Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3782
    14 October 2004

    Third Committee Begins Discussion of Women’s Advancement, Concludes Review of Crime Prevention, International Drug Control

    Power, Protection of Law Critical to Efforts of Those Championing Women’s Equality, Committee Told

    (Issued on 13 October 2004)

    NEW YORK, 12 October (UN Headquarters) -- Those who championed equality for women relied to a large extent on the power of the law, and the protection it offered, to overcome discrimination and disadvantage, Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it began its discussion of issues related to the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

    Noting that this year marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said adherence to the Convention had contributed significantly to enhancement of the rule of law and had fostered a climate in which violations of the rights of women would not be tolerated, nationally and internationally.

    The Convention had provided the most authoritative standard on the meaning and requirements of gender equality, said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).  She said UNIFEM’s work on the Convention had focused on building the capacity of Governments and women’s groups to use this powerful instrument to bring about change and to create stronger legal frameworks for gender equality. 

    She said important advances had been made in fulfilling the commitments made to the Beijing Platform for Action, which lay at the heart of UNIFEM’s work.  There had been progress in strengthening women’s economic security and rights, in supporting women’s leadership in governance, peace and security, and in promoting women’s human rights.  These advances, however, had made clear that laws and frameworks could only go so far.  To change the realities of women’s everyday lives, laws and policies must be implemented, and attitudes and practices must change.

    Ayse Feride Acar, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said social and cultural patterns of the conduct of men and women, along with the persistence of prejudices and customary practices and stereotyped roles of women and men, continued to pose challenges to the achievement of gender equality.  While these factors took different forms in different countries, they existed everywhere and it was essential that State parties forcefully addressed these factors in order to eliminate de facto discrimination based on such factors.

    Although there was greater awareness of women’s issues than ever before, serious deficiencies remained, said Carmen Moreno, Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).  She said women’s rights had continued to be called into question and had come under attack.  There was a need for specific gender-sensitive measures to be adopted in order to combat poverty, violence and discrimination against women, and pursuing gender equality was essential for women’s full participation in sustainable development.  The task of achieving gender mainstreaming required the full commitment of all stakeholders, she emphasized, especially in these present times, which were increasingly marked by crisis, conflict and instability.

    In the general discussion following the panellists’ presentations, the Committee heard statements from the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Qatar (on behalf of the “Group of 77 developing countries and China”), Sri Lanka, Malawi (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)) and Guyana.

    Also today, the Committee concluded its discussion of crime prevention and international drug control, with many of the speakers addressing concerns about the grave threats posed by drug trafficking on regional and international security.  In a closing statement, Eduardo Vetere of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the discussion of the past several days had demonstrated the validity of the goals enshrined in international conventions against drug trafficking.  He urged the continued commitment of the international community to a balanced approach and shared responsibility in combating the global threats of crime, drugs and terrorism.

    Speaking today on crime prevention and drug control issues were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Morocco, Peru (on behalf of the Andean Community), Bahamas, Iran, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Republic of Congo, Uzbekistan, Mozambique, Nepal, Armenia, Cape Verde, Ecuador, Kenya and the Russian Federation.

    The representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

    The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Wednesday, 13 October to continue its consideration of issues related to the advancement of women and the implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its general discussion of crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control.  For additional background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3780 of 8 October.

    This afternoon, the Committee was also expected to begin its general discussion of the advancement of women and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly “Women 2000:  gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”.

    Statements on Crime and Drugs

    YERZHAN KH. KAZYKHANOV (Kazakhstan), speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said the threat of international terrorism continued to grow, and one of its main sources was the international drug trade.  Drug addiction affected all sections of the population; the magnitude of the problem’s spread, and its link to such phenomena as money-laundering and trafficking in small arms, remained a grave concern.  Moreover, action at the bilateral and regional levels was insufficient to deal with the problem, but must be supplemented by increased action at the international level, including under the guidance of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  There must be a firm commitment to overcome the world drug problem through a comprehensive and balanced implementation of national, regional and international strategies to reduce the supply of and demand for drugs.

    Utilizing regional cooperation was one of the most effective ways to eradicate the international drug trade, he continued.  Commonwealth members had taken constant action to further coordinate their activities and had worked to strengthen the legal basis for them.  As a result of such joint efforts, a programme of cooperation among CIS member States in fighting the illicit drug trade and the sale of psychotropic precursors had been adopted, with the aim of harmonizing national legislation, facilitating the conduct of coordinated preventative research and other operations and providing for information and scientific cooperation and training of anti-drug professionals.

    The flow of drugs from Afghanistan now extended worldwide, he warned, which made urgent the need to implement socio-economic and law enforcement measures, both inside that country and beyond its borders.  This should be done through strengthening existing anti-narcotic security zones and creating new ones, in conjunction with the UNODC.  The CIS countries hoped that the current session of the General Assembly would work to enhance the United Nations’ anti-drug work and remained prepared to facilitate that process.

    FIDELIS IDOKO (Nigeria) said his country was firmly committed to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances and extant extradition treaties with a number of countries.  This had allowed for the mutual extradition of individuals for criminal charges.  Regrettably, however, the success of Nigeria’s anti-drug efforts had meant additional burden on its immediate neighbours and other countries in the region.  Traffickers who had previously operated through Nigeria’s shores now used these countries as trans-shipment points for their illicit commodities to Europe and North America.  It was imperative, therefore, to entrench and sustain subregional operational mechanisms.

    Nigeria’s drug control efforts were not limited to drug supply reduction but also encompassed demand reduction, he added.  His Government had initiated anti-drug public-awareness campaigns, incorporated drug-abuse education in schools and established rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts.  These had been carried out with the conviction that the global drug problem could only be successfully tackled when the international community complemented the anti-supply strategies with curbs in demand.

    He said money-laundering and financial crimes constituted the most debilitating vices to national and global economies.  Nigeria had strengthened its National Drug Law Enforcement Agency and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which were specifically charged with confronting these crimes.  These institutions had drastically reduced the incidence of business scams.  Nigeria had also recently established a Financial Intelligence Unit in line with recommendations made by its Financial Action Task Force.

    ABDELFATTAH ELKADIRI (Morocco) said his country had worked to align its national legislation with provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and felt that the General Assembly’s adoption, last year, of the Convention against Corruption had constituted an important step forward in fighting this scourge, as well as its harmful repercussion on economic and social development.  His country had signed the Convention against Corruption at the signing conference held last year in Merida, Mexico.  Moreover, aware of the need to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Morocco had also signed a number of international conventions related to that fight and attached great importance to mutual judicial assistance and extradition requests.  The country had concluded cooperation agreements with a number of countries and had organized a regional conference on strategies for modernization of justice systems in Arab countries.

    International agreements on drug control represented reference points for the international fight against drug trafficking, he continued.  As globalization had proceeded at a dizzying speed, all countries must work together to achieve international goals for drug control.  For its part, Morocco remained determined to fight drug trafficking and had established institutional mechanisms to coordinate national anti-drug policy, as well as national institutions to spearhead that effort.  There had also been considerable effort to harmonize national legislation with international commitments.  In terms of cooperation with the United Nations, Morocco had conducted an investigation on the cannabis crop in 2003 in conjunction with UNODC, which had led to a better overall picture of that illicit crop’s production nationally.  Cultivation of cannabis had been encouraged by ever-increasing demands of international drug dealers and had led the country to call for increased international cooperation to fight the drug trade.  A number of alternative development projects were now being carried out in the most affected areas of the north, including for promotion of tourism.

    ROMY TINCOPA (Peru), on behalf of the Andean Community, said the frontal attack against the global drug problem was unswerving.  The Andean Community was making huge efforts to combat the scourge of the drug problem, which had such high political and social costs for its people.  These efforts aimed at attacking simultaneously the cultivation of illicit crops, production, manufacturing, trafficking, and money-laundering.  The global nature of the drug problem required the participation of all international actors in accordance with the principle of shared responsibility and the Andean Community proposed greater international cooperation through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms.

    The Mechanism of Multilateral Evaluation of the International Commission for the Control of Drug Abuse of the Organization of American States (OAS) had facilitated programmes of cooperation and ensured confidence-building between States.  There were national mechanisms for verification, and there was an international network for the creation of a database administered by the United Nations.  In closing, she reaffirmed the commitment of the Andean Community to continue to wage a decisive fight against the scourge of drugs and hoped the international community would assume its responsibility in these efforts.  The Andean Community also wished to reiterate its call to consumer countries to continue implementing policies and measures to control the demand for illicit drugs.

    PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said her country remained fully committed to the fight against narcotic drugs and had consistently played its role in confronting that global menace.  Neither a producer nor a consumer, the Bahamas had become a transit point for drug trafficking due to its geographic position.  Drug traffickers had attempted to use the country as a way station, and the country had felt the fallout of that situation, including through rising rates of addiction and drug-related crime.  There had been increases in the trafficking of small arms and light weapons in the region as well, which threatened the security and way of life of the islands.  The Bahamas, which had engaged in the international fight against narcotic drugs for the past 30 years and remained party to all international conventions against narcotic drugs, reaffirmed that assistance from the United Nations system, particularly for transit States, was vital to enabling such small States to contribute fully to interdiction efforts.  All should work together to reduce both global supply and demand.

    Regionally, her country participated actively in interdiction initiatives, she added.  Collective action at the regional level had enabled the countries of the Caribbean to become full stakeholders in the anti-drug process.  The Bahamas would, therefore, continue its full and active cooperation with other Caribbean countries, and with the hemisphere as a whole.  Moreover, the country had matched its commitment to the fight against drugs at the international and regional levels with forceful action at the national level to stop drug trafficking and treat drug abusers.  A comprehensive legal regime criminalizing narcotic drugs had been implemented, which aimed to facilitate law enforcement action and combat money-laundering.

    Such efforts represented a considerable strain on the limited financial resources of her country, to the detriment of other areas of development, she cautioned.  Yet, successive Governments had recognized the grave threat posed by the international drug trade and had devoted the necessary resources to fighting it.  The Bahamas had also pursued close bilateral cooperation with its neighbours, and had undertaken to ensure that its financial services industry was not manipulated by drug traffickers.  The off-shore banking industry was governed in compliance with international norms and standards.

    PAIMANEH HASTEH (Iran) said the links between drug trafficking, arms smuggling, terrorism and trafficking in people presented new challenges to the international community.  Noting that poverty, unemployment and the lack of security in Afghanistan had led to the rise of drug cultivation and production in that country, she said the international community had a responsibility to assist the Afghan nation to break away from the vicious circle of war and drug cultivation and trafficking.  For its part, Iran had fought a costly war against heavily armed drug traffickers in the last two decades and stood ready to cooperate at the national, regional and international levels to realize this objective.

    She said the influx of opium, which is smuggled across Iran’s vast and porous eastern border, posed a serious threat to her country.  Despite severe enforcement measures, there was still no sign that the flow of illicit drugs had diminished.  In an attempt to strike a balance between prevention, treatment and law enforcement activities, Iran had treated demand reduction as equally critical to supply reduction, and it had created prevention programmes targeted at youth and high-risk groups.  The struggle was not waged by the Government alone, but actively involved civil society and all sectors of the country.

    She said Iran attached great importance to cooperation on drug control issues with relevant international and regional agencies.  Her Government had facilitated law enforcement cooperation on intelligence exchange and operational arrangements with partner organizations.  Substantial steps were needed to design policies of cooperation in a framework for the fulfilment of international responsibility.  In order to be truly effective in reducing drug consumption and eradicating supply, it was critical to act on the basis of solidarity and mutual assistance, with respect for domestic law and the principles of international law.

    ANDREI N. POPKOV (Belarus) said that transnational organized crime had manifested itself in new and more sophisticated ways and noted that shortcomings in the global system to counter organized crime had severely hindered investigation of individuals implicated in transnational organized crime.  That situation should be redressed through increasing the UNODC’s activities to assist countries to implement the provisions of relevant international conventions and through the provision of adequate financing for the Office’s work.

    Belarus had consistently strengthened its capacity to fight organized crime, he stressed, including through ratification of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  It had also recently deposited ratification instruments for the three additional protocols to the Convention with the Secretary-General.  The various types of transnational organized crime covered by the protocols were of great concern to his country, which had seen transnational crime increase lately in terms of high-tech crimes, such as credit card theft and telephone fraud.  Trafficking in human beings had recently begun to worry the Government as well, and a national plan to fight trafficking in human beings and prostitution had been adopted.  It was hoped that building a stronger partnership with the UNODC to fight such trafficking would include improvement of capacities to investigate national and international trafficking networks and increased protection for victims.

    The country’s geographic position and certain limitations of its infrastructure had made it relatively easy for criminal elements to use the national territory as a transit point for trafficking routes, he noted.  Moreover, the country had experience with the detrimental effects of the drug trade, which also used the country as a transit route.  Over the past 15 years, drug-related crime had risen by 7.5 per cent.  Thus, Belarus stressed the need to cooperate internationally in the fight against the illicit drug trade, as well as in the fight against corruption.

    ELSHAD ISKANDAROV (Azerbaijan) said combating crime and drugs required an integrated and balanced approach to supply and demand reduction.  It also required a comprehensive strategy that combined measures aimed at law enforcement, treatment, poverty eradication, alternative development, rehabilitation and education.  For countries faced with the dual challenge of nation-building and the negative impact of globalization, the preservation of border controls was of the utmost importance.  Two years ago, Azerbaijan had created an independent State border service to provide greater opportunities to employ law enforcement and combat trafficking in drugs and human beings.  Azerbaijan had become the first among the post-Soviet countries to introduce an automotive information-search system at border checkpoints, which allowed control of migration along the border perimeters.

    He said Azerbaijan had combined measures undertaken at the national level to fight crime and drugs with broad partnerships at regional and international levels.  However, unresolved conflicts continued to undermine the fight against crime and drug trafficking.  One of the direct results of such conflicts was the emergence of “black holes”, or territories that were out of control of the respective national governments and the international community.  The first people to jump in and exploit such a situation were drug traffickers and other criminals, who used these territories to carry out their criminal activities.

    He said his Government continued to receive alarming signals that about 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territories, which were occupied by Armenian military forces, were being used for drug production and trafficking and as safe havens for criminals.  The continued occupation of a 130-kilometre-long portion of Azerbaijan’s southern border by the military forces of Armenia should also alarm countries on the demand side of the global drug problem since this border was situated along the drug-trafficking route from Asia to Europe.  International commitment to the preservation of territorial integrity of MemberStates and the restoration of internationally recognized borders of Azerbaijan should be among the core activities in combating the global proliferation of crime and drugs.

    Mr. MASSAMBA (Congo) said the question of drug control had always been of concern to his country, which had served as a transit route for several other countries.  In addition to cannabis produced domestically, the seizure of illicit drugs had shown that cocaine and heroin had both entered the country.  Moreover, the absence of maritime monitoring equipment and the insufficiency of airport monitoring had encouraged the trafficking of illicit drugs in the Central African region, while young people, particularly those frightened by seemingly limited future prospects, had turned to drug use, which had, in turn, exacerbated conflict in the region.

    Nationally, his country did not have sufficient resources to combat the scourge of drugs, he said.  Additional support from its development partners was necessary, and the support, which had been provided by the UNODC, had been welcome.  Drug traffickers had found a fertile soil in which to develop their criminal activities, which had made it essential to act to prevent and to end their activities.  The Congo had acceded to the subregional anti-drug strategy established by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), as well as the three main international conventions in the fight against drugs.  Nationally, the country’s efforts had been aimed at controlling the import and sale of psychotropic substances.

    Finally, he noted that the enthusiasm and determination, which had marked the fight against drugs in Central Africa throughout the 1990s had been shaken by the socio-economic and political crises that had affected many of the countries of Central Africa.  There was a need for greater international cooperation to assist such States in the elaboration of national legislation to fight the illicit drug trade.

    ALISHER VOHIDOV (Uzbekistan) said Uzbekistan firmly believed that the illicit flow of narcotics was among the major threats casting a shadow on regional and international security.  Central Asia was located along the transit route of narcotics flowing towards Russia and Europe.  The region was, therefore, exposed to an increasingly vulnerable situation stemming from the alarming rise in the cultivation and production of drugs in Afghanistan.  The worsening problem of opium and heroin smuggling travelling from Afghanistan through Central Asia could not be solved without adequate political and financial resource from the international community.  The problem of drug production in Afghanistan should remain a priority on the international agenda.  The success of international efforts to build a peaceful Afghanistan, and also the overall security and stability in the Central Asian region, depended largely on the solution to this dilemma.

    He said, for its part, Uzbekistan had taken measures to combat the drug problem on both national and regional levels.  Uzbek law enforcement bodies had seized more than 50 tons of narcotic substances travelling through his country and, during the first half of 2004, had revealed more than 4,500 criminal cases related to illicit drug dealings.  He emphasized Uzbekistan’s view that the establishment of a regional information and coordination centre in Central Asia aimed at combating trans-border crimes would be a practical way of strengthening the fight against drug trafficking in the region.

    GERALDO SARANGA (Mozambique) said that transnational organized crime, illegal trafficking and international terrorism had become grave threats to the socio-economic fabric of societies, as they impaired sustainable development.  Such problems must be properly tackled, and the international community must dedicate adequate attention to elaboration and implementation of the necessary legal instruments in the fight against those scourges.  The UNODC should broaden the technical assistance provided to prosecutors, judges and other law enforcement practitioners.  In providing this technical assistance, the UNODC should pay particular attention to the specific needs of each country and should facilitate the sharing of information among countries.  Moreover, both the resources and political will to tackle these issues must be made available, especially to developing countries, in order to facilitate the development of effective and fair criminal justice systems.

    Ongoing public sector reform had been conducted in his country, he said, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of public service to facilitate citizens’ better enjoyment of their political, economic, social and cultural rights.  A draft text of the new Constitution had been submitted to public debate; the text would provide for and expand the scope of existing fundamental and individual rights and freedoms and establish an ombudsman for human rights.  A Constitutional Council had also been inaugurated recently to ensure the full compliance, respect and observance of the Constitution by all government institutions, and the country’s penal code was being amended to speed up criminal proceedings, in conformation with human rights practices.

    Mozambique’s commitment to the fight against transnational organized crime had always been high, he continued.  As a signatory to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its protocols on trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, the country had nearly concluded the process of designating a central authority for mutual justice and legal assistance.  Mozambique had also become a signatory to the Convention against Corruption, and at the regional level, the country continued to play an important role within the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs –- a forum for cooperation on best practices in dealing with criminal matters in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

    MINAKSHI NEPAL (Nepal) said her country was ready to work with other States in revitalizing efforts to combat criminal activities related to drug trafficking, corruption, trafficking in persons, arms smuggling and terrorism.  Corruption was an insidious phenomenon that used up the resources of nations and undermined their stability.  Nepal’s Government had launched a highly visible anti-corruption drive and accorded high priority to good governance initiatives.  The international community should support efforts undertaken at the national level to strengthen institutional capacities for preventing corruption, bribery, money-laundering and the transfer of illicit funds.

    She said trafficking in human beings was a blatant crime against humanity, and Nepal condemned all forms of trafficking.  It called upon the international community to protect the victims of such trafficking by providing them with shelter and helping them to return home.  Nepal was also especially concerned about the threats posed by drugs to public health and safety, and particularly to young people.  Her Government stressed the need for demand reduction and supply control, as well as prevention and treatment.  Stringent law enforcement must be accompanied by measures to provide alternative means of livelihood to poor farmers and to treat, rehabilitate and educate victims of drug addiction.

    Turning to the threat of terrorism, she said Nepal condemned terrorism in all its forms and was committed to fighting terrorism with the utmost resolve.  As a MemberState afflicted by the violence of self-styled Maoists, Nepal called on the United Nations and the international community to redouble its efforts to combat terrorism.  It urged the United Nations to provide sufficient technical cooperation to the under-equipped Member States in implementing Security Council resolutions, including 1373 (2001), and the provisions of international anti-terrorism measures.  Such cooperation was imperative for developing countries to carry out effective monitoring, identification and control of movement of suspected terrorists, and the tracing of the transfer of funds and arms.

    ARMEN MARTIROSYAN (Armenia) said his country had ratified both the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its two Protocols on trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, and recognized that trafficking had become a major problem confronting the CIS and Eastern European countries.  Those nations were often affected both as countries of origin and transit.  Moreover, such trafficking was often committed under the guise of labour migration.  For those reasons, the Government had established a Migrants Service Point, which provided information on legal conditions and labour opportunities in foreign countries in order to ensure safe labour migration and the prevention of trafficking.  The Government had also adopted a National Action Plan for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (2004-2006), which envisaged short- and long-term measures for legislative reform, public awareness-raising, victim protection, return and reintegration.

    Combating corruption remained a priority of the Government of Armenia, he added.  The national Anti-Corruption Strategy had been adopted in November 2003, and measures were being undertaken to institutionalize that strategy.  A Special Adviser to the President had also been appointed to serve as a focal point for monitoring implementation of the strategy.  On drug control, he stressed the importance of comprehensive, coherent measures aimed at reducing both supply and demand.  Also, more must be done to raise awareness of the threat posed by drug use, especially among potentially vulnerable groups.

    Armenia had also developed effective multilateral cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime and terrorism, he continued.  A network of bilateral agreements had been established, and the country continued to work closely with various regional and international organizations in areas related to legal reform, improvement of national law enforcement capacities, border control and information sharing.

    Responding to the statement by the representative of Azerbaijan, he said that there had been a failure to acknowledge that the absence of that country’s control over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh did not reflect a general lack of control. The territory was fully controlled by its authorities, in compliance with international law. It was regrettable that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had been unable to visit Nagorno-Karabakh at the time of its mission in the region, due to the obstructionist stance of Azerbaijan.  That Government should match its actions with its rhetoric and cease to make baseless allegations.

    ANA SAPINHO PIRES (Cape Verde) said her Government attached great importance to crime prevention and anti-corruption and had ratified the three international conventions on drug control and the Palermo Convention on organized transnational crime and its protocols.  It had also acceded to the Convention against Corruption.

    She said Cape Verde supported the UNODC’s activities and considered corruption as a serious threat to good governance.  It, therefore, appealed to the international community to continue to support the African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders.  Cape Verde welcomed the forthcoming eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to be held in Bangkok in April 2005.  She reiterated her Government’s firm commitment to fighting crime and drugs and to cooperating with the international community in combating these problems.

    LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said the entry into force of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on trafficking of human beings and smuggling of migrants had served as important signs of renewed international cooperation to fight criminal behaviour in those areas.  In Ecuador, the President had signed an executive decree in 1981, which had established a Commission to elaborate crimes related to trafficking, prostitution and forced labour, among others.  The findings of that Commission had then been communicated to the National Congress.

    The problem of corruption was due to a lack of ethics, he stressed.  Corruption eroded the quality of life and prevented development; it fuelled criminality, terrorism and other threats and served as the main obstacle to eradication of poverty.  Corruption had become a threat to the security of States, and it continued to erode the rule of law and to interfere with governments’ abilities to respond to other threats.  Thus, the adoption of the Convention against Corruption had served as a milestone in demonstrating the international community’s commitment to work together to combat this phenomenon, which had ceased to be a local problem.  It was now a transnational problem, which affected all societies and economies and posed a serious obstacle to social development.  For its part, Ecuador had advanced its legislative process to ratify the Convention and had encouraged discussion of the issue of corruption at the thirty-fourth General Assembly of the Organization of American States.

    The Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols constituted the first instruments to be applied at the global level, he concluded.  They would provide Member States with a basis for international cooperation.  Thus, his country remained fully committed to these instruments and urged all States to ratify them and ensure their full implementation.

    FRANKLIN ESIPILA (Kenya) said the problem of transnational organized crime posed a grave threat to the economic, social and political stability of many countries.  Unless criminal activities such as drug trafficking, money-laundering, arms trafficking, and trafficking in persons were comprehensively addressed, all efforts aimed at poverty eradication and sustainable development would not yield any results.  Kenya reaffirmed its commitment to international cooperation in solving the drug menace and called on international organizations to increase technical assistance and financial resources to assist developing countries in confronting the drug problem.

    He said Kenya had embarked on an ambitious reform programme aimed at promoting good governance and the rule of law.  The Government had put in place legal structures and institutions aimed at ending impunity for corruption-related offences.  It was also in the process of finalizing legislation aimed at the proceeds of crime and money-laundering.  Kenya had also established an Anti-Narcotic Police Unit and a National Coordination Unit against drug abuse.

    Mr. GAPPOEV (Russian Federation) said that transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking had increasingly surfaced as the most serious threats undermining social development and the rule of law.  They also acted as a breeding ground for international terrorism.  This situation required the elaboration of a global strategy to counter new threats and challenges, based on a solid understanding of international law.  Welcoming the reports on narcotic drugs and crime prevention, he stressed that the outcome of the Asia-Pacific preparatory meeting for the eleventh Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice had provided a sound basis for productive work at the upcoming Congress.

    The Russian Federation attached great importance to taking practical steps, under the aegis of the United Nations, to combat transnational organized crime, he stressed.  It had ratified the Convention and its additional Protocols on the smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.  The Russian Federation also felt that completion of the Convention against Corruption had constituted an important step in the fight against crime.  At present, his country was working intensely to prepare for ratification of that document, which would help States fight corruption, including by facilitating the repatriation of illicitly-acquired funds.  All States should sign and ratify those conventions.

    The international community also faced the perilous and pressing problem of illicit drug trafficking, he added.  There must be further action to galvanize the fight against the drug trade and to enhance practical mechanisms for international cooperation in that regard, under the auspices of United Nations, as well as through regional initiatives.  Drugs produced in Afghanistan remained a global threat, and his country favoured the implementation of a comprehensive strategy to prevent production in Afghanistan and to reinforce security belts along its borders, with the main purpose of stopping exports of drugs and imports of precursor agents.

    Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

    The representative of Azerbaijan, exercising his delegation’s right of reply, said Armenia had denied the existence of “black holes”, or illegally seized occupied territories, which were prime areas that attracted criminals of all sorts.  Armenia, instead of complying with its obligations under international law, had advocated elections in those territories, even though no international law recognized such elections or any elections held in occupied territories that had been ethnically cleansed of their original inhabitants.  He added that no fact-finding missions had visited the occupied territories of Azerbaijan to investigate the illegal activities being perpetrated there by illegal military regimes.

    Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Armenia recalled that the 1992 Helsinki Council of Ministers had referred specifically to Nagorno-Karabakh as having the right to be represented by the region’s elected authorities and to participate as a concerned party in negotiations.

    In a second statement in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Azerbaijan reminded the representative of Armenia that the elections to which he had referred had been condemned by many international organizations on the basis that elections held in a territory in which part of the population had been ethnically cleansed and another part had fled the country could not be valid.

    Concluding Statement of Drugs and Crime

    EDUARDO VETERE, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, wrapped up the general discussion of crime prevention and criminal justice and international drug control by thanking the many States that had made efforts to implement the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.  He emphasized that only 10 ratifications stood between the third protocol -- on the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms –- and its entry into force.  He also expressed gratitude to the Government of Thailand for its support and cooperation in preparation for the forthcoming eleventh Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

    On drug control, he said the discussion of the past several days had demonstrated the validity of the goals enshrined in international conventions against drug trafficking, as well as continued full commitment to the balanced approach and shared responsibility of all countries.  There was no doubt that crime, drugs and terrorism represented major threats and challenges to the international community, nor that more and more States had realized that effective global action was required to combat those challenges.

    Statements on Advancement of Women

    As the Third Committee took up its consideration of advancement of women, CAROLYN HANNAN, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, informed the Committee that Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, would take up her position in mid-November 2004.  She also noted that the Secretary-General had focused on the rule of law as the all-important framework for decision-making at the national and international levels during his opening statement to the General Assembly, reminding all present that the rule of law meant, first and foremost, that none were above the law and that no one should be denied its protection.  Those who championed equality for women relied to a large extent on the power of the law, and the protection it offered, to overcome discrimination and disadvantage.

    The year 2004 marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she observed.  Adherence to that instrument, and implementation of it, had contributed significantly to enhancement of the rule of law and fostering a climate in which violations of the rights of women would not be tolerated.  Tomorrow’s commemoration of the adoption would provide an opportunity for all to examine how the Convention had been used as the legal basis for furthering the rights of women and to strategize about ways to accelerate momentum for the full realization of women’s human rights.

    Noting that the Third Committee regularly focused on the elimination of violence against women in order to enhance protective and preventive work, she stressed that violence against women, including trafficking, had been widely recognized as a matter of serious public concern.  Yet, violence against women could not be effectively tackled through legislation alone; a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, involving policy and programme measures, support for victims, awareness-raising and capacity-building, was necessary to strengthen prevention and protection, and to ensure redress for victims and punishment for perpetrators.

    The report of the Secretary-General on elimination of all forms of violence against women, including honour killings, presently before the Committee, provided an update on preparation of the study on that topic, she added.  In conducting the study, the Division for the Advancement of Women would convene a number of expert meetings on particular topics, including available statistics, data collection and methodological concerns, and would commission background papers to synthesize existing information on achievements and challenges in tackling violence against women in all parts of the world.

    Reviewing the areas in which advancement of women had been and would soon be the focus of attention, she cited the forthcoming review and appraisal of implementation of the Beijing Declaration in the Commission on the Status of Women.  The Commission’s forty-ninth session would mark the 10-year anniversary of the World Conference, as well as the thirtieth anniversary of the First World Conference on Women, held in Mexico in 1975. The review’s focus would be implementation at the national level, through high-level interactive dialogue and exchange of good practices, she noted, and a number of high-level round tables and panels would be organized to identify and address achievements, gaps and remaining challenges in terms of national-level implementation.  The outcome of the review and appraisal would contribute to the high-level event to be held in 2005 to review progress in achievement of the goals set out in the Millennium Declaration. The Millennium Development Goals, she stressed, should be seen as an instrument to support full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session.

    A number of critical decisions to strengthen commitment to, and further action for, implementation of the Beijing Declaration had been taken during the 2004 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), she added, as well the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women.  For example, the Commission’s agreed conclusions on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality had identified men’s crucial role in sharing family responsibilities, including caring for dependents; preventing violence against women; and preventing HIV/AIDS transmission.  Moreover, the ECOSOC had reviewed the system-wide implementation of agreed conclusions on gender mainstreaming, reaffirming, by its resolution 2004/4, that gender mainstreaming remained a major strategy for full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcomes of the special session.  That resolution recommended that the General Assembly encourage its committees and other intergovernmental bodies to take further measures for systematic integration of gender perspectives in all areas of their work.

    She also noted that the report of the Secretary-General on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to implementation of the Beijing Declaration and special session focused on discussions of gender equality issues in major events such as the World Summit on the Information Society and the eleventh session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, as well as in implementation of and follow-up to major international conferences and summits, including the Millennium Declaration.  The report also covered steps taken by the General Assembly to promote achievement of the goal of gender equality through the gender mainstreaming strategy, as well as the extent to which documentation before the Assembly facilitated gender-sensitive policy formulation.

    The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples had devoted its third session to the theme of indigenous women, she said, pointing out that indigenous women had often been invisible to human rights, humanitarian and development institutions and faced social dislocation due to conflict, poverty and underdevelopment, lack of access to public resources and marginalization due to their cultural and minority status.  The 2004 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development, prepared by the Division for the Advancement of Women for presentation to the Second Committee, proposed a number of recommendations aimed at empowering migrant, refugee, displaced and trafficked women and girls.

    The report of the Secretary-General on four years of implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security would be presented at the end of the month, she added.  The report concluded that, notwithstanding progress made in advocacy, norm-setting and institutional capacity-building, significant gaps remained in achievement of the resolution’s recommendations.  One major challenge in that regard concerned protection of women and girls in armed conflict.  Sustained commitment and effort was required to stop gender-based violence and other human rights violations, end impunity and bring perpetrators to justice.

    On the status of women within the United Nations system, she noted that representation of women in the professional and higher categories had increased from 35 to 36.4 per cent as of 31 December 2004.  Within the United Nations Secretariat, the proportion of women in professional and higher posts on appointments of one year or more had increased by 1.7 per cent over the past 12 months, to 37.4 per cent.  At senior and higher-level posts, women made up 29 per cent of staff; at the D-1 level and above, they constituted 22.3 per cent; for the more restricted category of posts subject to geographic distribution, they accounted for 42.3 per cent of all professional staff.  Yet, at the P-4 and P-5 levels, representation of women had stagnated from 1998 to 2004, a situation of great concern given the significance of those levels as a pool for senior and higher posts.

    The Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women had conducted a study on probable causes of the slow advance in improvement of the status of women in the United Nations Secretariat, she continued, and had identified a number of areas in which new approaches and measures were required.  These included recruitment and selection processes, accountability and working climate and culture.  More proactive and targeted recruitment methods were necessary to attract the most qualified women candidates, and increased efforts were needed to support mobility across departments and duty stations, to strengthen individual career planning and to promote greater accountability of managers for selection decisions.

    The coming year offered a number of important opportunities for further promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, she concluded.  In addition to an effective 10-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration, it would be critical to ensure that gender perspectives formed an integral part of the major event on implementation of the Millennium Declaration and other important processes, including review of the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development.

    NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), introducing the Secretary-General’s report on UNIFEM’s activities (see note by Secretary-General’s report, document A/59/135), said important advances had been made in fulfilling the commitments made at the 1995 Beijing conference, which lay at the heart of UNIFEM’s work.  There had been progress in strengthening women’s economic security and rights, in supporting women’s leadership in governance, peace and security, and in promoting women’s human rights.  Legislation had been passed to strengthen women’s economic security in such vital areas as land and property rights, decent employment, and access to credit markets.  Affirmative measures had been adopted to increase women’s representation in political decision-making in countries in all regions.  At least 45 countries now had legislation against domestic violence, 21 more were drafting new laws, and many more had amended criminal assault laws to include domestic violence.  On HIV/AIDS, governments were becoming increasingly aware of the need for gender-based legislation around prevention, treatment and care.  The UNIFEM was proud to have played a key role in supporting countries to move forward on all of these fronts.

    These advances, however, had made clear that laws and frameworks could only go so far, she continued.  To change the realities of women’s everyday lives, laws and policies must be implemented, and attitudes and practices must change.  For this to happen, sustained partnerships, monitoring and resources were needed, along with the sharing of good practices among agencies on the ground.  The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, now in its twenty-fifth year, provided the most authoritative standard on the meaning and requirements of gender equality.  Its provisions were legally binding, and it provided an independent monitoring and reporting mechanism.  The UNIFEM’s work on the Convention focused on building the capacity of governments and women’s groups to use this powerful instrument to bring about change.

    Despite such gains, she said, economic insecurity, wars and armed conflicts, and the spread of HIV/AIDS had generated a host of new challenges to the efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The trafficking of women and girls and the deliberate targeting of women in armed conflict, along with the rising toll of HIV/AIDS on women, demanded greater national, regional and global cooperation.

    The year 2005 presented a unique opportunity to make good on commitments to women, bringing together the 10-year review of progress in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action and the five-year review of implementation of the Millennium Declaration.  She urged particular attention in five key areas:  in recognizing that achieving gender equality demanded a combination of gender mainstreaming with renewed investment in women’s human rights and women-specific entities to promote them; in strengthening the current architecture of gender equality; in strengthening the coherence and focus on gender within the United Nations coordinating mechanisms at the country level; in aligning measures for improving the status of women specified in the Convention, the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Millennium Development Goals, to give countries a single set of benchmarks for monitoring progress; and in investing adequate resources to translate commitments into reality to end poverty, discrimination and violence in the lives of women.

    Also making an introductory statement was CARMEN MORENO, Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), who observed that, although there was greater awareness of women’s issues than ever before, serious deficiencies remained, as women’s rights had continued to be called into question and had come under attack.  Violence against women had continued, and even increased.

    Citing her recent participation at the seventh regional African Congress on Women, she said that experience had born witness to the need for specific gender-sensitive measures to be adopted in order to combat poverty, violence and discrimination against women and to pursue gender equality for women’s full participation in sustainable development.  The task of achieving gender mainstreaming required the full commitment of all stakeholders, she emphasized, especially in these present times, which were increasingly marked by crisis, conflict and instability.

    The INSTRAW’s focus was on implementation of its mandate for the advancement of women, she added, including through employment of innovative initiatives.  In that regard, progress had been made.  The Executive Board had been established and had approved the Institute’s strategic framework and work programme for the next biennium.  Favouring strategies to enhance synergy, inclusiveness and close coordination and consultation with other members of the United Nations system, INSTRAW had pursued the elaboration of a strategic alliance with the Division for the Advancement of Women and UNIFEM.  The Executive Board had also approved the parameters of the Institute’s gender focal points and of its networks for interaction with civil society and the academic and private sectors.  Moreover, results-based management and accountability were the new buzz-words for the Institute’s working methods.

    The Institute had revised its Web site, she continued, to ensure that it could be used as a tool for capacity-building.  Various tools, instruments and information on the Institute’s work would continue to be posted thereon.  Furthermore, the Institute had begun to carry out Internet-based seminars on information and communication technology (ICT) training for indigenous women, among other new subjects.  A project on the issue of violence related to trafficking of women and children was also in the pipeline.  Further information on these programmes was available on the Web site.

    Overall, the Institute had mobilized its resources and obtained results, she concluded.  However, if it was to serve as a bridge for promotion of research and training, it would need to benefit from the international community’s patience, as well as its political and financial support.  Given international confidence in its work, the Institute would fulfil the mandate given it by the General Assembly.

    Discussion

    In a discussion following their presentations, the Secretariat officials responded to questions posed by the representatives of Senegal, El Salvador, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica to elaborate on issues related to women’s advancement in the context of peace and security considerations, the financial situation of INSTRAW, and the integration of gender issues in the implementation of Millennium Development Goals.

    Ms. HANNAN said it was important to address post-conflict situations for women within a human rights framework.  It was also critical to establish collaboration within all entities of the United Nations system.  The Division for the Advancement of Women had received some financial support to organize expert meetings and intended to utilize available information from various reports.  The links between implementation of the Platform for Action and the implementation of Millennium Development Goals would be discussed in the review process.  She added that one of the important means for ensuring the integration of gender perspective in implementation of development goals was for the Secretary-General’s report to fully incorporate this perspective.

    Ms. HEYZER stressed the importance of strengthening women’s leadership on the ground so they could influence policies.  A long-term commitment to promoting women’s leadership at the ground level was critical.  Efforts to ensure there were international alliances at all levels had produced tremendous results, especially in getting women’s voices heard at the policy level and, in particular, on issues related to HIV/AIDS.  Forged global partnerships were needed to ensure support for the implementation of best practices, she said, noting that implementation was the biggest challenge.  Regarding the implementation of Millennium Development Goals, there was a need to go beyond Goal 3 and to go beyond health and education.  There was a need to reduce and eliminate feminized poverty.  Moreover, efforts to combat HIV/AIDS could not produce sufficient results without a gender perspective.  Goals could not be compartmentalized, and there was a need for a comprehensive approach to implementing goals.  The UNIFEM’s programmes to end violence against women had involved partnerships with the media, through media campaigns aimed at changing practices and at breaking the cycle of violence.

    Ms. MORENO stressed the continued political and financial support of the General Assembly as critical to the work of INSTRAW.  The INSTRAW had lost credibility and had suffered a crisis of confidence, which resulted in a cut in resources allocated to the Institute.  The lack of resources further weakened the Institute and reduced its ability to carry out actions supporting its research and programmes.  The General Assembly decided, therefore, to revitalize the Institute through the establishment of a working group and an executive board.  Little by little, INSTRAW had been able to change its direction.  She noted that INSTRAW was the only institute established by the General Assembly to focus on gender issues.  There was a global need for the Institute to fulfil its mandate, and she hoped the political support of the General Assembly would be flanked by financial support.  Without the continued support of the General Assembly, INSTRAW could not continue to exist.

    Participating in the second round of questions were the representatives of the Dominican Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, Venezuela, Côte d’Ivoire and the Gambia.

    Responding in the second round, Ms. HANNAN said effective mechanisms for collaboration between the various agencies of the United Nations system tasked with advancement of women did exist, in particular for the exchange of good practices and confluent processes in preparing reports.

    On the constraints faced by her Division in monitoring the achievement of gender targets across the United Nations system, she acknowledged that the data collected was not yet completely comparable, which made the monitoring process problematic.  On gender focal points, she observed that there were two systems of focal points.  In the first, there were 65 members of the inter-agency focal point network, while the second consisted of departmental focal points for women within the Secretariat, who worked on issues including gender sensitivity and sexual harassment.

    Responding to a question on the effectiveness of the language on gender mainstreaming that was included in reports and resolutions, she said that, the more explicit the language used, the greater the chance to move gender mainstreaming forward and achieve effective follow-up.  Thus, it was important to continue calls for inclusion of gender perspectives in the reports and decisions submitted to the General Assembly.

    For her part, Ms. HEYZER observed that UNIFEM had come up with principles for respect of women’s rights that had been associated with an investment fund equalling approximately $10 billion.  Those principles required attention to closing the income gap between men and women, ensuring that women’s working conditions were safe, ensuring women’s civic engagement and right to organize as workers, and ensuring attention to the type of marketing and advertisement strategies being employed by companies.  These principles applied not just to the companies receiving funding from the fund, but also to their subcontractors.

    She also observed that UNIFEM’s primary responsibility in terms of coordination among United Nations agencies concerned implementation of women’s rights on the ground.  While some progress had been made, she stressed that more needed to be done, and cited the example of the Secretary-General’s treatment of the issue of human rights as a whole.  The focus of implementation on that issue fell upon the United Nations country teams.  The UNIFEM would like to see the same system applied to gender equality.

    In response to other questions, she acknowledged that the employment of women in the informal sector was an issue of extreme importance, especially when dealing with achievement of the Millennium Development Goals on poverty eradication.  Analysis in that regard should take issues such as gender-related poverty and forms of employment into consideration.

    Finally, she noted that UNIFEM’s assistance to women in situations of crisis had focused on raising awareness about the impact of crisis on women and girls, not just in terms of sexual violence, but also through the breakdown of social structures.  The UNIFEM had also worked with humanitarian agencies and other agencies of the United Nations system to provide protection to women and girls in zones of conflict.  Among specific programmes, she cited the organization of a network of women ex-combatants to help reintegration processes.

    The UNIFEM’s niche on the issue of women, peace and security was to strengthen the organization of women on the ground and to bring them to the peace table, she added.  It was also important to ensure that peace accords were implemented and that women had a role in that implementation.  The UNIFEM had also worked to strengthen women’s participation in reconstruction processes and had, to that end, tried to strengthen the rule of law and gender equality components of legislation.

    Returning to the issue of coordination with other bodies, Ms. MORENO stressed that INSTRAW sought to avoid duplicating the work of other United Nations institutions, concentrating instead on creating synergies with them.  The United Nations system had already achieved much in terms of advancement of women, she noted, but too little was known about those achievements.  Given its links to non-governmental organizations and civil society, INSTRAW had worked to establish links with other United Nations agencies to promote awareness of their activities.

    AYSE FERIDE ACAR, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that, during its consideration of reports of States parties at its thirtieth and thirty-first sessions held in January and July 2004 respectively, the Committee noticed factors in the 16 reporting States that continued to pose challenges to the achievement of gender equality.  They included social and cultural patterns of the conduct of men and women, and the persistence of prejudices and customary practices and stereotyped roles of women and men.  While those factors took different forms in different countries, they existed everywhere.  It was essential that State parties forcefully addressed these factors in order to eliminate de facto discrimination based on such factors.

    She said the Committee also found that certain socio-economic circumstances had a particularly salient impact on the situation of women.  The Committee had asked States who were tackling economic crises or emerging from conflict not to relegate gender equality to the back burner as it proceeded on a path of development.  The equality of men and women was critical if these States were to make progress towards sustainable development.

    Moreover, legislative gaps and de jure discrimination still persisted in some States.  The committee was especially concerned about the situation of vulnerable groups of women -- especially rural women, migrants and minority women – who, in many instances, were experiencing multiple forms of discrimination.  The Committee called on States to step up efforts to ensure compliance with the Convention to ensure women’s full enjoyment of their rights under that instrument.

    Noting that the Optional Protocol to the Convention was now operational, she said the Committee, during its thirty-first session, had adopted its first decision in response to a complaint under the Optional Protocol declaring a complaint against Germany inadmissible.  [The Optional Protocol to the Convention (1999) allows individuals to submit to the Committee complaints on violations of the Convention.]  The Committee had also completed its first inquiry under article 8 of the Optional Protocol, carried out in Mexico on the matter of the killings and disappearances of women in Ciudad Juarez.  She commended the Government of Mexico for its effective cooperation, noting that the Committee’s report on the matter would be issued at a later date.  The Optional Protocol played a critical role in ensuring implementation of the Convention at the national level.  The instrument was first and foremost an incentive for States parties to ensure that effective and timely remedies were available to women at the national level to obtain redress for their grievances.

    Turning to the working methods of the Committee, she said the Committee had implemented a number of measures to achieve greater efficiency without jeopardizing the usefulness of the constructive dialogue with reporting States.  The Committee would continue to review its working methods in order to contribute to the concerted efforts of the human rights treaty bodies to strengthen implementation of treaties at the national level.

    She said the Committee had submitted a request to this Assembly asking for authorization for an extension of the Committee’s annual meeting time, specifically requesting for an additional week of meeting time for the thirty-third, thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth sessions in July 2005, January and July 2006.  After that, in order to achieve a long-term solution for handling its workload, the Committee proposed that it meet three times annually.  She said the Committee believed the quality of the constructive dialogue with States parties must be preserved if the dialogue was to live up to expectations of all stakeholders.  In light of this, the Committee was appealing to the Members of this Assembly to consider favourably its request for additional meeting time.

    KOEN DAVIDSE (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said at the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, that the Convention recognized that participation of women in all spheres of life was essential not only for women’s empowerment but for the prosperity of society as a whole.  The Union sought to build synergies between key instruments such as legislation, gender analysis and financial tools regarding equal treatment of women and men in access to employment, education, working conditions and participation at all decision-making and leadership levels in the public and private sector.  The “Lisbon Strategy” had set the objective of reaching 60 per cent female employment by the year 2010.

    He said the elimination of all forms of violence against women continued to be a high priority for the European Union.  Often, such violence was a reflection of existing unequal balance of power structures between men and women.  The most widespread form of gender-based violence was domestic violence.  The Union also attached great importance to the issues of crimes committed in the name of honour and trafficking.  The Assembly resolution adopted towards the elimination of crimes committed in the name of honour, (document A/57/179), had had quite an impact.  He welcomed the fact that 61 States had ratified or acceded to the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children.  The landmark Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security needed to be fully implemented.

    It was essential that women and girls be granted full enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive rights, he continued.  Also, implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by the International Conference on Population and Development was an essential prerequisite for meeting the poverty reduction and development goals of the Millennium Declaration.  A strategy for achieving the Millennium Development Goals as a whole must also address the issue of sexual and reproductive health rights.  It was extremely important that, in implementing the outcomes of all major United Nations conferences, a focus was kept on gender equality.  The review of the Millennium Goals in 2005 should place gender equality more firmly on the agenda and thereby allow for the review to reaffirm the commitment to the Beijing Platform of Action.

    ABDULLA EID AL-SULAITI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China”, said that, despite progress made thus far on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session, there were still serious challenges to be addressed, such as poverty eradication.  Women, particularly in rural areas, were the most affected by the consequences of poverty, which led to the feminization of poverty.  Women, when using their full potential, could play a major role in supporting national and international efforts for poverty eradication, combating diseases, and stimulating sustainable development.  Also, equality between women and men was a prerequisite for development and peace.

    He said violence against women was one of the worst violations of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms.  Multidimensional and multisectoral approaches and strategies should be adopted to advance the empowerment of women.  The media and civil society also had an important role to play in that regard.  While implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session rested primarily at the national level, he stressed that enhanced international cooperation was also essential.  In that regard, he emphasized the need for adequate resources at national and international levels, as well as new resources for developing countries from all available funding mechanisms, including multilateral, bilateral and private sources.

    Noting with satisfaction recent progress in the revitalization of INSTRAW, he said the full success of the revitalization process depended on the broad support of Governments.  Acknowledging with satisfaction that a gender perspective had been integrated in the outcomes of recent United Nations conferences and summits, he stressed that such integration should be translated into action at the national, regional and international levels.  He stressed that such efforts be reaffirmed and emphasized during the high-level event planned for 2005 and in the review of the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the outcome of the twenty-third special session.

    MANEL ABEYSEKERA (Sri Lanka) said that the main problem facing her country in implementation of any development policy, including advancement of women, was poverty, which had been aggravated by the country’s history of conflict.  Women’s advancement constituted a large part of the issue of poverty alleviation and of the achievement of other Millennium Development Goals, as women were usually the poorest of the poor and as girls lagged behind boys in education, even where education was free.  Child mortality, maternal mortality, sustainability of the environment, renewable sources of energy and potable water, and sanitation were also issues that disproportionately affected women.

    Reviewing the situation in her country, she noted that successive governments had adopted microcredit saving and self-help measures for the poor, as had non-governmental organizations and private sector institutions, especially banks.  In education and health, the country had high indicators.  Education was free and compulsory from ages 5 to 14, and government health services were also free.  However, literacy and primary-school enrolment rates varied across the country, dropping in the poorer areas of the north and east, and in the south.  Moreover, in spite of strong measures to deter gender-based violence, the climate of violence created by the situation of conflict, cultural restraint in reporting domestic violence and the lack of sufficient shelters for battered women meant that challenges remained to be met. There was also a need to provide for 50,000 war widows and resettle 300,000 internally displaced women.

    Women filled just one half of jobs, she noted, although they represented more than half the population.  They also tended to work for lower wages in the informal sector, despite an equal wage policy.  Furthermore, pervasive patriarchy, fostered by culture and tradition, retarded the upward mobility of women in power-sharing and decision-making, particularly in politics.  However, the country’s Women’s Bureau continued to work for advancement of women at the grass-roots level, and its work was complemented by the Women’s Ministry and the National Committee on Women.  These latter institutions had succeeded in amending the penal code to deal more effectively with gender violence and to allow Sri Lankan citizenship to pass to a child through the mother, regardless of the nationality of the father.

    Discrimination against the girl child, she added, constituted the first step in gender discrimination, yet sociocultural tradition had endowed the male with an aura of superiority over the female.  Thus, there was an urgent need to create awareness of gender equality within families and schools in order to bring about changes vital to promotion of gender equality.  Overall, she wished to stress that there were no “women’s issues”, only “human issues”.  “Women’s issues” were created by marginalization of women and girls from participation, discussion and decision-making on human issues.

    BROWN CHIMPHAMBA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the United Nations system and international community had been engaged with initiatives for the advancement of women since the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action.  While progress had been made in some areas, persistent inequalities had manifested themselves in others, including literacy and education, access to productive resources, access to health care services, participation in policies and decision-making and gender-based violence.  For their part, SADC members remained committed to the Beijing Platform of Action and to the subregion’s 1997 Declaration on Gender and Development and its 1998 addendum on Eradication of Violence against Women and Children.

    The SADC members were committed by these latter instruments to achieve 30 per cent representation of women in political and decision-making structures by 2005, she said.  The SADC secretariat had undertaken capacity-building for women in politics and decision-making and could report that the number of women in decision-making positions in all member countries had increased, although by varying degrees.  The SADC agreements also aimed to promote women’s full access to and control over productive resources to facilitate poverty reduction, and to promote legal and constitutional reform to eliminate discriminatory practices.

    Developments in information and communication technology provided enormous opportunities to women, she added, provided they were allowed to be key actors in the information society.  To that end, the efforts of the Division for the Advancement of Women to organize in Nairobi, Kenya, a workshop for Member States on strengthening the capacity of national machineries through executive use of information technology was appreciated.  The critical role played by the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Equality and the Advancement of Women in highlighting the differential impact of information and communication technologies on men and women was also appreciated.

    On the eve of celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said it was disheartening to note that there continued to be a difference between de jure and de facto discrimination against women in almost all States reporting to the Committee.  The international community must continue to work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and the girl child.

    DONNETTE CRITCHLOW (Guyana), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said CARICOM accorded high priority to empowerment of women and the full enjoyment of all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Neither sustainable development nor durable peace could be attained without consultation and consideration of the perspective of women; specialists had already concluded that gender inequality hindered poverty reduction and development efforts.  Thus, although progress had been achieved for their advancement, women continued to face a myriad of challenges, including lack of access to education and health care, high levels of poverty and vulnerability to domestic and other forms of violence.  Moreover, the recent UNIFEM publication “Women and HIV/AIDS:  Confronting the Crisis” provided a striking insight into the effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on women globally.

    Within CARICOM, significant advances had been made concerning the empowerment of women, she said, including for access to education, protection from domestic violence, participation in decision-making and an overall gender mainstreaming in policies and programmes at both the national and international levels.  The Plan of Action 2005:  Framework for Mainstreaming Gender Equality in key CARICOM Programmes had been launched earlier this year, and gender budgeting was also gaining incrementally in many States.  However, as in other developing countries, the process of global economic integration had had a differential impact on women’s participation in the labour market and their ability to move their households out of poverty.  Women in the region were also challenged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic; they were 2.5 per cent more likely to be infected than their male counterparts.

    As a result of such trends, she concluded, the fourth Caribbean Ministerial Conference on Women had decided to accord priority to matters concerning poverty eradication, access to health care –- with a special focus on HIV/AIDS –- and institution-building of national mechanisms for the advancement of women.  States of the region were also concerned with the rising incidence of trafficking in women and girls and had undertaken sensitizing programmes and legislative action to combat that phenomenon.  Finally, affirming the primary importance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in support of women’s human rights, CARICOM signalled its full support for an extension of the annual meeting time of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

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