Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Commission on the Status of Women
15th & 16th Meetings (AM & PM)
COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN TAKES ACTION ON RESOLUTIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE,
GENDER DIMENSIONS OF HIV/AIDS, ASSISTANCE TO PALESTINIAN WOMEN
As Ongoing Negotiations on Agreed Conclusions Force Suspension
Of Work, Body Looks to Resume Fifty-Fifth Session at Later Date
The Commission on the Status of Women, on the final day of its fifty-fifth session, met this morning to hear the introduction of three draft resolutions on “gender mainstreaming, situations and programmatic matters”. In the afternoon, delegations were expected to take action on those texts, as well as the agreed conclusions on access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.
Introduction of Texts
Next, MARCELO CARLOS CESA (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced the draft text on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2011/L.2), saying that the economic and social crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory had significantly affected the situation of Palestinian women and the need to provide them with assistance was critical.
He said the majority of the paragraphs were identical to last year’s text on the same matter, with some additions to reflect changes in the situation on the ground in the intervening time. The text reaffirmed the Israeli occupation as the main obstacle to Palestinian women’s advancement, self-reliance and integration, and stressed the importance of their role in decision-making with regard to conflict prevention and resolution, and to ensure their equal participation and involvement in all efforts for the achievement, maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
The draft, he said, called on the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and requested the Commission to continue to monitor and take action on the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, in particular paragraph 260 concerning Palestinian women and children; the Beijing Platform for Action; and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.
Action on Drafts
The Commission first turned its attention to a resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2011/L.2)
Making a general statement before the vote, Argentina’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the text was important because it addressed the hardships faced by Palestinian women as a result of Israeli occupation. He hoped the resolution would be approved by consensus, which would send a message to Palestinians on the importance the Commission placed on the needs of Palestinian women.
Hungary’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, attached utmost importance to the situation of Palestinian women, expressing concern on impacts of the conflict on women and their families in the region. While the text addressed a range of issues, her delegation believed that country-specific issues should be dealt with within the framework of the General Assembly. Her delegation had expressed that point repeatedly over the years. She also stressed that any text dealing with the situation should adequately include the findings of the relevant report by the Secretary-General.
The Chair informed the Commission that a roll-call vote on the draft resolution had been requested.
Argentina’s delegate then asked which delegation had called for a roll-call vote.
The Chair responded that Israel’s delegate had requested the vote.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of vote before the vote, expressed her disappointment with the text and said her delegation would vote against it. The United States, along with its international partners, continued to support the Palestinian people, including Palestinian women. Her Government had a deep interest in addressing the humanitarian conditions of Palestinians, as reflected in its support for ongoing gender programmes, and in creating environments that enabled women to lead.
Moreover, she said, the United States was the largest bilateral donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provided education, health and social and relief services to more than 4.7 million refugees in the region. Her Government had contributed $247 million to the Agency in 2010, and $30 million in 2011 thus far. The United States also contributed to bilateral assistance and other United Nations programmes.
She went on to say the United States was deeply engaged on the situation in Gaza and would continue to work with the Palestinian authorities, Israel and other partners to improve peoples’ lives. Noting with deep concern that Hamas had taken efforts to narrow women’s freedom of public appearance, among other liberties, she was troubled at the Commission’s insistence at adding in the text one-sided condemnations that detracted from the real challenges. Instead, energy should be redirected towards the future. The United States would continue to pursue a comprehensive peace, and was committed to working with the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East peace process and regional States to return the parties to direct talks that would lead to an agreement producing a just and lasting peace.
Israel’s representative said the text was nothing but a “politically motivated, factually flawed exercise”, and it stood out as the only resolution before the Commission that focused on one specific situation. Such resolutions had no place in an important forum like the Commission. Yet, as in past sessions, a group of Member States had again chosen to politicize a professional body by exerting pressure on the Commission’s membership to approve the one-sided resolution.
“This resolution clearly has no place in this hall,” she said, asserting it would not advance the situation of Palestinian women nor promote informed and responsible debate. If its authors were genuinely interested in improving the situation of Palestinian women, they would not have omitted crucial factors significantly contributing to their plight, in particular a multitude of alarming internal social conditions.
Living in a patriarchal society, Palestinian women were all too often the victims of restrictive gender stereotypes, domestic violence, severe oppression and honour killings, she said. As the Secretary-General’s report cited, Palestinian laws relieved rapists who married their victims of any criminal responsibility. Those findings were supported by numerous studies conducted by Palestinian non-governmental organizations, such as the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling. That group had conducted focus groups of Palestinian women for a 2009 study, which found that Palestinian women believed that “silence is the only way to protect themselves in such a patriarchal culture. This belief is also compounded by the opinion that society and social institutions cannot protect [them] or prevent the injustice, and even, to the contrary, may increase it.”
Israel saw an even more oppressive environment for Palestinian women in Gaza, where the Hamas terrorist organization continued to rule, she said. Hamas’ “morality police” had taken on an expanded role there, while Hamas itself continued to attack Palestinian non-governmental organizations that promoted civil society and worked to ensure the protection and empowerment of women. Yet, the resolution read as if those realities did not exist. While the challenges facing Palestinian women were significant, the resolution was inadequate and misleading. She called on all Commission members committed to upholding the integrity and professional nature of the forum to join Israel in voting against the text.
The Commission then approved that resolution by a roll-call vote of 26 in favour to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 8 abstentions (Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Niger, Republic of Korea, Sweden).
Speaking after the vote, the representative of Japan expressed hope that the situation of Palestinian women would be significantly improved by the assistance of the international community. Her delegation would have preferred to see a text that was more balanced and had abstained because it was not. Japan would continue to contribute to efforts to improve the situation of Palestinian women.
Spain’s delegate said her country would have abstained had it been able to do so.
Speaking after the vote, a representative of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine expressed her gratitude to the Commission for approving the text. She said United Nations resolutions remained necessary in light of the ongoing need for the international community to provide essential services and the grave violations being committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The text was especially important, as women bore the brunt of Israel’s policies and practices. Adherence to international law, as affirmed in the text, could only promote peace efforts, not undermine them. Respect for international law would bring about a change in the negotiating environment towards achieving a just and lasting settlement to all core issues.
Explaining that she would not respond at length to the Israeli delegate’s comments, which were replete with “distortions”, she said nothing affected Palestinians “more destructively” than Israel’s occupation, its illegal policies and its dehumanizing treatment of the Palestinian people. Israel’s delegate should focus on the actions of her own Government, which had obstructed the resumption of peace negotiations. Surely, illegal policies — not the approval of the current resolution — were the real problems facing the region. In sum, she looked forward to the time when her delegation did not have to put forward resolutions. Until that time, it would continue to look to the United Nations as the protector of those most in need.
Rwanda’s delegate regretted he had not been able to participate in the vote. Had he been present, he would have voted in favour of the resolution.
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For information media • not an official record