Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3784
    15 October 2004

    Third Committee Approves 11 Draft Resolutions on Crime Prevention, International Drug Control, Role of Families in Development

    Also Continues Discussion on Advancement of Women, Hearing 43 Speakers

    NEW YORK, 14 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today adopted by consensus seven draft resolutions on crime prevention and criminal justice, and three draft resolutions on international drug control. The Committee also adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution to promote the role of families in development.

    Having addressed concerns about the challenges of combating transnational organized crime, the Committee approved a draft resolution to promote international cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime. The draft would have the General Assembly request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with the resources necessary to enable the Office to promote capacity-building assistance to States for the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.

    Another draft resolution approved today on corruption would request the Secretary-General to provide the UNODC with the resources necessary to enable it to promote the entry into force and implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It would also have the Assembly urge Member States to consider signing and ratifying the Convention as soon as possible.

    The Committee also approved a draft resolution on the prevention of kidnapping that would have the General Assembly vigorously condemn and reject once again the practice of kidnapping, especially when it is carried out by organized criminal groups and terrorist groups. It would also call upon Member States to strengthen measures against money-laundering and to engage in international cooperation and mutual assistance in tracing and confiscating proceeds of kidnapping activities.

    Also approved today were drafts on preparations for the eleventh United Nations congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Assistance to least developed countries and strengthening international cooperation against terrorism.

    To combat drug trafficking, the Committee approved draft resolutions aimed at eliminating the trafficking of cannabis, illicit opium from Afghanistan and precursor chemicals. A draft resolution to combat trafficking in human organs was also approved.

    On issues related to social development, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family, under which the General Assembly would urge governments to continue to take sustained action at all levels to promote the role of families in development.

    Also today, the Third Committee continued its discussion of issues related to the advancement of women. Many speakers, while acknowledging that progress had been made in improving the status of women, highlighted the continued difficulties women faced, especially in developing countries and in situations of armed conflict.

    Women and children continued to be the groups most affected by economic crisis and armed conflict as the victims of poverty, illiteracy, violence, trafficking, rape and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, said a representative of the United Arab Emirates. No concrete progress could be made for the advancement of women in developing countries, she said, unless permanent and just solutions were found to combat poverty and hunger, prevent armed conflict and end foreign occupation.

    The representative of Japan said her country was particularly concerned about the suffering of women who were living under armed conflict. Japan knew from experience that the processes of peace-building and reconstruction could open windows of opportunity for women. She pointed out that programmes such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) project in Afghanistan, which promoted the social reintegration of female refugees, helped to empower women and girls and encouraged them to assume more active roles in post-conflict situations.

    The representative of Kenya said that, despite concerted efforts to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, her country continued to face significant development challenges, including poverty eradication, access to global markets, a reduction in official development assistance and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, all of which had serious negative consequences on the development of women.

    Other delegations voiced particular concerns about the upsurge in trafficking in women and girls as a serious impediment to the advancement of women. Trafficking in women violated their human rights and dignity, causing long-term psychological and physical damage, said the representative of Viet Nam. His Government welcomed all initiatives to strengthen international cooperation to combat trafficking of women and girls, which caused no less serious damage than that inflicted by drug trafficking, arms smuggling or terrorism.

    Many speakers noted that trafficking in human beings was a global phenomenon that could be combated effectively only through cross-border initiatives and cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination. A representative of Liechtenstein stressed that all efforts at prevention of trafficking in women and girls must address its root causes, which included the feminization of poverty, violence, and inequality between men and women in the labour market and in education. It was, therefore, critical, she said, that efforts to prevent the trafficking of women and girls coincide with the goals of social development and their full participation in social and economic life.

    Also speaking today were representatives of Algeria, Kazakhstan, Côte d’Ivoire, Ukraine, Senegal, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, San Marino, Mongolia, Afghanistan, India, Bahamas, Bahrain, Republic of Korea, Nigeria, Oman, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Libya, Russian Federation, Cameroon, Norway, Turkey, Ghana, Haiti, Namibia, New Zealand, Singapore, Belarus, Indonesia, Gabon, Israel, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Fiji.

    The Observer of Palestine also addressed the Committee.

    Representatives of the Commonwealth Secretariat, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.

    Following the general discussion, the representative of Israel and observer from Palestine spoke in exercise of their right of reply.

    The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Friday, 15 October to continue its consideration of issues related to the advancement of women.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue 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 entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”. For additional background information please see the introductory statements contained in Press Release GA/SHC/3782 of 12 October.

    Statements on Advancement of Women

    CATHERINE BONARERI ONYONI-MOGAKA (Kenya) said the provisions and principles of the Beijing Platform for Action and of the outcome of the General Assembly’s twenty-third special session continued to focus the Government’s action on issues related to gender equality, development and peace. Gender equality and improvement of the situation of women and girls remained an unending quest, and the Government had undertaken various steps to ensure the removal of social, cultural and legal obstacles hindering the promotion and reinforcement of gender equality.

    On the legal front, she said the 2003 Criminal Amendment Act had removed inconsistencies between penalties for sexual offences against minors and women, and special family courts had been established to handle issues related to gender discrimination and violence against women and sex offences.  Moreover, the 2003 Public Ethics Act had become law, outlawing all forms of sexual harassment in the public sector, and the National Commission on Gender Development Act had been passed this year, establishing a national focal point with the specific mandate of gender mainstreaming in all sectors.  The Government also continued to train and sensitize police on gender issues, and had set up specialized police units to deal with violence against women and children.

    Despite concerted efforts to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, her country continued to face significant development challenges, she said, including poverty eradication, access to global markets, reduction in official development assistance (ODA) and the HIV/AIDS pandemic -– all of which negatively impacted the development of women.  Addressing the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in particular, she noted that 98 per cent of women and 94 per cent of men living with HIV/AIDS lived in developing countries -– and that 77 per cent of all HIV-positive women lived in sub-Saharan Africa.  The ravages of the disease had not spared her country; an estimated 7 per cent of the adult population was HIV-positive, resulting in a large number of widows with increased responsibilities.

    ABDELOUAHAB OSMANE (Algeria) said that efforts had been made at both national and international levels to translate the Beijing Conference commitments on mainstreaming a gender perspective into reality so as to ensure women’s equal opportunities in all areas. The 2005 review of implementation of the Beijing outcomes would provide the international community a chance to take stock of progress made and to identify policies and programmes capable of promoting women’s rights at all levels.  Expressing appreciation for the role played by civil society and non-governmental organizations, as well as women’s organizations, to promote gender equality, he stressed that no progress on internationally agreed development goals was possible without treating women on an equal footing with men.

    The situation of women was most unbearable in Africa, he said. Women were the first to be affected by the multidimensional problems experienced by the continent, especially armed conflict and its corollary, poverty. The already precarious situation of women had further been weakened by the absence of basic services, high rates of illiteracy and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Given the fact that millions of women continued to live on less than $1 per day, there was a serious need to integrate the gender perspective into implementation of the outcomes of all international conferences and summits.

    Since the Beijing Conference, he added, his country had striven to implement its commitments by creating a national plan for women’s development and mobilizing significant resources for national health care and education. Women had taken active part in the national liberation war, as well as in the struggle against barbaric terrorists, proving themselves men’s equals and winning the respect of all Algerians.  Thus, although Algeria remained attached to traditional values of civilization, the country also worked to ensure women’s ability to take part in social life without any discrimination. Among measures taken recently for advancement of women, the Ministry for Family and the Status of Women had been established in 2002, as had a Commission to review the family code.  Those reform efforts had introduced significant innovations to strengthen the family and the situation of women, including with respect to divorce.

    ATSUKO HESHIKI (Japan) said that, since Japan had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1985, the status of Japanese women had made much progress.  The ratification of this treaty had affected the legal framework of her country and had produced a series of amendments to domestic laws which had led to many improvements in women’s lives.

    She said Japan was particularly concerned about the suffering of women who were living under armed conflict.  The processes of peace-building and reconstruction could open a window of opportunity for women.  Japan knew from experience that gender equality could be used as a means of achieving peace and security.  Programmes such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) project in Afghanistan, which promoted the social reintegration of female refugees, helped to empower women and girls and encouraged them to assume more active roles in post-conflict situations.

    Even in times of peace, however, women faced many forms of gender-based violence, she continued.  Trafficking in women and girls was a grave violation of human rights and Japan urged strong action against it.  For its part, Japan would further strengthen its crackdown on illegal brokers and employers and make its best efforts to protect victims through institutional, administrative and legislative measures.  At the same time it was her Government’s view that unless countries of origin, transit and destination collectively devised and implemented concrete measures, trafficking in women and girls would never be eradicated.

    Mr. BEXULTAN, a Member of Parliament of Kazakhstan, said his country had made great efforts for the advancement of women.  In a short time, Kazakhstan had undergone great change, recently reaching a steady level of economic growth.  Yet, the country had recognized that true growth was impossible without the advancement of women and so remained committed to ensuring women’s equal rights.  Among current initiatives, the Government was working on a national strategy on gender policy, which clearly defined areas for work, including creation of the requisite conditions for women’s more active involvement in economic life and improvement in legislation to ensure gender equality, including a bill on equal rights for men and women.  The Government also recognized the importance of ensuring cooperation between State agencies and non-governmental organizations and civil society in the field of women’s rights.

    Women’s representation must be expanded at the decision-making level, he added.  The Government of his country planned to work for improvement of economic benefits and preferences for women, for improved health care and for improved legal and social guarantees.  Attention had been given to strengthening the country’s moral values, including through cultivation of the concept of family and marriage.  Women remained the core of the family, and children and the family were basic values Kazakhstan held dear.  In conclusion, he expressed gratitude to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and to other international organizations, for providing assistance to efforts to implement the outcomes of major conferences and summits in his country.

    FLORE ASSOUMOU (Côte d’Ivoire) said her Government believed that educating girls meant educating a nation.  Women represented an economic and social potential, playing an important role in production and agriculture.  However, despite such critical roles played by women, they did not enjoy the same treatment as men and young boys.  Women suffered from a lack of access to education, limitations caused by early marriage, sexual abuse, difficulties in getting credit, and a lack of access to decision-making processes.  There was a need for urgent action to fix these disparities.

    She said Côte d’Ivoire was firmly committed to integrating women in the process of development.  Its national action plan was forward-looking and took into account the stakes involved in globalization, HIV/AIDS, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the eradication of poverty.  Her Government was committed to do everything it could to restore peace, the sole prerequisite for all policies aimed at the advancement of women.

    DINA MARTINA (Ukraine) said promotion of gender equality was a top priority for her Government, which held that women’s advancement was essential to achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Ukraine had taken a proactive approach to women’s empowerment, establishing a national plan, based on the Beijing Platform for Action, to serve as a tool for improving the status of women.

    The forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women would provide a good opportunity to generate new momentum towards the major event of 2005 -- the five-year review of the Millennium Declaration, she said, urging further integration of gender issues into the work of United Nations.  Ukraine also welcomed the review and appraisal conducted by the 2004 substantive session of the Economic and Social Council on gender mainstreaming, but considered that much room remained for improvement in monitoring, reporting and accountability of gender mainstreaming.  Ukraine had, thus, taken the initiative to host the thirty-fifth session of the Women General Assembly in Kyiv, which would help generate new momentum for women’s equality.

    The sexual exploitation and trafficking of women remained one of the worst forms of violence against women, she added, and there was evidence that those phenomena were increasing.  The multidimensional nature of the problem required a comprehensive and integrated approach, encompassing socio-economic, cultural, legal and other factors.  In that regard, she stressed the importance of implementing Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which recognized the role of women in promoting peace and called for their further involvement in peacemaking.  She also welcomed the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) recent efforts to focus on the problem of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, as well as the appointment of the Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on that issue.

    LEYSA FAYE (Senegal) said women were major players in African families.  Unfortunately, however, women continued to encounter serious difficulties on a daily basis.  They suffered from discrimination, marginalization, lack of access to education and health care, and violence.  In an effort to address those problems, her Government was implementing its second national plan of action aimed at eliminating discrimination.  The plan of action focused on five priority areas, including poverty eradication, improved access to health care, greater participation in decision-making and institutional mechanisms to improve financial conditions for women.  There was no doubt that the continued elimination of inequality between women and men was absolutely crucial in all efforts to eradicate poverty.

    She said many Senegalese women held high-level posts and strategic positions in her Government.  A bill to eliminate gender mutilation had been submitted to the National Assembly.  Her Government wished to highlight the importance of Security Council resolution 1325, which addressed the participation of women in armed conflict.  The implementation of that resolution would contribute greatly to the advancement of women.

    ABDULLATIF H. SALLAM (Saudi Arabia) said his country attributed great importance to the fundamental and decisive role of women in development of the family.  The national development plan had provided women with everything necessary to promote their welfare, and had provided for their active participation in development and social life.  Reviewing improvements in girls’ access to education, he said that female students now constituted 49 per cent of all Saudi students, and noted that more girls now received secondary education than boys.  More than one third of Government posts were occupied by women.  Free education had been guaranteed for all.

    Given the commitment to respect the teaching of Islam, he stressed the Government’s desire to eliminate all discrimination against women, and to ensure their access to work, health and social life.  Women in Saudi Arabia had the right to buy and sell property, to take part in business, to access to credit and to create their own businesses and build their own homes.  Saudi Arabia had ratified and acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 2000.  Moreover, government and charitable institutions had attempted to address the problems faced by poor women in order to increase their standard of living.  The Government protected the freedom of all according to Sharia law, so long as public order and moral values were not threatened.

    MARIAM AL-SHAMISI (United Arab Emirates) said little progress had been made for advancement in women and improvement in the living conditions of millions of women in developing countries, regions of armed conflict and regions under foreign occupation.  This lack of progress was due to the scarcity of necessary financial and human resources, which resulted both from naturally difficult economic conditions and from depletion and waste of resources on war and conflict.  Women and children continued to be the groups first and most affected by economic crisis and armed conflict as the victims of poverty, illiteracy, discrimination and exploitation, as well as violence, trafficking, rape and diseases such as HIV/AIDS.  No concrete progress could be made for advancement of women in developing countries unless permanent and just solutions were found to combat poverty and hunger, prevent armed conflict and end foreign occupation.

    To that end, she stressed, there must be speedy implementation of resolutions and recommendations of the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and all other international forums on development, to allow developing countries to create an enabling environment for the advancement of all individuals in society, including women.

    Her country’s Constitution provided for equality, social justice, security and equal opportunity for all its citizens, she added.  Its national development policy called for establishment of a society in which the human being was the focus of national development efforts and in which men and women were treated equally.  Six national mechanisms had been established to enforce measures for advancement of women and implementation of relevant international resolutions and recommendations, and the country had deposited its instrument of ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on 5 October 2004.  Girls now represented more than 50 per cent of all students enrolled in higher education, while working women constituted 41 per cent of the education sector and 59 per cent of the financial sector.  Women also occupied 30 per cent of decision-making posts in the public and private sectors.

    GLAUDINE MTSHALI (South Africa) recalled that the international community had, at the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, acknowledged the fact that 1 billion people worldwide -- the majority of them women in the developing world -- continued to live in absolute poverty.  They were citizens of those countries -- many of them African -- that it was feared would never achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Their situation must receive due consideration in the outcome of the Beijing plus 10 meeting to be held in New York next year.  Moreover, that Beijing plus 10 meeting must be seized as an opportunity for the international community to renew its commitments for a better life for women all over the world.  As recognized in the Millennium Declaration, women’s empowerment constituted an inalienable component of the global quest to push back the frontiers of poverty.

    Violence against women and girls was also an issue of concern, she said, as was the closely-linked issue of trafficking in women and girls for purposes of sexual and other exploitation.  For its part, South Africa had implemented legislation such as the 1998 Domestic Violence Act, and the Victim Empowerment Programme aimed to facilitate the establishment and integration of intersectoral programmes and policies for support, protection and empowerment of victims of crime and violence, with a special focus on women and children.

    There should be a fruitful sharing of ideas, she added, on sustainable solutions to problems impeding the successful promotion and implementation of gender equality and women’s rights, at this afternoon’s commemoration of the General Assembly’s adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Gender mainstreaming should place gender equality issues at the centre of analysis, policy decisions, plans, programmes, monitoring, budgetary subvention and institutional structures and processes.

    ELENA MOLARONI (San Marino) said the significance of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had been a priority of her Government for a long time.  Women in San Marino were very much involved in social, economic and political life.  Since the founding of her country, women had not been able to transmit their nationality to children if their fathers were foreigners.  Today, women could transmit their nationality to their children automatically.  San Marino hoped other countries would prioritize the implementation of the Convention and make every effort to eliminate discrimination against women and fully comply with their obligations under international law.

    PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said the challenges confronting women in his country today remained complex and interrelated, and included poverty, unemployment, education, health care, social protection, culture and behaviour.  Despite progress in implementing the National Programme for the Advancement of Women 1996-2002, much remained to be done to ensure full gender equality.  Unemployment and poverty rates had not significantly decreased, and living standards, particularly of women and older persons, had continued to deteriorate.  There had been an urgent need to revisit the basic concept of the country’s development and to focus on human-centred development to ensure human security, promote good governance and introduce the concept of gender equality.  Thus, a new programme had been developed through broad national consultations with all stakeholders, which had subsequently been reviewed by a national forum on gender and development.

    The Government had adopted its new National Programme on Gender Equality for the period up to 2015 in December 2002, he noted.  This Programme aimed to remove barriers to equal participation in economic and social development, to achieve development goals through the active involvement of men and women, and to promote family as the basic unit of society.  Time-bound goals had been set, as had explicit monitoring and evaluation indicators.  The programme focused on gender equality in family welfare and development, economic relations, rural development, decision-making and increased participation in civil society.  The National Programme on Household Livelihood Capacity Support had also been adopted, in 2001, and aimed to improve the situation of women, including regarding their access to health care, education and income.

    ARIA SELJUKI (Afghanistan) said more than 10 million people had turned out to vote in the national elections in Afghanistan on 9 October, and 40 per cent of them were women.  This reflected the healthy interest that Afghan women had in determining the course of affairs in their country.  Last year, women throughout her country had participated in the consultative process and in the drafting of the new Constitution.  A 502-member Grand Assembly, of which approximately 21 per cent were women, had adopted the Constitution in January 2004.  The new Constitution had restored the rights of Afghan women, rights that had been violated and ignored during the decades of war and under the rule of the Taliban.  Under the new Constitution, women and men had equal rights under the law, and women could run for the office of President.  In the elections just held, one of the 18 candidates to run for office was a woman, Dr. Masooda Jalal, an ardent advocate for women’s rights.

    Noting that nearly a quarter century of war had left Afghanistan’s infrastructure in tatters, she said one of the biggest casualties of war, aside from the human factor, had been the educational system.  Her Government strongly believed education to be the panacea to many social problems in Afghanistan.  Until its citizens learned their basic rights as enshrined in their new Constitution, women would continue to be victims.  It was reassuring that a record number of girls and women had enrolled in schools and higher educational institutions.  Today, more than 40 per cent of all children enrolled in schools were girls.  She urged the international community to continue their good efforts, cooperation and assistance to Afghanistan.

    M.M. PALLAM RAJU, Member of Parliament of India, welcomed the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW)’s initiative to redesign its Web site, strengthen cooperation with United Nations entities, expand its research programme and intensify its fund-raising activities.  However, full implementation and success in this revitalization process required the broad political and financial support of Governments.  On the issue of violence against women, a global issue which had drawn the attention of the international community in recent years, he stressed the importance of conducting a study by the Secretary-General on the issue and said it was disappointing that no concrete measures had been adopted to initiate it.

    Nationally, India had worked to address the serious issue of trafficking in women and girls, he added, and remained fully committed to women’s political, educational, economic and legal empowerment.  Legal protection through the progressive development and strengthening of national laws had constituted an integral element of India’s efforts to combat practices that jeopardized women’s human rights and to change the social attitudes on which discriminatory practices had been based. Education, training and employment strategies formed another pillar in women’s empowerment.

    India had gone beyond institutional, legal and educational measures to strengthen women’s involvement in decision-making, he added, including through affirmative action that provided for reservation of one third of seats in local, village and municipal bodies for women.  This constitutional provision constituted a powerful instrument in providing women with opportunities to influence formal economic, political and social decision-making structures.  The advancement of women remained one of the most important items of this Committee’s agenda, he concluded, especially as a gap continued to exist between de jure and de facto equality of men and women.  The greatest challenge at present was to bridge that gap and ensure women’s advancement and genuine gender equality.

    PAULETTE BETHEL (Bahamas) said the Bahamas had been able to build up, in its relatively short history as an independent nation, a strong record of political participation and access for women to decision-making processes.  Women in her country had consistently outnumbered their male counterparts in exercising their right to vote and had also carried this enthusiasm for exercising their political rights into elective office.  Women comprised 20 per cent of the members of the House of Assembly, 43 per cent of the Senate, and 25 per cent of the Cabinet.  Women also accounted for the overwhelming majority of top executive positions in government agencies.

    In the area of education, she said her Government was committed to providing education to all Bahamians at the primary and secondary levels on a non-discriminatory basis.  Its commitment to an educated populace was matched by a commitment to a healthy populace.  To combat HIV/AIDS, the Government had launched an intensive public-awareness campaign along with prevention and treatment programmes.  It had also sought to expand access to anti-retroviral drugs, particularly for pregnant HIV-positive women.

    ANDREA HOCH (Liechtenstein) said the ratification and implementation of the relevant legal instruments were the basis for an effective strategy against trafficking in human beings.  The consistent enforcement of strong national anti-trafficking laws and national policy measures were equally important.  Liechtenstein wished to highlight the drafting of a convention on action against trafficking in human beings under way in the Council of Europe.  This instrument was expected to be a practical tool of international cooperation which would focus, in particular, on the protection of, and assistance to, victims and would aim to strike a balance between matters concerning human rights and prosecution.

    She said trafficking in human beings was a regional and global phenomenon that could be combated effectively only through cross-border initiatives and cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination.  Liechtenstein was working closely with police forces, as well as judicial and law enforcement authorities in neighbouring countries.  Prevention, too, must not be neglected in the fight against trafficking, she added.  Addressing the root causes of this crime was critical.  These root causes included the feminization of poverty, violence, and inequality between men and women in the labour market, in education, and in access to certain professions.  Efforts to prevent trafficking of women and girls should coincide with the goals of social development and advancement of women and their full participation in social and economic life.

    Ms. RADHI (Bahrain) said women’s empowerment constituted a strategic goal for her country, which saw a need to enhance women’s political participation, as well as their access to health care, education and other social services.  Progress had been made in the advancement of Arab Women in the past decade, including through establishment of the Arab Women’s Organization and the convening of an Arab Women’s Summit.

    Her country had entered a new phase in 1999, she said, characterized by the adoption of a reform programme to legitimize the growing role of women and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against them.  Women could now exercise their rights as voters and candidates for political office, and the number of women in leadership positions had increased threefold between 1999 and 2001.  Female students now comprised more than 67 per cent of university students.  The role of Bahraini women in the advancement of society had also been emphasized.

    Regionally and internationally, the Secretary-General of Bahrain’s Supreme Women’s Council had been entrusted with the Chairpersonship of the Executive Council of the Arab Women’s Organization this year, which comprised legal experts responsible to recommend a programme of action to Arab States to enhance women’s empowerment.  Bahrain’s Parliament had begun consideration of a number of laws for women’s advancement and reforms; laws and measures had been implemented for compliance with the Millennium Declaration.  These efforts would be effective for the empowerment of women in the country.

    KYUNG-AH LEE (Republic of Korea) said the list of recent resolutions adopted by the General Assembly clearly indicated the areas of critical concern regarding the advancement of women; violence against women continued to be a serious challenge, as did women’s empowerment. Thus, it was to be hoped that the Secretary-General’s study on all forms of violence against women would help to achieve a better understanding of this problem, as well as to develop more effective strategies to combat it.

    Her country had developed a new legal and institutional framework to combat violence against women over the last decade, she said, beginning with legislation on sexual violence in 1994.  As a result of strenuous efforts by the Government and civil society, measures to deal with sexual and domestic violence had been put in place, and public awareness of the seriousness of the issue and criminality of such actions had been remarkably enhanced.  Major steps had also been taken to combat prostitution, including by making abetment of prostitution and trafficking for purposes of prostitution subject to heavy punishment.  New laws had also made it clear that women who were trafficked or lured into prostitution through violence, coercion or fraud were not criminals, but victims, and that they were entitled to protection and exemption from criminal charges.

    Efforts to increase women’s participation in decision-making had been ongoing, she added.  A quota system for women’s participation in public service and political activities had been introduced in 1996, and had subsequently given way to the Gender Equality Employment Initiative.  Moreover, in general elections held last April, 39 women had been elected to the National Assembly, raising the percentage of female representation from 5.9 to 13 per cent.  Her country was on the right track in encouraging women’s participation in decision-making, she concluded.

    ADEKUNBI SONAIKE (Nigeria) said her country continued to give priority attention to the empowerment of women, politically, economically and socially.  This was manifested in the efforts and commitments of the Government in the formulation of policies and programmes to promote equality of men and women in accordance with the Constitution.  Laws had been enacted to address widowhood practices, female genital mutilation, early marriage, and the retention of girls in school.  A National Action Committee on Women in Politics had been established to help develop strategies to increase the participation of women in electoral processes.

    She said her Government had long acknowledged the importance and significance of the contributions of women to national development.  Every effort was being made to integrate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women into national policies.  Women were at the centre of NEPAD programmes.

    Efforts to combat violence against women and trafficking in women had resulted in the adoption of legislation that prohibited those crimes.  Noting that trafficking in women was a global problem, she said the fight against this human rights violation must, therefore, take place at national, regional, and international levels.  Trafficking in women was a crime that cut across national borders and required the full cooperation of all countries.

    Mr. AL-SHAHARI (Oman) said comprehensive development in his country had begun with the accession of the present Sultan.  Positive change had been witnessed in political, economic and social areas and women had been recognized as active participants in development.  Their integration in all sectors had been ensured by national development plans.

    Thirty-eight women’s organizations now existed, he noted, and a database on their participation in the country’s political and economic life had been established.  Maternal mortality and women’s life expectancy had increased due to improved health care and family planning.  In the area of education, women’s participation nearly equalled men’s -- girls comprised 48 per cent of students in all schools, and 35 per cent of women received higher education.

    Women also participated in the labour market, he said, adding that 31 per cent of government employees were female.  The women of Oman remained proud of their participation in business, which was facilitated by training programmes.  Women also filled high government posts, including as ambassadors, senators and ministers.  His Government remained committed to ensuring women’s full participation in social life, in accordance with the principles of Islam.

    IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) stressed that women’s issues were global and universal and that a comprehensive work plan for the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment had been elaborated at the Beijing Conference, and during its 2000 review.  The promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women had rightly been recognized as effective methods of combating poverty, hunger and disease; gender equality formed one of the bases of sustainable development.  Thus, gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment remained key components of his country’s policy direction.  Not long ago, Bangladesh had been a traditional society; today, it was in the throes of tremendous societal transformation, which had done much to marginalize extremist and irrational thought and action.

    Sustainable development, he added, could only be achieved through adherence to the principles of pluralism, democracy, good governance, human rights, gender equality, gender justice and women’s empowerment.  Thus, as economic empowerment and education remained essential to women’s empowerment, there had been heavy investment in women’s education and economic empowerment.  Gender gaps in education and health care had been narrowed and primary education had been made compulsory and free through the twelfth grade.  Microcredit and non-formal education initiatives had been implemented for women’s economic and political mainstreaming.  In addition to filling senior political offices as cabinet ministers and ambassadors, women had headed both the Government and the Parliamentary opposition for the past 13 years.

    Internationally, his country was party to all major instruments related to women’s rights, he said.  In consonance with the Beijing Platform for Action, stringent legislative action had been taken, including the Suppression of Immoral Trafficking Act, Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act and Acid Crime Prevention Act, all of which aimed to protect women and girls from biases, prejudice and all forms of violence and discrimination.  Bangladesh had also been closely associated with the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security.  As one of the leading contributors to peacekeeping operations, Bangladesh played a significant role in furthering the resolution’s goals and objectives in post-conflict societies.

    NGO DUC THANG (Viet Nam) said women had a crucial role to play not only in the family but also in development.  Women were key contributors to the economy and to combating poverty.  Viet Nam had established a comprehensive legal framework to promote the implementation of women’s human rights, in line with the principle of non-discrimination and gender equality as specified by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Major achievements had been recorded in increasing the role and participation of women in State management and political leadership.  Viet Nam now enjoyed a high rate of women’s participation in parliament, accounting for 27.31 per cent of the National Assembly.  Moreover, 48.2 per cent of the labour force were women, and women were participating in all economic sectors.

    He said the upsurge in trafficking in women and girls posed serious impediments to their advancement. Trafficking in women violated their human rights and dignity, causing long-term psychological and physical damage. Viet Nam was making great efforts to eradicate this crime. It had enforced comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation, ratified international instruments, and concluded regional as well as bilateral agreements to ensure the prosecution of offenders. The 1999 Penal Code of Viet Nam stipulated penalties against trafficking in women with a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment and trafficking in children with a maximum penalty of life in prison. Many other bilateral agreements and projects with neighbouring countries and other international partners had also been signed. His country welcomed all initiatives to strengthen international cooperation to combat trafficking of women and girls, which caused no less serious damage than that inflicted by drug trafficking, arms smuggling or terrorism.

    LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) said the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had recognized the equal human rights of women, and had conferred obligations for their respect upon States party to that instrument.  It remained the broadest and most complete instrument for protection of women’s rights and laid out the path towards gender equality, as 170 States had acceded to the instrument to date.  Commemorations such as yesterday’s observance of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention’s adoption by the General Assembly served as good opportunities to inform the international community on progress in promoting women’s human rights.

    Gender equality remained an essential component of combating poverty, hunger, disease and achieving sustainable development, he said.  Yet, despite the recognition of this fact, discrimination against women continued in many countries.  Moreover, although women’s enjoyment of their full human rights remained indispensable to development, their particular vulnerability to diseases such as HIV/AIDS and to the scourge of violence continued.  Women’s participation in the political lives of their respective countries must be enhanced, and legislation to end violence against women and girls must be improved.

    His country had achieved much for the empowerment of women, he concluded.  The national law against violence against women had consecrated irrevocable rights for women.  Moreover, the Government had worked with UNIFEM to promote non-governmental organizations’ involvement in initiatives for the advancement of women.  Training in Ecuador had led to a network of more than 60 women’s organizations dedicated to equal economic rights.  He also reiterated support for the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.  Ecuador remained committed to strengthening the role of women, and sought to formulate and implement policies and programmes to improve their situation in the areas of violence, health, work and access to resources.

    SHOJI NISHIMOTO, a representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said UNDP would continue to do everything it could, in cooperation with United Nations Member States, to realize the shared vision of gender equality and the empowerment of women.  The UNDP had consistently supported human rights for women, both with respect to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  Since the Beijing plus five review, the agency had continued to support governments, actions to review and revoke laws that discriminated against women.

    He said the UNDP had made a deliberate choice not to establish a separate practice area for gender equality, but to pursue the goal through gender mainstreaming.  That decision had been made, not because the issue was not important enough, but because it was too important to treat it as a separate area so as to risk its becoming “ghettoized”.  Mainstreaming was not a license for inaction, but included the responsibility to ensure that gender issues were fully integrated in the organization’s activities and policies.  The UNDP was working in partnership with agencies, including UNIFEM.  It was seeking to leverage the pool of expertise in UNIFEM and to maximize its role as a catalyst of innovative, gender-related programming within the United Nations.

    Ms. MBIKUSITA-LEWANIKA, of the Commonwealth Secretariat, noted the various achievements in the field of human rights over the last 25 years, since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  That treaty was the most important human rights instrument for the protection and promotion of women’s rights.  In the Commonwealth as a whole, efforts had made been made to ratify, implement and monitor the Convention at the regional and national levels.  As a result, 49 out of the 53 Commonwealth countries had ratified the treaty.  In addition, many countries were making progress in the implementation of the Convention through law reforms and other measures.  In an attempt to address the disparities between customary laws and cultural practices and international and regional instruments and national laws, some Commonwealth countries had accommodated cultural differences by incorporating them into domestic law and national constitutions.

    Despite such achievements, she continued, societal structures and prejudices still hindered the full and immediate implementation of women’s human rights worldwide.  There was, therefore, a need to constantly monitor and evaluate issues related to women’s human rights.  Of particular concern to the Commonwealth was the persistent problem of gender-based violence in many parts of the world and the rapid growth in the international trafficking of women.

    Turning to the new Commonwealth Plan of Action, she said the 2005-2015 Plan of Action reflected the Commonwealth’s fundamental values of equality for all Commonwealth people and respect for human rights and the rule of law.  It reflected the Commonwealth’s commitment to the promotion of a rights-based approach to gender equality, by implementing the provisions of international, regional and national human rights instruments and mechanisms.

    ANGIE MAPARA, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the IFRC was pleased that the topic of violence against women had been given a high priority this year.  Although progress had been made in many countries on the issue of gender equality, violence against women had yet to be adequately addressed.  Among other issues of particular concern to the IFRC were the HIV/AIDS pandemic, discrimination against migrant women, and education for girls.

    She said the IFRC highlighted violence against women as a serious priority and looked forward to cooperating actively with the United Nations system to counter this problem.  The IFRC urged governments to work towards a more proactive programme of engaging with civil society and other groups in their countries on the issue.  As the report of the Secretary-General had shown, solutions would not be supplied by legislation alone.

    Action on Social Development, Crime Prevention, International Drug Control

    Beginning its afternoon meeting, the Committee took action on several draft resolutions related to social development, crime prevention and international drug control.

    First, it approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on Celebration of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond (document A/C.3/59/L.2), which would have the General Assembly urge governments to continue to take sustained action at all levels concerning family issues to promote the role of families in development, and urge the international community to address family-related concerns within the framework of the commitments undertaken at relevant major United Nations conferences and their follow-up processes.  The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to give appropriate consideration to the tenth anniversary of the International Year by preparing the observance of the International Day of Families on 15 May 2004 and to continue to utilize the United Nations Trust Fund on Family Activities to provide financial assistance for activities specific to the family.

    Under crime prevention and criminal justice, the Committee took action on seven texts, the first of which concerned Preparations for the eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document A/C.3/59/L.3).  Approved without a vote, that text would have the General Assembly request the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to begin preparation of a draft declaration for submission to the eleventh Congress at least one month prior to its commencement and reiterate its invitation to Member States to be represented at the Congress at the highest possible level.  It would further call upon the Congress to formulate concrete proposals for further follow-up and action, paying particular attention to practical arrangements relating to the effective implementation of the international legal instruments pertaining to transnational organized crime, terrorism and corruption and related technical assistance.

    The terms of a draft text, approved without a vote, on Assistance to least developed countries to ensure their participation in the sessions of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the sessions of conferences of States parties (document A/C.3/59/L.4) would have the General Assembly call upon Member States, international organizations and funding institutions to redouble their efforts to increase their voluntary contributions to assist the Secretary-General in covering the cost of travel and daily subsistence allowance for the participation of representatives of the least developed countries.

    The text of a draft, approved without a vote, on Strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance in promoting the implementation of the universal conventions and protocols related to terrorism (document A/C.3/59/L.5) would have the General Assembly call upon Member States who have not yet done so to become parties to and to implement the universal conventions and protocols relating to terrorism as soon as possible and urge them to continue working together, including on a regional and bilateral basis and in close cooperation with the United Nations, to prevent and combat acts of terrorism by strengthening international cooperation and technical assistance within the framework of relevant Security Council resolutions.  It would also request the Secretary-General to convene an expert workshop to examine and analyse problems encountered by criminal justice practitioners in affording mutual legal assistance and granting extradition for terrorist offences, with a view to identifying proven and promising practices.

    The terms of a text, approved without a vote, on International cooperation in the prevention, combating and elimination of kidnapping and in providing assistance to victims (document A/C.3/59/L.6) would have the General Assembly vigorously condemn and reject once again the practice of kidnapping, especially when it is carried out by organized criminal groups and terrorist groups, and call upon Member States to strengthen measures against money-laundering and to engage in international cooperation and mutual assistance in the tracing, detection, freezing and confiscating of the proceeds of kidnapping.  It would also urge Member States to adopt legislative, administrative and other measures to provide appropriate support and assistance to victims and their families.

    The Assembly would also request the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to prepare a handbook of proven and promising practices in the fight against kidnapping, and to provide technical assistance to States, upon request, to enable them to strengthen their capacity to combat kidnapping.

    Approved without a vote, a draft on Action against corruption (document A/C.3/59/L.7) would have the Assembly urge Member States to consider signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption as soon as possible, in order to allow its early entry into force and subsequent implementation.  It would also request the Secretary-General to provide the UNODC with the resources necessary to enable it to promote the Convention’s entry into force and implementation.

    Also approved without a vote, a text on Preventing, combating and punishing trafficking in human organs (document A/C.3/59/L.8) would have the Assembly urge Member States to adopt the necessary measures to prevent, combat and punish the illicit removal of and trafficking in human organs and request the eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to pay attention to this issue.  It would also request the Secretary-General to prepare a study on the extent of the phenomenon of trafficking in human organs for submission to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at its fifteenth session.

    The terms of a text, approved without a vote, on International cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime (document A/C.3/59/L.9) would have the Assembly urge all States and relevant regional economic integration organizations to consider ratifying or acceding to the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Component and Ammunition and request the Secretary-General to continue to provide the UNODC with the resources necessary to enable it to promote the implementation of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.  It would also request the UNODC to continue to assist States with capacity-building in the areas of international cooperation in criminal matters, in particular extradition and mutual legal assistance.

    Also before the Committee were three draft resolutions on international drug control.

    Approved without a vote, the text on Control of, cultivation of and trafficking in cannabis (document A/C.3/59/L.10) would have the General Assembly request the UNODC to begin a global survey of cannabis, initially with a market survey, and to support the creation or strengthening of national and subregional strategies and plans of action for the eradication of cannabis crops.  It would urge Member States to extend cooperation to affected States, particularly in Africa, in the area of alternative development and to encourage appropriate access to international markets for products of alternative development projects.

    The terms of a text, approved without a vote, on Providing support to the Government of Afghanistan to eliminate illicit opium and foster regional stability and security (document A/C.3/59/L.11) would have the General Assembly call upon the international community to enhance financial and technical support to Afghanistan in order to enable the Government successfully to implement its national drug control strategy and, thereby, reduce the threat to peace and stability created by illicit opium poppy cultivation and the illicit opium trade.  It would also urge all stakeholders to accelerate efforts to implement a combined strategy, comprising law enforcement, eradication, interdiction, demand reduction and awareness-building, with a view to creating sustainable livelihoods, independent of illicit opium.

    The terms of a text, approved without a vote, on strengthening the systems of control over chemical precursors and preventing their diversion and trafficking (document A/C.3/59/L.12) would have the Assembly urge all Member States to put in place systems and procedures to ensure that the details of any interdiction, seizure or diversion of precursors are communicated expeditiously to all governments concerned and the International Narcotics Control Board.  The Assembly would also invite States, which do not have mechanisms to enable the real-time exchange of information under current international operations, to consider establishing a national focal point or central national authority through which all information on licit and illicit consignments can be channelled.  It would also invite Member States and appropriate international and regional bodies to review intelligence on the smuggling of drugs and precursor chemicals to identify common links and plan appropriate operations to stop such activities.

    The Assembly would also encourage Member States to conduct backtracking law enforcement investigations, in order to counter smuggling networks, and to investigate the possibility of establishing operational chemical profiling programmes.

    Statements on Advancement of Women

    SAMER OMAR ATIA (Libya) said the major international conferences and summits had fostered recognition that global prosperity and stability would only be achieved if global imbalances were redressed.  Such imbalances and poverty threatened global peace and security.  Currently some 2 billion people lived in abject poverty, the majority of them in developing countries, the majority of whom were women and girls.  There was a need to foster a gender-specific perspective, including at the political and economic levels.  Further efforts must be deployed to ensure that women could participate fully in the decision-making process to combat hunger, disease and poverty, and to combat war and conflict.  Women’s ability to fulfil their natural roles in society must be ensured.

    The seriousness of the threat of trafficking in women and girls meant that all stakeholders must become involved in ending that vile phenomenon, he emphasized.  Those involved in such criminal activities must be pursued and punished.  The Koran prescribed protection from slavery for all people, male and female, and his country had enacted laws consecrating this principle.  A number of laws to protect women’s rights and help them overcome obstacles encountered thus far had also been enacted.

    Regarding the situation of women and girls in Africa, he stressed their vulnerability to disease, poverty and conflict and urged international support to help African countries fulfil the commitments entered into at Beijing.  Moreover, the situation of Palestinian women and girls was also of concern.  Deprivation of their rights constituted a crime against humanity, which had, thus far, been witnessed by the international community with no reaction.

    VLADIMIR ZHEGLOV (Russian Federation) said it would be counterproductive to discuss another programme document with additional obligations at national and international levels.  The number of obligations already in the Beijing Platform of Action had provided a basis for making real progress in attaining gender equality.  The Russian Federation was continuously taking on new international commitments for gender equality.  It was presently conducting an overhaul of legislation and was taking into account the gender perspective in those changes.

    On trafficking in persons, he said Russia had ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols.  Ratification of those documents was followed by work on aligning domestic legislation with international norms for fighting trafficking in persons.  There was a national mechanism to counter trafficking in persons.  A lot of collaborative work being done with non-governmental organizations, and priority was being given to cooperation with them.

    MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU (Cameroon) said the Third Committee should take a long, hard look at the obstacles that continued to block full implementation of international agreements on advancement of women.  Women and girls continued to suffer violence; the international community must continue to define and implement policies to improve the situation of women and girls, such as the Beijing Platform for Action.  That document recommended policies to be adopted and implemented by all States.  The broadened role for peace and security ascribed to women by Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), as well as the appointment of women to high-profile posts in the United Nations system, were welcome, but the international community must continue work on countering violence against women.

    Women remained the heart of the family in Cameroon, he said.  The country had ratified the primary international legal instruments on women’s rights and had worked to develop a family code of ethics to mainstream women’s concerns and rights, with particular attention to rural women.  The Government had also called for the abolition of female genital mutilation.

    The issues of gender equality, combating all forms of violence against women, and emphasizing the growing role played by women in combating poverty had received ever-greater attention, he noted.  Yet, in many cases, new values and concepts of relations between men and women had been seen as threats to social balance and harmony.  Thus, while legal instruments should serve as frameworks within which to train and sensitize populations, there was no such thing as a single benchmark for all countries.  Legislation undertaken pursuant to adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action and its five-year review must be supplemented by full implementation.

    GURO KATHARINA HELWIG VIKOR (Norway) said that justice and development would not be achieved until the rights set out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women had been everywhere realized.  All States should ratify the Convention and withdraw any reservations contrary to its object and purpose.  In this way, Member States could respond to the Secretary-General’s call for increased respect for the rule of law.

    Ensuring justice for women remained crucial to establishment of the rule of law and consolidation of peace, she said, adding that the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) had constituted a milestone highlighting the need for women and men alike to be recognized as agents and beneficiaries of efforts to advance peace and justice in post-conflict settings.  Yet, follow-up to the resolution had been weak.  The responsibility to implement the resolution must be respected, at all levels of planning and decision-making.  Lasting peace could not be established without the participation of women and the inclusion of a gender perspective in both formal and informal peace processes.

    Reiterating her country’s commitment to support effective efforts to mainstreaming gender equality through the United Nations, she said that working for gender equality must form a cornerstone of all nations’ family policy.  In Norway, gender equality began in the home, and the agreed conclusions on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality were welcomed.  Next year’s review of the Millennium Development Goals and of the Beijing Platform for Action should employ critical examination, and the forthcoming United Nations Summit on the Information Society should include women’s issues, especially young women’s interests.

    HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said that, while celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, one should not overlook the grim reality women continued to confront.  Unless commitments were translated into effective action, women around the world would continue to suffer from discrimination.  Next year would be the anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action of 1995 and the special session of the General Assembly in 2000.  A review of progress made should be serious and candid.

    He said that, in Turkey, the advancement of women had been an essential element of modernization efforts since 1923.  One of the most recent and important reforms was the adoption of the new penal code last month, which, among other things, brought fundamental improvement in women’s rights.  There had also been extensive efforts to publicly debate the issue of honour crimes, which had started to produce results.  Honour crimes were neither limited to specific countries nor had they anything to do with religion.  Pervasive and misconstrued patriarchal norms and values lay at the core of the issue.  Fighting it required effective legislation ensuring prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators, as well as preventive measures, including in education and awareness-raising campaigns.

    MAVIS KUSORGBOR (Ghana) said her country had affirmed its commitment to the Beijing Platform by instituting policies and legal and administrative measures to ensure respect for women’s rights.  The Ministry for Women and Children’s Affairs was committed to bridging persisting gender inequalities in access to social, political and economic opportunities and to service delivery.  Policies and programmes were also being implemented to mainstream a gender perspective, and affirmative action was being promoted to cultivate gender sensitivity at all decision-making levels.

    Even so, she said, violence against women had increased recently.  Monitoring had revealed women endured domestic violence due to ignorance of their rights and economic dependence on male partners.  A national programme to raise awareness and educate women had been put into action, and a draft domestic violence bill would soon be adopted to strengthen the legal mechanisms for achieving gender equality.  Those actions would augment the local and district-level microfinance projects already in place to economically empower women.  Those measures would also cut into the worst form of human rights abuse, the trafficking of persons.

    ADELINE M. CHANCY, Minister on the Status of Women and Women’s Rights of Haiti, said the issue of improving women’s living conditions worldwide lay at the heart of the Beijing Platform for Action.  Despite progress made in implementation of those objectives, many challenges remained, particularly for poverty eradication.

    On the national situation in Haiti, she said statistics showed that, despite women’s major contribution to the economy, they were not given due credit, as wage discrimination continued.  Furthermore, initial access to education for girls was regularly undermined by an extremely high drop-out rate.  The lack of awareness on women’s rights in health care and a lack of sexual education programmes teaching responsible action for both partners also remained a problem.  Moreover, Haitian legislation had long ignored women.  The legal code continued to be based on the Napoleonic code; women were not considered full citizens.

    Since she had taken up her post, she had worked on redrafting the Ministry’s functions, she said, refocusing its work on promoting women’s rights and mainstreaming a gender perspective.  The Ministry aimed to elaborate legislative bills to fill existing gaps and eliminate discriminatory laws.  The work now under way concerned responsible fatherhood, common-law marriage, abortion, adultery and education of the girl child.  The Ministry also worked with other State bodies to emphasize the cross-cutting nature of gender issues.  Among other areas, women’s access to health care remained a priority.  Her Ministry continued to work with the Ministry of Health, including on the impact of HIV/AIDS and other pandemics on women.  Sexual violence, which had been used as a repressive weapon in the past, also remained a source of concern.  Overall, the Government remained determined to improve the status of women and counted on cooperation from its development partners to improve institutional mechanisms for defence of women’s rights.

    NADYA RASHEED, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said Palestinian women faced a unique situation, as they continued to fight inequality and discrimination in their society but also struggled, along with the rest of the Palestinian population, to achieve freedom, peace and prosperity in the face of a brutal occupation.  It could not be overemphasized how severely Palestinian women had been affected by the ongoing aggression and reign of terror perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power.  Over 10,000 homes had been destroyed over the past four years, which had left thousands of women and their families homeless.  Palestinian women, like all mothers, strove to provide their children with the means to healthy lives.  However, Israel’s policy of confiscating and destroying millions of dunums of agricultural land in order to expand or build new illegal settlements had made that virtually impossible.

    She said the plight of Palestinian women had only been further worsened by the illegal building of Israel’s “expansionist wall”, aggravating an already acute humanitarian crisis.  There could be no justification for the murder of mothers and their children in their homes by tank or helicopter missile fire, or to be crushed to death as their homes were demolished.  There could be no justification for pregnant Palestinian women to die in childbirth as they were held at checkpoint.  There could be no justification for the continued violations of international law, by Israel, the occupying Power, and for its wanton disregard for human life and dignity.  Israel’s occupation and its illegal policies and practices must be brought to an end.

    MORINA MUUONDJO (Namibia) said her Government had shown its commitment to the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women through its national policies, legislation and ratification of relevant international instruments.  A National Gender Policy had been adopted in 1997 with the aim of redressing inequalities between men and women.  A National Gender Plan of Action had also been developed to support its implementation.

    She said violence against women violated and impaired the enjoyment by women of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  As such, the elimination of violence against women and children remained very high on Namibia’s national agenda.  While there still exited traditional norms, beliefs and practices that encouraged the persistence of violence against women and children, various laws had been enacted to combat all forms of violence against women in public and private life.

    Namibia recognized that the primary responsibility for implementing gender policies lay with national governments, but believed the United Nations was the appropriate body for setting commitments and targets for gender equality.  National institutions, especially in the least developed and developing countries required the support and assistance from their developed partners, particularly in capacity-building in order to implement national gender policies.

    Ms. HILL (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Canada and Australia, said, despite very real challenges, all three countries maintained an unwavering commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  There was much at stake; women’s rights were fundamental to the growth, prosperity and security of all Member States.

    All three Governments, she said, took their commitments seriously and had national plans of action in place, as well as policies to “mainstream” gender across all their international aid programmes.  They continued to dedicate substantial resources toward international gender issues.  They placed the highest priority on eliminating violence against women at home and abroad.

    She reaffirmed the importance of sexual and reproductive health rights as set down in Cairo in 1994 and Beijing in 1995, for the purposes of both improving women’s health and allowing them to decide when to have sex and to have children.  Given the importance of women’s rights to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, it was time to take action to realize those rights throughout the world.

    SHARON CHAN (Singapore) said that, as a small nation with no natural resources, Singapore had to make the best use of its people.  Women were an integral part of the country’s human resources.  In order for women to compete on an equal footing with men, they must first be given equal access to education and health care.  Singapore had a high literacy rate for women.  The percentage of women at its universities was 51 per cent.  Also, the Government placed a high priority on health care, to which men and women had equal access.  The Maternal Mortality Rate had dropped from 10 per 100,000 births in 2001 to five in 2003.

    She said in the new millennium, a woman’s place was no longer confined to the home.  More Singaporean women were choosing to enter the workforce, and the female labour force participation rate was 54 per cent in 2003.  Women had also started to break through the glass ceilings both in the public and private sectors.  The proportion of female corporate managers rose from 27 per cent in 1999 to 31 per cent in 2003.  In August, the Prime Minister had appointed three women political office-holders.  The Singaporean Noeleen Heyzer was Executive Director of UNIFEM.  Men and women continued to be equally valued in Singapore, and both genders were given equal opportunities to exercise their fundamental freedoms.

    ANDREI A. TARANDA (Belarus) said efforts to mainstream the gender perspective into the work of the United Nations had demonstrated how the Beijing Platform for Action had been implemented at the international level.  However, more must be done to implement that agreement at the national level.  For its part, his country had worked to increase opportunities for women’s participation in the political, economic and social sectors of life.  Belarus had embarked upon its second national plan of action for gender equality (2001-2005) and continued to work to refine national norms and the legal system.  Draft legislation on gender equality and the family had been elaborated, with the purpose of preventing gender discrimination and strengthening gender equality in the family.

    To raise awareness of women’s issues, the process of forming a gender education system continued to be ongoing, he said.  It included the revision of school curricula to take existing gender stereotypes into consideration.  The Government had also increased its cooperation with women’s non-governmental organizations.  That cooperation was quite broad and ranged from encouraging non-governmental organization participation in developing relevant plans and programmes to promote women’s rights to provision of State assistance to the programmes carried out by them.

    Belarus had also taken specific action to combat trafficking in persons, he said, including improving record-keeping, strengthening law enforcement and developing a network of agencies to provide assistance to victims of trafficking.  The Government had developed a comprehensive set of measures to counter trafficking in persons and had hosted an international conference on national and European Union legislation on countering trafficking in women and children.  There had also been progress on implementation of the Beijing Platform at the international level over the past year.  Belarus had recently submitted its combined fourth, fifth and sixth periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and had been among the first to accede to the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its three additional protocols.

    ADIYATWIDI ADIWOSO ASMADY (Indonesia) said it was important to incorporate gender equality and women’s empowerment in all United Nations and intergovernmental bodies, as the anchor of the Millennium Development Goals.  Success in that effort would have positive impacts in closing the gap between policy and practice on other goals.  For its part, Indonesia supported international efforts to promote women’s rights and to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, but emphasized that different cultural characteristics and levels of development remained key factors determining workable and effective implementation of gender empowerment programmes in each country.

    Advancement of women was a national priority for her Government, she said.  At the local level, gender mainstreaming had focused on empowering institutions to be gender responsive, through training and financial support, and collaborating with community organizations.  Provincial and district parliaments were responsible for harmonizing regulations and establishing local infrastructure for gender mainstreaming.  The recent election had laid a stronger foundation for women in politics, as political parties had been required to nominate women for at least 30 per cent of their candidacies for national, provincial and local parliament.

    During next year’s reviews of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and of the Millennium Development Goals, attention should be given to progress made in eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education.  Moreover, while promotion of gender equality remained the primary responsibility of States, she said the multidimensional and intersectoral aspect of women’s issues meant that stakeholders from all levels were required to address them.  Partnership among countries was an essential factor.

    FRANKLIN MAKANGA (Gabon) said the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women adopted 25 years ago was the prime regulatory instrument for protecting and defending the rights of women around the world.  Women’s empowerment had always been at the heart of his Government’s concerns.  After all, women made up 52 per cent of the population, and the Government had taken numerous measures to eliminate discrimination against them.  In legislative terms, Parliament had enacted laws that recognized the equality of men and women.  In economic and social terms it had implemented a number of projects to increase women’s access to microcredit.  The Ministry of the Family had worked with the UNDP to work towards the protection of women’s rights.

    He said those government actions had been complemented by the work of non-governmental organizations and women’s associations.  The Government had also set up a national committee for family and the promotion of women.  Women were now represented at all levels of government.  Gabon was fully convinced that once women were adequately represented on national and international levels, they would represent a powerful force in the economic and social development of society.  In closing, he urged an increase in the number of women, and especially African women, in the United Nations system.

    ZINA KLEITMAN (Israel) said her country remained proud of the status of its women; unlike the situation in many countries -– and unlike the situation in most countries of the Middle East –- women in Israel were given opportunities equal to men at every stratum.  Women’s issues were neither strictly domestic nor international -- States must do their utmost to promote the situation of women, as must the international community and United Nations.  Thus, Israel considered that gender equality remained a high priority, as did elimination of discrimination against women.

    Among national advances, the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Parliamentary Committee for the Advancement of Women and the Council for the Advancement of Women in Science and Technology had all been established.  Israel’s colleges and universities had implemented committees to monitor women’s progress and had established a position of Adviser to the University President on Advancing the Status of Women.

    Unfortunately, the mistreatment of women often extended beyond discrimination to physical violence, she noted.  As in many countries, violence against women remained a serious problem.  Over recent years, Israel had sought to bring this problem to the forefront of public awareness, as a critical step in combating it.  National legislation to combat violence against women included the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law and the Stalking Law, both of which were based on the concept that threats to the safety of a particular woman also affronted the dignity and liberty of all women.

    Poverty was its own form of violence, she continued.  One mechanism to combat this problem was enabling women to help themselves.  In Israel, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry had established a unit to promote women’s small- and medium-sized businesses, providing financing, information, workshops, mentoring and networking to female entrepreneurs.

    SIN SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that complete realization of gender equality was extremely important because, despite recent progress, women the world over remained the major victims of discrimination and violence, as well as economic woes such as poverty, unemployment and disease.

    Beyond the development of a legal definition of women’s rights, she said conditions must be created for women to participate equally in political, economic, educational, social and all other kinds of activities regardless of their cultural origin.  In addition, all Member States should thoroughly investigate past crimes against women and make amends, including compensation.

    The realization of de facto gender equality had long been a policy of her country, she said, with several stages of progress since its 1946 Law on Gender Equality.  Supporting international efforts toward that end, it also made every effort to fulfil its obligations under the Convention and desired an open and constructive dialogue with the Committee during consideration of its initial report.

    SIMIONE ROKOLAQA (Fiji) said his country’s Ministry of Women, whose membership included both government and civil societies, had been mounting media campaigns to eliminate violence against women.  The Attorney General had authorized the Fiji Law Reform Commission to work on legislation pertaining to domestic violence.  Both the Government and civil society organizations in his 

    country recognized the high prevalence of violence against women and were addressing this problem through legal reform and community education.

    He said gender mainstreaming in government policies and programmes continued to be an enormous challenge for Fiji’s national machinery for women, in light of the cultural, structural and attitudinal barriers it faced.  Its severe resource and capacity constraint further underscored the need for appropriate political will and attention if the gender gaps were to be effectively addressed.  Nonetheless, Fiji’s Ministry of Women remained optimistic, given the vigilance and dynamic activities of women’s non-governmental organizations and civil society and the Government’s support for the Women’s Plan of Action.

    Statements in Exercise of the Right of Reply

    Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Israel said that the attempt to frame the construction of the security fence as an impediment to the rights of Palestinian women represented a grave distortion of reality.  Until the outbreak of the intifada, Israel’s relationship with its neighbours had been one of bridges, not borders.  The walls, fences and dividing lines that had separated the peoples of the region in earlier years had been dismantled.

    Thus, one must ask why Israel had felt it necessary to change its policy and begin to build an ugly and unpopular fence, he continued.  The reason was it worked.  More than 21,000 terrorist attacks had occurred since the outbreak of violence in 2000, taking the lives of more than 1,000 individuals.  With the Palestinian leadership unwilling to do anything to stop the violence, the security fence was the only thing that stood between the murderers and the civilians they targeted.  As had been repeatedly reiterated, the security fence remained only a temporary measure designed to guard against terrorist attacks.

    Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the Observer for Palestine said that the accusation regarding suicide bombing as the reason for Israel’s construction of the wall was false.  The Palestinian authorities had repeatedly declared the bombings illegal and contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people.  Israel could not change the reality of 37 years of repression under the occupation and daily violations of the rights of the Palestinian people.  The bombings could not be divorced from the reality of a people suffering under occupation, mired in desperation and devastation.

    The first suicide bombing had not occurred until more than 20 years after the occupation had begun, he said.  It had not occurred until after more than 350,000 settlers had been transferred onto Palestinian territory.  Israel was building the wall to colonize parts of the Palestinian territory.  There was also a fundamental difference between the illegal acts of individuals and those of a State army, implementing State policies.  More than 3,000 people had been killed, including more than 750 children, on direct orders from the Government of Israel.  If that was not State terrorism, then what was?

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