Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6172
    22 July 2005

    ECOSOC Tackles Drug Control, Social Development, Advancement of Women, Human Rights, as It Continues General Segment

    NEW YORK, 21 July (UN Headquarters) -- The Economic and Social Council today continued the general segment of its 2005 substantive session by taking up a broad array of issues under its coordination mandate in areas covering drug control, the advancement of women, economic and environmental questions, and human rights.

    Among the decisions taken today, all without a vote, the Council decided to transmit to the General Assembly two Declarations on 10-year anniversaries -- one of the World Summit for Social Development and the other of the Fourth World Conference on Women, contained in the reports of its Commissions on Social Development and the Status of Women, respectively.

    The Council also took action on texts relating to the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, and persons with disabilities, including a text on an international convention on persons with disabilities.  The Council also took a decision pertaining to nominations to the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

    In other action, the Council filled 25 vacancies for four-year terms on the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters; 24 vacancies for four-year terms on the Committee of Experts on Public Administration; elected Sweden to a three-year term on the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting; and nominated Switzerland for election by the General Assembly to the Committee for Programme and Coordination.

    Action was also taken on five resolutions, contained in the report of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations regarding:  applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification; suspension of consultative status; withdrawal of consultative status; issuance of documentation; and dates of the 2006 session along with provisional agenda.  Also, the Council decided to grant observer status in its work to the Global Water Partnership and the Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine.

    During today’s discussion, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on implementing the outcome of the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women, saying that while progress had been made, a gap remained between policy and practices.  She called for United Nations entities to develop action plans with timelines, specific implementation mechanisms, and monitoring tools.

    Carmen Moreno, the Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), introduced the Institute’s report and called for a review of resources, impacts, effectiveness and sustainability of actions taken in the United Nations system to mainstream a gender perspective.

    Also today, the Council heard an address by the President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Hamid Ghodse, who called for both operational and policy-level integration of efforts to reduce demand and supply in trafficking of illicit drugs.

    In addition, Eduarto Vetere, of the Division for Treaty Affairs of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, introduced the Secretary-General’s report on capital punishment; and Eric Morris, the Director of the New York Office of the Office of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), delivered reports on the Office’s activities that included participation in the inter-agency process aimed at improving assistance to internally displaced persons.

    In addition, Canada introduced a draft on the United Nations Development Fund for Women; Tunisia introduced a draft resolution on the Middle East; and Jordan introduced a draft decision on the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

    Also taking part in today’s proceedings were the representatives of the United States, Iceland, Iraq, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Mexico, Russian Federation, South Africa and China.

    The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 22 July, when it will continue its general segment with a focus on social and human rights questions.

    Background

    The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) met today to continue the general segment of its 2005 session.  It was expected to take up matters related to its coordinating role, hear the introduction of drafts on some items, and take action on draft proposals. 

    The Council was also expected to hear an address by the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), for which it had before it document E/INCB/2004/1.

    Among the documents relating to women, the Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action (document E/2005/54), which it was expected to consider in view of mainstreaming a gender perspective into the United Nations system, under the umbrella of the Council’s coordinating function.  Also before the Council were the reports of the Commission on the Status of Women (documents E/2005/27, supplement 7, and E/2005/27/Corr.1), and reports on the advancement of women (documents E/2005/54, E/2005/75, A/60/38 and A/60/62-E/2005/10).

    Related to that, the Council had before it a resolution on the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (document E/2005/L.32).  Action was expected on two recommendations in the report by the Commission on the Status of Women, one relating to Palestinian women and the other to those in Afghanistan.

    On organizational matters, the Council had before it items postponed from previous sessions.  Those related to:  the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters (document E/2005/9/Add.11); the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (document E/2005/9/Add.12); the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting; and the Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC).

    The Council also had before it documents relating to social and human rights questions (documents E/2005/74, E/2005/CRP.3 and E/2005/Misc.1); social development (documents E/2005/26, supplement 6 and A/60/61-E/2005/7); crime prevention and criminal justice (documents E/2005/30, supplement 10, E/2005/3 and Add.1); narcotic drugs (document E/2005/28, supplement 8, and E/INCB/2004/1); and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2005/46).

    Regarding non-governmental organizations (NGOs), for which the Council had before it documents E/2005/32 and Corr.1, the Council was expected to hear the introduction of a draft decision (document E/2005/L.17).  Action was expected on recommendations contained in documents E/2005/26, supplement 6, and E/2005/32.  The Council also had before it reports on the Global Water Partnership (document E/2005/40) and the Union économique et monétarie ouest-africaine (document E/2005/64).

    In addition, the Council was expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the Middle East (document E/2005/L.24).

    Statement on Narcotics Control

    HAMID GHODSE, President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said that, to significantly reduce drug production, trafficking and abuse, it was imperative for governments to ensure that there was operational and policy-level integration of demand-and-supply reduction efforts.

    In this year’s report, the Board reviewed the drug control situation in Afghanistan, he said.  In addition to opium poppy cultivation, illicit production of heroin and cannabis resin had gained ground in the country.  Not surprisingly, drug use had also increased.  The Government was determined to control the situation, and the Board will expect to see progress in that area when it visited the country after September.  The international community also had a large role to play in that effort.  The INCB was paying close attention to many other post-conflict situations, since drug abuse, particularly among child soldiers, continued in such countries.

    He then urged support for a draft resolution on increasing access to opioid analgesics, which were essential in treating pain related to HIV/AIDS, cancer and other chronic diseases.  He said that, together with the World Health Organization (WHO), the INCB would examine the feasibility of a possible assistance mechanism that would reduce the gap between the haves and have-nots in that area.

    The Board was also, he said, calling for the establishment of mechanisms to control the sale of controlled substances over the internet through draft resolution 48/5.  In addition, he urged ascension and compliance with the three conventions that formed the cornerstone of worldwide drug-control efforts.

    Statements on Women’s Issues

    RACHEL MAYANJA, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, began with a review of the Secretary-General’s report on follow-up to and progress in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document E/2005/54).  The report noted that progress had been made within the United Nations system as a result of effective inter-agency cooperation designed to bridge the gap between policy and practices.

    However, she said, despite progress made, a gap between policy and practices had persisted.  The report concluded that United Nations entities continued to identify gaps between policy and practices.  It encouraged United Nations entities to develop action plans where they did not exist and to ensure that those action plans included timelines and specific implementation mechanisms, as well as monitoring tools.

    MIRIAM HUGHES (United States) said that education was the most critical element for those working to lift themselves out of poverty.  Unfortunately, in many regions of the world today, women were woefully under-educated.  Economic empowerment and full participation in a political system were two other pillars for the advancement of women.  Afghanistan’s transformation illustrated that point.  The United States was working for women in concrete, programmatic ways.  It provided, for example, $10 million for the Iraqi Women’s Democracy Initiative.  The Millennium Challenge Account made equal treatment for women a key criterion for countries seeking development aid.

    Other critical initiatives for the advancement of women, she said, were equal treatment under the law, the development of democracy and the Secretary-General’s idea for a Peacebuilding Commission.  In addition, human rights enforcement was necessary.  For that reason, she supported the creation of a Human Rights Council to more effectively address the most serious human rights situations.

    HJÁLMAR HANNESSON (Iceland) said that women were the central agents of development, and education was critical to support their advancement.  For that reason, Iceland had been supporting adult-literacy projects in its partner countries, as well as school-feeding programmes.

    Women were disproportionately affected by conflict and their role was particularly important in post-conflict societies, he said.  Iceland’s development cooperation was directed towards facilitating a smooth transition from conflict situations with a special emphasis on women.  For that reason, it was also increasing its support to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

    JWAN TAWFIQ (Iraq) said her country has made progress towards converting the society to one built around the principles of multilateralism.  But terrorist elements and the remnants of the previous regime were attempting to impede that progress, and had also affected conditions affecting women and their rights.  Despite those difficulties, women had exhibited courage in responding to terrorism, she said, noting that women represented some 25 percent of Iraq’s National Assembly and the country now boasted numerous female doctors, engineers and, for the first time, international diplomats.

    She noted that government organizations and NGOs were also playing a special role in the efforts to advance women’s rights.  She urged the international community to continue providing cooperation and assistance to ensure continued progress.

    PRAYONO ATIYANTO (Indonesia) applauded the significant progress made by United Nations entities and intergovernmental bodies since 1997.  But he said there should be increased efforts to address continuing challenges, including underdeveloped monitoring, reporting and accountability mechanisms; inadequate utilization of gender specialists; and insufficient capacity for gender analysis.

    He said it was equally important to build countries’ capacity to effectively measure progress in the implementation of international commitments that included gender components such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Beijing Platform for Action.  In that regard, he called for greater support by the United Nations and donor agencies to build country capacity to produce and report gender-related statistics.

    He supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation calling on United Nations entities to adopt gender mainstreaming action plans, which enabled them to move beyond policy formulation towards implementation with specific timelines and results-based monitoring mechanisms.

    ISHRAT JAHAN AHMED (Bangladesh) said that women’s advancement involved the range of cross-cutting issues, and the United Nations had been a catalyst in progress in all those issues, particularly in codifying the legal rights of women and integrating a gender perspective in new visions of development.  Though many challenges remained, the continued process must be supported.

    Bangladesh’s Constitution, she said, not only guaranteed equal rights for men and women, but also provided special measures and a separate ministry for the advancement of women and children.  The National Council for Women’s Development was headed by the Prime Minister herself and was comprised of a cross-section of public and private individuals.  Poverty eradication and gender mainstreaming were also intertwined.

    At the international level, she added, Bangladesh was in the forefront of the issue and was a State party to almost all related international instruments.  For further progress, clear linkages should be established between the Millennium Goals and the national priorities in implementing the results of United Nations conferences on women.  The Council had a key role to play in guiding the way.

    JUDITH MBULA BAHEMUKA (Kenya) said that Kenya had made key legislative changes to advance the status of women at various levels through the National Policy on Gender and Development.  Certain cultural practices that were prejudicial to the health of women and girls still persisted, however, and they were being addressed.  The enactment of the Children’s Act in 2002 and the introduction of alternative rights of passage for girls would address the problem of female genital mutilation.

    Moreover, she said the introduction of free primary education led to an unprecedented increase in the enrolment of girls.  The draft constitution, currently before the Parliament, would further improve women’s status and protection.  The impact of HIV/AIDS had, nevertheless, had profound consequences for women.  The Government had created programmes to combat it, but greater access to anti-retrovirals and support from development partners were crucial.

    Introduction of Draft

    DIANA RIVINGTON (Canada) said the United Nations had made some progress in gender mainstreaming, but system-wide implementation of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all policies and programmes was not yet achieved.  Challenges included insufficient institutional mechanisms in areas such as data collection, accountability, monitoring, reporting and training.  Resources were also inadequately allocated.  Hopefully, the new Special Adviser would develop action plans for mainstreaming in line with the Council’s 2004 review and appraisal.

    She said she was pleased to introduce a draft on UNIFEM (document E/2005/L.32) in company with Indonesia.  The text called for intensified efforts to address the challenges to the integration of a gender perspective into United Nations policies and programmes, and offered specific prescriptions to that end.

    CARMEN MORENO, Director of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), noted that the world still needed to overcome significant challenges before gender equality and women’s empowerment became realities.

    She said that a series of progress reports by INSTRAW on the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, which built upon the substantial work produced by governments, academic institutions, civil society and the international community, emphasized existing good practices in reducing gender inequality and identified future areas of work where additional efforts and resources were needed.

    Through its research and training activities, INSTRAW has emphasized the collection and strategic dissemination of gender-related information and knowledge, as well as the implementation of concrete actions that combined that knowledge with the legal and policy framework for women’s rights and gender equality.  The task at hand now was the review and evaluation of work done within the United Nations system on gender equality, resources, impacts, effectiveness and sustainability, in order to identify good practices, challenges and openings for change.

    JENNIFER FELLER (Mexico) reiterated her country’s commitment to the advancement of the rights of women and acknowledged advances made within the context of the Beijing Platform for Action.  However, she noted that challenges remained.  Mexico fully supported measures aimed at incorporating a gender perspective into all segments of the United Nations system, and noted that gender analysis was necessary to assure that policies benefited both men and women equally.  She also said coordination between agencies within the United Nations system must be strengthened and, to the greatest extent possible, duplication avoided.

    Action on Drafts

    The Council turned to the report on the Commission on the Status of Women (documents E/2005/27 and Corr.1).  The representative of Canada introduced a Declaration contained in it, concerning the tenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.  The Council decided, without a vote, to transmit the Declaration to the Assembly.

    The Council then took up the two resolutions contained in the report, one on Palestinian women and the other on women in Afghanistan.  The Council decided to postpone action on the draft concerning Palestinian women.  It adopted, without a vote, the draft on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

    The Council also decided to adopt a draft decision on the report of the forty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, also containing the provisional agenda and documentation for the fiftieth session.

    Next, the Council took up a note by the Secretary-General (document E/2005/9/Add.11), containing the names of 25 experts nominated by the Secretary-General to fill the 25 seats on the Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters.  The Council noted the appointments to four-year terms expiring 30 June 2009.  The action made the Committee membership fully constituted.

    The Council turned its attention to the 24 experts nominated by the Secretary-General to serve on the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (document E/2005/9/Add.12).  The Council approved the Secretary-General’s nomination of the experts for four-year terms beginning 1 January.

    On the endorsement of the Western European and Other States Group, the Council elected Sweden to a three-year term, beginning 1 January 2006, on the Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting.  The Council postponed elections for other vacancies on the Working Group.

    Again on the endorsement of the Western European and Other States Group, Switzerland was nominated for election by the General Assembly to the Committee for Programme and Coordination.  The three-year term will begin 1 January 2006.  Action was postponed on two other Committee vacancies in the same geographical group.

    Finally, the Council decided to grant observer status in its work to the Global Water Partnership and the Union économique et monétaire ouest-africaine.

    ERIC MORRIS, Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s New York Office, delivered two reports on various aspects of the UNHCR’s activities from January 2004 to mid-2005. On the humanitarian front, the UNHCR was working closely with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, under the leadership of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a number of areas.  Most recently, the UNHCR had become actively engaged in an inter-agency process aimed at improving assistance and protection to internally displaced persons.  The objective of that process was the elimination of the gaps in joint programming and the development of a more comprehensive and reliable response to the needs of those populations.

    He said another important aspect related to coordination within the humanitarian community was linked to cooperation in the World Food Programme (WFP).  The UNHCR frequently faced intolerable situations where it was unable to get an acceptable level of food and water to refugees.  Therefore, the UNHCR was working on joint solutions in order to be able to provide life-sustaining basic assistance to persons fleeing conflict or persecution.  He said the High Commissioner was also actively exploring ways to build on and strengthen ties with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    In addition, the UNHCR was continuing to strengthen its cooperation arrangement with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  He noted that the agency has been working with the United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Liberia, and it had also supported efforts aimed at establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, with the hope of contributing to the Peacebuilding Support Office to be created within the United Nations.

    In terms of long-term strategies, membership in the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) was beginning to show concrete results and the UNHCR was now actively participating in the joint UNDG/World Bank needs assessments for countries emerging from conflict and in transition from relief to development, he said.  In addition, last year the UNHCR became the tenth Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) co-sponsor.

    Turning to the second report on activities in Africa, he said that political and security tensions had continued to prevail in a number of regions on the African continent, producing further refugee outflows.  That had occurred mainly in West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire and Togo) and Central Africa, as well as in the Great Lakes region where there had been a number of refugee movements between eastern Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.  There had also been a steady influx of Sudanese refugees to Uganda and Kenya, despite the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for the Sudan, and the situation in Darfur continued to provoke instability in the region, threatening the lives of some 200,000 refugees in Chad.  The UNHCR had also been addressing the needs of Central African refugees who had recently fled to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad, as the result of a volatile security situation in the northern part of the country.

    He noted that, in view of continued instability, the UNHCR was remaining vigilant about upholding international protection principles.  Voluntary repatriation continued to be a key overall objective of UNHCR’s operations in Africa and, despite continued fluid political and security situations in some parts of the continent, considerable progress had been made.

    Commenting on internal displacement, he said more people were internally displaced on the African continent than in the rest of the world combined.  The UNHCR had mounted a large humanitarian operation to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons fleeing civil conflict in the Sudan.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, some 1 million internally displaced persons had spontaneously returned home.  But resumed fighting in the eastern Kivu provinces in the north-eastern Ituri district had resulted in the renewed displacement of tens of thousands of people.

    In concluding, he said that the UNHCR, in close collaboration with States and with its partner humanitarian and development agencies, would continue to strive to protect, pursue durable solutions and improve standards of assistance for refugees and displaced persons in Africa and in all other areas of its activities across the globe.

    Statements on Drugs and Crime

    EDUARTO VETERE, Division for Treaty Affairs of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty (document E/2005/3) and the report of the fourteenth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (document E/2005/30).

    He said the first report was based on a survey of a total of 72 States, a  15 per cent increase since the last report.  A large majority of the replies, however, were from countries that had abolished the death penalty for all or for ordinary crimes.  Many States that retained the death penalty did not provide accurate or comprehensive statistics on the number of death sentences imposed, appeals allowed, or executions carried out, and on relevant breakdowns by age, gender and type of offence.

    There had been some progress in restricting the scope of capital punishment in several countries and consideration of such action in several others, most notably China.  There had also been progress in abolishing the mandatory imposition of the death sentence in several countries and in restricting its imposition on those under 18, the elderly, mentally retarded persons, mentally ill persons, and women.  Of particular concern in a number of countries were the conditions under which persons were kept in confinement while under sentence of death.

    Overall, the survey showed a continuing trend towards further restriction of the use of capital punishment around the world, he said.  During the survey period, 10 countries abolished the practice; three more did so in 2004.  Seventeen States had not executed any offenders during at least 10 years.  Thus, the number of countries that retained the practice fell from 79 to 62 in the five years covered by the survey; out of those, only 43 had carried out executions.

    Twenty countries ratified one or another of the international instruments that barred the reintroduction of the death penalty.  The five years under review saw the adoption of a fourth international instrument, one which provided for the total abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances, including acts committed in time of war or the imminent threat of war.

    ANDREY PIROGOV (Russian Federation) supported the role of the United Nations in combating new crime challenges and threats.  Transnational organized crime had become a major threat to international security and could only be countered by international cooperation.  The Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was crucial in forming that unified response.  His country had ratified many related international instruments, including those against international trafficking in persons and slave labour.  The Convention against Corruption was almost ratified and would spark legislation to counter terrorism, among other scourges.  The Nuclear Terrorism Convention was crucial in that regard.

    He noted that drug trafficking often funded terrorist groups, and that the Russian Federation participated in many international activities against drug trafficking, including the Paris Process.  In conclusion, he said he was in favour of strengthening the role of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and was concerned about proposed restrictions on the meetings of that Commission.

    LUVUYO NDIMENI (South Africa) noted that in February 2004 South Africa had assumed the chairmanship of the forty-third session of the Commission for Social Development.  His country would like to see a strengthened Commission that continued to utilize the expertise of ministers responsible for social development, social development experts, academics and civil society, all participating in a programme that would focus on policy and on the review of implementation.

    In the belief that the Commission had a unique role in harmonizing the implementation synergies of the social development goals at country and regional level with the work of the Commission in New York, South Africa had circulated a proposal for the methods of work during the forty-third session.  The proposal was adopted by consensus, on the understanding that further deliberation would be conducted during the forty-fourth session.

    As a consequence, South Africa had reluctantly agreed to be re-elected to assume the vice-chairmanship of the Commission and was looking forward to working closely with the incoming chair of the forty-fourth session.

    Introduction of Drafts

    The representative of Tunisia introduced a draft resolution on economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the 

    Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan (document E/2005/L.24).

    The representative of Jordan introduced a draft decision on enlarging the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document E/2005/L.17).

    Action on Drafts

    The Council took up the report of the forty-third session of the Commission on Social Development (document E/2005/26, supplement 6).  The Council decided, without a vote, to transmit to the Assembly a Declaration on the tenth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, which the Commission had adopted.

    Three draft resolutions contained in the report were also adopted without a vote:  one on promoting equalization of opportunities relative to persons with disabilities and protecting their human rights; one on an international convention on the human rights of persons with disabilities; and one on the Commission’s future work.

    Further, a draft decision on the report itself was adopted without a vote, along with a decision on the nomination of six candidates to the Board of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

    The Council then took up the report on the current year’s session of the Committee on NGOs(document E/2005/32).  It contained five NGO-related draft decisions: applications for consultative status and requests for reclassification; suspension of consultative status; withdrawal of consultative status; issuance of documentation; and dates of the 2006 session along with provisional agenda.

    An exchange of views took place on the resolution concerning suspension of consultative status.

    The representative of the United States said that his country wished to disassociate itself from Decision II, as it opposed the recommendation of the Committee on NGO in May to suspend consultative status for the relevant organization, A Women’s Voice International, an organization which opposed human rights abuses worldwide.  It had brought to light Chinese rights abuses against women and against Christians, which the United States condemned.  He urged China to bring its human rights practices into line with international standards.

    China’s representative said that the NGO Committee adopted the decision to suspend the organization by an overwhelming majority because it seriously violated the rules of the Commission on Human Rights by bringing an illegal weapon into the meeting.  That act was condemned by the Secretary of the Commission.  The NGO Committee studied the materials forwarded by the Commission and expressed grave concern over such behaviour.  It then made a decision to suspend the organization for one year.  He objected to the depiction, by the United States representative, of China’s human rights record; the decision in the NGO Committee was not related to China’s position on human rights.

    All five texts were approved without a vote, as was a draft decision on the report itself.

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