process was fully committed to enabling women to be equal partners in development, he continued. A separate Department for Women and Child Development, created in 1985, was upgraded to a central ministry in 2005. The Joint Parliamentary Committee of the Indian Parliament on Empowerment of Women played a crucial role in monitoring the application of gender equality principles in all legislation. It had also ensured that legislation in the country was gender responsive. India’s decision 12 years ago to reserve one third of urban and local self-government seats for women marked a turning point in the effort to empower women. As a result, one million Indian women at the grass-roots level had been brought into political decision-making, which effectively gave them a significant say in the utilization of financial resources allocated to the local self-governing bodies in the rural and urban areas.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said the international community should take concrete actions, including the full implementation of the Monterrey Consensus, towards promoting the financing of gender equality. Such efforts should include enhancing gender awareness, reducing and exempting debt, opening markets and reforming the international economic, financial and trade system. Turning to the situation in China, he said that, with his country’s rapid development, the Government was paying increasing attention to promoting economic, social, political and cultural development in a coordinated and balanced way. To that end, last year China had accelerated implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Millennium Development Goals.
Some of its initiatives in that regard had included, among others, further integration of gender perspectives in legislation, giving special attention to such disadvantaged groups as rural women, migrant women, and children left-behind. China was also improving its work in gender budgeting and in the development of gender indicators. Gender responsive budgeting workshops had been organized and seminars on gender indicators and sex-disaggregated data had also been set up. On financing gender equality, he said that China had been strengthening multi-stakeholder cooperation and innovative financing models, as well as deepening international cooperation and actively using international assistance to promote equal and mutually beneficial exchanges.
FABIEN FIESCHI (France) said France had approved the texts adopted at the Cairo and Beijing conferences, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and was trying to implement those international commitments to women’s rights. Financing for gender equality was crucial to the advancement of women. The ministries of finance and national mechanisms should work to promote women’s rights and gender equality through the same approaches as the Beijing Platform for Action. That included specific measures, as well as an integrated approach. France was incorporating an integrated approach through its Charter for Gender Equality. That Charter called on public and private sector actors to promote gender equality in their policies. France had increased by 25 per cent its contribution to the United Nations and by 35 per cent its contribution since 2004 to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Gender equality was indispensable if the world was to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, he said. France had adopted an inter-ministerial strategy to promote gender integration into development policies. In order to implement Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), France’s Foreign Affairs Secretary of State organized a meeting in October 2007 of the Council to listen to non-governmental organizations that were working to improve the situation of all women. France and the Netherlands had co-sponsored General Assembly resolution 61/143 to step up efforts to eliminate violence against women. He supported the United Nations multi-year programme to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, and particularly eliminating violence against women.
MEHDI DANESH YAZDI ( Iran) said that he was making his statement on behalf of a high-level delegation of Iranian women, who were supposed to attend the session, but could not do so due to the failure of the host country to grant their visas. This was the second year in a row that the Iranian delegation to the Commission had been unable to attend. Iran considered this behaviour on the part of the host country a breach in United Nations agreements, including the Headquarters Agreement. On the situation of Iranian women, he said that the country had worked to improve the status of women for the past 30 years. The Charter of Women’s Rights and Responsibilities had been drafted on the basis of the “most common needs of the human being shared by different societies”.
Such a view could bring about a comprehensive balanced and sustainable development in areas that affected all human beings -- a concept that was sadly overlooked in most international documents. Iran’s policy of “balance” towards women was also based on spirituality, justice and security, derived from religious and cultural concepts. Its policy also reflected particular political, cultural and economic conditions in the country, against the backdrop of unfavourable international pressure that had encouraged the Government to institute across-the-board organizational changes regarding women. In addition to the allocation of a regular budget in every ministry, special budgets had been added to improve those ministries’ performance in improving women’s welfare. At the same time, the President had made visits across the country and had approved the allocation of funds that would alleviate the situation of women and strengthen families.
JOCELYN LASSEGUE, Minister for the Status of Women and Women’s Rights of Haiti, said progress in women’s rights had been made since the passage of the Beijing Platform for Action. In a few days, the Government of Haiti would present to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women its first report on implementation of the anti-discrimination Convention. Haiti ratified the Convention in 1981. In the past, Haiti had not been able to present its report, but it was doing so now thanks to a participatory process. Haiti had enacted laws to eliminate discrimination against women, including revisions to the criminal code and civil code and steps to end sexual violence against women. Three draft bills addressed the issue of domestic work. The passage of such bills into law would have a significant impact on the living conditions of women.
Haiti had adopted quotas to ensure that women reached high levels within the labour market, she said. It imposed a quota mandating that women should fill 30 per cent of posts in the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications, she said. Special temporary measures had been made to enable more women to become national police officers. The Government was developing programmes to end violence against women and women’s poverty. Haiti was far from reaching the quota of having women occupy 30 per cent of its United Nations posts. The Haitian Government had made the fight against the feminization of poverty a priority for the 2006-2011 Government plan and the issue of financing gender equality was incorporated into the Haitian budget.
ALDO MANTOVANI ( Italy) said that giving a central role for the autonomy and dignity of women and girls today was the condition for the dignity and well-being of all. Now, more than ever, the human rights of women were being trampled, denied and repressed. Abuse, discrimination, violence and persecution persisted. Throughout the world, including in Europe and Italy, there was still too great a gap between what women represented in terms of knowledge, professional skills and talent and what they were allowed to offer to institutions and society at large. Yet, the strength of the world’s women was overwhelming and could bring about historic changes.
He said that the Italian Government, together with women’s associations and movements, had started a multi-year action plan for women’s rights and opportunities, including through the implementation of a 20 million euros plan to: combat violence, harassment of, and violence against women, homosexuals and transsexuals; enact a plan against human trafficking, particularly in women and children; provide funding to insert gender statistics into national and international statistical programmes; and implement tax measures and incentives for women’s employment, entrepreneurship and the transition of caregiving labour from its informal status.
IYA TIDJANI ( Cameroon) stressed the need to proceed from words to action to implement Millennium Development Goal number three on gender equality and women’s empowerment. Cameroon had integrated gender equality and women’s empowerment into its development agenda. National policies aimed at achieving gender equality took into account socio-economic development and structural and institutional needs that would lead to permanent interaction between all stakeholders. Challenges to integrate gender mainstreaming in processes and programmes had become a main concern. He welcomed decision-making at all levels, including among women’s organizations that were working to help women expand their educational role within the family and act as a depository of societal values. Advocacy since 2005, together with seminars and workshops to strengthen capacity-building for budgeting, were among the efforts under way to achieve women’s empowerment.
It was necessary for all stakeholders to work together to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, he said. That required adequate financial resources and sex-disaggregated data. The national mechanisms to achieve gender equality were focusing on improving educational, health, electricity and urban development, as well as improving security for women, ending domestic and sexual violence, ending corruption, promoting agribusiness, promoting women in decision-making, creating jobs for women, and promoting women’s access to microcredit.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ ( Peru) said his delegation shared the view that Governments needed to continue implementing their commitments towards financing gender and the empowerment of women. Peru had been taking firm steps in that direction as part of its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and implement the tenets of the Beijing Platform for Action. The laws of the country now prohibited discrimination in all spheres of life and all public expenditure policies now contained gender elements. At the same time, the Government was committed to reducing violence against women, and had, among other things, adopted a comprehensive reparations plan that guided the State on procedures to provide reparations to victims of domestic violence, or other forms of violence against women. The Government had also set up safe houses around the country to provide safe havens and counselling for women victims of violence.
ROBERT AISI ( Papua New Guinea) said there was a need to sensitize budget officers and decision makers, in order to make them aware of why it was important to allocate sufficient funds for policies and programmes aimed at improving women’s empowerment and gender equality. Despite a lack of targeted training for such people, progress had been made in his country, in that the Government of Papua New Guinea had been consistent in allocating an equitable distribution of financial resources. The establishment of the new Office for Women Affairs might improve things further. In addition, the National Council of Women, the non-governmental organization focal point for women, had been allocated substantial funds to set up a National Convention Centre that would require further funding. Papua New Guinea continued to work closely with its development partners. In close consultation with two national focal points, valuable inputs had been made into the partners’ country assistance programme planning process.
Papua New Guinea noted and supported the concerns raised in the statement made on behalf of Pacific States with regard to HIV/AIDS and the continuing threat of climate change and its impact on the region’s women and children, stated Mr. Aisi. In that regard, the international community needed to continue supporting relevant HIV/AIDS programmes. It should also give serious attention to the issue of gender and climate change. In addition, as the country moved towards the “One UN” and the “Delivering as One” concept, it looked forward to better delivery of services through the strengthening of the United Nations coordination process on the ground.
NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine, said the toll of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territory on Palestinian women and their families had been vast. It placed a huge burden on women, who struggled daily to ensure the well-being of their families in the face of formidable challenges. Protecting and nurturing their children was too difficult for Palestinian women, due to Israel’s illegal and brutal policies. Palestinian women’s unique and tragic situation continued to require the international community’s attention. In order to carry on their ongoing national struggle to realize their inalienable human rights, they continued to fight alongside women worldwide against inequality, domestic violence and discrimination. The Palestinian Authority had created a Ministry for Women’s Affairs, but the reality was that the Israeli occupation and its unlawful policies and measures remained the major obstacle to their social, economic and political advancement.
Israel’s military assaults, violent incursions and raids on civilian areas in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued to seriously threaten the safety and well-being of Palestinian women and their families, she said. Hundreds had died, been injured or traumatized as a result in the past year. Israel’s destruction of Palestinian homes to expand illegal settlements had displaced and made homeless thousands of Palestinian women and their families. The situation in Gaza was particularly dire, where border crossings remained inhumanely closed for prolonged periods. Poverty was rife, with 90 per cent of the population living below the poverty line and 1.1 million of the 1.4 million Gazans depending on food handouts. The international community must demand that Israel abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law. It seemed almost impractical to speak of any real progress regarding Palestinian women and to address this year’s theme of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment when the Palestinian population, including women, were denied the most basic human rights, such as food, education, adequate housing and the right to basic health.
MANJU BHATTRARAI ( Nepal) said her country had adopted a rights-based approach to the social, economic and political empowerment of women and Nepal’s interim Constitution guaranteed civil liberties and fundamental freedoms, including the rights of women. The new Civil Service Act allowed increased participation of women in Nepal’s bureaucracy. Further, Nepal’s Interim Development Plan (2007-2010) accorded high priority to poverty alleviation, girls’ education and health, and the political and social empowerment of women. She said that the world’s financial institutions should not neglect financing the informal sector, where so many women worked. Organizations like the World Bank should support and promote the use of mechanisms for lending to women’s institutions and groups in the informal sector.
KRIS PANICO, representative of the Girls Caucus and the World Youth Alliance, said girls were particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, sexual violence, rape and sexual slavery. She called upon States to allocate sufficient resources to eradicate trafficking through local, national and regional laws. Girls must be given the skills to protect themselves. Also necessary were public-private partnerships with the media, as well as allocating resources to integrate victims of human trafficking back into their homes and society. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the Secretary-General’s report on the status of women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child all recognized human trafficking as a serious issue.
LUCA DALL’OGLIO, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that IOM had not ceased to make international actors and its member States aware of the phenomenon of the feminization of migration and to highlight the role of migrant women as agents of sustainable development, both in their countries of origin and their destination countries. Over the past 13 years, IOM had continued to bring together its partners and to share information and knowledge on the evolving status of migrant women, their role in the fight against poverty and on the need for greater integration of migrant women in national development processes.
Since 1995, IOM had implemented a variety of projects that specifically targeted migrant women, he said. Those projects were aimed primarily at reducing their vulnerability in the migration process by focusing on the fight against human trafficking, sexual violence and on the protection of women migrant domestic workers or others. In line with the definition of gender mainstreaming adopted by the Economic and Social Council in 1997, IOM sought to respond to the specific needs of both men and women in the planning, design, implementation and evaluation of all its projects and programmes, in order to ensure that migrant men and women could meaningfully take part in, and fully benefit from, such projects and programmes.
LORENA AGUILAR REVELO, Senior Global Adviser of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, said that climate change did not affect men and women in the same way. It had a gender differentiated impact. Therefore, all aspects related to climate change, including mitigation, adaptation, policy development and decision-making, needed to include a gender perspective. A study last year by the London School of Economics analyzing disasters in 141 countries, provided decisive evidence that gender differences in deaths from natural disasters were directly linked to women’s economic and social rights. When women’s rights were not protected, more women than men would die from disasters. In societies where men and women enjoyed equal rights, the disasters killed women and men in about the same proportion.
That meant that the empowerment of women should be one of the priorities in adaptation and risk reduction strategies, she said. Despite known facts, women had not been afforded an equal opportunity to participate in decision-making related to adaptation and mitigation policies and initiatives at the international and national levels related to climate change. Aware of the challenges ahead, gender specialists at a group of organizations had launched a Global Gender and Climate Alliance to ensure that climate change policies, decision-making, and all initiatives at the global, regional and national levels were gender responsive.
LINE VREVEN, Vice-President of AARP International, said that, if the promise of the landmark agreements adopted by the United Nations were to be fully realized, Governments needed to step up efforts to implement them. That required more political will and resources than were presently allocated. While notable progress had been made in securing development financing targeted at gender equality, and in incorporating gender into public budgeting/management, millions of women over the age of 50 continued to lead lives of chronic insecurity because they were marginalised by short-sighted or non-existent policies. Historically, women everywhere experienced inequality in wages, benefits and pensions, despite taking on disproportionate work burdens to support their families and communities. Older women were especially vulnerable to systemic discrimination. Having the means to sustain their existence -– as widows, caregivers, or simply members of the community -– was a matter of averting poverty. Despite the great strides that had been made, the social and economic contributions of older women continued to go unrecognized and be overlooked.
XENIA VON LILIAN-WADAU, Liaison and Public Information Officer, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said that there were few sectors with greater potential to contribute to the economic empowerment of rural women than agriculture. In most developing countries, small farming operations were usually almost entirely fronted by women. In Africa, for example, women provided an estimated three fourths of the labour for food production and, in Asia, women worked as hired agricultural labourers or unpaid family workers, contributing between 10 and 50 per cent of the labour needed for crop growing. Yet, too often, women farmers -- along with their knowledge and expertise -- were overlooked in national strategies and programmes and, by extension, bypassed in research and technology.
To address that and other challenges regarding rural women, IFAD’s lending programme supported a wide range of development activities, including the provision of agricultural services, promotion of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and support to rural finance structures. IFAD aimed to increase incomes, improve livelihoods and strengthen women’s organizations, she added. Through its grant programmes, IFAD had financed research on emerging issues and innovative practices related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
BANDANA RANA, Representative of Gender Architecture, speaking on behalf of Amnesty International, Asia Pacific Women’s Watch, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, International Planned Parenthood Federation and the European Women’s Development Network, said she represented a global campaign of 82 organizations in more than 35 countries working for gender-equality architecture reform. It was necessary to work to advance women’s human rights worldwide. Significant advances for women had been made thanks to the United Nations efforts. But, the United Nations still lacked an effective mechanism to deliver on commitments already made during numerous women’s forums. There were a few small agencies focusing on women’s empowerment and gender equality. And the larger agencies had limited mandates.
As the Secretary-General had stated, a stronger United Nations should be able to call in all global resources to achieve gender equality and empower women, she said. She called on Member States to act now to create a stronger United Nations entity for women headed by an Under-Secretary-General to ensure a high level of decision-making. That would provide a higher level of leadership than existed at present. The entity should also have an extensive field presence and programmatic mandate and have substantial and predictable resources, including a minimum of $500 million to $1 billion. Further, it should involve civil society and promote gender mainstreaming by integrating gender equality and women’s rights.
DANIELA SIMIONI, of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), speaking on behalf of the five United Nations Regional Commissions, took the floor briefly to congratulate the Commission on the Status of Women for choosing to consider as its priority issue “financing gender equality and the empowerment of women”. The discussions would certainly help inform the processes under way in the run-up to the Doha International Review Conference on Financing for Development. The Regional Commissions, for their part, were organizing consultations at the respective regional levels to that end. The consultations would include the participation of the regional development banks and other organizations. She invited delegations to consider regional outcomes, as they headed to Doha next year.
MARY AUNE, a representative of Latin American and the Caribbean Women’s Caucus, said it was fundamental that Governments of the region take the lead in supporting efforts to strengthen the United Nations gender-equality architecture, including by appointing women to high-level posts. She also called for democratizing the structures of financial governance through equal and balanced representation from a gender perspective, as well as strengthening standardized regulations and accountability to ensure that Governments, international institutions and corporations complied with the commitments required under the bill of human rights, labour regulations, environmental agreements and International Labour Organization recommendations.
Further, she called for setting up focal units on gender and budget within ministries of finance and other ministries. In addition, she called for allowing autonomous groups of women to design and monitor economic development programmes, including basic nutritional security programmes, as well as giving them access and control over land, natural resources and goods, technological training, education grants, low-interest rates, access to microcredit, access to public procurement and good quality public services. Finally, she called for allocating sufficient financial resources to autonomous groups of women to allow the monitoring of public policy from a gender perspective.
ANAMAH TAN, President, International Council of Women, said that her group welcomed the recent launch by the Secretary-General of a global strategy to combat violence against women. The International Council would urge all United Nations agencies to support that strategy and insure its promotion at the Member State level. She also called on the Commission to press Governments to step up their activities to better combat human trafficking, and to ensure the full promotion of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).
Ms. MCDEVITT-PUGH, a representative of women’s information organizations, said change required documentation and information. The collective memory of women’s issues was available at women’s information organizations worldwide. Information systems were needed to collect, process and disseminate information and make use of the latest techniques available. But, women’s information systems were not adequately resourced. Governments and civil society organizations alike were losing an essential link. Representing 400 women’s information organizations worldwide, she called on the forum today to ensure that the collective memory of change that benefited women be mainstreamed, and to ensure that women’s information organizations received adequate documentation and were adequately resourced.
Rights of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, Algeria’s representative said erroneous information had been made in the statement made during the session by the Western Asian Caucus, in which it referred to Moroccan women in refugee camps in the Sahara region.
Also exercising the right of reply, Morocco’s representative said the Western Asian Caucus had in fact spoken about the Tindof camp, but there had not been any finger pointing in its statement. He said he could not agree with the Algerian representative. When women had to flee those refugee camps, they returned to Morocco.
* *** *