Top Officials Hail Milestones from Beijing to Paris on Path to Gender Equality as Third Committee Opens Debate on Women’s Rights, Empowerment

GA/SHC/4133
12 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)

Top Officials Hail Milestones from Beijing to Paris on Path to Gender Equality as Third Committee Opens Debate on Women’s Rights, Empowerment

The new Sustainable Development Goals could not be achieved without full and equal rights for all women, top United Nations officials told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it began its discussion on the advancement of women with an interactive debate.

“We are all responsible for ensuring measurable progress for women and girls by 2020, and for full gender equality by 2030,” said Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women).  As the international community adopted ambitious Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, the pledge was to ensure the dedicated commitment of Member States as well as the transformative financing required to realize gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Praising the historic milestones along the path to convening international commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment, from the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, she said the final landmark would be the United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in Paris in December.  The agreement needed to “empower women to lead and participate effectively” to tackle climate threats, she said.

Elaborating on that sentiment, Yoko Hayashi, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), said the 2030 Agenda was an opportunity to make gender equality and women’s empowerment a reality and a “stand-alone goal”.  Drawing attention to the gender-based violence, she stressed that it was often a “push factor” for women to leave their home countries and seek protection elsewhere.  States, accordingly, had an obligation not to return women to countries where they risked such harmful practices.

In the exercise of her mandate, Dubravka Simonovic, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said she would continue partnerships and synergies with Member States based on a comprehensive and universal approach.  While doing so, three areas required a focused and timely attention — the holistic and effective implementation of international standards, finalizing work in progress and immediately addressing current challenges, such as extremism.  Also, describing 2015 as a vision-making year for women’s rights at the global level, she said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had a global “gendered” framework for development, targeting the achievement of gender equality.

In the ensuing general debate, many delegates raised concerns about the early and forced marriage, trafficking in women and girls, violation of women’s rights, violence against women and girls, the “wide spread” of HIV and AIDS, unemployment and lack of access to health services.  South Africa’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, called for an enhanced international cooperation and global partnership to eliminate gender disparities.

Echoing similar concerns, Guyana’s delegate, speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), underlined the persistence of different forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world.  The latest regional statistics had indicated a troubling level of sexual abuse and human trafficking of girls, while women continued to be the victims of domestic abuse.

Some speakers raised the issue of female genital mutilation, with Sierra Leone’s representative, speaking for the African Group, saying that practice was caused by the persistent discrimination against women, as well as the historically unequal power relations between women and men.

Calling for a coordinated and holistic approach to end all inequalities, some speakers outlined their proactive efforts.  Namibia’s delegate described, on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the region’s multidimensional women’s economic empowerment programme, focusing on sustainable emancipation of women from economic marginalization and poverty.  The end goal was to empower rural women, to realize their rights and to achieve sustainable development.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Ecuador (for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Cambodia (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Namibia (for the Southern African Development Community), Brazil, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, Morocco, Colombia, Yemen, Chile, Iraq, Ireland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Armenia, Cameroon, United States, Israel, Cuba, Slovenia, Poland, Egypt, Philippines, Finland, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Singapore, Paraguay, Syria, Thailand, Algeria, Russian Federation, Canada, Republic of Korea, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, and Senegal, as well as the European Union and the State of Palestine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 13 October, to continue its discussion of women’s advancement.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin consideration of its agenda item on the advancement of women.  Before it were reports by the Secretary-General on the Status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/70/124); improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/70/204); violence against women migrant workers (document A/70/205); and on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/70/180).

Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on violence against women, its causes and consequences (document A/70/209); a letter dated 2 October 2015 from the Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/C.3/70/3) and a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its fifty-eighth, fifty-ninth and sixtieth sessions (document A/70/38).

Interactive Dialogue

LAKSHMI PURI, Assistant Secretary-General and the Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said meeting the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals required not only the dedicated commitment of Member States, but also transformative financing to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment was realized.  Those gains had critically benefitted from the ground-swell of commitment generated through the Beijing+20 process.  Member States, civil society, United Nations system, private sector and academia had come together to assess progress, gaps and challenges at national, regional and global levels.  At the Global Leaders’ Meeting in September, momentum had been built for new, transformative and decisive action for Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.  The gathering marked a historic milestone as the Heads of State and Government convened around commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The final milestone, she said, would be the Climate Change Conference in December 2015.  As climate change affected men and women differently, the agreement needed to empower women to lead and participate effectively.

Turning to the report on violence against women migrant workers, she noted the world was currently struggling to respond to the vast numbers of refugees and migrants seeking a better and safer future.  Women, in that regard, continued to be victims of violence and subjugation by extremist groups, persecution, discrimination, smuggling and trafficking at all stages of the migration cycle.  It was more urgent than ever before for States to have effective legal, policy and regulatory frameworks that protected women migrant workers and ensured their access to justice.  UN-Women was disappointed to find that the percentage of resolutions with a gender perspective that had been adopted by the General Assembly at its sixty-ninth session had declined in comparison with previous years, she said, calling on the Committee to reverse that trend and to match the centring of gender equality and women’s empowerment in agendas on sustainable development, peace and security, financing for development, human rights and humanitarian issues.  Furthermore, the major gains for gender equality and women’s empowerment over the years, especially in the 2030 Agenda, must be translated into action, at all levels, and by all stakeholders.  “We are all responsible for ensuring measurable progress for women and girls by 2020, and for full gender equality by 2030,” she stressed.

YOKO HAYASHI, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, noting that 189 States had become parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), called the 2030 Agenda an opportunity to make women’s equality a reality.  It was “heartening” that the 2030 Agenda made gender equality and empowerment of women and girls a stand-alone goal, as the Sustainable Development Goals “cannot be achieved without full and equal rights for all women”.  The Committee had in the past year been drafting a number of recommendations on women’s economic empowerment, including one on the rights of rural women, who made up one-fourth of the global population, yet, in many parts of the world, faced enormous barriers to land access and control.  With regard to the impact on women of natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, the Committee called upon States to reach a “strong universal” agreement at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in Paris in December.

Turning to gender-based violence, Ms. Hayashi recalled a joint document issued in November 2014 by the Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child that underscored the obligation of States parties to both conventions to stop harmful practices inflicted on women and girls.  Gender-based violence, coupled with armed conflict and extremism, was often a “push factor” for women to leave their home countries and seek protection elsewhere.  States had an obligation not to return women to countries where they risked gender-based violence and other serious forms of discrimination.  With regard to access to justice, the Committee had set out guidance to States on ways to eliminate discriminatory practices and stereotyping within judicial systems, and addressed the ways in which plural justice systems could limit women’s access to justice.

Starting off the interactive discussions, representatives of Brazil, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, United Kingdom, Norway, Japan, Morocco, Colombia, Yemen and Chile as well as the European Union asked about the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women; the role of the Third Committee in achieving gender equality; new means of strengthening technical and financial cooperation among Member States; challenges to the ratification of the Convention; the involvement of civil society; legal reforms and law enforcement; quality education; and the inclusion of women, peace and security in the 2030 Agenda.

Responding, Ms. HAYASHI, noting the Committee’s past collaboration with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said it was trying to further enhance collaboration with parliamentarians so as to gain a better understanding of their efforts at the local level.  The joint general recommendation of the Committee and the Committee on the Rights of the Child was the first of its kind, she said, adding that such cooperation between treaty bodies should be enhanced, and the gender perspective should be taken into account in all treaty body systems.

On the 2030 Agenda, the Committee would continue to make recommendations and encourage a human rights approach to development.  With regard to women in conflict situations, States parties had been asked to come up with national actions plans that would not only provide remedies for women as a vulnerable group, but also see them as agents for change so that they could participate in building new societies.

Turning to the Committee’s simplified reporting procedure, she said the first State to be subject to that new procedure would be reporting in 2015.  States would not have to provide a full report, but would respond to the Committee’s list of questions.  It would be a challenge for the Committee to draw up questions without a report.  There had been a lack of sufficient funding, but hopefully that problem would be overcome.  Several States continued to have reservations particularly about articles 2 and 16 of the Convention, but there had been “positive changes” and the Committee encouraged those States to withdraw their reservations.  With regard to education, children needed to be healthy and enjoy the support of their families and communities, teachers had to be guaranteed a safe environment in which to teach and materials and curricula had to be gender sensitive in a way that would give children the skills required to become gender‑sensitive adults.

Ms. PURI underscored the commitment to systematically mainstream gender equality and women’s empowerment in all aspects of the 2030 Agenda, saying “this is very big.”  The entire 2030 Agenda was “strongly engendered”, reflecting the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Platform for Action.  Several of its goals had gender-sensitive targets for which indicators had been developed.  Data was a big part of the work of both the Committee and UN-Women that would help States achieve the 2030 Agenda goals.  With regard to the conflict in Yemen, there had been a disruption of UN-Women’s support.  Very important discussions on women, peace and security were taking place at the Security Council with regard to resolution 1325 (2000), and UN-Women very much wanted to be part of its implementation in key countries such as Yemen.

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, provided on overview of her efforts since her appointment by the Human Rights Council in June 2015.  In the exercise of her mandate, she would build on their legacy and would continue partnerships and synergies with Member States in the fight against violence against women and girls, based on a comprehensive and universal approach.  Although progress had been made in identifying the seriousness of violence against women, in clarifying States’ responsibility to protect women and in establishing mechanisms and policies at all levels, such violence was still universal, widespread and structural.  The commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security provided an important opportunity to advance that agenda.  With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the international community for the first time had a global “gendered” framework for development, which encompassed women’s rights as human rights and added a specific goal on the achievement of gender equality.

Three areas required a focused and timely attention in exercising her mandate, she continued.  First was the holistic and effective implementation of international standards.  The main task was to close the implementation gap and accelerate the application of international, regional and national instruments, policies and recommendations to combat and prevent violence against women; to protect victims and to prosecute perpetrators.  Her second priority was finalizing work in progress with regards to the prevention of violence against women and the elimination of its root causes.  Further clarifications were required concerning States’ obligations to take positive measures to address harmful gender stereotypes; States’ obligations to repeal harmful family legislations; the inclusion of men and boys into efforts to prevent violence against women and girls; awareness-raising campaigns and education at all levels to fight violence against women; and training of law enforcement professionals in the fields of health care, social work and rights of victims.  Further work was needed with respect to the consequences of violence against women and services for victims.  Her final priority would concern current challenges requiring immediate attention, such as violent extremism.  In conclusion, she expressed her intention to strengthen her cooperation with other global and regional mechanisms working on violence against women, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other treaty bodies, UN-Women, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the women, peace and security agenda.

During the ensuing interactive segment heard a range of questions raised by representatives of Iraq, Colombia, Ireland, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Brazil, United Kingdom, Armenia, Cameroon, United States, Israel, Chile, Yemen, Cuba, and Switzerland as well as the European Union and the State of Palestine.  Interventions focused on issues the rehabilitation of women and girls subjected to extreme violence and forced marriage; strengthening existing norms at local and regional levels; including the elimination of violence against women and girls in the 2030 Agenda; practical measures to protect Palestinian women from the Israeli violence; involving women in policies and programmes addressing violence; and creating legally binding mechanisms at the national and international level to monitor and report violence against women.

Answering questions on extreme violence against women and children, Ms. SIMONOVIC underlined that urgent international action was needed, including the participation of women.  Unfortunately, there was lack of cooperation and insufficient level of the implementation of policies and programmes.  Highlighting the need to provide training programmes and educate all, she stressed that Member States needed to come up with new solutions to address the violence against women, and to bridge the gap in gender quality.

Continuing, she said it was also important to see concrete results at the national, regional, and international levels while avoiding duplication.  Praising the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), she said they were actively involved in the fight to eradicate all forms of violence against women and children.  She acknowledged the adoption of national action plans and creating awareness-raising campaigns.  However, what mattered most were concrete results rather than simply passing new legislation and laws.  On the situation of women in Yemen, the rapporteur noted that the Security Council resolutions were not enough to eliminate all forms of violence taking place against them.  Concluding, she stressed that the Third Committee could enable to put different approaches, solutions and ideas together and make a difference.

Ms. PURI said UN-Women had been privileged to be working with the Special Rapporteur, who had drawn great attention to the subject of violence against women.  The 2030 Agenda promised to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  Further, it targeted that, between now and 2030, all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls would be eliminated, including through the engagement of men and boys.  To that end, prioritizing the goal of ending violence against women was an integral part of sustainable development.  Her organization was proud to develop three key flagship programmes on ending violence against women, supporting 80 countries in implementing relevant programmes and policies.

Statements

KINGSLEY MAMABOLO (South Africa), on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, welcomed the mainstreaming of women and gender in the 2030 Agenda.  He was concerned that, despite the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals, among others, gender equality had yet to be fully achieved.  Concrete and tangible results should have been achieved by now in such areas as employment, decent work and land reform.  More intensive efforts were needed to address trafficking in women and girls, violation of women’s rights, violence against women and girls, the “wide spread” of HIV and AIDS, unemployment and lack of access to health services.  The suffering of women and girls living under foreign occupation was also a matter of deep concern.

New threats and challenges had emerged, including the global economic and financial crisis, food insecurity, international trade distortions, climate change and the need for stimulus packages that would benefit women.  The continued absence of women in peacekeeping had been “a major impediment” for achieving gender equality.  UN-Women had an important role in promoting better coordination within the United Nations system to address barriers to the advancement and empowerment of women.  It was important as well to enhance international cooperation and partnerships with regard to official development assistance, debt relief, market access and financial and technical support, and capacity-building.  Doing so, he said, would contribute to eliminating gender disparities.

EBUN ADEBOLA STRASSER KING (Sierra Leone), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda was a clear demonstration that the future of humanity rested in the hands of the international community and underscored the importance of its implementation through enhanced global partnership.  Goal 5 emphasized the fundamental transformation in social, economic and political roles and relationships between men and women in ways that ensured an equitable distribution of power, opportunities and outcomes.  The African Group was committed to providing adequate resources to strengthen women’s voices and efforts, ensuring full and equal participation of women in all decision-making processes and building women’s productive capacities as agents of change.  Continuing, she underlined the links between sustainable development, peace and security, good governance, social inclusion and human rights, and expressed the African States’ commitment to ensuring the participation of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding processes.

Violence against women and girls was a universal phenomenon rooted in persistent discrimination against them and historically unequal power relations between women and men.  States should promote advocacy to eliminate and eradicate all forms of violence against them, including harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.  The unpaid domestic and caregiving work remained a female realm, limiting women’s opportunities for education, training, employment and political activity.  Women with irregular migration status were also particularly vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse.  In developing countries, women’s lack of access to land, agricultural technologies and financial capital hindered opportunities to diversify their livelihood.  Empowering women was not just a goal in itself, but a key to meaningful sustainable development and economic growth.  In conclusion, she stressed the importance of international cooperation and capacity-building in the field of access to health, an issue that remained critical for women in Africa.

GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said 2015 had been a significant year for the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as the international community had celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.  CARICOM member States had been pleased to contribute actively to the outcomes of Beijing Declaration, which sought to address the challenges affecting the realization of women’s and girls’ full and enjoyment of all human rights.  The Caribbean region continued to make progress towards the achievement of the international agreed development goals and objectives targeting gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Among the successes were national mechanisms that had operationalized programmes and policies to advance the status of women, increased enrolment at the primary level and legislation that ensured that women and men had equal access to microfinancing and property rights.

Despite progress made over the years, the issue of gender-based violence was a great concern.  In order to tackle the issue, nearly all Caribbean countries had developed legislation and public policies to protect victims, sanction perpetrators and criminalize various acts of violence.  However, statistics from country reports indicated a troubling level of sexual abuse and human trafficking of girls, while women continued to be the victims of domestic abuse.  CARICOM recognized that men and boys must be fully engaged to fight against the violence.  Also, the Community continued to advocate for significantly increased investment to close resource gaps, including the mobilization of financial resources.

LUIS XAVIER OÑA GARCÉS (Ecuador), on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the status of women was a matter of growing concern and that consensus existed on giving priority to gender equality and women’s empowerment as a prerequisite for promoting development.  Reforms were needed to ensure equal rights for women in land ownership and control, inheritance, natural resources, financial service and information technologies.  Women’s participation at the highest levels, including in the private sector, should be given priority.  CELAC was committed to combating all forms of violence against women and children, including violence resulting from drug trafficking.

Reaffirming the importance of equal pay for equal work, she expressed concern about the situation of migrant, rural and indigenous women, the elderly, those with disabilities, and women of African descent.  The human rights of women and girls had to be fully recognized, regardless of their status.  Their contribution to development in both their countries of origin and countries of destination needed to be recognized.  States were called upon to establish “focal points for coordination” between countries of origin, transit and destination to address trafficking in persons, including women, children and adolescents.  A stand-alone goal on gender equality in the 2030 Agenda was welcomed and its achievement was a priority for the Latin American region.

WILFRIED I. EMVULA (Namibia), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said as 2015 marked the anniversaries of the Beijing Declaration and of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), it was important to take stock of the progress made in the implementation of those texts and to identify gaps.  On the 2030 Agenda, inclusive sustainable development would be a wild dream if one half of humanity continued to be denied its full human rights and opportunities.  Sustainable Development Goal 5 was welcomed, he said.  As an economic grouping, the Community had prioritized women’s empowerment in light of the key role they played in societies and economies.  Article 17 of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development highlighted the adoption of policies that ensured equal access and opportunities for women in trade and entrepreneurship, taking into account their contributions in formal and informal sectors.  Although implementation gaps persisted, various initiatives towards the implementation of that Protocol had yielded dividends, including with regards to political participation and representation in the public sector.  The Community was also engaged in efforts to review national trade policies with a view to making them gender sensitive.

Gender-based violence was a major concern for SADC, which was why its member States had enacted strong legislation prohibiting such acts.  Violence against women and girls was fuelled by gender inequality, patriarchal and harmful cultural and traditional norms and attitudes.  SADC also believed that the empowerment of rural women was critical for the realization of their rights and for sustainable development.  The Community therefore had developed a multidimensional women’s economic empowerment programme focusing on sustainable emancipation of women from economic marginalization and poverty.  Finally, access to education and health remained the major priorities for SADC, and major strides had been achieved in those sectors, including gender parity in primary and secondary education, reduced maternal and infant mortality rates and increased prevention of mother to child transmission coverage and antiretroviral provision services.

RY TUY (Cambodia), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underscored its deep commitment to the advancement of women.  The ASEAN Women’s Committee was developing a new work plan that would assess past achievements and highlight future challenges in promoting women’s rights in the region.  A gender-sensitive guideline for handling women victims of trafficking in persons was also being finalized and aimed at improving and enhancing practices relating to the handling of victims by law enforcement agencies, social workers, health officers and others.

The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children, established in 2010, was currently developing action plans for the implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children that had been adopted by ASEAN leaders in 2013, he said.  It was also preparing to launch a network of social service agencies involved in addressing such violence and helping its victims.  The role of the ASEAN Secretariat was critical of making gender mainstreaming standard practice within ASEAN, which was looking forward to exploring all forms of partnership with the United Nations to support the advancement of women through the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

CHARLES WHITELEY, of the European Union Delegation, said that, for too long, women had been primarily seen as victims, but they were far more than that.  According to research, their participation in political, social and economic life enhanced the chances for development and sustainable peace.  The way in which a country treated its women was one of the best indicators of its chances for peace and prosperity.  The 2030 Agenda could not be achieved without gender equality and women would be “strong agents” for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  The European Union and its Member States had set out strong, concrete commitments at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.  It looked forward to the Security Council debate on 13 October 2015 on the implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), and it was studying how to integrate gender into its Common Security and Defence Policy.  The enhancement of the gender dimension in the United Nations peace and security architecture was welcome.

The European Union was in the process of renewing its main policy frameworks concerning women, he said, setting out priorities that would respond to current challenges while continuing to fight persisting inequalities.  Particular attention would be given to enhancing the participation of women in decision making.  With regard to external relations, the Union had adopted an ambitious plan in September focusing on ensuring the physical and psychological well-being of girls and women, promoting their economic, social and cultural rights, strengthening their political and civil rights and shifting the Union’s institutional culture in order to more effectively deliver on its commitments.  Welcoming the key role of UN-Women, the Union would be reviewing its Memorandum of Understanding with that entity with a view to fostering policy dialogue and intensifying cooperation.

DARJA BAVDAZ KURET (Slovenia) said the international community must strive to fulfil the global strategy to end discrimination against women and achieve gender equality.  For its part, Slovenia had taken a number of steps, including pledging support for special measures, such as gender quotas, in corporate boards.  The employment rate of women in Slovenia was extremely high and as was their political representation, she said, underlining the importance of adopting policies promoting equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women, and of further challenging traditional notions of masculinities, as well as norms, laws and practices that supported them.  Slovenia would in that regard continue to support and promote the active participation of men and boys as allies and agents of change in the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights.  Turning to violence against women, she said her country had recently ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, and urged States and other stakeholders to challenge any cultural norms and practices that perpetuated structural inequalities and representing root causes for gender violence, including marital rape and domestic violence.

MARGARETA KASSANGANA-JAKUBOWSKA (Poland) said UN-Women had proven to be the best advocate of gender equality at the international level.  With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the international community faced the new challenge of translating commitments into action.  For its part, Poland had undergone a democratic transition 26 years ago, which had been co-authored and co-designed by Polish women, who had thus become agents of change in society and true participants and contributors to the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country.  Women’s equal status and equal rights had become a reality on the ground as a result of Poland’s implementation of its legislative reforms.  Electoral quotas had been implemented, leading to an increased representation of women in parliament, while the number of women nominated at the high- and medium-level decision-making positions had significantly increased in recent years.  Despite improvements, however, the situation of women in many parts of the world remained appalling, she said, commending the African Group for bringing the issue of female genital mutilation to the work of the Committee.

FATMAAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt), associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, called the adoption of the 2030 Agenda “another milestone” on the road to gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Constitution in Egypt considered gender discrimination to be a crime.  Since the Beijing Declaration, Egypt had reduced maternal mortality rates by 68 per cent and child mortality rates by two-thirds.  The number of girls in education at all levels had been growing, in some cases more than male students.  Twenty per cent of Egypt’s diplomatic corps were women and 68 women were judges.  A draft law on ending all forms of violence against women had been submitted to Parliament for approval.  Trafficking of vulnerable women in humanitarian situations had increased in recent months, she said, underlining that such a delicate and critical situation required coordinated and well-organized efforts.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), associating with CELAC, highlighted the recent criminalization of femicide, the targeted killing of women on the basis of gender, in his country, and the launch of a national programme to establish 26 facilities in Brazil to provide help to female victims of violence.  Women and girls constituted more than 50 per cent of students in Brazil at all levels, but their participation in the economy was lower than that level, though increasing.  Every effort had been made by the Government to enhance women’s access to decent paid employment, including the regulation of domestic work.  Speaking as Chair of the sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, he said the priority theme of its upcoming session would be the link between women’s empowerment and sustainable development.  The valuable work of civil society would be strategic for implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

IRENE SUSAN B. NATIVIDAD (Philippines), aligning with ASEAN, said 2015 was a landmark year, with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the twentieth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the fortieth anniversary of the Philippine Commission on Women.  The Philippines had worked hard to implement commitments under the Beijing Declaration, and now ranked ninth among 142 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index for 2014.  Since 2009, completion rates in primary and secondary education had favoured females over males, 54 per cent of enterprises in the Philippines were women-owned and they were also assuming lead roles in the national peace process.  With regard to the rural sector, various programmes and services had improved women’s access to services and leadership opportunities.  She underlined her Government’s commitment to protect Filipino women living abroad, including through pre-departure orientation seminars, a 24/7 hotline for victims of trafficking and national and regional initiatives for the protection of migrant workers and their families.

ALMA VIVIANA PEREZ (Colombia), aligning with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said that, two decades after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, implementation of its provisions had been unequal.  Many important tasks remained.  The 2030 Agenda was a historic opportunity towards establishing gender equality.  It was important to ensure that women benefited from sustainable development and became real actors in the achievement of their goals, regardless of their background.  With regard to violence against women, Colombia had been making progress, adopting in 2015 a femicide law.  It was necessary to construct new notions of masculinity and include men and boys in the process of changing culture and stereotypes.  Violence against female migrant workers, who faced specific vulnerabilities, was a growing problem and it was the duty of States to ensure the human rights of all migrants, who must be recognized as essential members of society.

NELLY SHILOH (Israel) read, in Arabic and English, a poem by Maram Al-Masri, a Syrian poet living in Paris who had been raising awareness of the desperate situation in Syria.  Women were often the first victims of violence, yet they often suffered in silence and were excluded from decision-making.  That was unacceptable.  Israel was one of the few countries to recognize equality between men and women as a fundamental principle of its identity.  Dozens of Israeli NGOs had been working to enhance cross-cultural exchanges between Jewish and Arab women.  In many parts of the country, Arab and Jewish women lived and worked side by side, and shared the same dreams for their children.  Coexistence, as it was seen through women’s eyes, was key to a better global society, and Israel believed gender equality would help prevent conflict and promote peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

KAI SAUER (Finland) said achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls was both an important stand-alone goal, and a necessity for the realization of the 2030 Agenda as a whole.  Equal rights for men and women to participate in political, economic and public life was a great step towards the eradication of poverty.  Not only did it make economic sense, it was a human right.  The formal participation of women in public life was not enough, and gender equality needed to be implemented through structures that facilitated the combination of work and family life for both men and women.  Many countries, and increasingly European countries, had been faced with the challenge of integrating migrants from many backgrounds to their societies.  In that regard, special attention must be paid to providing migrant women with possibilities for education and employment opportunities.  On violence against women, he stressed the need to be more vocal against one of the most common human rights violations in the world.  He also underlined the importance of men and boys to take part in efforts towards eradicating gender inequalities.

MS. ARAUZ, a youth delegate from Mexico, said the adoption of the 2030 Agenda provided the international community with a new opportunity to combat gender inequalities.  She commended the fact that gender issues had been mainstreamed throughout the Agenda and underlined all people’s responsibility to counter stereotypes and balance the domestic work burden between women and men.  The inclusion of women and girls was a necessity for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and commitments made by States should be translated into real actions.  It was the international community’s responsibility to overcome remaining challenges, particularly with teen pregnancies, which hindered adolescents’ rights to health and education.  That effort involved increasing sexual and reproductive health services and strengthening girls’ education.

LAURIE PHIPPS (United States) said empowering women and girls across the life cycle and promoting gender equality were essential to accelerating sustainable development.  That principle was central to the 2030 Agenda.  The United States anticipated that the stand-alone goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls would have a multiplier effect across development areas.  Despite the growing evidence that women made a difference in creating secure and sustainable communities and countries, they were often absent from the places where decisions were made.  Data had shown that women’s active participation in efforts to resolve conflicts, sustain peace and recover from war increased long-term prospects for peace.  As the fifteenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) approached, the United States still strongly supported the principles of that text.  Her country’s national action plan on women, peace and security had reaffirmed its position that women’s full and active participation was necessary for addressing current and future global security challenges.

FERNANDO ANDRÉS MARANI (Argentina) said the country was committed to promoting a society in which the empowerment of women would not only be an international obligation, but a profound conviction of all men and women.  Argentina welcomed the inclusion of gender equality both as a stand-alone goal and throughout the whole 2030 Agenda, which constituted an important step in recognizing the equality of women as subjects of law and their important role as agents of social change and sustainable development.  The situation of elder women was a concern, as they often were vulnerable to abuses and violence and lacked access to social services.  Argentina’s domestic legal framework had included the adoption of a new Civil and Commercial Code, which contained advancements of human rights in the field of family relations, boys and girls and bioethics.  On that regard, Argentina was recognizing that families could exist in various forms, including same-sex families.  Indeed, the time had come for a woman to be elected as the new United Nations Secretary-General.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said gender equality in all sectors was deeply linked to democracy and the realization of sustainable development.  Women continued to face obstacles to their empowerment and unequal access to education, employment, literacy and the acquisition of scientific knowledge.  Problems persisted also in the field of health, with ever increasing child and maternal mortality rates.  Morocco was determined to ensure women’s empowerment and had adopted a series of constitutional and legislative acts that enshrined the equality between men and women.  Morocco had in addition lifted all its reservations to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and had incorporated those principles into domestic law.  The participation of women in public affairs had also been strengthened, and a foundation had been created to address the needs of women and girls living in rural areas and unemployed women.  Morocco had also taken initiatives to promote respect and gender equality through human rights education and awareness-raising campaigns.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA VELĀSQUEZ (Peru), associating with the Group of 77 and CELAC, said the commitments made in Beijing were still relevant.  For that reason, the 2030 Agenda included a specific gender equality goal.  Having adopted a national gender equality plan in 2012, the Government had been implementing mechanisms to promote the election of women to positions of authority.  Gender equality was essential for sustainable development.  It would not be possible to achieve the 2030 Agenda goals if half the population was excluded, he said.  Urgent action was needed to ensure that Goal 5, gender equality, was attained.

LINDA LEE (Singapore) said gender equality and women’s empowerment had been not only “smart economics” for Singapore, but also a matter of economic survival, given the country’s low birth rate and ageing population.  Measures had been taken to help working mothers better manage their job and family commitments and to encourage better shared parental responsibilities.  As a result of those policies, the employment rate of women had risen to 76 per cent from 57 per cent over the past decade.  Women in Singapore enjoyed strong legal protection, which had recently been strengthened by new legislation on harassment and human trafficking.  Despite Singapore’s achievements, more needed to be done, she said, such as increasing women’s representation at higher corporate levels.  Concluding, she stressed that the 2030 Agenda was a good basis for continuing the improvement of the status of women, and reiterated Singapore’s commitment to the goal of achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls.

FEDERICO A. GONZALEZ (Paraguay) said women had proven to be unparalleled in their courage, sacrifice and contributions to rebuilding the country during its democratic transition.  Paraguay had adopted a Plan of Action that had brought about notable results in efforts being made towards the empowerment of women.  Although progress had been made in the region, notably through the adoption of legislative framework on gender equality, Paraguay called on States to fully implement legislation.  Only with achieving women’s empowerment and gender equality could States achieve sustainable development. 

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria) expressed concerns about women being subjected to forced marriage by terrorist groups in the country and about the situation of Palestinian women.  He referred to women being kidnapped by terrorist groups, women forced to flee the country and women put in the hands of smugglers in the Mediterranean.  He regretted that the Syrian Government had been criticized although it had made considerable efforts to ensure gender equality and women’s representation at the political level.  The suffering of women in Iraq and Syria had triggered their flight to become migrants to other countries.  Those States that had supported terrorism should be held accountable, he concluded.

DAYLENIS MORENO (Cuba) said the international community needed to achieve a just and equitable international order, which would eradicate poverty and hunger, end wars, favour human beings over capital and preserve the environment.  Cuba was the first country to sign and the second to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Cuban women had equal access to the public spheres with men and they represented 48 per cent of the senior management, 78 per cent of the health workers, 48 per cent of the scientific research sector and 48 per cent of the parliament positions.  Much more, however, needed to be done to increase women’s presence in decision-making positions.

MR. TACHAROEN (Thailand) said the country had been working to promote gender equality and women’s development, with recent efforts including the enactment of the 2015 Gender Equality Act, which protected all citizens from gender-based discrimination.  Thailand was also in the process of drafting a curriculum on gender roles to cultivate positive attitudes among children.  The national economic and social development plan would focus on inclusive development and social equality and was expected to provide further opportunities for women to participate more equally in the national economic and social development.  Thailand was committed to contributing to the advancement of women and girls at the national and international level.

SELMA MANSOURI (Algeria) said the country had worked to reform and improve its national legal framework in order to place the protection and promotion of women’s rights at the heart of its strategic plans and national policies.  Several laws, texts and national strategies had been adopted to eliminate discrimination and combat violence against women.  The Family Code and the Code of Nationality were substantially amended to ensure greater equality and balance in family relationships.  In the field of education, for example, the rate of primary school enrolment for girls had reached 97.3 per cent, and women now represented more than 50 per cent of teachers, about 53 per cent of doctors and 32 per cent of senior posts.  Women’s participation in the judicial system had grown significantly and reached nearly 40 per cent of the total number of judges in 2014.  Women had greater political participation with revisions in the Constitution and the issuance of a new law meant to increase their representation in elected assemblies.  In addition, a specific quota had been established in all lists of candidates for parliamentary and local elections.  As a result of the reforms, the number of women elected to parliament had increased to 31.6 per cent in 2012 from 8 per cent in 2009.

MS. VODENIKOVA (Russian Federation) said the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly had remained the road maps for States with regard to the advancement of women.  The Commission on the Status of Women should remain the main coordinating body within the United Nations system on such issues as women’s rights and violence against them.  Her country had been working to improve national legislation vis-à-vis women and, on 27 October, its delegation would be submitting the report on implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The Russian Federation had a positive view of UN-Women and believed its practical work needed to cover all countries.  Its assistance on the ground, however, could only happen with the permission of States concerned.

GREGORY KEITH DEMPSEY (Canada) said the integration of gender equality in development targets would only be meaningful if plans were turned into concrete actions with long-term and sustainable results.  Canada was pleased to see the ending of child, early and forced marriage being set as a target.  It was an issue that had a profound impact on global development and hindered the advancement of six of the Millennium Development Goals.  Following a substantive resolution on the issue in the General Assembly last year, co-sponsored by 116 States, a more coordinated and sustained effort was needed to eliminate that harmful practice.  Women and girls in conflict situations faced horrific attacks, as seen by the systemic campaign of sexual violence undertaken by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) and Boko Haram.  Canada was committed to encouraging women’s leadership and democratic participation, the promotion of their economic security and prosperity and to ending violence against women and girls, including against indigenous women and girls.

HAHN CHOONG-HEE (Republic of Korea) regretted that women continued to account for the vast majority of the world’s poor population and expressed concerns at the alarming number of women falling victim to violence and discrimination.  More concrete actions were needed to combat those obstacles and to achieve States’ renewed commitments to ensuring gender equality.  He then presented some of his Government’s efforts to empower women, such as the recent revision of the Framework Act on Women’s Development, which aimed at promoting equal participation of women and men and preventing gender-related violence, including by tackling its root causes.  He continued with a reference to Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and regretted that the victims of so-called “comfort women” during the Second World War were still being denied “the dignity of real acknowledgement of what they were forced to endure”.

KAIRAT ABDRAKHMANOV (Kazakhstan) said challenges remained for the international community to overcome inequalities facing women, including in education, employment, marriage, parenthood, reproductive health, political participation and gender-based violence.  Measures had to be taken to combat structural causes of gender inequality, under the guidance of the Beijing Platform for Action and other international instruments.  Kazakhstan was committed to its progressive gender- and women-oriented state policies and programmes.  Its Government was focused on combatting human trafficking, ensuring equal participation of women and protecting them from all forms of violence.  The National Plan of Action for Improving the Status of Women and the Strategy of Gender Equality for 2006-2016 would enhance the economic status of women, develop entrepreneurship and strengthen the family unit.  The recently-adopted Development Strategy “Kazakhstan 2050” underscored the importance of promoting maternal health, the economic empowerment of women and extending their social rights and capacities.  Kazakhstan was also committed to providing regional leadership to achieve the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action in Central Asia and beyond.

USMAN SARKI (Nigeria), aligning with Group of 77 and the African Group, said the participation of African women in the formal economy had been underleveraged and undervalued.  Speeding up measures to ensure women’s access to land would send a powerful message.  Given the opportunity, women could add value to every aspect of social interaction.  With regard to women and decision-making, it was vital to  build the capacity of female candidates in elections.  Girls in particular needed to be trained to be confident, educated about leadership and equipped to excel.  Gender-based violence was a great concern to Nigeria, which had enacted a number of laws to address the problem, he concluded.

MR. CISS (Senegal) noted that challenges remained for the advancement of women, including in terms of access to education and to health, particularly sexual and reproductive health.  Rural women’s great potential to take part in development was hampered by obstacles they faced.  Concerned about the vulnerability of women with irregular migrant status, he called on all States to protect migrant women, irrespective of their status, in accordance with international law.  The Government of Senegal was committed to ensuring gender equality and enhancing women’s participation in public life.  Women had indeed been nominated to high-level positions, including ministerial posts.  He reiterated the country’s support of the women, peace and security agenda and called for strengthened international cooperation and financing for development.

For information media. Not an official record.