Speakers Urge ‘Stand-Alone’ Status for Gender Equality, Empowerment in Post-2015 Framework as Third Committee Considers Advancement of Women

11 October 2013

Speakers Urge ‘Stand-Alone’ Status for Gender Equality, Empowerment in Post-2015 Framework as Third Committee Considers Advancement of Women

11 October 2013
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

9th & 10th Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers Urge ‘Stand-Alone’ Status for Gender Equality, Empowerment in Post-2015

Framework as Third Committee Considers Advancement of Women


Persistent discrimination and violence against women and girls around the world called for gender equality and empowerment to be a stand-alone target in the post-2015 development agenda, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it began its discussions on the advancement of women.

“We have one goal and that is to realize the promise of equal rights of men and women,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and new Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN-Women.  In her opening remarks, she strongly urged the protection of women’s social, economic and political rights.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s report on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas, she underlined their key role in food production and in ensuring family well-being, noting, however, that there were obstacles to their full participation in socioeconomic life.  As for women’s political participation, she pointed out that they comprised a mere 17 per cent of cabinet ministers around the world, and that only eight Heads of State were women.

“We need to put the rights of women and girls at the centre of strategies to fight poverty and to advance peace and security and sustainable development,” she continued.  Gender equality and women’s empowerment should, therefore, be treated as a stand-alone goal and integrated through targets and indicators into all targets of any new development framework.  “Together we can make the twenty-first century the century of women, with a vision of equality and dignity for all,” she declared.

Echoing that sentiment was Nicole Ameline, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, who said that the post-2015 development agenda provided a unique opportunity to place women’s rights at the centre of efforts to achieve fair and sustainable development.  “Women are the main drivers of development,” she declared.  However, they continued to be underrepresented in political and public life, and were excluded from decision-making in all areas and on all levels, she pointed out.  On the link between women’s rights and development, she emphasized that not only was the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women the single universal treaty on the comprehensive protection of women’s rights, it was also a development instrument that provided for their empowerment and participation.

Throughout the day, which featured approximately 37 statements by Member States, delegates condemned the persistence of many forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls around the world, and called for a more coordinated, holistic and systematic approach to address those issues.

Convinced of the need to prevent sexual and gender-based violence and protecting women’s and girls’ rights, especially in fragile and conflict-affected communities, Canada’s representative underlined that country’s commitment to provide more than $13 million to end sexual violence in emerging democracies.

Regarding sexual violence in conflict situations, the representative of the Republic of Korea cited the example of the “comfort women” abducted from their work in the fields and brought to military units to “service” 10 to 30 soldiers every single day during the Second World War.  They had once numbered more than 100,000, but today only 56 were still alive, living with the physical and emotional scars of their experiences.  She called on the Government responsible to recognize its legal liability and take appropriate measure acceptable to the victims.

Switzerland’s delegate called upon all Member States to end pervasive impunity for sexual and gender-based violence in situations of armed conflict, post-conflict, disaster and post-disaster.  Convinced that the empowerment of women and girls was a prerequisite for sustainable development and economic growth, Switzerland, echoed by Lebanon and other countries, called for the inclusion of gender equality in the post-2015 development framework, both as a stand-alone goal and as a “transversal issue” alongside other goals.

Turning to the issue of gender and development, China’s representative said women represented an “engine for development”.  Against the backdrop of financial crisis, decent employment for women, their participation in productive activities and their access to social protection would not only facilitate national economic recovery, but also help ensure women’s survival and development while enabling them to live more dignified and happy lives.

Israel’s representative said:  “Investing in women is one of the best investments we can make, as it makes simple economic sense.”  In fact women generated their own income and reinvested 90 per cent of it in their families and communities.  Quoting the proverb “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”, she said that if one taught a woman to fish, she would feed the whole village.

Also speaking today were representatives of Fiji (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Guyana (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Namibia (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Nigeria, India, Sierra Leone, Russian Federation, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Dominican Republic, South Africa, Colombia, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, Iceland, Senegal, Malaysia, Indonesia, Bolivia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Belarus, Thailand, Iran, Croatia and Pakistan, as well as a representative of the European Union Delegation.

Representatives of Japan and the Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 14 October, to continue its discussion of women’s advancement.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of the advancement of women.  Before it was the report of the Secretary-General on “The status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women” (document A/68/121); the “Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women” on its fifty-second, fifty-third and fifty-fourth sessions (document A/68/38(Supp); and the report of the Secretary-General on “Violence against women migrant workers” (document A/68/178).  Also under consideration were reports of the Secretary-General on “The improvement of the situation of women in rural areas” (document A/68/179) and on “Measures taken and progress achieved in the promotion of women and political participation” (document A/68/184).

Opening Remarks Statements

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) said this was the time to realize the United Nations Charter and to support equal rights for men and women.  “More parents want the same opportunities for their sons and daughters, and more people say enough is enough on violence against women and girls,” she declared.  However, while there were still perpetrators of violence, the work was not done yet, she said, adding that she looked forward to the day when grandchildren would say that they could not believe there used to be violence against women.

On the International Day of the Girl Child, she called for innovative measures to improve the situation of girls.  The best way to reduce family poverty was to educate both its sons and daughters, but the barriers to girls’ enrolment in school persisted, including poverty, gender-based discrimination and violence.  UN-Women and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts had launched “Voices against Violence”, an innovative non-formal education curriculum on ending violence against women and girls.  It put young people at the heart of efforts to prevent violence and discrimination.  Through the initiative, which involved women, men, boys and girls, more than 5 million children would be reached by 2020, she said.

She noted that the report on violence against women migrant workers focused not only on human rights violations against girls by recruitment officers and human traffickers, but also by law-enforcement officers, and urged Member States to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention on domestic workers.  As the International Day of Rural Women approached, there could be no doubt that rural women played a key role in food production and in ensuring family well-being, but that obstacles remained to their full participation in socioeconomic life.  She called for strong legal reforms to allow women, especially widows, to own the land on which they worked, and for reduced unpaid work on the part of rural women.

As for women’s political participation, she pointed out that they comprised a mere 17 per cent of Ministers around the world, and that only eight Heads of State were women.  During the recent general debate, only 14 women had been addressed the in the General Assembly, she pointed out.  Despite programmes already in place, many obstacles remained to women’s participation in political life, including lack of support by political parties.  There was a need to invest in educational tools to support women’s aspirations to enter political life.

The report on implementation of the Beijing Plan of Action, she continued, stressed that advancing gender equality was a collective endeavour, and that all stakeholders, including Governments, the private sector and civil society, should work together to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment became a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 development agenda.  Paying tribute to Member States for having established and supported UN-Women, she declared: “Together we can make the twenty-first century the century of women.”

Questions and Answers

The representatives of Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iran and Mauritania asked about the integration of the Beijing Platform of Action into the post-2015 development framework, the involvement of men and boys in combating violence against women, and the establishment of targets to enhance the participation of women.  Other questions related to mainstreaming family values into the work of UN-Women and the assessment of the Entity’s progress in tackling violence against women and gender inequality.

Ms. MLAMBO-NGCUKA responded by underlining UN-Women’s engagement in efforts to define the post-2015 development agenda, saying a comprehensive paper had already been issued on the need to establish and mainstream women’s empowerment and gender equality as a stand-alone target.  Consultations with Member States, United Nations agencies and civil society were in progress, as were advocacy efforts directed at Governments to ensure that gender equality would be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda.  On the integration of men and boys into efforts to eliminate violence against women and girls, she said they were “critical constituencies, who historically have been neglected”.  Efforts to identify champions of women’s rights were also in progress, especially in men’s organizations, sports, and political as well as professional areas, she said.

On using targets to enhance the participation of women, she emphasized that they must be implemented “in spirit and not only to tick a box”.  As for mainstreaming family values into the work of UN-Women, she noted their articulation in the framework of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and in the Beijing+20 document, which served as the basis for UN-Women’s work.  In some countries, UN-Women was facilitated by religious organizations, and in others, through cooperation with community chiefs.  There was no one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a need to be guided by agreed normative documents.  The unprecedented participation in the high-level side event on female genital mutilation organized by UN-Women during the general debate demonstrated that progress had been made, she said in conclusion.

Introductory Statement- CEDAW Committee Chair

NICOLE AMELINE, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that with the General Assembly poised to take action on strengthening treaty bodies, the post-2015 development agenda provided a unique opportunity to place women’s rights at the centre of the process.  There could be no development without women’s rights and vice versa.  The Committee acted as a catalyst, and needed support to reinforce its role.

The Committee took pride in its consistent efforts to enhance cost efficiency and work quality by requesting summary records only in English and only for public meetings, she said.  It limited the number of questions on its lists of issues, issued shorter and more focused concluding observations, clustered questions and ensured effective time-keeping in its dialogues with State parties.

Noting that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had been ratified almost universally, she said the Committee had reviewed more than 400 State reports.  “It is therefore time to close the implementation gap,” she said, urging Governments and the international community to make more effective use of the powerful tools offered by the Convention and the Committee’s concluding observations.

Turning to the link between women’s rights and development, she emphasized that not only was the Convention the single universal treaty on the comprehensive protection of women’s rights, but it was also a development instrument, providing for their empowerment and participation.  “Women are the main drivers of development,” she declared, pointing out, however, that they continued to be under-represented in political and public life, and were excluded from decision-making in all areas and on all levels.  It was heartening to see that, in the outcome document from the General Assembly’s 25 September special event on the Millennium Development Goals, Member States resolved that the post-2015 development agenda should be based on human rights, with a particular focus on women’s rights and gender equality.

The Committee was typically associated with its normative — or standard‑setting — and monitoring functions, she continued.  In order to have a real impact on the ground, its concluding observations must be channelled into the policies of Governments and United Nations country teams.  To achieve that, the Committee must capitalize more on its advisory role in support of the operational activities of national and international actors.  It must be more visible, especially in New York, where the Organization’s gender and development entities were based.

Questions and Answers

The representatives of the United Kingdom, European Union, Switzerland, Japan, Slovenia, Costa Rica, Norway, Mexico and Argentina asked questions, with some seeking the Committee’s views on how to achieve universal ratification of the Convention and integrate women’s and girls’ empowerment into the post-2015 development agenda.  Others asked about resources, budgets and working methods.

Ms. AMELINE said in response that 187 Member States had become parties to the Convention.  In addition to urging the six remaining States to join, it was important to lift reservations expressed by State parties.  Indeed, that task would be at the core of the Committee’s work in the weeks and months to come.  On the empowerment of women and girls, it was necessary to translate the Convention into action on the ground by expanding partnerships.  The Committee would continue to work towards fully mainstreaming women’s rights into the post-2015 development framework, she said, adding that it would be proactive, pragmatic and concrete in carrying out its tasks.

She went on to say that the Committee had modernized its working methods and sought cost savings through measures such as reducing the number of pages in its reports, thereby also slashing translation costs.  As per the request for additional resources, the Committee considered it an investment.  For instance, a greater presence in New York would enable it to link up with the Commission on the Status of Women, and to create partnerships with other entities.  Those partnerships would lead to cost savings on the ground.  As the international community aimed to define the post-2015 development agenda, the Committee viewed 2014 as a decisive year for women, she said, urging Member States to enhance its presence.

The progress achieved in many countries cited in the Committee’s report was fortunately substantial, she said, stressing the need to share best practices and exchange information.  Giving girls access to education was of key importance, but the Committee’s work was broader.  It was more important to close the implementation gap than to elaborate new standards, she stressed, reiterating the need for investment in innovative practices and partnerships.  However, there was a need to strengthen treaty bodies because they faced backlogs.


PETER THOMSON (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite progress, women and girls must still face severe challenges, such as poverty, violence, discrimination and inequality.  It was essential, in that respect, to address their root causes and to expedite action on resolving them.  On the eradication of poverty, he reaffirmed the importance of promoting the economic empowerment of women and girls and their ability to generate income, and to ensure that they enjoyed equal treatment in the workplace as well as equal access to power and decision-making.  The Group also called for intensified efforts to address trafficking in women and girls, and the violation of their fundamental human rights, among other things.

“Women are also the most vulnerable in terms of health,” he continued.  For that reason, it was important to address the effects of both communicable and non-communicable diseases, which affected even further the ability of women fully to enjoy their rights.  The Group of 77 and China was also deeply concerned over the suffering of women and girls living under foreign occupation, he continued.  Current global challenges, such as the financial crisis, food insecurity, unilateral sanctions and climate change had further aggravated their situation.  It was, therefore, imperative to design stimulus packages and gender-responsive budgeting initiatives to address gaps and disparities.  He concluded by reiterating the significance of full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, particularly as the international community began to deliberate on the post-2015 development agenda.

TEKEDA ALEMU ( Ethiopia), speaking for the African Group, said the continent championed gender equality and women’s empowerment through many initiatives, including the “African Women’s Decade”, 2010-2020.  Most African women lived in rural areas, and therefore played a critical role in eradicating poverty and hunger.  There was an urgent need to focus on their empowerment as well as on their full and equal participation in decision-making on all levels.  He called for continuing international efforts to strengthen policies prioritizing rural and agricultural development.

He went on to call for intensified efforts to prevent all forms of violence against women, noting that legislation offered the right foundation for a holistic approach to that problem.  Many women worked in low-paid or unpaid domestic jobs that excluded them from the benefits of education and placed them at risk of violence.  Calling for theimplementation of international commitments, notably on official development assistance (ODA), he said it would help women gain equal access to economic resources.  The African Group was committed to eliminating female genital mutilation, he reiterated, underlining also the need to further reduce maternal mortality.

RAJA REZA RAJA ZAIB SHAH (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the bloc continued to promote the advancement of women, ever since its first women leaders’ conference in 1975.  Its Committee on Women remained the primary mechanism for coordinating and monitoring ASEAN’s implementation of its priorities on women’s issues and concerns, he said, highlighting the Association’s recent efforts to promote and protect the rights of women and children.

ASEAN leaders had adopted a declaration on the elimination of violence against women and children during this month’s summit, reaffirming their commitment to collective action, he continued.  Despite the challenges of development, ASEAN member States remained committed to making significant strides towards improving the situation of women across the region.  The Association realized that more work would need to be done towards achieving common goals, he said, reaffirming its readiness to cooperate closely with all interested partners and stakeholders.

GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the gender inequality index in the 2012 Caribbean Human Development Report showed that women were disadvantaged in three main dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity.  The findings demonstrated the reality that gender inequality represented a socioeconomic loss of significant proportions for the countries concerned.  In response to that reality, CARICOM underlined the need to address the full spectrum of health needs of women and girls, to enable effectively to participate in decision-making on all levels, and to foster their access to economic and investment opportunities.

He stressed the need to tackle the root causes of violence and discrimination with an emphasis on prevention, by confronting negative gender stereotyping.  The cultural stereotype of an aggressive male was often exhibited early in Caribbean youth, and a study of more than 1,000 high school students in six Caribbean nations demonstrated that both boys and girls believed that aggression was a normal aspect of masculinity.  Evidently, a more balanced model of masculinity could help the struggle against the violence to which Caribbean women were subjected, he said, cautioning, however, that efforts to ensure the inclusion of women and girls must not be at the exclusion of men and boys.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, noted that women all over the world fought every day for equality, recognition and safety.  Those fights — taken up by mothers trying to raise healthy families and young women seeking access to higher education or better jobs — were often invisible to the outside world.  The daily battles were hard-fought and hard-won, he added.  Women also came together to make a difference on the global stage, as had been the case last March during the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, when women from around the world had gathered in New York to advocate for equality.  In line with the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the United Nations Charter and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, he condemned any form of violence against women, saying it could never be justified in the name of custom, tradition, culture, privacy, religion, or so-called honour.  States had an obligation to promote the prevention and elimination of violence, and to ensure the effective prosecution of perpetrators when violence occurred.

Promoting gender equality and the full equal enjoyment of all human rights by all females was among the European Union’s main objectives, he continued.  That was why the bloc had put comprehensive policies in place with the aim of assuring women an equal role and full participation in political, economic and social life, as well as an environment conducive to better reconciling family, professional and private life.  The bloc welcomed, therefore, the key role that UN-Women played in empowering women and eliminating violence against them through its programmes, technical assistance, advocacy and normative work, as well as through its leadership and coordination of efforts across the United Nations system.  The bloc had already intensified its cooperation with the entity in several fields, in line with the European Union Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development, 2010-2015.  The bloc also aimed to ensure that women’s rights were safeguarded in periods of transition, as in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.  Turning to refugee and internally displaced women and girls, he said that humanitarian crises further increased their vulnerability since such crises were not “gender-neutral” and had different impacts on women and men.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ ( Cuba), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said 2013 was a year for taking stock of progress made on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and for addressing many pending issues.  Consensus existed at the multilateral level on the need to accord priority to that issue as a prerequisite for advancing the post-2015 development agenda, he said, adding that CELAC member States were committed to fully mainstreaming a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.  Commitment and action to promote women’s participation in decision-making at the highest levels should remain a priority of the national and international agendas.

Strongly supporting the establishment and mandate of UN-Women, as well as progress towards establishing a regional architecture, he said new global challenges required coordinated and coherent work at all levels.  CELAC advocated more international dialogue, consensus and cooperation to meet the needs of women and girls.  Specific action was needed at all levels to eradicate violence against women in all its forms and manifestations.  That violence was frequently aggravated by poverty, hunger, illiteracy and unemployment, he said, calling for comprehensive action on those fronts in order to promote real advancement and empowerment of women.  CELAC encouraged all States to implement measures to promote and protect the human rights of elderly women and respond to their specific needs, including access to health-care services, he said.

WILFRIED I. EMVULA ( Namibia), speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the bloc’s Protocol on Gender and Development encompassed commitments made in all regional, continental and global gender-equality instruments, with 28 measurable targets to be reached by 2015.  It ensured accountability and provided a forum for sharing best practices, peer support and review.  Constraints still hindered full gender equality, with the gap between commitment and implementation a key concern.  Contradictions between customary laws, national laws and international commitments persisted, while women’s representation in decision-making positions remained low, he said.

He went on to recognize women’s important contribution to human resources in political, economic and social development, as well as in facilitating integration and competitiveness.  On gender-based violence, he said the Protocol called for enacting and enforcing legislation prohibiting such abuse in all its forms, while all member States had ratified the addendum to the Declaration on Gender and Development on violence against women.  Further, they were carrying out an extensive media campaign to address the underlying causes of gender-based violence.  To realize women’s rights everywhere, greater cooperation among States, development partners, donors and civil society was required, he said, adding that there was also a need to scale up investment in gender equality and women’s empowerment.

KELLIE LEITCH ( Canada) said her country was among the largest donors of core resources to UN-Women.  Canada had also led the annual Human Rights Council resolution on violence against women, which in 2012 had recognized marital rape as a crime of sexual violence.  Canada was equally committed to preventing sexual and gender-based violence and protecting women’s and girls’ rights in fragile and conflict-affected communities, having provided more than $13 million to end sexual violence in emerging democracies.  On the issue of child, early and forced marriage, she said her country had co-hosted a General Assembly side‑event to raise awareness on that issue.

HAJIYA ZAINAB MAINA ( Nigeria) said much more would have to be done in addressing issues raised in the Secretary-General’s 2006 study on violence against women, especially domestic violence and systematic violations of the rights of women in conflict situations.  Nigeria was committed to accelerating national and regional implementation of relevant Security Council resolutions, she said, stressing the importance of compliance with resolution 1820 (2008).  The Government had established the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Women and Peace, with membership from the military, paramilitary and police.  In addition, the Government had introduced a gender‑responsive budgeting strategy in January to deliver key results for women and girls in five key ministries.

CHO YOON SUN, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, said the international community must work collectively to eradicate sexual violence against women in armed conflict situations, pointing out the persistence of such crimes despite international efforts.  Citing the example of the “comfort women” abducted from their work in the fields and brought to military units to “service” 10 to 30 soldiers every single day, she said that if those teenagers refused, resisted or tried to escape, they were beaten severely.  They had once numbered more than 100,000, but today only 56 were still alive, living with the physical and emotional scars of their experiences, relying on ventilators, unable to eat or bear children, and stigmatized by their past.  The Republic of Korea supported those women by providing their living and medical costs, but the only way to ensure real resolution was for the responsible Government to apologize genuinely, take responsible measures and set the distorted history of “comfort women” straight, she emphasized.  The responsible Government should recognize its legal liability, and take appropriate measures acceptable to the victims.  The question of “comfort women” was not only a diplomatic issue concerning the particular countries involved, she stressed.  “If we fail to find a fair solution to the issue now, when our collective voice is raised against other sexual violations in armed conflicts, it will lose force and we may never find a solution to the problem.”

EDAPPAKATH AHAMED, Minister of State for External Affairs of India, said his Government was adopting an appropriate legislative and policy framework for the advancement of women and for raising social awareness of gender inequality and women’s empowerment, in order to fight deep-rooted social prejudices and stereotypes.  India had given women equal voting rights more than 60 years ago at the time of independence.  In 1992, the Government had provided for 33 per cent women’s representation in rural and local government bodies.  And in 2009, Parliament had raised the rate of women to 50 per cent in local authorities, he said, adding that today nearly 1.5 million elected women worked in those bodies.  The Government had proposed to set up India’s first all-women bank to help women entrepreneurs, allocating $200 million as initial capital.  At least 50 per cent of the work was reserved for women in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which responded to the needs of 53 million poor rural households by assuring them 100 days’ employment a year.  The scheme mandated equal pay for men and women, he said.

EBUN A. JUSU, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, said his Government had launched the “Agenda for Prosperity” which served as the national roadmap to the post-2015 development agenda.  One of the plan’s eight pillars addressed gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The national gender strategy plan was one of Sierra Leone’s flagship development programmes, and aimed to mainstream gender into all Government policies in order achieve gender quality in legislation, participation, representation, empowerment and distribution of resources.  It also aimed to serve as a tool for efficient coordination of gender-response programmes, and for tracking joint Government-donor policies and budgets on gender-related programmes.

ANTONIA STRACHWITZ ( Liechtenstein) said a continuing culture of impunity was one of the major challenges in the area of women’s rights, specifically violence against women and sexual violence.  It was not only detrimental to the victim’s healing process, but a systematic lack of accountability was also conducive to new violence.  Justice and the rule of law must therefore be strengthened at all levels, she stressed.  It was the State’s responsibility to raise awareness, build trust in national judicial systems and make them effective and universally accessible.  They must also train officials to provide victims with the support they needed, and ensure they were accorded protection and redress.  Women continued to be excluded from decision-making, as stakeholders in peace processes and as mediators, she noted.  As a result, their rights and needs were often neglected in peace accords and institutional arrangements.  It was therefore the responsibility of States to do more to protect the right of women to participate on equal terms at all levels, even more so in times of political transition.  “Gender-based violence not only constitutes a clear human rights violation; studies have proven that there is a direct correlation between gender equality and development,” she said.  Violence against women hampered productivity, reduced human capital, undermined economic growth and hindered their full participation in all aspects of society.  Liechtenstein strongly supported the inclusion of a stand-alone gender goal and the mainstreaming of gender issues throughout the post-2015 development agenda, she said.

NIKOLAY RAKOVSKIY ( Russian Federation) said his delegation opposed any attempt to discredit the Commission on the Status of Women, because it was a key body for the advancement of women.  Acknowledging the work of UN-Women on gender issues, he nevertheless underlined the need to align its activities coherently with the Commission’s standard-setting.  He urged the Entity to work not only with developing countries, but also developed countries, and to coordinate its activities with United Nations funds and programmes already in operation on the ground.  Emphasizing that economic independence was vital to advancing women’s rights, as was the right balance between family and work, he said his Government supported the recommendation of the International Labour Organization (ILO) to create enabling conditions for women to set up their own businesses.

CHRISTINE ELISABETH LOEW ( Switzerland ) said the promotion and protection of the rights of women and girls, as well as the fight against gender-based discrimination and violence, were priorities for Switzerland.  Progress required addressing the root causes rather than the symptoms of human rights violations against women.  They included inveterate gender stereotyping and traditional role models, as well as serious power imbalances between women and men.  Efforts were needed to strengthen prevention, protection and response.  As an expression of Switzerland’s commitment in that respect, the Government had signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence last month, she said.  The Government was also committed to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, and called upon all States to end pervasive impunity for sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict as well as post-conflict, disaster and post-disaster situations.  Switzerland advocated the inclusion of gender in the post-2015 development agenda, both as a stand-alone target and as a transversal issue alongside other goals.

ERIKA MARTÍNEZ LIEVANO ( Mexico), aligning herself with CELAC, said that the approaching twentieth anniversary, in 2015, of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was the occasion to identify achievements and challenges in the advancement of women.  Gender perspective should also be one of the main goals in the post-2015 development framework.  Mexico commended the success of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women, during which the term “femicide” had been used for the first time.  The inclusion of a gender perspective should be systematic, particularly in those fields in which little progress had been made, such as peace and security, she emphasized.  That had an endeavour of Mexico’s Government, which had taken different initiatives in that respect, including the development of a plan of action aimed at strengthening the participation of women – especially indigenous women - in political life.  Consequently, 27 federal entities had included femicide in their criminal codes, and its inclusion in the national code had occurred in June 2012.

CHU GUANG ( China), describing women as an “engine for development”, said that against the backdrop of financial crisis, their participation in productive activities and access to social protection would not only facilitate economic recovery, but also help ensure their survival and development, enabling them to live more dignified and happy lives.  On rural women, he said that with the accelerated industrialization and urbanization of developing countries, the “feminization” of agricultural activities was increasing rapidly.  More attention should therefore be paid to the empowerment of rural women in considering gender equality.  He welcomed the Secretary General’s “United to end Violence against Women” campaign in its efforts to strengthen public education and advocacy, promote the enactment and improvement of related domestic legislation, and eliminate cultural practices and customs of discrimination and violence against women.

FRANCISCO CORTORREAL (Dominican Republic), associating himself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, highlighted his country’s progress on gender equality, including its 2007-2017 National Plan for Gender Equality and the 2011-2016 Strategic Plan for the Prevention, Detection, Warning and Punishing of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.  However, significant challenges remained in ending such practices, including the need to strengthen the integration of national mechanisms and support networks to combat violence, and the implementation of protected budgets to fund them.  The main challenge was ensuring that gender equality and equity, and the prevention of violence, were present in all national educational efforts so that women and men could turn gender equality and equity into life practices.  The Dominican Republic would host the Twelfth Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean next month, focusing on women’s empowerment through information and communications technology, he said.

LIRONNE BAR-SADEH ( Israel) said that with half the population locked out, prevented from being productive and from pursuing opportunities, the path to development was obstructed.  Women performed two thirds of the world’s work and produced half of its food, but earned only 10 per cent of the income.  They owned only 1 per cent of the property.  Women comprised more than half the population, but represented only 20 per cent of world political leaders.  “Investing in women is one of the best investments we can make, as it makes simple economic sense,” he said.  Quoting the proverb “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime”, he said that if one taught a woman to fish, she would feed the whole village.

DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) said his country’s constitution promoted women’s rights as human rights.  In Parliament, women represented 44 per cent of members and 43 per cent of Cabinet Ministers.  At the provincial level, five of the nine provincial premiers were women.  According to recent studies, South Africa had the fifth-highest proportion of women on corporate boards after Norway, Sweden, Finland and the United States, he said.  Job creation, education, health, rural development, food security and land reform, as well as fighting crime and corruption had been adopted as the five national priorities, in which gender equality and the advancement of women’s human rights had been placed at the centre.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia), associating himself with CELAC, noted that the goal of 30 per cent of women in decision-making positions, suggested by the Economic and Social Council in 1995, had not been yet achieved.  However, that was not the case in Colombia, where that threshold had been surpassed.  Further, the country had adopted a public policy plan on gender equality, as well as an integrated plan to guarantee women a life free of violence.  Many activities and initiatives — focused also on violence affecting women in armed and post-armed conflicts — had been coordinated around those issues, in addition to educational training and workshop.  Strong political will and concrete actions could go a long way in countering deep-rooted cultural stereotypes, he said.

KOKI MULI GRIGNON ( Kenya), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the social, economic and emotional consequences of discrimination against women remained unacceptably high and often irreversible.  Discrimination had permeated into the fabric of society, leading to low numbers of women in decision‑making and politics.  Kenya addressed that issue by implementing the principle that not more than two thirds of the members of elective or appointed bodies should be of the same gender.  Turning to violence against women, she said complications on that issue were often brought about by relations between perpetrators and victims, which contributed to inaction on the part of the latter.  For that reason, the Government had improved access to justice by eliminating court fees for instituting proceedings claiming infringement of rights or fundamental freedoms.  On rural women, she said they were benefitting from efficient technological advancements in the financial and information and communications technology sectors, particularly in mobile phone money‑transfer and e‑banking.

SEWA LAMSAL ADHIKARI (Nepal), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that her country had instituted a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of violence against women, including sexual violence, through such measures as a special fund for victims.  It provided rehabilitation centres, one-stop crisis facilities, services centres, medical, psychological and other counselling services and free legal aid to address women’s issues.  It had taken initiatives to establish fast-track courts to handle cases of domestic violence.  Programmes were also in place to support rural women, with a focus on economic, political and social empowerment and inclusion, he said.  The National Human Rights Commission and the National Women’s Commission were deeply involved in promoting and protecting the rights of women.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua), endorsing the statements of the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that her over the years, her country had taken many initiatives in favour of women.  In 2007, Nicaragua had established a policy based on gender equality as a means of deepening inclusive democracy and building a just and developed society.  In May 2010, it had passed another law giving that envisaged the creation of a fund enabling women to have the same rights as men in purchasing land, and which benefited rural women, in particular.  Moreover, UN-Women had placed Nicaragua among countries with the highest representation of women in decision-making positions.  In January 2012, the legislature had approved an integrated law on violence against women, and in 2013, the Government had created the Ministry for Women.

MAYA DAGHER ( Lebanon) said her country’s guiding principles on the advancement of women were non-discrimination, women’s participation in every aspect of life, non-violence, and the promotion and protection of the fundamental rights of women and girls.  It was sometimes difficult to overcome cultural and religious specificities but, “difficult does not mean impossible”, she said.  Lebanon sought active collaboration with public institutions, civil society and and international organizations.  A parliamentary commission had voted last July on a bill to protect women against familial and conjugal violence.  Furthermore, it had established support centres for women victims of violence, she said, expressing hope that in the coming days the discussion could focus on the promotion of women’s rights in emergency situations and on the inclusion of women’s advancement in the post-2015 development agenda.

GRÉTTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR ( Iceland) expressed her country’s deep concern over the high number of reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and called on States to withdraw those that were incompatible with the treaty.  Calling for renewed efforts to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, she also recalled that Iceland had been among the first States to adopt a national plan for implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2013).  The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) specified that States should consider the risk of conventional arms being used to commit gender-based violence, a clause for which Iceland had advocated.

ABDOU SALAM DIALLO ( Senegal) said women’s participation in political life should start with the right to vote and participate in all electoral organs.  Despite the endeavours of many countries, the international community was still far from reaching the objectives that should have been achieved by the year 2000.  General Assembly resolution 66/130 expressed concern that women in every part of the world remained largely marginalized from the political sphere, he said.  To counter that tendency, Senegal had adopted, in 2010, a law establishing full equality of women and men in all electoral instances, he said.

Mr. SHAH (Malaysia), speaking in his national capacity and aligning himself with the Group of 77, said his country had acknowledged women’s key role in driving forward the national social, political and economic development agendas.  In the past decade, the Government had undertaken a number of innovative steps to ensure that women’s rights were further protected and promoted.  For instance, Malaysia had reinforced the means to attract, increase and retain female employees in the workforce.  Rural women, on the other hand, were provided with training in agricultural farming and best practices in order to enhance their agricultural skills and knowledge.  He underlined the Government’s commitment to preventing and eliminating any form of discrimination against women so as to develop their potential in all sectors, and to ensure that their rights were continuously promoted and protected.

YUSRA KHAN (Indonesia), aligning himself with the Group of 77  and ASEAN, said his Government subscribed to gender-sensitive policies and programmes in every aspect of fulfilling human rights and implementation of human development.  Through its Gender Responsive Planning and Budgeting mechanism, Indonesia was focused on closing gender disparities and stimulating progress across various sectors of development.  Among other measures, the Government had created a safe and enabling environment for women and girls through the “zero-tolerance” policy of 2000 and the strengthening of women’s role as economic drivers by providing them with wider access to financial sources, such as Government-subsidized microfinance, revolving fund management institutions, community saving and loan groups or cooperatives.  The Government also promoted women’s full participation in decision making processes, he said.  This year, alongside the Philippines, Indonesia would co-facilitate the biannual resolution on “the protection of women migrant workers”.

INGRID SABJA ( Bolivia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said her country’s “Magna Carta” enshrined the principle of gender equality, which attempted to dismantle old discriminatory stereotypes and gave room to women’s participation in political life.  Today, Bolivia could boast 50 per cent representation for women among Cabinet Ministers.  Similarly, the State Constitution enabled women to become owners of land and natural resources.  In cases of civil union or marriage, titles were issued in the names of both partners, with the woman’s name coming first, she said.  Last March, the Government had adopted a law “guaranteeing women a life without violence”, which was based on the principles of multilateral instruments and conventions.  On health, she said pregnant women were assured special care before, during and after the pregnancy.  “As long as gender disparities exist, humanity cannot overcome underdevelopment and social exclusion,” she emphasized.

Ms. AL-AMIRI ( United Arab Emirates) said her country was proud of the measures it had taken to implement the outcomes of the 1995 Beijing Conference and the twenty‑third special session of the General Assembly.  The Government adopted a set of poverty-eradication measures by supporting low-income families, including those headed by women.  It had provided all citizens, including girls, with free schooling.  The country was leading the way in education for girls, having increased the number of girls with master’s degrees and doctorates.  The Government also had made progress in reproductive health, reducing maternal and child mortality, she said, adding that the average life for women had expanded 68 per cent more than that of men.  Women accounted for 42 per cent of the nation’s workforce, 66 per cent of Government sector jobs and 38 per cent of decision‑making positions.  Businesswomen led a large number of companies, and women occupied 18 seats in the National Assembly.  More women were becoming diplomats and judges as well as entering the civil aviation and defence sectors, she said.  The Government had adopted a set of laws based on the Convention, and was revising the relevant national strategy for 2013-2017.

Ms. AL-DERHAM (Qatar), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, said her country attached importance to the empowerment of women and gender equality in all fields, and encouraged their access to high positions.  For that reason, Qatar had acceded to several regional and international conventions.  Nationally, the Government guaranteed the right to equal education and equal opportunities in the labour market.  Besides, Qatar National Vision 2030 emphasized the political and economic participation of women, as well as decent work and social protection.  On the Millennium Development Goals, she said great strides had been taken in eliminating poverty and reducing child and maternal mortality.  Qatar also reaffirmed the importance of international humanitarian law, particularly for women in conflict and under occupation, as in the case of women in Syria and in the occupied Syrian Golan, respectively.

Ms. VELICHKO ( Belarus) said her country had met the Millennium Development Goal on gender equality before the 2015 deadline, and the Government was working to create conditions for gender parity in management and decision-making positions.  It was also supporting women in vocational training and in creating their own businesses.  A labour law allowed members of a family with a child of up to three years of age to take child-care leave while keeping their jobs, she said.  The Government had established schools to teach fathers paternal responsibilities.  The Government had drafted legislation on domestic violence, created a national model for interdepartmental coordination and established a network of non governmental organizations.  “Sustainable development is impossible without women’s participation,” she said.

Two youth delegates of Thailand, said women and girls in many parts of the world, especially those in remote areas and those with disabilities, still faced challenges in many aspects of their lives.  Social stigmatization remained a crucial fact, holding women back from full empowerment.  In that regard, education remained the key to advancing true empowerment of women.  Many national initiatives to provide free and continuing access to education for girls had been put in place, but women must also be empowered at the individual and community levels, they emphasized.  “Change must be shaped from within,” they said, urging women and girls towards greater independence of thought and action.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI ( Iran) urged the new Executive Director of UN-Women to define the Entity’s principles and objectives on a family based approach and respect for divine and moral values, with special attention to the national, cultural and religious particularities of each nation as the “unique legacy of humanity”.  With 2015 approaching, Iran welcomed calls for gender equality and women’s empowerment that included a family-based approach as a stand-alone target, and expressed hope for its integration into any new development framework through targets and indicators.  Recalling his country’s recent election, he noted the contribution of Iranian women and girls in drawing the country’s political map.

DANIJEL MEDAN ( Croatia) said his country had joined the United States-led Equal Futures Partnership international initiative, and had been implementing its own National Action Plan for Equal Futures to promote women’s political participation, strengthen the social and economic position of rural women, and advance female businesses and women in the labour market.  Amendments to relevant laws were not the only way to make substantial changes to policies and institutional frameworks, he said, emphasizing the need to raise public awareness of the human rights of women and girls, and of the unacceptability of justifying gender-based violence on grounds of tradition, culture or so-called honour.

DIYAR KHAN (Pakistan), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that, as a member of UN-Women’s Executive Board, his country was proud to have helped formulate its Strategic Plan.  Women’s empowerment was firmly grounded in Pakistan’s Constitution, which guaranteed their full participation in all spheres of national life.  Successive Governments had taken steps, including the promotion of their political, economic, social and cultural rights, he said.  Exactly one year ago, the cowardly shooting by terrorists of the young Pakistani girl Malala Yusafzai had become a rallying point for the entire nation to stand up for girls’ right to education, he said, adding that Malala had become a worldwide icon of girls’ courage.

Right of Reply

The representative of Japan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the statement of his counterpart from the Republic of Korea, saying in connection to the issue of “comfort women” that the Government of Japan had created great suffering during the Second World War.  After the war, it had extended its apologies and provided reparations in good faith.  In addition, it had established the Asian Women’s Fund — funded by private donations — to provide support for those women.  Japan’s Prime Minister had written to each one of them, expressing apologies and remorse.  The Government had also provided atonement money.  The damage had been acknowledged and the matter settled legally by the Treaty of San Francisco and other bilateral agreements, he said, expressing regret that such sincere efforts had not been positively received by the Republic of Korea.

The representative of the Republic of Korea disagreed with the argument that the issue been legally settled, stressing specifically that the actions in question constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Therefore, the legal responsibility of the Japanese Government remained, he said, calling attention in that regard to the 1996 report of the then-Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and the 1998 report of Special Rapporteur McDougall on contemporary forms of slavery.

The representative of Japan said his Government’s position remained as previously stated, and he would not go into the details of responding to each statement by his counterpart from the Republic of Korea.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said that, in fact, the issue of “comfort women” had never been legally addressed, despite recommendations made to Japan by international treaty bodies.  The perpetrators had never been prosecuted and the reparations had been funded by private donations rather than the Government of Japan, he noted.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.