International Women's Day
8 March 1995 

Press Release SG/SM/5575

Until Rights and Full Potential of Women are Achieved, Enduring Solutions Unlikely to World's Most Serious Problems

Following is the text of Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's message on International Women's Day 1995, 8 March:

On International Women's Day we aim to celebrate past achievements, to highlight continuing problems and to stimulate thought about the future. This year these are also the objectives of another effort, focussed on the entire United Nations system, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the world Organization.

But there is a far closer link between International Women's Day 1995 and the debate about the work of the United Nations second half-century than similarity of purpose. There is increasing recognition that the problems faced by women worldwide lie at the heart of the global agenda. Until the rights and full potential of women are achieved, enduring solutions to many of the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to come about. Efforts to improve the lives of t women of the world offer in many cases the most immediately efficacious means of changing entire societies for the better.

At the United Nations, the promotion and protection f women's rights are central objectives. Since 1946, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women have actively promoted women's rights. One hundred thirty-nine countries - more than three quarters of the Organization's current membership - have now subscribed to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women. Now is the time for Member States to consider putting that document in legally binding form.

Some of the most significant recent achievements for women have been made by women working through the United Nations. Using the United Nations as a forum, women from around the world have joined together to raise awareness of women's rights.

In the cycle of World Conferences on Women, starting in Mexico City in 1975, and culminating in the Fourth World Conference in Beijing in 1995, women are working, through the United Nations, to set internationally agreed strategies, standards and goals. They are using the United Nations, with its many agencies, programmes and funds, as a mechanism for putting words into action.

As chief administrative officer of the Organization, I am working to promote gender equality among United Nations staff. There are signs of improvement. From 1990 to 1994, the number of women in senior-level posts subject to geographical distribution has increased by 96.2 per cent. The most recent tabulations reveal that an almost equal number of men and women are being promoted by the Appointment and Promotion bodies.

To further this progress, I have devised a Strategic Plan of Action for the Improvement of the Status of Women for the years 1995 to 2000, which the General Assembly has endorsed. I have set three targets: and overall level of 35 per cent women by the end 1995; at the senior level, 25 percent women before 1997; and an overall level of 50 per cent women - complete gender equality - by the year 2000. My strategy entails more than numerical targets; it is part of a comprehensive approach to human resources, calling for major changes in the management culture, the system of appraisal and accountability, and the recruitment and promotion process. I look forward to working with Member States in all of these areas.

As we celebrate International Women's Day, let us bear in mind that women's issues are of concern not only to their own communities, but to all women everywhere. The United Nations is the forum of choice for the discussion of problems and their solutions. Discussing global issues, while retaining respect for historical and social specificity, is emerging as a hallmark of the continuum of United Nations global conferences.

With this in mind, we look forward to the Fourth World Conference on Women to be held in Beijing in September. Twenty years after the First World Conference on Women set out the three themes of equality, peace and development, the Beijing Conference offers an opportunity to assess the landmark conference and summits held in the first half of this decade - on children's rights, the environment, human rights, natural disasters, population and social development - Beijing offers us an opportunity to achieve a concrete programme of action for progress into the next century.

In the global effort for peace and enduring progress, the promotion and protection of women's rights are central. Success in these tasks means progress for everyone: young and old; men, women, children. There is no better way to open the second half-century of the United Nations than by ensuring equality, peace and development for women by the opening of the twenty-first century.

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