Press Releases

    ECOSOC/6234
    26 July 2006

    Economic and Social Council Adopts Resolutions on Situation of Palestinian Women, Afghan Women, Girls

    Discusses Mainstreaming Gender Perspective Into United Nations, Women, Development, Advancement of Women

    (Reissued as received.)

    GENEVA, 25 July 2006 (UN Information Service) -- The Economic and Social Council this afternoon adopted a number of texts contained in the report of the Commission on the Status of Women, including resolutions on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women and, on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

    The resolution on Palestinian women, which was adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour to 2 against, with 1 abstention, called for measures for the tangible improvement of the difficult situation on the ground, and the living conditions faced by Palestinian women and their families; and reaffirmed that the Israeli occupation remained a major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development planning of their society.

    The representatives of the United States and Australia, who voted against the text, made statements of explanation of the vote after the vote.

    In the resolution on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, adopted by consensus, the Council took note with appreciation of the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan; and invited the Secretary-General to take into account a gender perspective when preparing the reports requested by the General Assembly.

    Under a resolution on the future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women, adopted by consensus, the Council approved the methods of work of the Commission; and the themes for the period 2006-2009.  By a decision on the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the fifty-first session of the Commission, the Council adopted the report by consensus.

    Also this afternoon, the Council held a general discussion on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system; women and development; and the advancement of women.

    Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, in an introductory statement, said the 2005 World Summit marked a new step forward for the United Nations, by challenging Member States, United Nations entities and civil society to turn to implementation of global commitments for gender equality made by world leaders at the Summit.  The 2005 World Summit had generated a new momentum and strong quest for concrete action on gender equality, which was the pressing challenge of these times.

    Carolyn Hannan, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the report of the Secretary-General on "follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly", said the report recognized that training was a critical tool for increasing awareness, knowledge, commitment and capacity of staff for gender mainstreaming.  It emphasized, however, that training could not by itself address all the constraints to effective gender mainstreaming.

    Carmen Moreno, Director of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), said the Council had a crucial responsibility to ensure that the gender architecture of the United Nations was strengthened in accordance with the need to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women in the world.  Neither economic nor political empowerment would mean anything without the existence of basic human security.  The physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence perpetrated against women on a daily basis throughout the world still constituted the most significant obstacle to gender equality.

    Addressing the Council were representatives of South Africa, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, Mexico, Russian Federation, Indonesia and Dominican Republic.  The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.

    When the Council reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 26 July, it will deal with its agenda item on coordination, programme and other questions and will focus on long-term programme of support for Haiti and ad hoc advisory groups on African countries emerging from conflict.

    Documents on Gender Mainstreaming in All UN Policies and on Women and Development

    A report (E/2006/27) entitled report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session contains, under matters calling for action by the Council or brought to its attention, a summary submitted by the Chairperson of the Commission for transmittal to the General Assembly at its high-level dialogue on international migration and development, as well as three draft resolutions, one on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, one on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, and one on the future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women; a draft decision which is the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the fifty-first session of the Commission; matters brought to the attention of the Council; follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and to the special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century"; communications concerning the status of women; follow-up to Economic and Social Council resolutions and decisions, the provisional agenda for the fifty-first session of the Commission; adoption of the report of the Commission; and organization of the session.

    A report of the Secretary-General (E/2004/65) entitled follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, provides an overview of gender training efforts of the United Nations entities. The report emphasizes the importance of training for capacity-building for gender mainstreaming, and identifies some of the critical elements for conducting successful and efficient training, including institutional context, support structures, systematic monitoring and evaluation of training and follow-up mechanisms. It also provides examples of training provided by the entities of the United Nations system at the national level and makes recommendations for consideration by the Council.

    A report (E/2006/80) entitled report of the Executive Board of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women on the work of its third session, says the agenda adopted for the session included the review of: (a) the report of its Subcommittee of the Executive Board of INSTRAW on the Resource Mobilization Strategy on the proposed fund-raising strategy for INSTRAW (INSTRAW/EB/2006/R.2); (b) the implementation of the programme of work during the period November 2005-April 2006; and (c) the proposed work plan and operational budget for 2007.

    The report (E/3006/83) of the Secretary-General on system-wide policy and strategy on gender mainstreaming provides a summary of progress made so far in the joint efforts of the United Nations system to develop the system-wide policy and strategy for gender mainstreaming, including consultations, through the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality and the High Level Committees on Programme and on Management of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.

    Introductory Statements on Gender Mainstreaming in All UN Policies and on Women and Development

    RACHEL MAYANJA, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, in an introductory statement, said the 2005 World Summit marked a new step forward for the United Nations, by challenging Member States, United Nations entities and civil society to turn to implementation of global commitments for gender equality made by world leaders at the Summit. The ultimate goal should be to enhance the capacity of Member States and the United Nations system to turn gender equality commitments into reality so that individual women and girls would see a real difference in their lives.  In this respect, the World Summit and the ongoing reform of the United Nations offered fresh opportunities to intensify implementation of global commitments.  Since then, intensive efforts had been undertaken both at the inter-governmental and interagency levels on how to move decisively to translate the Summit consensus into reality, build on women's gains in the past five years, while confronting pressing challenges in gender equality, including attempts to roll back achievements to date.

    The Commission on the Status of Women at its last session continued with the reform of its working methods to increase its focus on implementation at the national level, enhance its catalytic role in gender mainstreaming, and establish itself as a global forum for exchange and sharing of national-level experience.  Although considerable efforts on capacity building, largely through conventional training, had been made in the United Nations system, gender equality was not fully integrated into the work of the Organization.  Lack of knowledge and understanding of gender equality and gender mainstreaming called for a mandatory capacity building to improve capacity of United Nations staff for gender mainstreaming.  The 2005 World Summit had generated a new momentum and strong quest for concrete action on gender equality, which was the pressing challenge of these times.

    CAROLYN HANNAN, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, introducing the report of the Secretary-General on "Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly", said the report recognized that training was a critical tool for increasing awareness, knowledge, commitment and capacity of staff for gender mainstreaming.  It emphasized, however, that training could not by itself address all the constraints to effective gender mainstreaming.  It should be part of a comprehensive entity-wide strategy for the implementation of gender mainstreaming which had explicit management support.

    The report outlined the variety of gender-specific training programmes provided0 and efforts made to incorporate gender perspectives in existing training programmes in a variety of sector areas, both within entities and in collaboration with partners at the national level.  The importance of increased training on gender mainstreaming at the country level, including in key planning and monitoring processes, such as common country assessments and United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks, as well as in the context of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, was highlighted.  The importance of the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality in ensuring coherence and coordination, in particular at the national level, was noted.

    CARMEN MORENO, Director of the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) said the Council had a crucial responsibility to ensure that the gender architecture of the United Nations was strengthened in accordance with the need to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women in the world.  The United Nations approach to gender issues needed to be strong, certain, and commensurate with the needs and priorities of the world's women.  Whatever architecture was chosen it needed the full support of all stakeholders and sufficient and certain resources to function.  INSTRAW offered its support to participate in that endeavour.  Women's economic empowerment was an essential component of gender equality, and INSTRAW's ground-breaking research on the gender dimensions of remittance flows had demonstrated the significant transformative potential of women's migration and economic empowerment for household gender relations, community well-being and economic growth.

    Women's political empowerment and their equal participation in decision-making was another essential component of gender equality.  INSTRAW had just launched a three-year project on governance, political participation and gender at the local level with funding from the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and INMUJERES of Mexico.  That project would promote women's rights, gender equality, and the political participation and leadership of women in planning and management at the local level.  Neither economic nor political empowerment would mean anything without the existence of basic human security.  The physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence perpetrated against women on a daily basis throughout the world still constituted the most significant obstacle to gender equality.

    General Discussion

    G.J. MTSHALI (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said gender mainstreaming was a major global strategy for the United Nations system in the promotion of gender equality.  The importance of translating gender mainstreaming into a practical reality had received strong political commitment at the highest level during the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, the 2000 Millennium Summit, as well as the 2005 World Summit.  The Group of 77 and China believed that gender mainstreaming should situate gender equality issues at the centre of all analysis, policy decisions, plans, programmes, monitoring, budgetary subvention and institutional structures and processes.

    Enhancing system-wide gender sensitivity and gender expertise would require that all the entities of the United Nations system integrate a gender perspective into their training programmes for all staff, including those at the highest levels, and system-wide monitoring and evaluation of the impact of such training was further recommended.  A large gap still remained between policy and practice, with the result that a gender perspective was not yet fully integrated into the work of the United Nations.  Adequate human and financial resources for such training should be provided within the United Nations training budgets, but not at the expense of other training priorities within the United Nations system.

    PABLO MACEDO RIBA (Mexico) welcomed the significant progress made in implementing gender prospective in all programmes and policies in the United Nations.  Women were left aside from enjoying their rights in matters of health and education in many countries.  Millions of women also continued to be victims of sexual violence with the perpetrators being left unpunished.  Mexico had been making efforts to promote the rights of women and mainstreaming gender perspective in all aspects of its activities.  It had also taken measures to integrate women in all national programmes in an equal manner.  The Government of Mexico encouraged the participation of women in all affairs of the country on an equal footing.

    Mexico had also presented six periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in New York.  The relevant resolutions adopted by the Council with regard to gender mainstreaming should be implemented by all States; and through follow-up measures, States should be able to identify the obstacles in the implementation of gender equality in their respective countries.  Mexico was satisfied with the adoption of the resolution on "future organization and methods of work of the Commission of legal and social conditions of women" to mark the fiftieth session of the Commission for Women.

    S.V. BEREZNOY (Russian Federation) said the rights of women and issues related to improving their socio-economic status, protecting them from violence and increasing their level of participation in decision-making remained important everywhere in the world.  States had reiterated their commitment to obligations assumed under the Millennium Development Goals, but, despite progress, it was noted that the international community was still far from ensuring the protection of women from all forms of violence and discrimination and the attainment of true gender equality.  To attain the latter, Russia had developed an innovative document: a gender strategy for the Russian Federation, including the Millennium Development Goals and the main issues affecting the status of women and measures to improve this last.

    The activities of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women were applauded.  It was very important for the Commission's work to improve and move with the times.  Russia attached particular importance to the activities of the Committee on the Prevention of Discrimination against Women.  Russia was implementing a programme of action to improve the status of women.  The start of economic growth in Russia was causing increased employment for women.  Russia was implementing broad-scale reforms on social policy, with significant importance attached to the gender factor, including it in this mission.  Russia welcomed international cooperation on the set of issues connected to the rights of women, and was committed to open and productive dialogue with its partners to this effect.

    DINAR SINURAT (Indonesia) said that in Indonesia, the advancement and empowerment of women had become a national priority.  Gender mainstreaming had been promulgated in all aspects of development and civic life.  Various measures had been taking.  Women empowerment programmes with the main objective to achieve gender equality had been part of the national development plan since 1999.  In line with the decentralization policy, the Minister of Interior Affairs' Act was adopted, obligating all government agencies at central, provincial and district level to implement gender mainstream in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating development programmes and policies.  Various efforts to realize awareness among relevant government officials had been carried out by the State Ministry of Women Empowerment in its close collaboration with concerned non-governmental organizations, academics and UN agencies.  Although some progress had been achieved, the huge number of officials, budget constraints and the geographic characteristics of the country remained challenges to be addressed.

    In the context of the upcoming high-level dialogue on migration and development, Indonesia underlined the need for a comprehensive approach to address the multi-dimensional aspects of international migration.  Both countries of origin and countries of destination should share responsibility for the welfare of migrant women.  Adequate attention needed to be given to women migrant workers employed in informal sectors.  They were the most vulnerable type of women migrant who enjoyed the least international legal protection.  Some creative thinking needed to be generated in order to find innovative ways of providing protection to that group of migrant workers.

    ROSA ELIZABETH GONZALEZ (Dominican Republic) said despite the difficulties in reconciling short-term financial constraints with a perspective of medium and long-term planning, the United Nations International Research and. Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) had been effective over several decades, and had functioned within the United Nations, funded from voluntary contributions, and had been exposed to uncertainties characteristic of the voluntary funding system.  It had been a victim of the battle for funds which marked United Nations programming over the decades.  For unclear reasons, institutions which had no funding under the regular budget had always suffered from a disadvantage, and it was difficult for them to function in real terms.

    Despite this, INSTRAW's achievements, which would be expressed by the Director of the body, showed that its contributions were very valuable to the United Nations system, and its commitment had been effective to achieving equal rights for men and women.  INSTRAW was the only United Nations body which focused on programmes in the field for the promotion of women and of gender-equality.  It should be allowed to continue its work, but only the commitment of States would ensure this.  All States should contribute to the institution, as it played an important role as a catalyst for initiatives aimed at ensuring full gender integration in the field.

    LUNTAN BAYARMAA, of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the focus on training activities in the report was welcomed, as this was an important tool for policy and practice.  The issue of gender mainstreaming required attention, as did the need to focus on gender awareness.  The Federation had held a number of training courses to this effect.  The Federation's appeal for 2006-2007 included gender mainstreaming in recovery work and disaster relief, with the aim of ensuring, among other things, better follow-up.

    The advancement of women would not be achieved without concrete measures by Governments and other actors to improve women's access to health and employment, among others.  Their lack of access became ever more visible in crisis and post-crisis situations.  The role of women in local capacity building was often ignored, and without women's leadership and active participation, the worst vulnerabilities would not be rectified.  In recent studies by the Federation, several key areas and constraints had been identified which prevented women from volunteering, including education systems that perpetrated discrimination, insufficient time due to heavy household responsibilities, and negative gender-stereotypes.  The challenge still remained as to how to deal with these issues, and the Federation would continue to search for solutions to the issue.

    Action on Resolutions in Report of the Commission on the Status of Women

    In a resolution contained in the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session (E/2006/27) and entitled situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, adopted by consensus, the Council takes note with appreciation of the report of the Secretary-General on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan; welcomes the references to the situation of women and girls in General Assembly resolutions 60/32 A and B of 30 November 2005;  invites the Secretary-General to take into account a gender perspective when preparing the reports requested by the General Assembly in its resolutions 60/32 A and B and to include a specific and substantive section focusing on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan in those reports; and requests the Secretary-General to transmit those reports to the Commission on the Status of Women at its fifty-first session.

    In a resolution contained in the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session and entitled situation of and assistance to Palestinian women, adopted after a roll-call vote with 38 in favour, 2 against, and 1 abstention, the Council calls upon the concerned parties, as well as the international community, to exert all the necessary efforts to ensure the full resumption of the peace process on its agreed basis, taking into account the common ground already gained, and calls for measures for tangible improvement of the difficult situation on the ground and the living conditions faced by Palestinian women and their families; reaffirms that the Israeli occupation remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women with regard to their advancement, self-reliance and integration in the development planning of their society; demands that Israel, the occupying power, comply fully with the provisions and principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Regulations annexed to The Hague Convention IV of 18 October 1907 and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, in order to protect the rights of Palestinian women and their families;  calls upon Israel to facilitate the return of all refugees and displaced Palestinian women and children to their homes and properties, in compliance with the relevant United Nations resolutions; and also calls upon the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and services in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions.

    The result of the vote was as follows:

    In favour (38): Albania, Angola, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guyana, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom.

    Against (2): Australia, United States.

    Abstentions (1): Haiti.

    Explanations of the Vote after the Vote

    TERRY MILLER (United States), in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said the United States was highly concerned about the situation of Palestinian women and had been providing financial assistance to help them.  However, the resolution presented inaccurate and unbalanced facts about the Palestinian women.

    GUY MAXWELL O'BRIEN (Australia), speaking in an explanation of the vote after the vote, said there was concern for the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories, including that of women, and Australia gave considerable aid to the territories.  The resolution was unbalanced, and politicised humanitarian concerns in a way that was unhelpful, and this was why Australia had voted against it.

    Action on Resolutions

    In a resolution in the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session and entitled future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women, adopted by consensus, the Council approved the methods of work of the Commission; and the themes for the period 2006-2009.

    In a decision in the report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session and entitled report of the Commission on the Status of Women on its fiftieth session and provisional agenda and documentation for the fifty-first session of the Commission, adopted by consensus, the Council adopted the report.

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