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    For information only - not an official document.
    Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1685/Rev.1*
    Release Date:  7 September 2000
     Women Heads of State, Government Convene at United Nations 
    On Eve of World Summit

     NEW YORK, 7 September (DPI Public Affairs Division) -- On 5 September, women heads of State and government met at the United Nations for the first time.  They met in a closed session just prior to the United Nations Millennium Summit.  The meeting, which was also attended by women heads of United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, provided a forum for the women leaders attending the Millennium Summit to focus on issues arising from the global theme, "The Role of the United Nations in the Twenty-first Century". 

    At the present time, there are nine countries with a woman head of State or government:  Bangladesh, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Panama, Saint Lucia, San Marino and Sri Lanka.  Current and former women leaders in attendance at the 5 September meeting included Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand; President Tarja Halonen of Finland; President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia; and former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell. 

    Among the women heads of United Nations organizations who participated were Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and former President of Ireland, who chaired the meeting; Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Catherine Bertini, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP); Nafis Sadik, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; and Gillian Martin Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations.  Nane Annan, the wife of the United Nations Secretary-General, and Laura Liswood, Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, also participated.  United States Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright joined the group briefly.

     The women leaders made a number of recommendations in  areas that they considered critical to the advancement of women:  peace, security and disarmament; development and poverty eradication; protecting the environment; good governance; democracy and human rights; protecting vulnerable groups; and strengthening the United Nations.  Among the recommendations are those that call on the United Nations and Governments to: 

    -- Ensure the participation of women in peacekeeping operations, peace negotiating tables, and reconstruction and humanitarian assistance efforts; and  acknowledge and promote the participation of women in the identification of solutions to prevent conflicts.

    -- Focus on developing enabling conditions for women to combat poverty, among others by:  guaranteeing women's equal access to education; making girls' education a priority; encouraging national programmes for women's access to credit and information; and providing affordable healthcare to women and men.

    -- Reaffirm commitment to gender-sensitive development, and support women's role in sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns.

    -- Support the advancement of women in government, and employ specific methods and target time to ensure more equal representation of women and men at each level of government.

    -- Ensure the prevention and punishment of discrimination and violence against women, including in conflict situations; encourage international cooperation in combating all forms of violence and abuse, including trafficking in women; put into force the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which recognizes rape as a war crime; and recognize and take measures to prevent racist acts against women. 

    -- Adopt policies to protect and promote the full spectrum of the human rights of indigenous women.

    -- Improve women's representation at all levels within the United Nations system, especially at senior levels; fulfil the 50/50 quota of men and women among its staff; and appoint female permanent representatives to United Nations missions and in delegations.  [The full text of the recommendations is annexted to this press release.]

    The women leaders who gathered on the occasion of the Millennium Summit expressed their solidarity with the Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and called for her unconditional release and the recognition of her human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom of participation in the political life of her country. 

    They also expressed their appreciation to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his leadership in increasing the number of women senior officials, including the number of women heads of projects and agencies.

     The event was organized by the Council of Women World Leaders located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  The Council includes in its mission bringing together women at the highest levels of policy-making.  Its members are the world's current and former women heads of State and government. 

     For further information, contact Elisabeth Ružicka-Dempsey, Development and Human Rights Section, Department of Public Information, telephone: (212) 963-1742, fax: (212) 963-1186, e-mail: ruzicka-dempsey@un.org, or Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders, telephone (617) 495-8060, e-mail: Laura_Liswood@harvard.edu. 

    Recommendations

     The United Nations should ensure the participation of women in peacekeeping operations, peace negotiating tables, and reconstruction and humanitarian assistance efforts.  Moreover, it should integrate gender-sensitive perspectives in personnel training, in order to ensure the safeguard of women’s rights in conflict situations.  It should develop an impact assessment system before, during and after sanctions and prevent and monitor the negative impact of economic sanctions on the humanitarian situation and the human rights of women and children.  The United Nations should acknowledge and promote the participation of women and children in the identification of solutions to prevent conflicts, to build peace and promote the reconstruction and democratization of their societies.  The United Nations, governments and non-State parties in conflict should adopt all necessary measures to protect humanitarian personnel and to respect the humanitarian mandate of United Nations agencies and other humanitarian actors.

     The United Nations should envisage women not only as recipients of protection and assistance, but also as agents of change and actors in identification of solutions for the problems affecting them.  The United Nations should focus on developing enabling conditions for women to combat poverty. 

     First, it should guarantee women’s equal access to education by eliminating the root causes that lead to the girl child’s low enrollment and high dropout rate.  The United Nations should make girls’ education a priority of its work, both as a fundamental human right and an enabling right, which provides skills, talent and direction and which empowers women and girls to fully develop and participate in the political, economic and social progress of their societies.  Informed by international standards and commitments undertaken at the United Nations major conferences, governments should set national benchmarks to encourage and periodically monitor progress achieved in the realization of the right to education of girls and women, including in relation to their school enrollment, attendance and dropout. 

     Second, it should encourage national programmes for women’s access to credit and information.  Finally, governments are called to ensure the realization of the right to health, including the provision of affordable healthcare to women and men as a matter of top priority.  Also, governments should prevent maternal mortality, ensure sexual and reproductive health rights of women, including provision of family planning services, alleviate women in poverty, and combat the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS. 

     The United Nations should reaffirm commitment to gender-sensitive development as stated in the Beijing Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action.  It should support women’s role in sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns and approaches to natural resource management. 

     To achieve the realization of women’s rights, governments should give a prioritized attention to ensuring full consistency between international standards and national legislation, and adopt all other necessary measures to promote their effective enforcement, as well as to monitor and report on their implementation.  The current bodies of government at all levels should employ a specific method  and a specific target time in order to ensure more equal representation of women and men at each level.  Governments should create practical facilities that support the advancement of women in government. 

    The United Nations should support efforts designed to ensure the prevention, meticulous investigation and punishment of instances of discrimination and violence against women, including in situations of conflict.  It should also encourage international cooperation in combating all forms of violence and abuse, such as trafficking of women.  It should put into force the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which recognized rape as a war crime, and should support the drafting of the supplementary protocol on trafficking of human beings, particularly women and children, in the context of a new convention on transnational organized crime.  Governments should ensure the implementation of relevant international standards and national laws that prohibit violence against women by providing the adequate resources and training to the law enforcement agencies.  They should actively seek the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action through eliminating cultural and institutional barriers. 

     The United Nations and governments should recognize and take measures to prevent, investigate and prosecute racist acts against women.  The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance to be held in South Africa in 2001 should devote special attention to the issue of gender and racism.  Governments are called upon to recognize the particular problems of indigenous women and their special role in societies, and to adopt policies that promote and protect the full spectrum of the human rights of indigenous women.

     The existence of special commissions for women is not enough in advancing women and strengthening the United Nations.  The United Nations should improve female representation at all levels within its system, especially at senior levels.  The United Nations should fulfil the 50/50 quota of men and women among its staff by the year 2000 or as soon as possible thereafter.  The governments should support this effort by appointing female permanent representatives to its United Nations missions and female heads of delegations dealing with major economic, social, security, human rights and humanitarian issues.  The United Nations should strengthen the number, level and participation of women in peacekeeping, peace-making and peace-building operations, including the appointment of women Special Representatives of the Secretary-General.  The United Nations is called on to promote adequate monitoring of United Nations managers in terms of the hiring of women as staff of the United Nations. 
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    * Revised to include full text of meeting’s recommendations.

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