Press Releases

    GA/SHC/3819
    12 October 2005

    Gender Equality, Women's Empowerment Essential to Vision of World Free from Want, Fear, Third Committee Told, as Discussion of Women's Issues Begins

    NEW YORK, 11 October (UN Headquarters) -- The vision of a world free of want and fear, to which world leaders recommitted themselves at the World Summit last month, depended on putting gender equality and human rights at the centre of human development and human security, speakers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this afternoon, as it began its debate on 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.

    Economic insecurity and breakdown, wars and armed conflicts, and the spread of HIV/AIDS had generated a host of new challenges to efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.  Countries needed a clear set of benchmarks to chart such progress, said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

    Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action was essential, as was aligning the Platform's gender equality measures with those of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Millennium Development Goals.  She also said it was necessary to strengthen the United Nations' gender equality architecture and the coherence and focus on gender at the country level.

    Last year, UNIFEM focused on helping countries to bring women's human rights into the development agenda and to devise national strategies to achieve the millennium targets.  In each area, it pursued an integrated approach, which meant supporting laws and policies to promote women's human rights; helping mainstream institutions allocate resources and establish accountability mechanisms to make the laws and policies meaningful; the strengthening of gender equality advocates to monitor and track progress and mobilize constituencies to bring about change; and a change in the harmful and discriminatory attitudes that perpetuated gender inequality around the world.

    Similarly, the work of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) on gender and security sector reform had shown that unless the definition of security was reconceptualized to include the human security of women at home and in their communities, women would continue to live amidst conflict and violence whether or not their countries were at war, said INSTRAW Director Carmen Moreno.  She stressed that violence would continue to be the most significant obstacle to gender equality, collective security, and achieving the millennium targets.

    Women accounted for the lion's share of the informal sector's labour pool.  They held most of the part-time and unpaid jobs in the reproductive or care economy.  They also made up most of the estimated 8 million persons trafficked yearly for exploitation, she said.  Population migration was increasingly feminized, and women had taken their place as major economic and household providers through remittances sent home to their families.

    The task now was to further the work of the United Nations system on gender equality to identify good practices, challenges and openings for change.  She said international commitments such as the millennium targets, viewed from a gender perspective, provided a unique opportunity to strengthen the United Nations' work and consolidate its role as a major force in the empowerment of women, development, growth and progress.

    Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division of the Advancement of Women of the the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs, pointed to the situation of female migrant workers, noting that violence against such women was still a cause for concern despite national legislation and strategies to end it, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for victims, and bilateral agreements to ensure the safe repatriation of migrants and regulate migrant workers' employment.

    She also stressed the needs of rural women, noting that the Secretary-General's report on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas recommended that the World Summit on the Information Society give rural women greater access to and management of information and communications technology resources locally and nationally.  In that regard, her Division had carried out a project to enhance African women's access to such technology through enhanced dissemination of national data on gender issues, improved advocacy and mobilization, increased access to and use of national research, and the sharing of experiences and best practices.

    In addition, she called attention to the need overall to enhance follow-up to progress made in implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, including greater analysis of gender perspectives and recommendations for concrete action.

    Several representatives highlighted actions by their Governments to reaffirm commitments to eliminate gender inequities and promote equal participation and representation of women in all areas of society.  Governments were scaling up women's representation at all levels of decision-making and were appointing women to high-level official positions in Government, business and media.  Women were also being given equal access to health care and education, as well as credit, government subsidies and commercial mortgages.

    Government representatives making statements included those from Jamaica (on behalf of the "Group of 77" developing countries and China), United Kingdom (on behalf of the European Union), United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Oman, China, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Côte d'Ivoire, Kuwait and the Netherlands.

    Also making statements were Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; Patricia Azarias, Director of the Internal Audit Division I of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS); and Rosario Manalo, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

    A representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke.

    The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on implementation of the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons:  realizing the Millennium Development Goals for persons with disabilities (document A/C.3/60/L.3) and a draft on cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/60/L.4).  It will also continue its discussion on 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.

    Background

    The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to begin its general discussion on the advancement of women.

    The Committee had before it a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (document A/60/38), which provides information on matters brought to the attention of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and to the Optional Protocol.  It also discusses activities carried out under the Optional Protocol.

    The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on violence against women (documents A/60/137 and A/60/137/Corr.1), which provides information on legal and policy measures introduced by Member States and activities of the United Nations and other organizations to address violence against women migrant workers.  It concludes that greater efforts are needed to assess the effectiveness of legislation and of policy, prevention and support measures to protect women migrant workers who are victims, or are at risk of becoming victims.  States should more systematically put in place prevention measures, including those to generate awareness and educate migrant women and the public.  Such measures should be continuously monitored and assessed.  Governments should also be encouraged to ratify legislation concerning migration.

    Also before it was the Secretary-General's report on improvement of the situation of women in rural areas (document A/60/165), which focuses on empowering rural women, including through better access to education and training, control over resources, participation in decision-making and changes in household structures.  It also addresses the impact of HIV/AIDS, migration, and information and communications technologies.  The report outlines activities of the United Nations system to improve the situation of rural women.  The report states that empowering rural women directly impacted implementation of the millennium targets related to development, security and human rights, and poverty eradication.  Governments, United Nations entities and all other relevant stakeholders should support legislation, policies and programmes that strengthen the positive impact of globalization on the empowerment of rural women.

    Also before it was the Secretary-General's report on the Status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/60/206), which states that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has significantly enhanced its working methods to improve dialogue with States parties, and to discharge its responsibilities under the Convention and the Optional Protocol.  However, it noted, the average number of reports received annually far exceeds the Committee's capacity to consider them during its current annual meeting, thus creating a backlog.

    In addition, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General's report on violence against women (document A/60/211), which concludes that there exists an extensive framework of standards and norms to combat violence against women.  States, entities of the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders at the national, regional and global levels have undertaken a broad range of efforts to prevent and combat the problem.  However, such violence persists in epidemic proportions, and new forms of violence against women are emerging.  The report also states that the preparation of the Secretary-General's in-depth study on the issue is a unique opportunity to challenge a culture where violence against women is allowed to persist.

    Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General on activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) (document A/60/274), which tracks progress and highlights results in implementing the Fund's multi-year funding framework 2004-2007, and includes recommendations to further strengthen UNIFEM's development and organizational effectiveness.  Further to the note, the UNIFEM Consultative Committee encourages the Fund to bring an organizational assessment to the attention of Member States, and to continue to promote the strengthening of gender issues in the United Nations system.  The Committee also requests that UNIFEM report to it annually on its funding framework, tracking progress according to key results and indicators.

    In addition, the Committee had before it the Secretary-General's report on the future operations of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document A/60/372), which states that INSTRAW's 2004-2007 strategic framework and 2005 work programme -- based on gender, migration and remittances, women's political participation, and gender and security sector reform -- were benefiting women in developing countries.  During the review period, INSTRAW reviewed and appraised the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action.  It pursued programmes for women and peace, highlighted women's economic and social contributions to development in migration and remittances, and was expanding research, outreach and training to new regions.

    The Committee also had before it a report of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) on the audit of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (document A/60/281), which includes recommendations of OIOS for improving the strategic, programmatic and administrative management of INSTRAW.  Among its recommendations is that the Secretary-General propose to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that it consider ways to strengthen the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality by delegating some formal authority to the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women to coordinate programmes of Network members.  Further, it recommends that the Secretary-General propose that ECOSOC assign an administrative supervisory role to the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs or the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The Committee also had before it several letters.  One, dated 23 November 2004, from the Permanent Representatives of Canada, Jordan, Mexico, Niger and Slovenia to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/62-E/2005/10), makes available an assessment of the UNIFEM's current status and its future role and structure in the United Nations system; identical letters dated 18 May 2005 from the Permanent Representative of Qatar to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly (document A/69/79), report the establishment of a trust fund to assist non-governmental organizations in strengthening their capacities to eradicate poverty; ameliorate the livelihood of poor families and communities; and reinforce the role of women in sustainable development; a letter dated 5 July 2005 from the Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/111), transmits the Doha Declaration and Doha Plan of Action adopted by the Second South Summit of the "Group of 77" held 12 to 16 June 2005 in Doha; and a letter dated 21 September 2005 from the Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/60/371), transmits the Beijing Plus 10 Declaration:  solidarity for gender equality, development and peace, adopted at the Beijing Plus 10 Conference to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

    Introductory Statements

    RACHEL MAYANJA, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the Committee was meeting against the background of the historic consensus of the World Summit, where heads of State and Government resolved to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women as effective ways to combat poverty, hunger and disease, and to stimulate development that was truly sustainable.  They reaffirmed that progress for women was progress for all, and that the full and effective implementation of the goals and objectives of the Beijing and Beijing+5 was an essential contribution to achieving the internationally agreed development goals.  The meeting also took place against the background of the review and appraisal by the Commission on the Status of Women of the implementation of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly.  The declaration that was adopted welcomed the progress made thus far towards achieving gender equality, and pledged to undertake further action to ensure full and accelerated implementation of Beijing and Beijing+5.

    She said States needed to move decisively to translate the consensus into reality, and to build on women's gains in the past five years while confronting pressing challenges in gender equality.  Progress had been made, particularly in such areas as improved national machineries; national policies and strategies for gender equality being established in almost all countries; greater women's participation in the economy; enjoyment of longer and healthier lives in most regions; better education for women and girls; greater awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS; greater recognition of women's role in peace and security; and greater attention to women's participation in the public sector.  However, she noted that satisfaction with progress should not distract attention from the many challenges that remained.  Those included inequality, poverty, violence against women, the impact of conflict, and the continuing relative absence of women from the realm of decision-making.  She added that the work in the Committee offered the occasion for further advancing the promotion of gender equality and women's empowerment.

    CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of the Division of the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said the report on violence against women migrant workers showed that despite measures taken -- such as legislative changes, setting up of national strategies to combat violence against women, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for victims, the conclusion of bilateral agreements to ensure the safe repatriation of migrants and regulating the employment of workers -- violence against migrant workers remained an issue of concern.

    She said the Secretary-General's report on measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, had recommended enhancing the analysis of gender perspectives and of the recommendations for concrete action in the reports submitted to the Assembly and in Committee resolutions submitted to the Assembly.

    The Secretary-General's report on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas recommended that the World Summit of the Information Society address the priorities and needs of rural women.  These would include resources to access and used information communication technology effectively, and to ensure rural women's participation in developing and implementing information communication technology activities locally and national.  The Division for the Advancement of Women had carried out a project to enhance African women's access to such technology through better dissemination of national data on gender issues, improved advocacy and mobilization, increased access to and use of national research, and the sharing of experiences and best practices.

    NOELEEN HEYZER, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), presented the Secretary-General's report on the Fund's activities and an update on the achievements made and challenges faced in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment.  As illustrated by the note by the Secretary-General on UNIFEM (document A/60/274), she said, the vision of a world free of want and fear, to which world leaders recommitted themselves at the World Summit last month, depended on putting gender equality and human rights at the centre of human development and human security.  An essential contribution or pathway to achieving that vision, as the Summit affirmed, depended on implementing the Beijing Platform for Action.

    As the report indicated, UNIFEM concentrated in 2004 on supporting countries in moving forward on that pathway, bringing women's human rights into the development agenda and national strategies to achieve the Millennium targets.  It documented the results and achievements in each of the areas in which UNIFEM works -- reducing poverty through strengthening women's economic security and rights; ending violence against women; halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS; and promoting gender equality in democratic governance and in post-conflict countries.  In each of those areas, she continued, UNIFEM pursued an integrated approach, which meant supporting the formulation and implementation of laws and policies to promote women's human rights; the commitment and capacity of mainstream institutions to allocate resources and establish accountability mechanisms to make the laws and policies meaningful; the strengthening of gender equality advocates to monitor and track progress and mobilize constituencies to bring about change; and a change in the harmful and discriminatory attitudes that perpetuated gender inequality around the world.

    Furthermore, she said the stakes for women were high, and (while important gains had been made in the last decade in terms of linking human development and human rights to human security) economic insecurity and breakdown, wars and armed conflicts, and the spread of HIV/AIDS had generated a host of new challenges to efforts to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.  It was necessary to strengthen the architecture of gender equality within the United Nations system, and the coherence and focus on gender within the country-level coordinating mechanisms.  Member States also needed to work together to align the gender equality measures specified in the CEDAW, the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals in order to give countries a clear set of benchmarks for monitoring progress on the pathway to gender equality and women's empowerment.

    PATRICIA AZARIAS, Director, Internal Audit Division I of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), introduced the OIOS report on the audit of the INSTRAW, contained in document A/60/281.

    The report was based on the follow-up review by the OIOS to determine the implementation status of recommendations contained in its previous report on INSTRAW submitted to the General Assembly in April 2002.  In that report, the OIOS addressed various issues concerning the sustainability and effectiveness of INSTRAW.  The current report of the Office contained seven recommendations, all of which were under consideration or being implemented, she said.  Three of the OIOS recommendations were addressed to the Secretary-General, in the form of suggested proposals from the Secretary-General to the ECOSOC.

    ROSARIO MANALO, Chairperson, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said 180 countries were now parties to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, while 173 were parties to the Optional Protocol.  Follow-up by the 16 countries that submitted reports to the Committee at its thirty-second and thirty-third sessions this year should involve all sections and branches of Government.  The media and the private sector also must play a role.  Efforts must be geared towards expediting the implementation of the principle of equality between women and men called for in article 2 of the Convention.

    Regarding the Committee's request to extend meeting time, she said this was a long-standing problem, and that the Committee indeed needed sufficient time to discharge its responsibilities in a professional and serious manner.  The Convention had the second highest number of signatories, and the Optional Protocol, with 72 ratifications, entrusted greater responsibilities to the Committee.  The Committee had streamlined its way of considering reports.  However, the significant effort countries and non-governmental organizations invested in the reporting process was an integral part of implementing the Convention, and therefore could not be further reduced and still remain meaningful.  It was urgent to find a long-term solution to enable the Committee to implement its responsibilities under the Convention and the Optional Protocol in an effective and timely manner, as well as place the Committee on equal footing with other human rights treaty bodies regarding its meeting time.

    CARMEN MORENO, Director, International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said achieving the Millennium Development Goals was a renewed and urgent commitment of the international community, and women were central to that achievement.  Without women and without a gender perspective, the Goals would not be achieved.  From a review and appraisal exercise, it had been learned that significant challenges remained for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

    Although the new, globalized and interdependent world presented unprecedented opportunities for cooperation and change, it also presented new challenges to equity, social justice and the protection of human rights, she said.  Those challenges included the facts that women were the majority among workers in the informal economy, those holding part-time jobs and those who were unpaid workers in the reproductive or care economy.  Also, the greater part of the estimated 8 million persons trafficked yearly for exploitation was women; and population migration was increasingly feminized.  In addition, women had taken their place as major economic and household providers through remittances sent home to their families.

    She said INSTRAW's work on gender and security sector reform had shown that unless the definition of security was re-conceptualized to include the human security of women at home and in their communities, women would continue to live in situations of conflict and violence whether or not their countries were at war.  Physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence against women recognized no national boundaries, military might, or economic power.  It was and would continue to be the most significant obstacle to gender equality, collective security, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    The three pillars of the United Nations' work -- peace and security, development, and human rights -- would stand only if they were built on a foundation of gender equality, she continued.  The task now was to further the work of the United Nations system on gender equality, including resources, impacts, effectiveness and sustainability, in order to identify good practices, challenges and openings for change.  International commitments such as the Goals, viewed from a gender perspective, provided a unique opportunity to strengthen the United Nations' work and consolidate its role as a major force in the empowerment of women, development, growth and progress, she added.

    Statements by Delegations

    STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said the objective of comprehensively addressing the outstanding issue of women's development envisioned in the Beijing Platform for Action was closely related to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, also within the framework of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women and its protocols.  Legislation was one of the most effective vehicles for addressing wrongs, and it was encouraging to note that in addition to subscribing to key international instruments, a number of countries had also undertaken legal reform measures, as well as the introduction of policy guidelines at various levels to address women's equality and empowerment.  However, there was reason to be cautiously optimistic about the future, as advancement in some areas had been squared with new sets of obstacles that arose in others.

    Women's advancement could only be achieved if women's health needs at basic levels were addressed, particularly the impact of HIV/AIDS.  It was necessary to address those needs not only from the point of view of their socio-economic effects on communities, but also taking into consideration the increasingly feminine face the disease had assumed.  Other problems were that violence against women was one of the most degrading violations of women's basic rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the fact that poverty among women was of particular concern to many countries of the developing world.  While the primary responsibility for the advancement of women rested with Governments, international cooperation remained indispensable for the full implementation of Beijing, he said.  International cooperation was not only about fulfilling official development assistance (ODA) obligations, which the Group supported, but was also about the transfer of technology, information and data-sharing, as well as technical assistance, including through South-South cooperation.

    MICHAEL O'NEILL (United Kingdom), speaking for the European Union, said that while progress had been made in implementing the Beijing commitments, and at the General Assembly special session five years later, women still faced discrimination that prevented them from participating fully in the everyday life of their countries.  Women were still denied equal rights and access to economic resources.  Violence against women in and out of the home persisted at a shocking rate.  Progress on improving maternal health lagged behind and women, particularly girls, were disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS as both carriers of the disease and caretakers of those the disease had left ill or orphaned.  Further, trafficking of women and girls for commercial and sexual exploitation had increased.  The international community must redouble its efforts to implement the Beijing commitments and to ensure that the consensus reached at the Commission on the Status of Women reached this year was translated into tangible progress on the ground.

    Since the adoption in 2000 of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, the international community had come to recognize not just  the extent to which conflict particularly affected women and girls, but also how much and how often women held the key to its peaceful resolution.  He said many efforts had been made to implement the resolution; this work must continue and the European Union looked forward to when the United Nations Action Plan for implementing it across the United Nations system would be presented to the Security Council.  He also expressed hope that the recently established Peacebuilding Commission would demonstrate a strong commitment to fully implement the resolution.  The European Union had begun integrating the resolution's provisions in its crisis management operations.

    AUGUSTINE P. MAHIGA (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the Community upheld the principle of gender equality as a necessary and rational approach to economic growth, poverty reduction and overall human development.  Making quality reproductive health and other related services more accessible to women and men had become an integral part of national and regional policies towards achieving sustainable development in the SADC region.  Reaffirming the commitment to promoting equal participation and representation of men and women in all political structures and public sector institutions, he said such a commitment was in line with the Community's recent decision to scale up women's representation from 30 per cent to 50 per cent at all levels of decision-making.

    Gender equality was a cross-cutting issue with direct link to the attainment and enhancement of other Millennium Development Goals, he continued.  The SADC was committed to eradicating violence against women, and was encouraged by the increased gender sensitivity in the General Assembly.  However, it was concerned by the fading of gender in the recommendations and follow-up actions in the relevant reports and resolutions.  Welcoming the recommendations put forward by the Secretary-General, he added that increased attention should be given to capacity-building on gender analysis and advocacy in order to facilitate implementation of the recommendations.  Furthermore, he said that the quest for gender equality could not be achieved without addressing the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas, which was where the majority of women in SADC lived.  They constituted the majority of the poor because they were marginalized and excluded from decision-making structures pertaining to their lives and self-advancement.  The SADC was encouraged that the Assembly had consistently given attention to the situation, he added.

    LUMA MUSHTAQ AL-SALEH (Oman) said Omani women enjoyed a wide array of civil and political liberties.  In 2005, as in previous years, laws and measures were adopted that provided Omani women with a protective legal environment, and which also set national standards in accordance with the international treaties and conventions that Oman was a state party to.  She said that in May, her Government had also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Over the last few years, Oman had attained some of the highest standards in the area of women's health, education and the labour market.

    She said that Oman's Ministry of Social Development handled all aspects of women's affairs, while at the community level, such issues were supported by Omani women's associations and local community development centres.  On the labour front, Omani women were legally entitled to pursue the career of their choice, and were active participants in community life and social development policies.  Women had increasingly been appointed to high-level official positions in Government, business and media that had an impact on the country's development policies.  Furthermore, Omani women -- with encouragement and support from the Government -- had equal access to health, education and employment.  They had not only been the foundation of support for their families, but were now at the forefront in almost every sphere of life.

    LI XIAOMEI (China) said violence against women was currently one of the main obstacles preventing women from fully enjoying their rights.  Her delegation found it highly encouraging that in the Outcome Document of the Summit, heads of State had agreed unanimously that "progress for women was progress for all"; had committed themselves to taking measures to promote gender equality, and eliminate instances of prevalent gender-based discrimination; and had set a range of target areas for that purpose.

    Looking to the future, implementation was most important.  The United Nations should build on the momentum of the tenth anniversary of the Women's conference, and take such actions as eliminating all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls; setting up efforts to eradicate poverty; guaranteeing women's full participation in political, economic and social decision-making; and accelerating the achievement of universal education.  It should also ensure that women enjoyed quality health care and acquired knowledge and means for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS; promote the equal participation of women in peacekeeping activities; strengthen the role of women in environmental protection, as well as in the reduction and management of natural disasters; and implement policies and strategies aimed at mainstreaming gender perspectives, among others.

    MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said there was no doubt that the advancement of women and the implementation of the results of the fourth World Conference on Women and the General Assembly's twenty-third special session on gender equality, development and peace had all acquired increased significance.  That was reflected in the growing international conviction of the importance of the advancement of women and in the enabling of women to exercise their rights alongside men.  His Government had adopted an ambitious path in order to enhance the equality between men and women and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women.  It was adopting a strategy that was based on empowering women politically, economically and socially.  From an economic viewpoint, it had succeeded in integrating women's issues with the purpose of enabling women to fully participate in development and to eliminate gender inequities.

    Investments in programmes seeking to advance women's issues had increased dramatically under Egypt's new five-year plan, so that investments dedicated to women and small enterprises had doubled compared to the previous plan.  In the field of education, the Government had been able to increase the ratio of females to males in primary and secondary education, and females in public education now accounted for 54 per cent of total students, and 49 per cent in university education.  It had also seen great success in dealing with the drop-out rates of women, as was recognized by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) as a model.  For the first time, Egypt now had a female judge, and the number of female ambassadors was 35 out of a total of 125 diplomatic missions.  His Government worked with all relevant parties to review relevant laws in order to be in line with the international commitments it had joined.  He added that the report regarding Palestinian pregnant women and their mistreatment at Israeli checkpoints provided a dark picture of their suffering, and reaffirmed the importance of ending the inhumane practices against the Palestinian people.

    WARIF HALABI (Syria) said women's empowerment depended on women's political and economic participation and control of economic resources.  Syria supported, and was doing its part to implement the objectives set forth in the Beijing Plan of Action, which called for strengthening the position of women and removing all obstacles to gender equality and women's participation in sustainable development.  The ratio of females to males in primary school, high school and vocational school had increased dramatically since 1990.  In fact, in high school, levels had surpassed the Government's target by 8 per cent, resulting from the fact that males were more driven to prepare for the labour market through vocational and other forms of training, while women were more inclined to opt for college over vocational training.

    She also noted a growth in women parliamentarians, rising from 5 per cent of all parliamentary positions in 1994 to 12 per cent, or 30 positions.  Women were also now members of Syria's cabinets and held posts at levels of administration.  Syria's 2001-2005 national strategy focused on structuring regulatory framework to increase women's participation overall.  Women were given equal access to credit, Government subsidies and commercial mortgages as men.  They also received the same unemployment and retirement benefits as men.  Ten per cent of all business and enterprise owners were women.  She pointed to the tragic conditions of women under occupation in the Syrian Golan Heights, saying Israel's occupation deprived them of basic rights to health care, education and freedom.  She stressed the need to help them achieve their full rights, including primarily by ending the occupation.

    AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said that thanks to the efforts of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, there was far greater awareness about gender issues in the world today, and the advancement and progress of women were increasingly recognized as fundamental obligations of States.  Despite women-centred Millennium targets, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the establishment of the International Criminal Court, the situation remained grim and much more needed to be done.  Women continued to suffer discrimination and exclusion, shouldered unequal burdens, and had unequal access to resources and opportunities. The advancement of women and gender equality were cross-cutting issues, which were directly related to development, human rights, democracy and education in particular.  Furthermore, the advancement of women was an international responsibility that could be achieved through collaboration and cooperation in the context of globalization, and by enabling developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

    The plight of women in rural areas, conflicts, and territories under foreign occupation, as well as that of migrant and trafficked women, needed to be addressed as a matter of top priority.  His Government was committed to bringing about a real difference in the lives of millions of its women.  Recognizing problems in Pakistan's society, he said problems also existed in many other societies, including in developed countries.  Some of the problems in Pakistan had their roots in illiteracy and primitive traditions, and his Government's strategy rested on addressing gender issues on political, economic, social and legal fronts.  Despite constraints, his Government would continue with efforts to create an environment that could ensure the realization of women's rights and their true empowerment in Pakistan.

    FLORE ASSOUMOU (Côte d'Ivoire) said her country supported the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the millennium targets on women, and the recommendations of the 2000 General Assembly special session on the issue.  Cote D'Ivoire's 2000 Constitution prohibited all forms of torture, violence, mutilation, forced marriages, and sexual and other forms of discrimination against women.  The Government's political will had enabled women to assume senior posts and to apply for jobs formerly reserved for men.

    Côte d'Ivoire's 1996-2005 national health plan had led to reduction of child mortality and maternal mortality, she said.  Women in rural areas were now managers of their own supply systems.  The Government had started functional literacy programmes in rural areas, and had set a goal of teaching 10,000 rural women to read.  It was providing free textbooks and facilitating girls' school enrolment.  Such programmes had strengthened women's economic power, while new financing had enabled women to have their own savings banks and loans.  The national fund for women and development had supported women's entrepreneurship, enabling them to be agents for development.  Still, much more must be done to meet the Beijing commitments, she said, noting that women still faced many obstacles to combat poverty and build capacity.

    ALIA AL-MUZAINI (Kuwait) said her delegation believed that discrimination in all its forms was a discredited practice that modern society sought to combat in order to achieve the principles of equality and justice between people.  Her Government had made equity and justice a foundation for its society.  Its constitution stated that people were equal in terms of human dignity, as well as before the law and in their duties and rights.  The law also said that there would be no discrimination based on sex, origin, language or religion.  Kuwait had acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in April 1994.

    Highlighting her Government's efforts regarding women, she said the Kuwaiti parliament in May had granted women their political rights, which was a historic achievement for Kuwaiti women.  Also, in line with the growth and progress of women's role and their participation in the formulation of policies, the Government had given women positions in the cabinet for the first time.  Two women had also been appointed to the ministerial council, and the ratio of females in high administrative positions had reached 11 per cent in 2004.  Furthermore, women's role in development and participation, and in serving their society, was not limited to wage labour alone, but also involved civil society and voluntary and social services.  The law in Kuwait also protected women against domestic violence and from violence in the workplace, so that they could enjoy their rights and basic freedoms.

    MATHILDE VAN DEN BRINK (Netherlands) said that in Europe alone some 50 million women were subjected to domestic violence.  Violence against women was a serious cause of death and a greater risk to women's health than traffic accidents and malaria combined.  When women were victims of violence, so were their children, who ran the risk of becoming victims or perpetrators themselves later in life.  The great risk of reproducing domestic violence was particularly frightening in the light of violent conflicts within and between countries.  True safety for adults and children began in the family environment and, consequently, the never-ending cycle of domestic violence had to be stopped by breaking the wall of silence, putting the issue on the public agenda, and above all by adopting concrete measures and implementing them.

    Another essential factor in combating domestic violence was the need for more research, statistics and documentation.  Combating domestic violence was also crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, if only because of the millions of dollars it cost in terms of health care, police and court workload, shelter and foster care, sick leave and non-productivity.  While an increased awareness of women's victimization was necessary in order to create empathy and greater understanding, it could also reinforce old stereotypes of women as helpless, vulnerable and in need of protection.  For that reason, it was necessary to maintain an approach of empowering women to take control over their own lives and bodies.  She added that States had to include the fight against domestic violence in all efforts to foster peace, human rights and development.

    ANKE STRAUSS, speaking on behalf of the International Organization for Migration, said violence against migrants and the problem of trafficking were subjects that were still largely governed by misperceptions.  One was that all traffickers were men, when in fact the most recent figures showed that almost one third of traffickers were women, many of whom were victims or former victims themselves.  Another was that trafficking of human beings was actually trafficking of women, when, in fact, the number of cases of men and children had significantly increased over the past years.  Her organization's counter-trafficking activities around the world were geared towards the prevention of trafficking in persons and the protection of migrant's rights.  They included, among others, carrying out information campaigns, providing counselling services, and helping Governments improve their legal systems and technical capacities to counter trafficking.

    Migrant women were particularly vulnerable, she continued, because they usually left their countries of origin and families for better living conditions and pay, but often ended up win appalling work conditions.  They were more likely than men to be exposed to forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced prostitution, and other kind of violence.  Despite the fact that migration offered a large potential to migrant women, it was important to draw attention to the perils of uninformed migration, and both countries of origin and destination needed to define clear measures to promote and protect the human rights and dignity of female migrants, and maximize the benefits they could bring.  Her organization expected that the issues of violence against women migrant workers, as well as trafficking, would benefit from an increase in focus in the run-up to and the debate of the High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in 2006.

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