Press Releases

    WOM/1496
    7 March 2005

    Full Implementation of 1995 Beijing Action Plan for Women Essential to Achieving Global Anti-Poverty Goals, Women’s Commission Declares

    Consensus Adoption of Text Ends First Week of Session Aimed at Reviewing Progress Towards Gender Equality

            

    NEW YORK, 4 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on the Status of Women today wrapped up the first of two weeks of a review of progress towards gender equality with the consensus adoption of a declaration, by which governments emphasized that the full implementation of the Beijing agenda for women was essential to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those of the Millennium Declaration.

    Following an announcement this morning that drew a round of applause at the start of the commemoration of International Women’s Day that the United States-led amendment to the draft declaration had been withdrawn, the Women’s Commission adopted by consensus this afternoon the text reaffirming the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and pledging to undertake further action to ensure its implementation.

    The Declaration, which recognized the complementarity of the Beijing outcomes and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, called on the United Nations system, international and regional organizations, civil society, as well as women and men, to fully commit themselves and to intensity their contributions to the implementing of the Beijing texts and the outcome document of their five-year General Assembly review in 2000.

    Following adoption of the Declaration, many speakers took the floor to explain their position, which had revealed a divergence of views about the actual intent of the outcome texts of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, which the Declaration today reaffirmed, on the question of reproductive health rights.

    The United States’ representative said she had reaffirmed those important political goals based on several understandings. She understood that those documents constituted an important policy framework that did not create international legal rights or legally binding obligations on States under international law. She had heard no delegation disagree with her interpretation. She further understood that States did not understand the Beijing or Beijing+5 outcome documents to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion. Consistent with the International Conference on Population and Development, the United States did not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, and did not support abortion in its reproductive health assistance.

     On behalf of Canada and Australia (CANZ), New Zealand’s representative said that the Commission had spent too much time debating shades of meaning within standards long ago agreed upon. The Beijing text was clear and did not have hidden meanings. Women the world over were trapped in poverty and were victims of violence. As the commitments made by governments at Beijing had not yet been achieved, the international community must put its energy into reaching common understanding of the real challenges. The United Nations needed to stop going over the same old debates and focus on how to direct the Organization to make real change on the ground.

    Before consideration of the Declaration this afternoon, the Commission convened a panel discussion with the heads of all United Nations Regional Commissions entitled, “Presentation of the review and appraisal processes at regional level -- achievements, gaps and challenges”, the third in a series since it began its session on Monday.

    Participants in Panel III were: Josephine Ouedraogo, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission of Africa (ECA); Patrice Robineau, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Alicia Barcena-Ibarra, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Thelma Kay, Chief, Emerging Social Issues Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP); and Fatima Sbaity-Kassem, Director, Centre for Women, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). The Latin American non-governmental organizations, a consortium of 47 regional, international and national non-governmental organizations, also participated.

    Statements in explanation of position on the Declaration were also made by the representatives of Uruguay, Iceland, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, Norway, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Fiji, Cuba, Nicaragua, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria (on behalf of the African Union), Croatia, Equatorial Guinea, and Paraguay (on behalf of Southern Common Market and associated States). The observer for the Holy See also spoke.

    The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 7 March, to continue a high-level debate.

    Background

    The Commission on the Status of Women met this afternoon to convene a panel discussion entitled, “Presentation of the review and appraisal processes at regional level -- achievements, gaps and challenges”.

    Panellists

    JOSEPHINE OUEDRAOGO, Deputy Executive Director, Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), said that Africa, with its population of 832 million inhabitants spread throughout 53 States, was one of the most mineral-rich continents, yet it was described throughout the world as the continent of poverty. True, more than 45 per cent of the population was living on less than $1 a day, yet the leadership was constantly ascribing to international norms, including the Beijing Platform for Action.

    She said that the decade following adoption of the Beijing Platform had been characterized by major political mobilization continent-wide on a number of fronts, including the consolidation of democracy in South Africa following the abolition of apartheid, the renewed struggle against poverty, growing awareness of the HIV/AIDS threat, the strengthening of the African Union, and the political decision to end conflicts and usher in democracy on the continent. In addition, partnerships were forming -- the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), perhaps the most notable among them.

    Recalling the various accomplishments in area of women’s promotion in post-Beijing era, she said that, politically, African women held a record 48.5 per cent of the seats in the Parliament in Rwanda. In education, progress had been remarkable in terms of girls’ school attendance, and in 13 countries, girls’ enrolment was on a par with that of boys. In some cases, girls’ enrolment exceeded that of boys, particularly in South Africa. Particular attention was being given to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, especially through raising awareness about and the dissemination of anti-retroviral drugs. Also, microcredit funds were being set up for women. Overall, the post-Beijing years had strengthened international attention to women’s fundamental rights. All 53 countries in Africa had ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and national legislation was including women’s rights, although clashes persisted between customary and modern laws.

    She said that one of the greatest challenges was combating poverty. The economic growth rate had improved in the decade, but the problem was the sustainability of that growth. If current negative trends continued, sub-Saharan Africa would be the only part of the world where the poor would number higher in the year 2015 than in 1990. Development of infrastructure and technologies had not always been a priority, because the frameworks for development had taken insufficient account of rural and informal economies. The result had been a deterioration in living conditions, general health and work opportunities of the rural populations. In addition, the maternal mortality rates among women in sub-Saharan Africa were unacceptably high -- one in six women risked death in childbirth. It was essential to ensure that governments evaluated the performance of their commitments, for which the parliamentarians’ role must be reinforced.

    Institutional reform of ECA had made it possible for it to play its role in the Beijing process. It expanded its mandate and actions in 1996 to take account of the new strategic orientations. The entire senior Professional staff had undergone gender-awareness workshops in 1999. Women now occupied 31 per cent of the Commission’s D-1 posts, and 34 per cent of the P-4 posts. Efforts were still needed to integrate women at the other levels. An evaluation had been launched in 2001 in 21 countries, through which the attention of the relevant ministers had been drawn to the importance of promoting women’s rights. They were reminded of the strategic objectives of the Platform and asked to report on actions they had carried out towards fulfilling them. The ECA had also just obtained a gender-development index, which would soon make it possible to have a single framework to evaluate the progress in 42 specific areas between men and women.

    PATRICE ROBINEAU, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), said there had been mixed results in the region in a number of areas. While progress had been made in most developed market economies, the position of women had deteriorated in many countries with transition economies. Challenges in the region included discrimination in the labour market, the gender pay gap and the deterioration of social security schemes in transition economies. Family-support programmes had decreased in eastern European countries as a share of gross domestic product (GDP). Migrant women were more disadvantaged in entering the labour market.

    On the issue of poverty, he noted that while women’s poverty had declined in western Europe, it had increased in a number of countries with transition economies. Women paid a disproportionate share of the costs of downsizing in welfare and social expenditures. Women had lower incomes and were at risk of social exclusion. The profile of the future poor would be a single woman, over the age of 46. In that regard, he stressed the need to design gender-responsive budgets that analysed the impact on women of cuts in social expenditures. Violence against women also continued to be a problem. While there had been progress in terms of legislation, enforcement was lacking.

    On the issue of trafficking, he said the number of women from central and eastern Europe going to western Europe to join the sex industry ranged between some 120,000 to 170,000 per year. Despite agreements against trafficking, there had been a failure in stemming the tide of trafficking in women. Migrant women were extremely vulnerable to trafficking. He proposed several approaches to overcoming the challenges, including further developing action plans for gender equality, networking between the different actors in the region, and linking women’s issues with the Millennium Development Goals.

    ALICIA BARCENA IBARRA, Deputy Executive Secretary, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), wished to focus on process and outcomes. The Beijing process was political and irreversible. In her region, that process had been strengthened in the past decade through real cooperation between governments and civil society and the mechanisms those had formulated in support of women. Also important to that process had been the establishment of networks. In addition, the five regional commissions had succeeded in exchanging experiences. There had also been tremendous inter-agency efforts, for which she warmly thanked the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the International Labour Organization (ILO), among them. The regional process in support of Beijing had been reinforced in a women’s steering committee, which was very active in her region. The last meeting had been held in Mexico in July 2004, where a most important consensus text was adopted that provided a navigational chart for ECLAC.

    She said that the first outcome of the so-called “Mexican consensus” was that it provided a navigational chart, underpinned by some major political premises. The first was the irreversibility of the accomplishments achieved so far. There was no going back on the Cairo Conference outcome, or the plan of action of the World Conference on racism and intolerance, or the Millennium Declaration. The other focus was on the whole spectrum of women’s rights, including reproductive rights. There was no going back on those social, political and economic rights, which had provided a gradual strategy for humankind. Similarly, no one should give up the quest for symmetry in the globalization process. The Latin American region had lived through a very difficult decade of shadow, but there had still been major areas of light.

    The fourth premise of the Mexico consensus concerned women’s huge contribution to development, she said. Of the 520 million people in Latin America, 227 million, or 44 per cent, were poor. Yet, women had contributed 10 points to decreasing poverty. That major contribution had gone unrecognized, however. She also flagged the importance of incorporating the gender perspective into all policies, programmes and related budgets. Those should take into account generational, ethnic and racial differences. The subregional dimension should also be considered, and in her region that meant that special attention should be given to the vulnerabilities of the small island States of the Caribbean, whose populations were working hard to ensure a fair distribution of resources. Disparities between men and women continued to occur in the employment sphere. Half the women under age 18 had no income or economic autonomy or empowerment, and women with the same educational levels as men earned 68 per cent less. Also, one of seven jobs was in the informal sector, which was often unrecognized and unregulated.

    THELMA KAY, Director, Emerging Social Issues Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), said progress had been made in the Asia and Pacific region in improving basic human capabilities and material well-being. Several countries were well on the way to achieving the goal of eliminating the gender disparity in primary and secondary education, and visible progress had been made in improving female life expectancy and reducing maternal mortality rates. In the labour market, more women were in formal employment and female entrepreneurs were growing in number. An encouraging development was the increased numbers of women in local government, especially through quotas and affirmative action. Many countries had established or strengthened national machineries and other institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women. The past decade had seen women’s successful use of information and communication technology for networking and the media for policy advocacy.

    In spite of the progress made, however, many challenges remained, she said. Women continued to be in low-paid and low-skilled jobs. In politics, the number of seats held by women in national parliaments remained low in many countries. Gender-based violence was pervasive. Globalization had had an uneven impact, opening new opportunities, while disproportionately affecting women requiring appropriate training, as well as social protection and safety nets. The growing ease of mobility and the demand for migrant labour had given rise to the feminization of economic migration. The increasing number of women with HIV/AIDS also posed a serious threat to the region. The recent Indian Ocean tsunami had brought home to the region the importance of women’s involvement in environmental and natural resource and disaster management.

    She said the goal of ESCAP’s gender and development programme was to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in line with the Millennium Declaration, the Beijing Declaration, the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Convention and relevant Security Council resolutions. The ESCAP had provided normative and technical assistance to the region’s policy makers, especially those in the national machineries for the advancement of women. At the political level, ESCAP convened regional ministerial-level meetings on the advancement of women at which regional programmes and plans of action were adopted. Gender had been incorporated into programme budget and planning, and gender-training courses were conducted to strengthen ESCAP’s institutional capacity to mainstream gender in all aspects of its work.

    FATIMA SBAITY-KASEM, Director, Centre for Women, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said the Commission held the Arab Regional Conference “Ten Years after Beijing: Call for Peace” at United Nations House in Beruit, in July 2004. The conference was organized around four seminars on the role of women in Arab parliaments, women in executive and decision-making positions, women in civil society, and women in the media and intellectual and cultural life. The conference produced the Beruit Declaration. Among its highlights was the need to assess the accomplishments in preparation for the current session of the Commission. In that light, the Declaration drew attention to the continuing instability in the Arab region, which had suffered for decades from conflicts and tensions and was one of the regions most exposed to wars and armed conflicts. That situation not only slowed the pace of economic and social development, but also undermined the progress that had been achieved.

    She said that the Declaration had also noted that there was evidence to indicate that the gravity of the regional dangers, the decrease in investment rates, and the persistence of the disparity between physical and human capital were all factors that contributed to reducing levels of growth. The conference was being held in extremely difficult and intricate circumstances, when the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, were experiencing a decline at all levels, which was having a negative impact on the living conditions of Palestinian women and the Palestinian people as a whole. The conference had also highlighted the progress achieved by the countries of the region towards implementation of the Beijing agenda. Those accomplishments had included the promulgation of new legislation for the benefit of women, the establishment of mechanisms concerned with women’s issues, including ministries, the attainment of women in some countries of their political rights, the allocation of quotas to women in the parliaments of some countries and the ratification by 17 countries of the Women’s Convention.

    In light of ESCWA’s analysis, it considered that the following measures, among others, were required to empower women and increase their participation in political, economic and social life: governments must formulate strategies and programmes for women’s empowerment; actions should be taken to increase budgets for those programmes; indicators disaggregated by gender should be analysed; national legislation should be reviewed with a view to amending discriminatory legislation; early warning mechanisms should be set up to sound the warning of emerging negative social phenomenons, in order to remedy the problems those posed to women and girls; emphasis should be given to women’s role in strengthening the concepts of peace and dialogue, to which the Arab countries aspired; and attention should also be paid to the interlinkage of the efforts of men and women to achieve democracy and human rights and mainstreaming gender in development policies.

    (Ms. Sbaity-Kasem’s statement also attached data on the following areas: political participation; education, health and work; and illiteracy.

    As the floor opened for discussion, one speaker welcomed the role of regional conferences, noting that they allowed for an exchange of views on the situation of women in the different regions. The fight against poverty was one of the major struggles facing women, another speaker said. The time had come to propose more active support to women’s business possibilities by providing access to financial resources, as well as microenterprise. Women living under occupation faced major challenges, especially in the area of health and employment, another speaker said.

    When the problem of genital mutilation had first been raised in the 1970s, women had been told not to discuss the issue, another speaker said. Today, almost all African countries had laws regarding that practice. Constructive ideas could do much more than billions of dollars.

    A representative of Latin American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said fundamentalism tried to trample on the democratic secular nature of States. That had been demonstrated by the crass attempt of a government that believed it could buy the will of others. It had also been manifested in the constant meddling of religion. The United Nations must be a secular entity governed by clear rules, and should not be tied to the arbitrary action of any one State.

    In response, Ms. OUEDRAOGO of ECA said that new strategies had to be found to involve men in the women’s fight and, indeed, she agreed with Senegal’s representative that those strategies should be changed today in a way that made them more effective. Her wish for Africa, at Beijing+10, was not for the minister in charge of women’s matters to say what should be done, but for the ministers of health, trade, the economy, and so forth to say what had and had not been done. It should be the “deciders”, all of those in charge of all sectors to say what changes had failed to take place and to map the way forward. Only that would make it possible to “break down the doors” that had remained closed. For Africa, her wish was not to simply come together again, find that the situation had remained unchanged, and only express a determination to change it.

    Ms. KAY, of ESCAP, stressing the importance of working with the trade divisions, said it was critical to bring women’s cause to the “top of the table”, in order to advance it.

    Next, there was a brief suspension of the meeting following the panel’s conclusion.

    Consideration of Declaration

    The Commission then adopted the draft declaration, as orally revised (document E/CN.6/2005/L.1).

    Following adoption of the text, the representative of the Holy See said she had been following with great interest the commemoration of Beijing+10. She had been pleased with the progress made in certain areas and had been happy to support the great advances achieved by and for women since Beijing. At the same time, she recognized that much more remained to be done, and that there were many new challenges on the horizon to threaten that progress.

    She said that the Holy See shared the concerns of the other delegations about efforts to represent the outcome documents of Beijing and Beijing+5 as creating new international rights. Her delegation agreed that there was no intent on the part of States to create such rights. Moreover, any attempt to do so would go beyond the scope of the authority of the Commission.

    With respect to the Declaration, she said she would have preferred a clearer statement emphasizing that the Beijing documents could not be interpreted as creating new human rights, including the right to abortion. The Holy See took... (statement was interrupted by applause and booing)... the opportunity to reiterate its position made at Beijing, which was contained in the report of the Fourth World Conference on Women (document A/CONF.177/20/Rev.1).

    She said she sincerely believed that the momentum gained in the authentic advancement of women must be preserved and fostered. As a matter of urgency, women’s rights must remain a priority, and they should not be compromised by policies that did not treat women as persons with inherent human dignity and worth. She requested that the Holy See’s position be duly recorded in the report of the current session.

    The representative of Uruguay noted that, in a globalized world, monolithic views were being imposed on others. At a time when knowledge was becoming a key factor, the world was not equally benefiting from knowledge. Uruguay’s new Government reaffirmed its commitment of the Beijing Platform and the Mexico Consensus. Uruguay was not alien to structural adjustment policies and suffered from deep inequality. Some 58 per cent of Uruguayan children lived under the poverty line. Uruguay had proposed coordinating the efforts of all women’s organizations to promote a mechanism for greater democracy and accountability. Latin America had many problems, including the unequal distribution of wealth. The challenge was to begin gender mainstreaming and ensure that women had decent employment.

    The United States’ representative said her country was fully committed to women’s empowerment and to the promotion of women’s fullest enjoyment of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. It had devoted substantial monetary and human resources to: eliminate violence against women, including the trafficking of women and children, increase access to health care, education and economic opportunities; empower women in conflict situations; provide protection and assistance to refugee women and internally displaced persons; increase women’s political participation; and ensure equality and non-discrimination under the law and in practice.

    She said that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action expressed important political goals that her country endorsed. She reaffirmed the goals, objectives and commitments of those texts based on several understandings. And, she understood that those documents constituted an important policy framework that did not create international legal rights or legally binding obligations on States under international law. She had heard no delegation disagreed with her interpretation. At the same time, she appreciated the Chair’s own assertion that the Beijing documents “should not be seen as creating any new human rights”. This week, everyone heard an international consensus on that point, which was useful to clarifying the intent and purpose of Beijing.

    Based on consultations with States, she said she further understood that States did not understand the Beijing or Beijing+5 outcome documents to constitute support, endorsement or promotion of abortion. Her reaffirmation of the goals, objectives and commitments of those documents did not constitute a change in the position of the United States with respect to treaties it had not ratified.

    She said her country fully supported the principle of voluntary choice regarding maternal and child health and family planning. Her delegation had stated clearly, and on many occasions, consistent with the International Conference on Population and Development, that it did not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor did it support abortion in its reproductive health assistance. The United States understood that there was international consensus that the terms “reproductive health services” and “reproductive rights” did not include abortion or constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion-related services.

    The United States supported the treatment of women who suffered injuries or illnesses caused by legal or illegal abortion, including, for example, post-abortion care, and did not place such treatment among abortion-related services, she said. Her country also emphasized the value of an “ABC” approach –- abstinence, be faithful, and correct and consistent condom use -- where appropriate, in comprehensive strategies to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and the promotion of abstinence as the healthiest and most responsible choice for adolescents.

    She said it was essential to recognize the rights, duties, and responsibilities of parents and other persons legally responsible for adolescents to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capabilities of the adolescent, appropriate direction and guidance on sexual and reproductive matters, education, and other aspects of children’s lives for which parents had the primary responsibility.

    In addition, she said, the United States did not favour quotas as routine for the advancement of women. The best way to guarantee women’s involvement in the political process was through legal and policy reforms that ended discrimination against women and promoted equality of opportunity. She requested that her explanation of position be included in the conference’s official report.

    The representative of Iceland said the Declaration should avoid detailed substantive matters and its sole purpose should be to reaffirm the aims of the Beijing Platform and the special session. He appreciated the flexibility of the United States in withdrawing its amendment to the text. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were not legally binding, nor was the outcome of the twenty-third session of the General Assembly. A reaffirmation should be wholehearted and not grudging, so that there was a firm basis for practical work aimed at improving the status of women.

    The representative of Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, welcomed the Declaration, which reaffirmed the commitments entered into 10 years ago. The Union welcomed and was grateful for determination of Member States to reaffirm those commitments. It was also grateful to the many Member States who, in the interest of consensus, had shown flexibility by supporting the Declaration. The European Union was strongly committed to the full and effective implementation of the Women’s Convention on and its Optional Protocol, the Cairo Programme of Action and the Copenhagen Declaration. The Union’s strong endorsement of the Declaration was also result of a warm partnership with civil society.

    She said the European Union was encouraged by the statement made by the Secretary-General at the opening of the session and strongly endorsed the importance of gender equality in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The Union invited the Secretary-General to make strong reference to the Declaration and to the need for all parties to make gender equality a priority. The seven strategic priorities in the task force report on progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals stressed the importance of education, sex and reproductive health, economic advancement, political participation and the need to end violence against girls and women. She stressed the need to ensure that the Beijing and Cairo action plans be fully integrated in the outcome of the September summit. She further invited the General Assembly President to take full account of the Declaration in his leadership of the negotiations. It was an historic moment for the world and one of optimism for women’s rights, gender equality and peace in the twenty-first century.

    The representative of Panama expressed her satisfaction at the efforts made to retain the Beijing consensus. There was so much more that united the people in this room than separated them, in advocating women’s full rights. What had been done through the declaration’s adoption was to restate support for the contents of the Beijing texts. Thus, it was true that new rights were not being created. She was aware, however, that having achieving consensus in light of the diversity that existed had been a giant step. The principles set forth at Beijing had guided gender equity and gender equality. She also supported the “Mexican consensus” adopted last year, which had acknowledged that the Beijing documents were a highly effect means to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

    Mexico’s speaker said she, too, was happy with the work under way and the adoption of the Declaration. She reaffirmed her country’s commitment to various international instruments, in keeping with the country’s Constitution and national laws.

    The representative of Costa Rica said her country was fully committed to promoting women’s rights on an equal footing with men, as an indispensable element to achieving sustainable human development and in keeping with its obligation under the Women’s Convention. She had understood that all of those international commitments must be viewed in the context of her country’s position on human rights and its clear belief in the primacy and inviolability of the right to life. In agreeing with the Declaration just adopted, she had done so within her national legal framework. Hence, in keeping with the reservation her country had submitted to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, she reaffirmed that no reference to sexual or reproductive rights could be construed, under any circumstances whatsoever, as to include the possibility of having abortion.

    She said that abortion was not a human right, since it ran counter to the principle of the inviolability of human life from the point of conception. The right to life was the very essence of human rights; without life, there was no humanity, as her Constitution stated. Just as the Declaration had acknowledged the right of adolescents to privacy in sexual matters, it should also recognize the rights of parents in that area. The official document of the Commission should include her explanation of position.

    Norway’s representative also welcomed adoption of the Declaration, which was a reaffirmation of Beijing and the outcome of its review in 2000. She was strongly committed to the full implementation of the Women’s Convention and the Cairo Programme of Action. Much work remained to be done to secure women the human rights to which they were entitled, but today, the world had moved one step closer to that goal.

    The representative of India expressed appreciation for the cooperation and flexibility demonstrated by all delegations, which had enabled adoption of the declaration today. That action had been of immense importance, as it signified the common understanding of the international community that the implementation of the Beijing texts had been uneven and inadequate. Adoption of the Declaration had also been a reaffirmation of Member States’ dedication to implementation of the goals and commitments of the Beijing agenda.

    Noting that, in operative paragraph 4, two instruments had been described as mutually reinforcing, she said. Her understanding was that, while the Women’s Convention was a legally binding instrument, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was a policy framework document. She recognized, however, their complementarity. Her country was a party to the Women’s Convention and remained fully committed to it. It was also fully committed to implementation of the Beijing documents.

    On behalf of the Arab Group, Iraq’s representative said it had unreservedly endorsed the text just adopted.

    Then, in her national capacity, she asked her “sisters” everywhere to stand behind Iraqi women to overcome their new obstacles. The Council of the National Assembly should adopt a constitution enshrining women’s rights. Otherwise, Iraqi women would be the first victims of a new regime of oppression, and that would put an end to all that had already been achieved by them socially and politically. Iraqi women, through their many trials and tribulations, “needed you to hold out your hand to them”, she said.

    Afghanistan’s representative welcomed adoption of the Declaration. She was delighted to be able to say that, since the First World Conference on Women, the international community had made significant progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. She reaffirmed her Government’s strong commitment to enhance its efforts, with the international community’s support, towards implementation of the Beijing agenda.

    The representative of Fiji said she was fully committed to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Fiji’s strategic development plan focused on five areas of concern, including health and education. With education and health, women could achieve all they aspired to.

    Cuba’s representative supported the Declaration, which showed the common ground on which all Member States should work to achieve women’s advancement. Cuba was concerned at efforts to reduce the scope of the documents coming out of the Fourth World Conference and the special session to questions which were essentially resolved at the national level. Millions of women and children continued to suffer from an unfair economic system, in which millions of women and girls died of curable disease. Cuba reaffirmed its commitment to continue working for the full equality of women in a climate of solidarity and genuine cooperation.

    The representative of New Zealand, speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia (CANZ), said the United Nations Charter called for full equality of men and women. It also expressed the understanding that the rights set out in the Declaration were universal and indivisible. Those rights had been further elaborated by the Women’s Convention. Together, those documents contained a legally binding set of human rights for women. Ten years ago, the Beijing Declaration had been adopted as the international community’s policy framework to implement women’s rights. Today’s reaffirmation demonstrated that the Beijing Platform had stood the test of time and continued to be the cornerstone of policies to realize women’s human rights. The Commission had spent too much time debating shades of meaning within standards long agreed upon. The Beijing text was clear and did not have hidden meanings. Women the world over were trapped in poverty and were victims of violence.

    Meanwhile, the commitments made by governments had not yet been achieved, he said. The international community’s energy must be put into learning from successes and mistakes, so as to reach common understanding of the real challenges. The United Nations needed to stop going over the same old debates and focus on how to direct the Organization to make real change on the ground. Today’s reaffirmation was reminder that the agenda set out in Beijing was more valid than ever. The reaffirmation was also a signal that the international community was interested not in reinterpreting Beijing, but in moving forward. It was a message that the international community supported women’s human rights and gender equality.

    Nicaragua’s representative said her country’s Constitution recognized absolute equality. Nicaragua supported the points made in 1995 and in 2000, and repeated its references regarding terms that might be in contradiction with Nicaragua’s Constitution.

    The representative of Côte d’Ivoire expressed gratitude for those who had withdrawn reservations, noting that it was better to preserve the general framework of the Beijing Platform. Women’s rights were human rights. Côte d’Ivoire reaffirmed its commitment to the advancement of women’s rights.

    Nigeria’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Union, thanked the delegations that had been flexible in withdrawing amendments to the Declaration. Women had come to a stage where they could make decision on issues that concerned them. Governments could only create an enabling environment and provide support for women.

    The representative of Croatia also welcomed the adoption of the Declaration. While the Beijing Declaration and Platform had not created rights, its full implementation would provide the enjoyment of women’s rights at the national level.

    The representative of Equatorial Guinea reaffirmed her country’s strong commitment to the Beijing objectives, welcomed the adoption of the document, and called for greater solidarity in achieving a better world for women.

    The representative of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, expressed satisfaction at the good conclusion and adoption of the text by the Commission.

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