VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN "NEVER ACCEPTABLE, NEVER EXCUSABLE, NEVER TOLERABLE',SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL AS GLOBAL CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED AT WOMEN'S COMMISSION
Launching a multi-year campaign to end violence against women, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an urgent call this morning to world leaders, Member States, lawmakers, United Nations entities, civil society, the private sector, the media and individuals to work together to end such violence.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Launching a multi-year campaign to end violence against women, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made an urgent call this morning to world leaders, Member States, lawmakers, United Nations entities, civil society, the private sector, the media and individuals to work together to end such violence.
Speaking during the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women’s fifty-second session, he said: “Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable and never tolerable.” Statistics made it clear that it was “an issue that cannot wait”. At least one in every three women was likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, and the practice of prenatal sex selection meant that countless others were denied the right even to exist.
No country, culture or woman was immune, he said. Horrific crimes -- including rape, sexual violence and the abduction and sexual enslavement of women and children during times of armed conflict -- went unpunished, and perpetrators walked free. What’s more, gender inequality thwarted progress towards achieving the millennium targets.
“This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future. It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind,” he said, stressing that the global campaign would continue until 2015, to coincide with the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.
The Secretary-General urged all States to review and, when necessary, revise or create applicable laws to ensure that violence against women was always criminalized. In December, the General Assembly had adopted a historic resolution on rape and sexual violence. Now it was time for the Security Council to create a mechanism to monitor violence against women and girls, under the framework of its landmark resolution 1325 ( 2000 ) on women, peace and security. He pledged to galvanize the United Nations system to provide stronger, more effective support to all stakeholders and said he would form a global network of male leaders to help him mobilize men in Government, the arts and sports, business and the religious sphere, as well as work with women’s groups worldwide.
Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said his Department would do its part, noting that the recently concluded forty-sixth session of the Commission for Social Development had addressed the issue of gender-based violence in employment. He urged the Women’s Commission to establish a set of indicators, supported by the United Nations Statistical Division, as there were few reliable statistics on women’s discrimination. Further, the Commission’s current session, which was considering the impact of climate change on women as an “emerging issue”, should seek ways to boost women’s representation and input in global efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change.
Similarly, Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, said women accounted for most of the poorest people in disaster-prone areas and always faced the greatest obstacles to rebuilding their lives after disaster struck. She called on the Commission to include human security in its agenda, in order to address climate change’s serious threat to humanity and hold a meaningful discussion on its impact on women, men and children. She said the 2002 Monterrey Consensus had recognized gender equality, women’s empowerment and poverty eradication as development goals, but it provided little in the way of concrete action plans or specific policy recommendations. More than 120 countries had national gender plans, but they were rarely integrated into national development strategies or funded adequately for effective implementation. Sufficient, predictable and sustainable resources to reduce and eliminate gender bias across sectors were crucial.
Léo Mérorès ( Haiti ), President of the Economic and Social Council, said violence against women was inconsistent with the millennium targets and must be eliminated. It was part of a systematic discrimination against women, a heinous violation of women’s human rights and a major obstacle to development. The statistics were alarming: up to 1 billion women had experienced at least one form of violence and up to 70 per cent of women murder victims were killed by their male partners. Since the General Assembly had adopted its first resolution on domestic violence against women, the Economic and Social Council had been following work on the issue through its annual report to the Commission and its reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. But, much more was needed, he said, adding that he intended to use the reformed Council to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Taina Bien Aime, of the international human rights organization Equality Now, speaking on behalf of women’s organizations championing an end to violence against women, said the Secretary-General, Governments and grass-roots organizations must join forces to end the unspeakable acts of violence committed against women. Those who committed such vile acts in the name of religion or “cultural practice”, who exploited women in the sex trade and used rape as weapon of war must be held accountable under the law. The overall goal should be to envision a world of equality for all, “rendering violence against women unacceptable and extinct”.
Echoing those sentiments, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA ), speaking on behalf of the wider United Nations system, said: “Demanding the end of violence against women is not about demanding exceptional treatment; it is simply about letting women live in dignity.” Families, communities and nations could be enriched by respecting women’s rights and by empowering them. “It is clear that we cannot make poverty history unless we make violence against women history,” she said, also stressing that such violence thwarted efforts to achieve international health goals as it increased the spread of HIV, as well as maternal and child mortality.
The Commission also began its general discussion for its current session today, hearing from some 10 delegations. Jacqui Quinn-Leandro, Minister of Labour, Public Administration and Empowerment of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that gender-responsive budgeting was a particularly important mechanism in the planning and evaluation of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment. But, some developing countries, facing huge obstacles such as debt burdens and trade imbalances, were unable to allocate sufficient resources to programmes dedicated to women’s empowerment.
Romana Tomc, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said legal obligations and political commitments must be translated into human and financial resource allocation for achieving gender equality and women’s full enjoyment of human rights and freedoms. National budgets must be used in a gender-sensitive manner, and that required allocating adequate funds to empower women and overcome gender inequalities and stereotypes, as well as gender-sensitive planning, executing and monitoring of general budgets. That view was manifested in the European Union’s multi-year programme and priorities on gender equality, which included action to encourage gender budgeting.
Flavia García, Secretary of State for Women of the Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that, while the United Nations had been targeting women’s rights and gender equality since the first World Conference on Women in 1975, Member States were struggling to achieve equal opportunities for women in such areas as nutrition, education, employment and democracy. Women were still battling deep–rooted social and cultural attitudes and standards, and some actors were indifferent to, or sceptical of, the gains that had been made. She proposed stronger coordination among United Nations agencies, civil society and States to achieve the goals set by the Beijing Platform for Action.
At the outset of the meeting, Chairperson Olivier Belle ( Belgium ) highlighted several outstanding matters pertaining to the Commission’s work. He informed delegations that, on 9 March, at the first meeting of the fifty-second session, the Commission had elected a Bureau for two terms. At that time, it had deferred the election of one Vice-Chair and the Rapporteur. To that end, the African Group had subsequently endorsed Cécile Mballa Eyenga ( Cameroon ) to serve as Vice-Chair and Rapporteur. Ms. Eyenga was then elected by acclamation and will join the other Vice-Chairs elected in March: Enna Park ( Republic of Korea ); Ara Margarian ( Armenia ); and Julio Peralta ( Paraguay ).
The Chair said that, also last March, the Commission had elected Ivana Kozer ( Croatia ) and Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez ( El Salvador ) to serve on the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women of the fifty-second session. Today, the Commission filled out the membership of that five-person body with the election by acclamation of Charif Cherkaoui ( Morocco ), Askar Zhumanayev ( Kazakhstan ) and Emil Breki Hreggviosson ( Iceland ).
The Commission also approved its provisional agenda and draft organization of work for the current session ( document E/CN.6/2008/1 ).
In the afternoon, the Commission held two round tables on “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”. One was moderated by Commission Chairperson Belle, and featured a presentation on Morocco’s experience in gender-responsive budgeting by Mohamed Chafiki, Director of Study and Forecast, Finance Ministry of Morocco. The second was moderated by Iya Tidjani ( Cameroon ) and featured a presentation by Dioniso Pereze Jacome Friscione, Vice-Minister of Expenditures of the Ministry of Finance of Mexico.
Also participating in the general discussion this morning were the women and social affairs ministers of Iceland, Sweden, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Argentina ( on behalf of the Southern Common Market ), Togo and Mexico.
Invited guests participating in the first round table were Letty Chiwara, Programme Specialist for the United Nations Development Fund for Women ( UNIFEM ); Manuel Montes, Chief of Policy Analysis and Development, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director of EFD-Global Consulting Network and representative of Baha’i International; Gemma Adaba, International Trade Union Confederation ( ITUC ) representative of the United Nations; and Fulya Vekiloglu, representative of the Non-Governmental Organization Committee on UNICEF’s Working Group on Girls.
Invited guests participating the second round able were Sonia Montano, Chief of the Women and Development Unit of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ( ECLAC ); Evy Messell, Director of the Bureau for Gender Equality of the International Labour Organization ( ILO ); Ireen Dubel, Programme Manager for Gender, Women and Development of the Humanistisch Instituut voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking ( HIVOS ); Peggy Antrobus, representative of Development Alternatives for Women in a New Era ( DAWN ); and Mama Koite Doumbia, Chairperson of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network ( FEMNET ).
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m., Tuesday, 26 February, to hold a panel discussion on “key policy initiatives on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”.
The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to begin its fifty-second session, during which it would consider follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”. For background, see Press Release WOM/1663 of 22 February.
Opening of Session
Commission Chairperson OLIVIER BELLE ( Belgium ) opened the session detailing the Commission’s programme of work for the session and updated the Commission on the work of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women.
The Chairperson then turned to the Secretary-General’s launch of the global campaign to end violence against women, saying that today was indeed a historic moment in the Commission’s long, distinguished history. The Commission had led the common effort to tackle one of the greatest scourges afflicting countless women around the world: the perpetration of violence against women because they were women. Violence against women and girls was a pervasive human rights violation. The Commission had drawn attention to that scourge and provided guidance on the necessary action at different levels by different stakeholders. The Commission had spearheaded the drafting of the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the General Assembly in 1993 -- which secured increasing prominence and visibility of the issue at international conferences.
The Commission had dealt with various forms of violence against women under priority themes, he continued. It noted progress in addressing the epidemic, but also recognized the many challenges ahead. Last year, the Commission had focused on the elimination of violence against girls. In high-level round tables, dialogues and interactive expert panels, Commission members had exchanged national experiences, lessons learned and good practices. The Commission had recognized that eliminating violence against women and girls required political will and courage, as well as resources and leadership at the highest level to bring about change. States had an obligation to protect women from violence, hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice and remedies to victims.
LÉO MÉRORÈS ( Haiti ), President of the Economic and Social Council, said women needed to be actively and more effectively engaged in economic, social and political life. But, in all regions, countries, societies and cultures, to a greater or lesser degree, women were prevented from contributing their best to the well-being of their families, communities and nations, because of violence against them. That affected women irrespective of income, class, race and ethnicity, and the scope was horrifying and staggering.
Up to 1 billion women had experienced at least one form of violence, he continued. Up to 70 per cent of women murder victims were killed by their male partners. One in five women would be a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. More than 135 million girls and women had undergone female genital mutilation and 82 million girls between the ages of 10 and 17 would be married before their eighteenth birthday. Violence was part of a systematic discrimination against women and a heinous violation of women’s human rights. It was also a major obstacle to development.
It was not surprising that the Secretary-General’s campaign coincided with the target end date of the Millennium Development Goals, he said. Violence against women had enormous personal, health, social and economic costs. It prevented women from assuming their rightful roles in developing their communities. It impoverished women and their families, societies and nations. Economic inequalities created or exacerbated conditions that enabled such violence. Women’s inequality and discrimination in employment, income and access to economic resources increased their vulnerability to violence. Violence against women was inconsistent with the millennium targets and must be eliminated.
He said that, since the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on domestic violence against women ( resolution 40/36 ), the Council had been following work on the issue through its annual report to the Commission and its reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women. In 2006, the Council had held a panel discussion on gender-based violence. Last year, the Council’s Advisory Group on Haiti had met with a Committee delegation to discuss the situation of women in that country. But, much more remained to be done. He intended to use the reformed Council to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. He fully supported the Secretary-General’s campaign. The political will to take action at all levels was necessary to achieve sustainable development and women’s human rights.
TAINA BIEN AIME of Equality Now, an international human rights organization, speaking on behalf of women’s organizations championing an end to violence against women, said the work of such groups went hand in hand with efforts to achieve gender equality. Achieving that goal required broad-based, concrete and serious efforts from the grass-roots level to national and international Government action. She noted that, even as gains were being made in other areas of social development, women were still being victimized and efforts to integrate gender equality generally were lagging or being virtually ignored at some levels.
Now was the time for action, she said. Women and girls needed Governments to live up to their obligations under international instruments towards the eradication of violence against women. The cause also needed the commitment of international organizations. The Secretary-General, Governments and grass-roots organizations must all work together to end the unspeakable acts of violence committed against women. Those who committed such vile acts in the name of religion or “cultural practice”, who exploited women in the sex trade -- not only traffickers, but those that created and perpetuated the demand -– and those who used rape as weapon of war, must all be held accountable under the law.
She welcomed the Secretary-General’s commitment to use the Organization’s considerable human and material resources to launch a global campaign to end violence against women. She also applauded his ongoing efforts to integrate gender into the work of the United Nations. Those efforts were commendable not just in themselves, but because all the international community’s development objectives were in jeopardy, as more than half of the world’s population was systematically abused, marginalized and subjected to violence. The overall goal should be to envision a world of equality for men and women, girls and boys, “rendering violence against women unacceptable and extinct”, she declared.
THORAYA AHMED OBAID, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund ( UNFPA ), speaking on behalf of the wider United Nations system, said that women and girls were at risk of violence when they went about essential daily activities -- within their homes, while walking, taking transportation to work, collecting water or firewood. “Demanding the end of violence against women is not about demanding exceptional treatment. It is simply about letting women live in dignity,” she declared, adding that the Millennium Development Goals would not be met unless greater attention and resources were devoted to women’s empowerment, gender equality and ending violence against women and girls.
Families, communities and nations could be enriched by respecting women’s rights and empowering women, she continued. The fight against poverty and hunger must preserve and nurture the human potential of every individual. “It is clear that we cannot make poverty history unless we make violence against women history,” she said, stressing that that was also true for agreed health development goals, as the health consequences of violence against women were often severe and long-lasting. Violence against women and girls increased the spread of HIV and it also increased maternal and child mortality.
She said there was also a need to pay particular attention to the most vulnerable women of all -- those living in extreme poverty, in conflict situations and unstable environments. “Collectively, we have the responsibility and the capacity to tackle this problem,” she said, also calling for greater efforts to ensure universal primary education, which was a way to improve women’s health, as well as that of their children. “We all have a role to play. Men and boys can make a tremendous contribution by using their power for positive change,” she said, adding: “Together, we can change the deeply rooted attitudes and practices that discriminate against women and girls.”
She said that working together would also ensure that all those who responded to violence against women -- whether they were lawyers, police offices, judges, immigration officials or health workers -- were sensitized and trained to provide a response that was compassionate, comprehensive and effective. Today, the United Nations pledged intensified, coordinated and urgent action to help Governments prevent, punish and eliminate violence against women. “From common to rare, from accepted to unacceptable, from impunity to justice, from suffering to support, we can build a world where violence against women belong to the past,” she declared.
Statement by Secretary-General
Launching a multi-year campaign to end violence against women, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said he was energized by the Commission’s activism and inspired by its achievements. Today marked the launching of a global campaign to end violence against women, and he was counting on advocates from Government, civil society and the United Nations to carry the message around the world. “Violence against women is an issue that cannot wait,” he said. A brief look at statistics made that clear -- at least one out of every three women was likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Through the practice of prenatal sex selection, countless others were denied the right even to exist. No country, no culture, no woman, young or old, was immune. Far too often, crimes went unpunished and perpetrators walked free.
Women and girls were now targets in war zones, he said. Today’s weapons of armed conflict included rape, sexual violence and the abduction of children conscripted as soldiers or forced into sexual slavery. During visits to conflict-torn areas worldwide, he had spoken with women who had endured horrific forms of violence. “I will forever be haunted by their sufferings -- but equally, I will always be inspired by their courage,” he said. “This is a campaign for them. It is a campaign for the women and girls who have the right to live free of violence, today and in the future. It is a campaign to stop the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all humankind.”
Gender inequality was hampering progress towards the millennium targets, he continued. Violence against women compounded the enormous social and economic toll on families, communities and nations. In working to eradicate violence against women, the international community empowered its greatest resource for development: mothers raising children, lawmakers in parliament, chief executives, negotiators, teachers, doctors, policewomen, peacekeepers and more. His campaign would continue until 2015, to coincide with the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.
There were solid policy frameworks and initiatives to build on, he continued. For example, United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict brought together 12 entities across the United Nations family, from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to the World Health Organization ( WHO ). The United Nations task force on violence against women was spearheading joint programming at the national level. The United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women had supported partners worldwide. In December, the General Assembly had adopted a historic resolution on rape and sexual violence, and the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 ( 2000 ) on women, peace and security raised the issue to the level it deserved. He called on the Security Council to set up a mechanism to monitor violence against women and girls, under the framework of resolution 1325. There was no blanket approach to fighting violence against women. Each nation must devise its own strategy. “Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable and never tolerable,” he said.
“In this campaign, I will personally approach world leaders to spur action through national campaigns,” he said. He also pledged to urge all States to review applicable laws and to revise them or enact new ones to ensure that violence against women was always criminalized. He pledged to call on all States to enforce laws to end impunity. Further, he would encourage the media to take the message far and wide, and would urge regional organizations to set priorities and targets. He would galvanize the United Nations system to provide stronger, more effective support to all stakeholders. He would form a global network of male leaders to assist him in mobilizing men and boys -- including men in Government, the arts and sports, business and the religious sphere, who knew what leadership truly meant. He pledged to work hand in hand with women’s groups worldwide, and said he would propose a high-level event in 2010 to review what had been accomplished, exchange best practices and map out steps ahead. He called on young people, the private sector, women’s groups, men and Member States to work together to end violence against women and girls everywhere.
SHA ZUKANG, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the Secretary-General could not have found a better -- and more enthusiastic -- venue, to launch his global campaign. He was certain that the Commission would take up the cause to end violence against and marginalization of women. The aim of the campaign was to ensure that all women and girls were able to achieve internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
He said the Department of Economic and Social Affairs would also do its part to ensure gender equality and an end to gender-based violence, noting that the recently concluded forty-sixth session of the Commission for Social Development had considered gender-based violence in the area of employment. He went on to note that the lack of availability of reliable statistics on women’s discrimination was repeatedly raised and, to that end, he urged the Women’s Commission to establish a set of indicators, which should be backed up by the Organization’s Statistical Division.
On the work of the Commission’s current session, he was pleased that the body was taking up, as an “emerging issue”, the impact of climate change on women. Women could be an impetus for change, but their inputs were often overlooked. The Commission should seek ways to boost the representation of women and their perspectives as international momentum built towards elaborating adaptation and mitigation efforts. He also noted that the Commission’s decision to focus on “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women” was timely in the run up to the Doha follow-up Conference to the 2002 Monterrey International Conference on Financing for Development. He pledged his Department’s support for the Commission’s work.
RACHEL MAYANJA, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, encouraged the Commission and participants to work with the Secretary-General for the success of the campaign. The Secretary-General had requested that the Deputy Secretary-General chair a small steering group to oversee the programme for the campaign. The Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality would support the steering group in developing system-wide activities for the campaign. The General Assembly’s adoption, during its sixty-second session, of the resolution on the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system ( resolution 62/208 ), with its strong gender component, and the first resolution on eliminating rape ( resolution 62/134 ) were an important demonstration of the undiminished resolve of Governments to find effective, lasting solutions to gender inequality and violence against women. Last year’s successful and interactive high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council’s substantive session emphasized the centrality of gender equality to development and poverty eradication, which was reflected in its ministerial declaration ( document E/2007/L.13 ).
This year, there was a unique opportunity to take concrete steps to bridge the gap between policies and implementation, she said, pointing to several meetings and consultations that could provide a push to consolidate gains and make more inroads for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The 2002 Monterrey Consensus recognized gender equality, women’s empowerment and poverty eradication as development goals, but it provided little in the way of concrete action plans or specific policy recommendations to address any of those goals. At the country level, promising policy initiatives for gender equality and women’s empowerment often floundered because of insufficient resources allocated to implement them. National gender plans existed in more than 120 countries, but they were rarely integrated into national development plans and the provisions made in national budgets to implement them were inadequate. Without sufficient, predictable and sustainable resources to reduce and eliminate multidimensional and multisectoral gender bias, gender equality would not be achieved.
The Millennium Development Goals would not be met unless greater attention and resources were devoted to women’s empowerment and gender equality, she said. Women’s empowerment was also essential to the overall human rights regime. It was deeply regrettable that, during the Security Council’s open debate last October on “Women, peace and security: towards a coherent and effective implementation of Security Council resolution 1325”, Council members could not reach agreement on a mechanism to monitor violence against women and girls in conflict situations. Women constituted the majority of the poorest in disaster-prone areas and always faced the greatest obstacles in re-establishing their livelihoods after disasters, as well as being physically more vulnerable to disasters. She called on the Commission to included human security in its agenda, in order to face the serious threat to humanity posed by climate change. Only then could there be a meaningful discussion on climate change’s impact on women, men and children.
The Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality continued to make progress in operationalizing the system-wide policy on gender equality, women’s empowerment and gender mainstreaming adopted by the Chief Executives Board in October 2006. The Network worked to draft standards for the system-wide policy and a strategy for normative activities to ensure their coherence with the United Nations country team performance indicators for gender equality and women’s empowerment for operational issues. She pointed to the need to address the plight of widows and trafficked children worldwide. Commitments must now be put into action.
JACQUI QUINN-LEANDRO, Minister of Labour, Public Administration and Empowerment of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said human development and growth that was sustainable must involve the participation and contribution of all people. A few of the challenges to mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment included the feminization of poverty, lack of access to resources, few women on financial and economic boards and the inadequate financing of programmes that affected the lives of women.
On the work of the Commission, she said that by collectively reviewing challenges related to financing gender empowerment and by sharing best practices on the mechanisms and processes involved in that effort, the Commission could make an important contribution to the design of policies and programmes aimed at bridging the gap between policy and practice, and also contribute to the upcoming Doha follow-up conference on development financing. Studies had confirmed the positive impact of investment on the lives of women on national productivity and development. International organizations and Governments had, through the years, reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring that women were afforded equal rights, opportunities and access to resources, and to increase financing for programmes aimed at women’s empowerment.
Developing countries had used varying mechanisms to that end, including increased investment in their social sectors, which had resulted in, among others, expanded opportunities and access of women to education and a reduction of maternal mortality. She said access to microcredit and microfinance had also promoted productive entrepreneurial activities, particularly among poor and disadvantaged women in developing countries, while such schemes had also boosted employment and income generation. Among women, microcredit had had the “multiplier effect” of enhancing their socio-economic status in homes and communities, and had further allowed women the enjoyment of their human rights.
She went on to say that gender-responsive budgeting was a particularly important mechanism in the planning and evaluation of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Gender-responsive budgeting had been identified as a crucial tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Such budgeting should not only focus on expenditures, but also provide systematic planning regarding Government allocation of financial resources through the implementation of national programmes. With all that, she noted that some developing countries, facing huge obstacles such as debt burdens and trade imbalances, were unable to allocate sufficient resources to programmes dedicated to women’s empowerment.
The Group of 77 believed that some of the national and international actions that could be taken to accelerate progress towards financing for gender equality included, among others, building capacity for and creating greater awareness of gender-responsive budgeting with the full involvement of all relevant stakeholders at the national level; ensuring gender-responsive budgeting initiatives that addressed both the expenditure side of the budget and the initial stages of policy and budget formation; and realizing the internationally agreed targets of 0.7 per cent of gross national product ( GDP ) for official development assistance ( ODA )and 0.15 per cent for least developed countries.
ROMANA TOMC, State Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said legal obligations and political commitments must be translated into human and financial resource allocation for achieving gender equality and women’s full enjoyment of human rights and freedoms. A comprehensive strategy was needed to maximize the efficient use of resources. That would create conditions for the full enjoyment of the right to education. Eliminating violence against women and girls was crucial to achieving the millennium targets. Increased female employment rates and the quality of jobs were crucial to empowering women, promoting gender equality, achieving development, fighting poverty and addressing the issue of demographic growth. More effort was needed to address the steady pay gap between women and men, and to increase the number and quality of jobs. She strongly supported full implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, and further implementation of the Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action.
Gender equality could not be achieved without guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, she said. Sexual and reproductive health information and health services for women were essential to achieving the Beijing Platform for Action. National budgets must be used in a gender-sensitive manner. That required allocating adequate funds to empower women and overcome gender inequalities and stereotypes, as well as gender-sensitive planning, executing and monitoring of general budgets. That view was manifested in the European Union’s multi-year programme and priorities on gender equality, which included action to encourage gender budgeting. In 2005, European Union ministers for gender equality had agreed in a declaration to ensure that gender equality bodies and structures be equipped with the human and financial resources and capabilities necessary for effective functioning. In 2006, the Council of the European Union had adopted a set of political conclusions on institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, including a set of indicators to assess European Union progress.
The conclusions on gender equality and women’s empowerment in development cooperation adopted by the European Council in 2007 recognized the need to eliminate gender inequalities, gender-based violence and abuse, as well as to increase the capacity of women and girls to protect themselves. Also last year, the Council adopted the conclusions on indicators in respect of women and poverty, urging the European Commission and its member States to reinforce the systematic implementation and monitoring of a gender mainstreaming in their policies for social protection and social inclusion. The European Commission had allocated funding for actions aimed at promoting gender equality in the 2007-2013 period that was almost three times higher than that of previous years. Adequate funding would deliver sustained results in gender equality and the empowerment of women, if they were put on the agenda of political dialogue between donors and national Governments.
Women’s participation in decision-making was instrumental to setting priorities for peacebuilding and reconstruction programmes, she said. The European Union’s commitment to promote the role of women in peacebuilding and enhance implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security was reflected in several key policy or programme documents, including the conclusions on “promoting gender equality and gender mainstreaming in crisis management”. Several European Union member States had drafted action plans to implement the resolution. In 2008, the European Union would develop indicators and prepare a report on women in armed conflict.
INGIBJÖRG SÓLRÚN GÍSLADÓTTIR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, said gender equality and women’s empowerment was a fundamental issue of the twenty-first century. Whether related to peace and security matters, health, poverty or climate change, women’s empowerment was the key to success. Indeed, empowerment of women was the best investment any society could make. “We should never speak of ‘spending’ when it comes to putting Government money into gender equality -- we should always speak of ‘investing’,” she said.
To highlight the impact of gender-targeted investment, she noted the situation in her own country as a prime example. At the beginning of the past century, Iceland had been one of poorest countries in Europe. Iceland had received development assistance through 1976, but now, 30 years later, it was at the top of the United Nations Development Programme ( UNDP ) Human Development Index. Research had shown that one of the main reasons for that dramatic turnaround had been the liberation of women and their invaluable contribution to the economy, with more than 80 per cent of the country’s women now active in the labour market. The path towards women’s emancipation had meant generations of hard work, but the advantage for Icelandic society as a whole was indisputable, she said.
With that in mind, she said that, in a globalized world, no country could afford not to make women’s empowerment a priority. As the traditional divide between domestic policy and foreign policy “evaporates before our eyes”, the value of making gender equality a core foreign policy issue became twofold: all members of society needed to take part in shaping the global agenda in order to ensure progress at home; and everyone needed to learn from the valuable experiences of others. She said that, nationally, the Icelandic Government concentrated on strengthening the capacities of both State and non-State mechanisms that dealt with promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. One of the most important steps her Government had taken on equal opportunities had been adopting legislation on parental leave. That 5-year-old policy had been a great success and a powerful tool for promoting shared responsibilities between women and men.
NYAMKO SABUNI, Minister of Integration and Gender Equality of Sweden, said it was urgent to strengthen the United Nations gender architecture and improve the Organization’s work on gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Sweden would continue to uphold the rights of women and girls, and their access to sexual and reproductive health care, including contraception and safe and legal abortion. Sweden was deeply concerned about the difficulty in achieving the millennium targets to halve maternal mortality worldwide. In many parts of the world, progress was at a standstill or losing ground. Women were still dying during pregnancy and childbirth, or from unsafe abortions. Without being able to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, and without access to adequate sexual and reproductive services, women stood little chance of having the same opportunities as men.
A gender-equality perspective must be mainstreamed into all policies and all areas of political decision-making, she continued. Sustainable change could only be achieved by long-term strategic work to integrate a gender perspective into policies. Strategies must be disaggregated by sex and analysis done from a gender equality and women’s empowerment perspective. That called for political commitment and accountability, as well as practical instruments and methods for civil servants.
Gender mainstreaming efforts could also be supplemented by special measures where urgent action was needed, she continued. The Swedish Government had dramatically increased the national budget for gender equality policy from €4 million to €40 million. For example, the Government had adopted last November a national action plan to combat men’s violence against women. It had launched a research programme to promote women’s health and financed a comprehensive programme to promote gender mainstreaming in local and regional authorities. One starting point for the current session’s follow-up theme should be Security Council resolution 1325 ( 2000 ) on women, peace and security, she said, noting that Sweden had been one of the first countries to adopt a national action plan for implementing the resolution. Sweden took seriously reports that United Nations staff on peacekeeping missions had been involved in sexual exploitation and other abuse of women and girls. She welcomed efforts within the United Nations system to investigate such abuse and to prosecute perpetrators.
SAMIA AHMED MOHAMED, Minister of Social Welfare, Women and Child Affairs of Sudan, said her country had been actively working to emphasize justice and gender equality, and believed that ensuring their equal participation was crucial to the renaissance of Sudanese society. Since the 1960s, women had acquired the right to participate in national elections and the political process and, among other things, women now made up some 18 per cent of the members of Parliament and an empowerment strategy was aimed at increasing that to 25 per cent. Since the 1970s, women’s right to equal pay for equal work had also been ensured. Further, women’s participation in the country’s economic life had jumped 30 per cent in the past 20 years and women had gained top posts in the armed forces, as well police and security services. Sudan now had 7 female judges, and its transitional Constitution safeguarded social economic and political justice among and between all men and women. “All this has helped to build a secure and stable nation,” she said.
She went on to say that violence against women in Sudan was almost extinct, except in specific “cases deterred by law and rejected by society”. Some anomalies had surfaced in conflict-plagued areas, and certain violations of women and children’s rights by United Nations peacekeepers had been uncovered, especially in the south. The booming traffic in child smuggling also needed to be urgently addressed. Finally, Sudan was fully convinced that the partnership for development goals by itself, with no favourable international environment, was not sufficient. Further, one could not promote the individual rights of men, women and migrants, while turning “a blind eye” to people’s right to development and control of their national resources. To that end, Sudan hoped that donor countries would fulfil their official development assistance obligations and ensure that such aid was adequate, as well as predictable.
JEANNE PEUHMOND, Minister of Family, Women and Social Affairs of Côte d’Ivoire said that, in March 2007, Côte d’Ivoire’s leaders had signed the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. Since then, the country had been engaged in post-conflict reconstruction. It had set up an institutional framework to implement a national gender policy. Key actions had been undertaken in that regard. In February 2007, the President of Côte d’Ivoire had signed a solemn declaration of gender equality and opportunity that clearly indicated that gender equality must be a priority. On the basis of that declaration, the Government had set up a national framework to tackle gender challenges. Its objectives included reform of the budgeting process, taking into account the gender dimension in finance law and appropriate resources to deal with gender equity. It also promoted the role of the private sector to help generate jobs and income. Further, the Prime Minister had made it a priority to increase women’s participation in decision-making. In that regard, a think tank had been working on ideas to increase the role of women’s organizations, including signatories of the Ouagadougou Political Agreement.
Her Ministry had created 13 gender units to promote the creation and use of gender-specific budgeting, she said. A national women’s fund had been set up to support the process of post-conflict reconstruction. Practical and strategic efforts to address the needs of the population had also been carried out by civil society, which had made it possible to improve the lot of thousands of women and children. Financing the advancement of women and gender equality could only be achieved efficiently if it was done in a manner that cut across all sectors of society. She recommended the mobilization of resources for capacity-building, as well as developing programmes to integrate gender in the process of planning and budgeting in all sectors of development. That was fundamental for countries emerging from crisis.
FLAVIA GARCÍA, Secretary of State for Women, Dominican Republic, speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, said that, while the United Nations had been targeting women’s rights and gender equality since the first World Conference on Women in 1975, Member States had been struggling to achieve equal opportunities for women in such areas as nutrition, education, employment and democracy. Women were still battling deep–rooted social and cultural attitudes and standards, while, at the same time, some actors were indifferent to, or sceptical of, the gains that had been made.
With that in mind, the Rio Group would propose strengthened coordination among United Nations agencies, civil society and States towards achieving the goals set by the Beijing Platform for Action. The international community should recognize that obstacles to women’s equality were numerous and wide ranging, and that to overcome them required sustained and coordinated efforts from all stakeholders. While calling for broader coordination efforts, the Rio Group praised the work being done by the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women ( INSTRAW ), the United Nations Development Fund for Women ( UNIFEM ) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, among others.
The Rio Group also considered it essential to promote support for activities to strengthen national mechanisms, which would enable the adoption of measures for the advancement of women in all necessary areas, including legislative, budgeting and institutional reforms. She went on to say that the Group was concerned about violence against women, especially increased trafficking in migrants, women and adolescents, particularly young girls. That phenomenon could only be prevented and eliminated with decisive action, coordinated at national and international levels and respectful of human rights norms.
In her national capacity, she said her Government was working tirelessly to achieve equal opportunities for Dominican women in education policy. The Government was also committed to institutional reforms, which included broadening legal instruments to integrate gender elements. The Government was also ensuring that women had access to financing and the media. She noted that the country’s “town council” system of community-level engagement was also targeting gender equality and women’s empowerment with raising awareness, and education and health campaigns.
MAGDALENA FAILLACE, International Special Representative of Women’s Issues of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market ( MERCOSUR ), said quantitative indicators that showed achievement of the gender equality goals of the millennium targets were not enough, because inequality crossed all sectors and dimensions of development. A gender perspective must be mainstreamed into all development objectives. The special meeting on women in MERCOSUR had, since 1998, had as its starting point the incorporation of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Global Action, the debate on the impact of globalization, regional integration policies and support for incorporating a gender perspective into all national public policies. The special meeting had addressed historic issues of the women’s movement, including gender violence and domestic and work-related violence; trafficking in women and girls; political representation of women in democratic systems; women’s non-paid work and their role in the labour force; and the feminization of AIDS.
The special meeting had planned joint meetings in 2008 with the high-level group on human rights and employment and the subgroup on health, she said. Further, thanks to the special meeting, Presidents of MERCOSUR nations had signed a joint communiqué, in which they considered that women’s full participation was a fundamental condition for their nations’ economic, social, political and cultural development. They also urged implementation of policies and equality, and non-discrimination against women in all spheres. At the meeting in 2006, they had signed a presidential declaration, in which they committed to fighting trafficking in persons and supported the creation of a regional information and prevention campaign.
The special meeting’s current agenda stressed the need to prevent and eradicate gender violence, she said. Activities included a contest for designing posters as part of the campaign on violence against women that would be implemented by MERCOSUR. The selected posters were printed for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and would continue to be distributed to member States. This year, a regional prevention campaign would be launched in airports, and victims’ assistance centres would be created along land borders. They also aimed to create a unified register of violence reports and claims that could be used by all countries in the region. Security forces had also been trained to address and prevent such cases. A new technical commission on violence would begin working in June. Further, through affirmative action measures, such as quotas in parliaments and labour unions, countries were striving for gender equality in the power structure. She also pointed to efforts to create legislation to protect undocumented workers against exploitation in the workplace and to facilitate access to health care and judicial protection.
MÉMOUNATOU IBRAHIMA, Minister of Social Action, the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children and Older Persons of Togo, said her country was addressing gender equality through a multi-track strategy that included a focus on, among other things, increased income, improved access to social services, equitable access to job markets, promoting respect for human rights and the elimination of gender-based violence, and strengthening the role of the Ministry for Women’s and Children’s affairs.
She said, however, that the relevant strategies could only achieve results if they were fully and comprehensively implemented, which national budgets could not always cover. Togo was also aware that detailed planning was also necessary to ensure effective implementation. Such planning required a mastery of budgetary tools and technical training. With that in mind, the Government was doing its part, but its actions must be supported with assistance from international partners. Such partnerships would make the Government’s efforts more effective and efficient. Togo would continue, with the help of its partners, working towards the attainment of the Millennium development Goals.
MARIA DEL ROCIO GARCIA GAYTON, President of the National Women’s Institute of Mexico, said her country was committed to promoting and defending women’s rights and stood by its open-door policy when it came to international scrutiny of its human rights record. Mexico understood that the battle against gender violence and impunity were its greatest challenges, and comments and recommendations that had been received to that end had been incorporated into the National Programme for Equality between Men and Women: 2008-2012. Mexico would continue implementing a programme it had launched with UNIFEM on an interactive system for monitoring the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.
She went on to say that, one year into his Administration, Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s relevant activities had focused primarily on strengthening institutional aspects of a gender perspective in order to implement the aims of the country’s general law on equality for men and women, and the general law on access to a violence-free life. Mexico was pleased that the Commission this year was dealing with financing to benefit gender equality. That topic was of prime importance in helping Mexico fulfil both its national and international gender-equality obligations. The Government had established the “budget earmarked for women and gender equality” in its 2008 federal expenditures and had, among other things, doubled to some $49 million its allocation to the National Women’s Institute this year. While aware that it had made much progress in creating institutions and legal and regulatory frameworks, Mexico was aware that it still had many challenges to overcome, such as the fight against impunity and trafficking in women and children, as well as streamlining its law enforcement.
Round Table I
Opening the high-level round table on “financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women”, Chairperson BELLE ( Belgium ) said that, beyond improving the chances of developing countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, gender-responsive budgeting “just makes good economic sense”. Indeed, investing in women and girls had positive and lasting repercussions on poverty reduction, productivity and sustained economic growth. Gender inequalities, on the other hand, had economic costs. For instance, it had been estimated that countries that failed to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2015, the target date for the Millennium Goals, could lose between 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points in per capita growth.
Despite many commitments made on gender equality and the empowerment of women, adequate resources had not been allocated to attain them. He said that national machineries for women’s advancement were hampered by a lack of resources and political support. According to the five-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action, conducted in 2000, the percentage of national budgets allocated to relevant national machineries was under 1 per cent -– in nearly every case. International development cooperation was an important mechanism for financing gender equality and could spur the mobilization of domestic resources. Other innovative sources of financing had also been identified, including women’s funds.
Panellist MOHAMED CHAFIKI, Director of Study and Forecast, Finance Ministry of Morocco, said that financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women was a way to ensure the strategic reforms needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Morocco had approached the issue not by earmarking specific funds, but by ensuring that gender-sensitive analysis was integrated into the country’s general budget. The Government had recognized that it was necessary for society to transform and that reforms should be promoted at all levels, including in budgetary matters. Here, he noted that Morocco had removed its reservations pertaining to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, even though that move would require major changes to national legislation.
That had led the Government to take a closer look at its budgetary allocations, specifically for women’s empowerment, he said. It had fast-tracked implementation of the National Initiative for Human Development, towards attainment of the Millennium Goals, especially targets aimed at ensuring and promoting participation of women in the country’s overall sustainable development. To that end, a feasibility study had been launched that first and foremost streamlined -– and explained -- the budget to make it more understandable to the wider citizenry. The Government was striving for “budget literacy”, and had had included performance indicators, relevant goals, means of attaining them and impacts in that study.
He said that the project had been undertaken in two main phases. The first, in 2003 and 2004, had seen the establishment of focal points in the Finance Ministry to draw up a handbook for other ministries and non-governmental organizations on gender matters. The second phase had included compiling both a gender report and a finance report. The gender report had been preceded by a workshop that prepared all sectors concerned. Other work had been done to define the “poverty gap” and address local dimensions and gender specificities. The project had been launched with just a few ministries on board, but now featured coordinated efforts among the ministries of finance, health, national education, agriculture and rural development, and energy, among others.
When the floor was opened for discussion, delegations, many represented by their women’s affairs ministers, praised Morocco. Several speakers, however, stressed that, if a minister of finance was an advocate for gender equality, then he or she could better persuade other Government ministries to back projects that earmarked funds for women’s empowerment. One speaker wondered how Mr. Chafiki had been able to get so many ministries to come on board. Another speaker questioned the move to not set aside specific budgetary allocations for gender issues. Wouldn’t women-focused polices and programmes just get lost in the shuffle? Others expressed concern that there were not enough trained professionals in their countries to implement broad changes in budgetary policy.
Responding, Mr. CAHFIKI said Morocco believed that it was not necessary to have budgets set aside specifically for women. Budgets had to be reformulated so that gender perspectives were integrated into every line. By example, he said that, when the Government looked at its allocations to achieve development goals in education, the new gender-responsive approach did not set the education budget and then examine what allocations were necessary for women’s empowerment in that area. The gender perspective had been integrated into the education budget at the outset. That had been the Government’s aim; to change the way budgets were considered, so that gender perspectives would considered as a matter of course.
He went on to say that there was no denying that, in most countries, introducing a gender dimension was the job of the finance minister. Often, other departments either rejected the notion outright or saw such targeted funds as a one-off allocation. There was a need, therefore, not only to advocate broad budget-making reforms, but to create a counterweight to negative arguments by involving civil society in discussions.
Concluding the discussion, he said that all the speakers had shared a wealth of experience. One thing was clear however; whatever path a country took, local specificities must be taken into consideration when implementing gender-sensitive budgets. The international community, led by global organizations, had a great responsibility to not only promote the implementation of comprehensive policies to bolster gender-specific financing, but to ensure a proper level of coordination between policy-makers, communities and financial institutions. He also stressed that the exercise was not about just making one decision or one change; it required broad transformation, including at the legislative and community levels.
The discussion also included a number of invited guests from the United Nations system and civil society, who made brief interventions. LETTY CHIWARA, Programme Specialist for UNIFEM, summed up the discussion and noted that her agency had just wrapped up a comprehensive study on gender-responsive financing and would present some of the findings to the Commission on Friday.
Noting that, later this year, the United Nations would convene a review of the Monterrey Consensus, she called for people-centred policy-making initiatives that addressed gender elements and, among others, promoted a balanced domestic economic agenda; placed an emphasis on employment creation and decent work; promoted public investments that supported economic productivity; provided more predictable foreign aid flows; and promoted trade liberalization policies that took into account the impact of such policies on women’s employment.
MANUEL MONTES, Chief of Policy Analysis and Development, Financing for Development Office, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, also stressed the importance of the upcoming review conference, especially towards promoting gender-sensitive development financing. To that end, the Commission must review the Monterrey Consensus and perhaps consider setting up a working group to provide inputs to the review process.
AUGUSTO LOPEZ-CLAROS, Director of EFD-Global Consulting Network and representative of Baha’i International, said studies had shown the important contribution women could make when their reservoir of talents and skills were tapped, especially when investments were made in empowering women and giving them greater opportunities to participate on an equal playing field with men. He said that the private sector could tap those talents and could promote the notion that gender diversity, especially in decision-making, was always beneficial.
GEMMA ADABA, International Trade Union Confederation representative of the United Nations, called for focus on addressing the feminization of poverty, largely through ensuring full employment and decent work for all and promoting the International Labour Organization ( ILO ) Decent Work Agenda. That Agenda, based on social integration and dialogue and fundamental rights at work, would help address gender-specific issues such as maternity right
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