Press Releases

    WOM/1500
    9 March 2005

    Women’s Commission Hears Introduction of Eight Draft Resolutions; Discusses Challenges to Gender-Related Statistics, Indicators

    Drafts Address Women’s Economic Advancement, Disaster Recovery, INSTRAW, Trafficking, AIDS, Discriminatory Laws, Gender Mainstreaming, Palestinian Women

    NEW YORK, 8 March (UN Headquarters) -- The Commission on the Status of Women capped off its celebration of International Women’s Day this afternoon with the introduction of eight draft resolutions, including two new ones, on women’s economic advancement and integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation, especially in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster.

    Other traditional texts concerned: reducing the demand for trafficked women and girls; the girl child and HIV/AIDS; the Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women; mainstreaming a gender perspective into national policies and programmes; the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women; and strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

    Introducing the new draft on women’s economic empowerment, the United States representative told the Commission that the text highlighted the importance of economic freedom, with the intent of focusing on women’s entrepreneurship. In the United States, that was growing about twice as fast as business in general, and was contributing to the country’s economic situation. And, throughout the world, women were improving the economic status of their families and their countries, but they needed an enabling environment in order to thrive. 

    The Philippines’ observer to the 46-member Commission tabled the draft text on integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation. The draft sought to integrate a gender perspective into the post-tsunami and post-disaster efforts, to protect women’s rights and prevent violence against them, and to ensure their active involvement in the design of recovery programmes. 

    In an effort to conclude the high-level general discussion, time was made this afternoon for statements from several representatives of United Nations agencies and international financial institutions. Among them was the Acting Sector Manager, Gender and Development, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, of the World Bank, who said that the Bank’s presence at the meeting had been driven by a desire to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of its assistance to client countries through continued interaction with its partners, clear and prioritized goals, and the resolve to achieve them. He said that the Bank had heard those messages from Beijing, and it continued to be guided by them.

    The World Bank knew, through a study it had commissioned, that development was impeded when women lacked equal access to rights, resources and voice. It also knew how gender inequality was a barrier to development, slowing economic growth and lowering a country’s ability to effectively reduce poverty. The Bank’s Executive Board had endorsed a gender mainstreaming strategy to incorporate those findings into its country-level work, and the Bank was investing in country-level activities to counter the negative effects of gender roles, relations and policies on women’s opportunities and rights. Among its other activities, it was working with governments to review legal systems that discriminated against women.

    Other speakers in the general discussion included officials of: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); the World Health Organization (WHO); and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

    Also this afternoon, the Commission convened a panel discussion entitled “Remaining challenges to statistics and indicators, building on the discussion at the high-level round table organized at the forty-eighth session of the Commission in 2004, as well as available data from the World’s Women: Trends and Statistics (2005) and the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (2005)”. 

    Participants in the panel were:  Paula Monina Collado, Deputy Administrator, Philippines National Statistics Office; Tatiana Gorbacheva, Director of Department for Statistics of Labour Education, Science and Culture, Russian Federation; Vivian Milosavljevic, of the Women and Development Unit of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); June Zeitlin, Executive Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization; Mary Chamie, Chief of Branch in charge of Demographic and Social Statistics Division of the United Nations; Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations; Kristina Kangaspunta, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime at the anti-human Trafficking Unit, Vienna; and Francesca Perucci, Officer-in-Charge of the Statistical Planning and Development Section in the United Nations Statistics Division. 

    In other business today, members supported the Chair’s proposal to explain in a letter to the President of the Economic and Social Council that, absent the desire of the members to further consider the Commission’s working methods at the current session, it would continue that discussion at the forty-ninth session. 

    Draft resolutions were also introduced today by the representatives of Mauritius (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Jamaica (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Rwanda, and the United Kingdom.

    The Commission on the Status of Women will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow to continue its general discussion until 10:30 a.m., and then hold a panel discussion on “Future perspectives on the promotion of gender equality:  through the yes of young women and men”.

    Background

    Following the morning’s commemoration of International Women’s Day, the Commission on the Status of Women heard the introduction of several draft resolutions on: women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS; reducing the demand for trafficked women and girls; Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women; mainstreaming a gender perspective into national policies and programmes; integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation; the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women; strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW); as well as on women’s economic advancement.

    Action on the texts was expected on Friday, 11 March.

    This afternoon, the Commission was expected to convene a panel entitled: “Remaining challenges to statistics and indicators, building on the discussion at the high-level round table organized at the forty-eighth session of the Commission in 2004, as well as available data from the World’s Women: Trends and Statistics (2005) and the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (2005)”.

    Introduction of Draft Resolutions

    The representative of Mauritius, an observer delegation and chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), introduced a draft resolution (document E/CN.6/2005/L.2) on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS. The resolution captured the language of last year’s resolution and did not contain any new elements.

    The United States representative introduced the draft resolution on trafficking (document E/CN.6/2005/L.3). Ending that crime was priority for the United States. The resolution would accelerate progress by building on existing international cooperation and by draining both market and demand. The resolution had been approached with the knowledge that a number of strong United Nations resolutions had already taken a comprehensive approach to the issue. The resolution acknowledged the importance of previous instruments by recalling them in text. She hoped the international community could bring new energy to a particular aspect of the crime, namely, the demand for trafficking victims. Without being more serious about drying up the market, it would not be possible to decrease the enormity of the problem.

    The representative of Rwanda, also an observer, introduced, on behalf of the Philippines, draft resolution E/CN.6/2005/L.4 on the Special Rapporteur on laws that discriminate against women. The draft called on the Commission to consider the issue at its fiftieth session and also called for the appointment of a special rapporteur. Rwanda and the Philippines were convinced that such a mechanism was needed. He called on all delegations to support the initiative and to adopt the draft by consensus.

    The representative of the United Kingdom introduced draft resolution E/CN.6/2005/L.5 on mainstreaming a gender perspective into national policies and programmes.  Bangladesh was also a sponsor of the text. The resolution had built on previous resolutions in the United Nations system. This year provided an opportune moment to recall commitments made by governments in Beijing to gender mainstreaming at the national level.  The draft provided Member States with the opportunity to repledge their commitment to that undertaking.  He announced the following co-sponsors of the draft: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain.

    Introducing the draft on integrating a gender perspective in post-disaster recovery and rehabilitation (document E/CN.6/2005/L.6), the observer for the Philippines said the draft was a product of consultations with and the experiences of the United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and concerned governments at actual disaster sites. Informal consultations were ongoing on the text with interested delegations to obtain final agreement. 

    On 26 December 2004, the observer said, tsunamis crashed into the coastlines of the Indian Ocean, killing hundreds of thousands of people and leaving many more homeless. Cultural norms of modesty of women and their proper behaviour had left them ill-equipped to escape. The draft sought to integrate a gender perspective into the post-tsunami and post-disaster efforts, to protect women’s rights and prevent violence against them, and ensure that they were actively involved in the design of recovery programmes. It also recalled relevant sections of the Beijing Platform and the outcome from the Assembly’s special session in 2000. The text was most relevant and timely.

    Jamaica’s observer, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, as well as Mexico, introduced the draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2005/L.7). The unfolding humanitarian and economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and East Jerusalem had affected Palestinian women in a most detrimental way. Their continued difficulties and the need to assist them in overcoming the obstacles to their development and advancement were central to the text. The majority of operative paragraphs were identical to those of last year’s resolution, although some provisions contained additional language, mostly in the preambular portion.

    She said she looked forward to the draft’s adoption by consensus, with the hope that it would alleviate the suffering of Palestinian women and contribute to their overall advancement.

    She then introduced, also on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, as well as Mexico, a draft on the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document E/CN.6/2005/L.8). The INSTRAW remained a unique institution of the United Nations system, as a vehicle to promote and undertaken policy-oriented research and training programmes at the international level to contribute to women’s advancement worldwide. It was appropriate that the draft, once again, was being considered at a high-level session of the Commission.

    Like last year’s text, this year’s draft was concise and purposeful, reflecting the Institute’s accomplishments, including the redesign of its Web site and the strengthening of its training and outreach abilities. It also recognized and welcomed the important nexus between the Institute and implementation of the Beijing agenda, and continued to invite voluntary contributions by Member States to the United Nations trust fund for INSTRAW. Such contributions were critical to its continued viability and strengthening. 

    She noted that the draft also urged the Secretary-General and all relevant United Nations bodies to support efforts to strengthen the Institute by promoting its collaboration with other United Nations bodies. The INSTRAW should remain a strategic partner with the Commission and, in the current text, the Executive Directorate was asked to report to the Commission at its next session on implementation of its work programme, particularly those elements related to the Beijing follow-up.

    Turning to the draft resolution on women’s economic advancement (document E/CN.6/2005/L.9), the United States representative said she was pleased to introduce that text, as it highlighted the importance of economic freedom. That would complement the General Assembly resolution of 2003 on women and political participation. Although the scope of the current draft had evolved considerably during negotiations, its original intent had been to focus on women’s entrepreneurship. In the United States, that was growing about twice as fast as business in general, and was contributing to the country’s economic situation. 

    Throughout the world, she said, women were improving the economic status of their families and their countries, but they needed an enabling environment in order to thrive. The draft covered those elements critical to the economic development of all people, but especially for women, including education and the need for good governance. She welcomed support and co-sponsorship of the text.

    General Discussion Statements

    A. WAAFAS OFOSU-AMAAH, Acting Sector Manager, Gender and Development, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, World Bank, said the Bank’s presence at the meeting had been driven by a desire to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of its assistance to client countries through continued interaction with its partners, clear and prioritized goals, and the resolve to achieve them. Linking the implementation of the Beijing Platform and the Millennium Development Goals was the most effective way to build on the momentum because that linkage held the promise of bringing together the economic, social and gender agendas into one, coherent development framework. Soon after the Beijing Conference in 1995, the World Bank had been challenged to improve its performance, to increase lending for programmes that reduced gender inequalities, and to systematically incorporate gender perspectives in every aspect of its work.

    He said that the Bank had heard those messages from Beijing, and it continued to be guided by them.  It had commissioned a study showing that development was impeded when women lacked equal access to rights, resources and voice. It demonstrated convincingly how gender inequality was a barrier to development, slowing economic growth and lowering a country’s ability to effectively reduce poverty. The Executive Board had endorsed a gender mainstreaming strategy to incorporate those findings into its country-level work, and the Bank was investing in country-level activities to counter the negative effects of gender roles, relations and policies on women’s opportunities and rights. Among its other activities, it was working with governments to review legal systems that discriminated against women by restricting their access to and control over productive resources, constraining the conditions of their employment, limiting their freedom of mobility, failing to protect their personal safety or reproductive rights, or marginalizing their participation in decision-making.

    The Bank was also trying to address new and emerging concerns that were slowing down women’s advancement, he said. Chief among those challenges was the feminization of HIV/AIDS pandemic. The inability of women to protect themselves against contracting the disease in those societies ravaged by HIV/AIDS reflected their lack of economic power and limited voice. Gender-based violence was another acknowledged challenge. In 2004, the Bank had convened its first conference on that subject, following which, the Bank President called on partners to fight that complex global phenomenon.

    Overall, challenges still remained, and in prioritizing its areas of focus, the Bank was relying on a few key lessons from the past, he said.  Among them: gender equality mattered in every aspect of its work; gender analysis must become an integral part of policy dialogues at the highest decision-making level; and gender-sensitive indicators were needed to measure progress towards equality, especially in areas such as property rights, employment, and the prevalence of violence.

    THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said adoption by consensus of the Declaration reaffirming the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action was an important milestone, following the reaffirmation by all regions of the International Conference on Population and Development and its Programme of Action. The Cairo and Beijing agendas were intrinsically linked as both had human rights as their framework and gender equity and equality as their focus. Full implementation of the agreements of the 1990s United Nations conferences was necessary for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

    She said that, at this critical juncture, the right to sexual and reproductive health must be guaranteed.  That was not merely a health issue, but also a matter of social justice, basic human rights and sustainable human development. The Millennium Project had identified 17 quick wins, including expansion of access to sexual and reproductive health services, including family planning and contraceptive information and services. Reproductive health should be a priority in the national programmes, whether in health, in education or in empowerment of women.

    She hoped that the September review of progress in implementing the Millennium Declaration would advocate that universal access to reproductive health by the year 2015 was vital for the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals. To eradicate extreme poverty, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS would not be possible unless greater priority and resources were devoted to reproductive health.

    The challenge faced in 2005 was to move beyond lofty words into deeds, she said. Political leaders should fully represent the interests of women and work together with parliamentarians and civil society and the United Nations to implement the vision and goals of the Cairo and Beijing conferences. Responses must be called up, and the poorest and most isolated must be reached within the context of national health and education systems. The empowerment of women must be high on the national agenda and central to national dialogues.  Financial, human and institutional resources must be increased for women’s empowerment, education and health and gender equality. Accountability must be ensured. Gender-sensitive indicators and specific targets must be put in place so that performance could be measured.

    RIMA SALAH, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that as a lead agency for children, her organization was particularly concerned about the situation and rights of girls. Children’s rights to survival, development, protection and participation could not be achieved without the advancement of women’s rights. Another aspect of the issue was that gender-based discrimination began in childhood, and it took its toll across the entire life cycle. Ten years after Beijing, more girls than ever were in school; many countries had reviewed or developed their legal framework to promote and protect women’s and children’s rights; and partners had joined efforts to formulate national action plans to analyse and address gender-based discrimination. Despite steps forward, however, the international community was still far from fulfilling the promises made in Beijing.

    Among the main concerns, she listed a rising proportion of girls and young women living with HIV and harmful traditional practices. Rape, sexual exploitation and abuse were gross violations of the rights of girls and women. Governments must make girls’ education a priority in their national programmes and policies. The international community must honour its commitments to ensure that all countries with a credible education plan should be supported to secure implementation. States must hold perpetrators of sexual violence during armed conflict, and those who authorized attacks accountable as war criminals, in violation of international law. Courts must have adequate resources and capacity to ensure gender-sensitive programmes for victims and witness protection, in order to more effectively prosecute those responsible for gender-based crimes.  Governments must strengthen the participation of women and groups promoting women and children, at national, regional and international levels.

    DESMOND JOHNS, Director, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said the number of women and girls living with HIV had rapidly increased since 1995.  In the mid 1990s, women had accounted for 40 per cent of all adults living with HIV. Today, almost half of the 37.2 million people living with HIV worldwide were women. Female infection rates were rising relentlessly throughout the world. That was devastating, both for women affected and for the families and communities in which they lived. The longer-term implications, particularly for developing countries, were terrifying. The numbers were going up every day. Today, another 7,000 women would be infected. It had become clear that many of the more traditional responses to the AIDS epidemic, which focused on altering the way people behaved, simply did not work for women. In 2005, too few girls were in a position to get an education, depriving them of the opportunity to learn how to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

    Over the next 10 years, if current trends persisted, more than 100 million girls in developing countries would be married, he said. Most would marry older men, and many would marry against their will. When women were forced to have sex, the risk of HIV infection increased, particularly in young, less developed women. Women must also have equal access to health care and HIV prevention services and care. Last year, UNAIDS had launched the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. Guided by the principle that women were resource leaders in the fight against AIDS, the Coalition had been born out of the recognition that, despite the international community’s best efforts, it had not yet turned the tide of AIDS. To meet the Goal of halting the spread of HIV by 2015, the world would need to make a more serious commitment to finding long-term solutions and not quick fixes.

    ANA MARIA HERMOSO, Relations Officer, World Health Organization (WHO), recalled that, in May 2004, the 192 Member States of the World Health Assembly had adopted a global strategy for accelerating progress towards attainment of the international development goals and targets related to sexual and reproductive health. That was an important milestone. The strategy outlined key areas of action for both Member States and the WHO, but it also recognized and described the continuing challenges to achieving those goals and the reasons why, more than ever, it was essential to continue working together to fulfil the sexual and reproductive health goals and agreed targets. Three problems areas, to name just a few, were: maternal mortality and morbidity, HIV/AIDS, and violence.

    She said that an estimated 529,000 women died each year during pregnancy and childbirth from largely preventable causes, with 98 per cent of those deaths in developing countries. Despite advances in some countries, the maternal mortality ratio at the global level had not changed substantially over the past decade.  While contraceptive use had greatly increased in many developing countries, surveys indicated that, in those countries and countries in transition, more than 120 million couples did not use, or had no access to, safe and effective contraception, despite their increased desire to avoid or to space future pregnancies. That unmet need for family planning was an important gap that must be filled. About 80 million women every year had unintended or unwanted pregnancies, and more than half of those were terminated. An estimated 19 million of those 45 million terminations were carried out under unsafe conditions.  Unsafe abortions killed an estimated 68,000 women annually and left a further 5 million women with temporary or permanent disabilities.  All of those deaths and complications were “completely preventable”.

    Almost half of all new HIV infections occurred in young people aged 15 to  24 years, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where twice as many young women as men of the same age were infected with HIV, young women now represented 75 per cent of young people infected with HIV, she said. The vulnerability of young women to the HIV infection was strongly influenced by issues of gender inequality, such as difficulty in controlling the conditions in which sex took place, and where condoms were used. Intergenerational sex between young women and older men, early marriage of girls with older partners who were more likely to have had previous sexual experience with several partners, and forced and coerced sex also contributed to young women’s vulnerability to HIV infection. Other sexually transmitted infections were closely associated with HIV transmission and, in fact, the presence of some types of sexually transmitted infections could increase a person’s vulnerability to become infected with HIV. There were an estimated 340 million new cases annually of sexually transmitted bacterial infections.  Most sexually transmitted infections, and their high toll of death and disability, could be prevented with correct and consistent condom use.

    She said that violence against women was another important risk factor for women’s ill health, including for maternal mortality and HIV/AIDS. Addressing it, therefore, was critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Violence during pregnancy was also common and had serious implications for the health of the mother and infant. Child abuse, defined as sexual abuse before age 15, was reported as a relatively common experience in most of the sites (culturally and geographically diverse countries). Furthermore, a substantial minority of women reported that their first sexual intercourse was by force. The WHO was working in many ways to support its Member States and other partners to ensure that sexual and reproductive health information and services were made available and accessible to all. The Organization was also working to ensure that violence against women was addressed as a public health issue and to ensure that all health programmes, such as mental health, communicable diseases, blindness, occupational health and safety, among them, were informed by a gender analysis and the need to achieve gender equality and health equity, she said.

    SANIYE GULSER CORAT, Chief Coordinator for women and gender programmes of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that in the field of education, since 1995 the international community had made remarkable progress in building consensus around the centrality of girls’ education to development processes and the fight against poverty. UNESCO’s principal efforts towards the promotion of gender equality were invested in meeting strategic objectives pertaining to education in the Beijing Platform. Despite the documented correlation between education, literacy and human development, the current situation called for intensified efforts. Only 52 of  128 countries for which there was data would achieve gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2005.

    Access to information and knowledge increasingly determined patterns of learning, cultural expressions and social participation, she said. Gender equality issues were central to ongoing debates about the relationship between culture and development. For UNESCO, the objectives of the advancement and empowerment of women and the achievement of gender equality were complementary. They also constituted a fundamental prerequisite for international development, peace and security.

    Panel Discussion

    The panel was entitled, “Remaining challenges to statistics and indicators, building on the discussion at the high-level round table organized at the forty-eighth session of the Commission in 2004, as well as available data from the World’s Women: Trends and Statistics (2005) and the World Survey on the Role of Women in Development (2005)”.

    The panellists were: Paula Monina Collado, Deputy Administrator in the Philippines National Statistics Office; Tatiana Gorbacheva, Director of Department for Statistics of Labour Education, Science and Culture, Russian Federation; Vivian Milosavljevic, of the Women and Development Unit of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); June Zeitlin, Executive Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization; Mary Chamie, Chief of Branch in charge of Demographic and Social Statistics Division of the United Nations; Hania Zlotnik, Director of the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations; Kristina Kangaspunta, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime at the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit, Vienna; and Francesca Perucci, Officer-in-Charge of the Statistical Planning and Development Section in the United Nations Statistics Division.

    Ms. COLLADO, Deputy Administrator, National Statistics Office of the Philippines, said that the Philippines had a relatively vast experience in generating statistics to address gender issues. The networking between the statisticians and gender advocates had improved data collection on topics related to gender issue.  Publications on women and men had also been institutionalized in the publications’ plans of statistical agencies, as well as other government agencies. Capability-building programmes had been designed to enable cascading, not only in the different government agencies but also local governments. The Constitution now recognized women’s important role in nation building and advancing their status. Gender and development had been integrated across sectors at the national and subnational planning processes. The 30-year Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (1995-2005) provided a framework for pursuing full equality and development of women and men. At the agency, sector and local levels, gender and development focal points were tasked to catalyse, coordinate, provide direction to and serve as a technical adviser on such efforts.

    She also highlighted the recent adoption of landmark legislation to counter trafficking and violence against women and their children. Early studies to come up with a statistical perspective with which to monitor gender concerns had identified more than 400 indicators derived from censuses, surveys and administrative reporting forms. By 1994. government agencies had been enjoined to promote gender concerns through the generation of statistics. (The paper attached to her statement presents statistics on eliminating gender bias in education. It also discusses how the various projects undertaken by the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, the national machinery on women, seek to improve statistics on gender concerns. It also seeks to identify the challenges facing the data-producing agencies, in support of the need for sex-disaggregated data).

    Ms. GORBACHEVA, Director, Department of Labour Education, Science and Culture Statistics of the Russian Federation, said that over the 10 years since the adoption of the Beijing Platform, the Russian Federation had gained considerable experience in carrying out work in gender statistics. The most important development had been the creation of a system of indicators which included statistical information in terms of gender. The system had been disseminated throughout the various government ministries. The system of indicators was updated primarily through the use of surveys. The basis of gender-based analysis in the Russian Federation was the results of a census carried out in 2003. The census had, for the first time, contained questions on income sources. It had also been used to obtain information on employment in the informal labour market.

    Despite such progress, however, there were still many shortcomings to gender statistics, she said.  Statistics on crime and violence against women were needed. Another important issue was that of migrant labour. As gender statistics received a higher profile in all countries, it would be important to exchange experiences and lessons learned.

    Ms. MILOSAVLJEVIC of ECLAC said that the Latin American countries had made significant progress in regard to generating gender statistics. That had made it possible to use gender-based indicators in order to develop and gear public policies.  By using the work undertaken by the women’s division of ECLAC, it should be possible to ensure that a gender-based approach was used in collecting national statistics and in establishing a set of indicators. That, in turn, would provide high visibility to gender-related problems. Gender-based statistics collection, however, had not made sufficient or even progress across the board. The shortage of relevant information had resulted in a lack of reliability and data instability, which had been the main obstacles to greater visibility.

    She said that a lack of information had not been the only constraint; the methodology had not paid sufficient attention to the gender-based approach.  In poverty measurement, for example, the methodology had not been enough to assign a monetary value to women’s unpaid work, which had prevented an understanding of the depth of poverty and the discrepancy in income between men and women. Promoting gender equality was not only an aim in itself, but an objective in achieving Millennium Development Goal #3. In order to make progress in the countries in her region towards achieving the Goals, countering the following challenge was imperative: development of a set of complementary indicators to allow mainstreaming of the gender approach in all methodologies used. In order to do that, mainstreaming a gender approach had to be done in poverty-measurement methodologies, as well as in the conventional methods. That would make it possible to identify existing deficiencies at all stages of data collection.

    In view of the complexity of an in-depth analysis of the methodologies used, she drew attention to a paper distributed in the room, which provided more detailed information.

    Ms. ZEITLIN, Executive Director, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, said there had been a lot of discussion among women about the critical need to define gender equality and women’s empowerment to make gender equality central to the Millennium Development Goals. Many critical aspects of gender equality were not easily measured. While violence against women was the most universal concern reported by women, it was a major omission in the current Millennium Development Goals. In every region of the world, access to reproductive health services was limited, and constraints remained on women’s reproductive and sexual rights. That was a second major omission of the Goals.

    Regarding power and decision-making, she said the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) collected data tracking women’s representation in national parliaments. All countries that had reached a critical mass of 30 per cent representation had used some type of affirmative measures, including a party quota system. On poverty eradication and macroeconomic policies, she said there was no question that gender-blind macroeconomic policies and poverty-reduction strategies exacerbated the feminization of poverty. It was impetrative that countries assessed the differential impact on men and women of trade policies.  Women’s unpaid work, on which all economies depended, continued to be invisible in national accounts. While steps had been taken to improve the lives of women around the world, much more work was needed. In a day when people knew more about their pets or the price of eggs, it was imperative that governments made the long-term investment in data collection.

    Ms. CHAMIE, of the United Nations Demographic and Social Statistics Division, presented the Special Report of the World’s Women 2005:  Progress in Statistics, explaining that the final report would be released in September and go beyond topics of population, births and deaths covered in the portion of the report she was releasing today. It would also consider issues of health, education, housing, labour, violence, and other topics.  Current expectations were that sex-disaggregated statistics should be widely available for socio-economic and policy analysis at the national, subnational and international levels. 

    She asked whether the lack of sex-disaggregated statistics and analysis in some countries and areas was a result of missing ideas and a lack of a gender perspective, or were they the result of missing data and a lack of sex-disaggregated statistics. She had read a famous book published in the United States 30 years ago as a graduate student on the nation’s occupational structure, which only presented statistics for men. Where were the women? she asked her professor.  Her professor had told her to be patient -- since the women’s impact was so minor, they had just been excluded from the analysis. That was a case where general expectations of women had resulted in a lack of analysis of existing data on occupational structures of women and their social mobility, although that data had clearly existed in her country 30 years ago. What had been missing, however, were the ideas, the perspectives.

    She said that sex-disaggregated data by national programmes for use by their national machineries was missing or seriously lacking for a number of countries and areas. For example, some 15 countries had not been able to report to the United Nations on their total population once in the last 10 years. And by sex, 15 countries could not break down their populations once between 1995 and 2004, and when asked to do so by sex and age, 53 countries could not. When asked for five-year annual reporting, 121 countries fell short.  Ten per cent of the world’s population, therefore, lived in places where sex and age could not be described for their total population. Virtually all of the Millennium Development Goals and internationally recognized indicators of human development required those basic pieces of information; they were necessary statistics for the study of the girl child, the elderly, maternal mortality, and for producing per capita estimates for poverty, housing and so forth. Given that situation, it seemed imperative that national statistical offices must be strengthened, especially in Africa and parts of Asia. Her office would work with the national machineries to support those offices.

    Ms. ZLOTNIK, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, noted that most people thought of migrants as male, while female migrants were seen as dependants, joining their male partners.  While many knew that that was not true, it had been difficult to prove. For a long time, there had been evidence that equal numbers of women participated in migration. Compared to the 1970s, it would be more difficult today to find migration data classified by sex. It was not a matter of a lack of censuses. Very few countries did not have a census.  For example, the United States, the largest receiver of migrants in world, had much information on the foreign-born population, but not by sex.

    Half of international migrants were women, she said.  Women accounted for some 48.6 migrants. Women were generally more intent on migrating to the developed world, as it offered them greater opportunities.  While they might enter as dependants, women usually had other intentions. Many women migrants were highly trained and would not remain dependants for very long.

    Ms. KANGASPUNTA, of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said that there had been a boom in information on trafficking in persons in recent years, but the reliability of data had remained a problem with most data sources. If figures on trafficking were given, they were often based on estimates of the level of trafficking and, usually, no explanation was given on how those figures had been calculated. In many cases, they were used for advocacy or fund-raising purposes. Data collection on human trafficking was complicated, and reliable data was still difficult to find.  Some existing data-collection initiatives gathered information globally, usually focusing on legislation, victim assistance, trafficking routes and other related information.  Because of the nature of the information, in most cases, data was not comparable. There were also well known problems that were common to all efforts to gather comparative data on crime, such as imprecise definitions, improper classifications and differences in units of measurement. With new forms of crime, such as trafficking, most of the traditional methods of data collection could not be applied.

    She cited as a major problem with a comparative analysis the lack of specific legislation on trafficking persons, which resulted in the absence of official criminal justice statistics on human trafficking cases, including the number of police-recorded crimes and number of persons prosecuted and convicted.  In countries where legislation on trafficking in persons was available, the legal definitions might vary from one country to another, and official statistics might include only some types of trafficking crime. The Protocol on trafficking to the 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime had improved the situation because, for the first time, the international community had adopted an agreed definition of human trafficking.  Several countries had already reformed their legislation to be in compliance with the definition. That would also likely lead to more harmonized practice in recording crime, allowing collection and comparison of trafficking data. When estimating the hidden number of trafficking crimes, it might be informative to look at the reporting practices of women, in general, and their relationship with affluence.

    Ms. PERUCCI, Officer-in-Charge of the Statistical Planning and Development Section of the United Nations Statistics Division, said global monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals was based on international data sources. Statisticians and technical experts from international and national statistical services were asked to develop a comprehensive framework to help focus national and international priority-setting and to provide technical specifications on the indicators needed. Those large technical consultations had led to the set of 48 indicators used as the basis for assessment of progress towards the Goals addressing 18 target areas.  Monitoring was undertaken through an inter-agency and expert group consisting of agencies within and outside the United Nations system.

    During the exercise, which had started in 2002, the group had identified a number of shortcomings, she said. Although the Goals had been derived from the world conferences of the past 25 years, some of the important outcomes of the Beijing Conference had not been completely reflected in the framework. That was the first issue. Although the group had tried to supplement information under Goal three, both the national and international data were insufficient for meeting all data needs. Another issue was the lack of sufficient data at the national level. The inter-agency group had worked to refine the list of indicators. In 2003, the group had established subgroups, looking at such issues as education, employment, reproductive indicators, health, violence and political participation.

    Comments and Questions

    When the meeting turned to interventions by delegates, civil society groups and representatives of NGOs, one speaker stressed the importance of statistics to improve the number and nature of measures undertaken by governments. In her own country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it had not been possible to maintain statistics given the years of conflict, but it was important that account be taken of the work of both men and women. In her country, women during many years of war had been the main pillars for the home.  Their work in rural areas and in the informal sector should also be taken into account. Thanks to women, her country had been able to survive.

    Another speaker commended the United Nations’ contribution to women in the Caribbean region in developing sets of gender indicators. That had allowed for greater visibility and the formulation of new assessments. In addition, new links had been established between gender and poverty in the region, which had set a global example.

    One NGO representative called for the inclusion of race in the discussion, which, she said, had been neglected throughout. Only a deficient discourse had been constructed, thereby ignoring the imperative of discussing statistics in a way that incorporated the objectives of the World Conference on Racism.

    On the question of HIV/AIDS, another speaker said partners must be made aware of each other’s histories, even if that required that doctors violated their Hippocratic oaths. 

    Regarding the figure that 80 per cent of women’s work was not remunerated, she said it was vital to find the economic equivalent of household work. That required a gender-based analysis and a data base reflecting all areas of women’s activity. A woman in a household was not a person without a job or skills; she was not someone who was not working. She was working, but her work was not given any value. Laws should be passed in all countries to give legal status to women working in the crafts sector, in stockbreeding, and so forth. Also, household work should be evaluated and included in national accounts.

    It was unacceptable that the wife of a farmer was working the fields, just like her husband, and educating the children did not have access to agricultural credit when her husband died. That was the only way to keep that farm working.

    Responding to the various comments, panellists noted that it was not always a matter of a lack of statistical data, but that statistical data was not effectively used. Panellists thanked the speakers for raising issues, such as the issue of race and gender, and welcomed commitments to go beyond existing commitments to implementation. Women’s empowerment was the most effective development tool.

    Limited human and financial resources also limited statistics around the world, they said. Three words could summarize the discussion: increase, disseminate, and analyse. So far, trafficking had been discussed in a stereotypical way, one panellist said. Another indicated that gender and social statistics were the first area cut from programmes when resources were limited. The Millennium Development Goals provided a good opportunity by advocating statistics for evidence-based policy-making.

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