The President of the economic and social council recently released the following press release which can be found at http://www.un.org
Economic and Social Council
2010 Substantive Session
11th & 12th Meetings (AM & PM)
President of Economic and Social Council Stresses Pragmatic Decision-Making as 54-Member Body Opens 2010 Substantive Session
Record-breaking 13 States to Make Presentations in Annual Ministerial Review
Tackling complex development issues required pragmatic decision-making, the President of the Economic and Social Council said today, challenging diplomats to come up with straightforward solutions to the need for higher standards of living and greater socio-economic progress, especially for women, as the 54-member body opened the high-Level segment of its 2010 substantive session.
“This means we have to move away from the long and ambiguous statements of yesteryears,” said Hamidon Ali of Malaysia in opening remarks to the ministerial segment, which runs through Friday, 2 July, and includes the Council’s Annual Ministerial Review, on the theme “Implementing internationally agreed development goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women”. That portion of the month-long substantive session also features the Development Cooperation Forum, which aims to strengthen global partnerships for development.
Urging delegations to “move beyond stale arguments” and agree on a short, action-oriented Ministerial Declaration that could be understood by the “man in the street”, the President said that, in a results-based era, the Council must bolster its capacity to galvanize and implement effective global action to overcome collective challenges. The high-level segment must therefore not only be a forum for the exchange of views and experiences, but must also produce tangible results, whether in terms of policy guidance or the promotion of coherence.
He said this year’s Ministerial Review — which, along with today’s presenters Brazil, Netherlands, Guatemala and the Republic of Moldova, would see a record 13 countries deliver voluntary presentations — was particularly timely as it allowed the Council to strengthen the links between gender equality, women’s human rights and non-discrimination as a basis for progress on development targets, including the Millennium Development Goals. While only Goal 3 related directly to the empowerment of women, “all [Goals] are dependent on women having a greater say in their own development”, he stressed, also noting the need for greater cooperation to end violence against women and girls, and the importance of empowering rural women as a critical force in reducing poverty and hunger.
In his remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that while solid gains had been made towards achieving the Millennium Goals, stubborn disparities persisted between rich and poor, rural and urban, males and females. “The vast majority of the world’s people still need — and deserve — drastic improvements in their quality of life,” he said, adding: “Until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals — peace, security, sustainable development — stand in jeopardy.”
The Secretary-General called for a scaling up of investment in women, emphasizing that that was where progress was most needed. He also urged the Council to generate support for the United Nations joint action plan on women’s and children’s health, declaring: “Together, we must urge Governments to change attitudes and policies towards women and girls. We must end inequality and discrimination, and make women and girls aware of their inalienable rights.”
Among the four high-level officials delivering keynote addresses to the meeting was Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, who joined the session by video link from Johannesburg, South Africa, and urged Council members not merely to discuss the issue. They must “move mountains” to end the persistent injustice that women faced, she emphasized, noting that women generally fared worse than men in almost every sphere and sector of life. Therefore, politically correct statements about gender balance were inappropriate and no longer enough. Empowerment and equality must be made a reality so that women could be the protagonists of their own destinies, she said, stressing that anything less than full gender equality and equal participation stunted the progress of all humanity.
She recalled that her election as the first woman President of Chile had been evidence of that country’s profound transformation, and she had never forgotten how thousands of women across Chile had donned presidential sashes like her own, as if they too were entering the Presidential Palace. Yet, once in Office, she had remembered that women in many countries were practically invisible, especially in the political sphere, and had therefore put together cabinets made up equally of men and women. That had provoked much criticism, she said, describing the uneasiness that awaited most females in some parts of the political arena.
Ms. Bachelet said her Administration had nevertheless held firm and set out to broaden women’s participation at all levels of Government, as well as in civil society. That had led to the promulgation of several important bills that had been swiftly approved by Congress. Decrying “the imprint of masculinity” that had long been an obstacle to women in politics, she said she had realized quickly that people would be much more critical of her leadership merely because she was a woman. Indeed, it seemed she had had constantly to “prove that I could be President”, yet, despite everything, she had worked hard to prove that women could be efficient and get good results as well.
Moushira Khattab, Minister of State for Family and Population Affairs of Egypt, said that, in a historic step forward, her country’s Constitution had been amended to allocate a quota of 64 parliamentary seats for women. “We hope it will afford women the equal opportunity to assert themselves and add to their competitive strength in the long run.” Egypt had recognized that ensuring young girls’ rights was a logical entry point for women’s empowerment. “The inter-gender relationship is not a zero-sum game, and women regaining their rights does not come at the expense of men’s rights,” she stressed.
Noting with concern that women remained victims of discrimination and harmful practices 62 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she affirmed her country’s support for the establishment of a central United Nations gender entity. She also underscored the need to reform United Nations treaty bodies so as to make them integral parts of the Organization’s efforts. A stronger role was needed for the Human Rights Council in monitoring women and children’s rights, she said, noting that it must target the implementation of all resolutions and agreed recommendations.
Also delivering keynote addresses were Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom; and Frances Stewart, Professor of Development Economics and Director of the Centre for Research and Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity at Oxford University, and current Chair of the Council’s Committee for Development Policy.
When the Council opened its fourth Annual Ministerial Review, Nilcéa Freire, Minister for the Secretariat of Policies for Women, delivered Brazil’s report on progress and challenges in meeting internationally agreed goals on women and girls, while Gert Rosenthal (Guatemala) acted as Moderator of the discussion.
Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) moderated the afternoon presentations as Herman Scharper (Netherlands), Karin Slowing Umaña, Secretary of State for Planning and Programming of Guatemala, and Victor Bodiu, Minister of State from the Republic of Moldova, made presentations on behalf of their respective Governments.
The Council began its work this morning by hearing reports from the various preparatory meetings on the theme of the Ministerial Review. Ndèye Khady Diop, Minister for Family, Women’s Groups and Child Welfare of Senegal (via live video link) presented the outcome of the Africa Regional Meeting on “Women and Health”, held in Dakar on 12-13 January 2010.
In addition, Florence Chenoweth, Minister for Agriculture of Liberia, presented the outcome of the global preparatory meeting on the theme “Who feeds the world in 2010 and beyond? Rural women as agents of change and champions of global food security”, held in New York on 22 April. Finally, Academy Award-winning actor Geena Davis presented the outcome of a special event on engaging philanthropy to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, held in New York on 22 February.
In other business, the Council approved the proposed work programme for its 2010 substantive session (document KSM150).
The Economic and Social Council will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, 29 June, to convene its Development Cooperation Forum on building more equal partnerships.
The Economic and Social Council today opened the five-day high-level segment of its annual substantive session, which will run at Headquarters until 23 July.
Expected to focus on a range of issues relevant to implementation of the United Nations development agenda, the high-level segment will feature the Annual Ministerial Review, from 28 June to 1 July, in which delegates will examine initiatives to accelerate the development agenda, with a focus on goals related to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The Review will also include national voluntary presentations on progress by Member States in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals. Presenting their reports today would be Brazil, Guatemala, Republic of Moldova and the Netherlands.
HAMIDON ALI (Malaysia), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the high-level segment was an occasion to focus on some of the most pressing issues of development, made more challenging today by the subdued pace of economic recovery. “Recent experience proves that this is particularly true for gender equality and the empowerment of women.” The high-level segment in particular, and the substantive session in general, were the most important and high-profile events on the Council’s calendar, ensuring the continuing relevance of the United Nations in the area of development, social and cultural affairs.
The Organization must not only bring its legitimacy to the global governance debate, but also a capacity for effective implementation of international action, he emphasized, adding that the high-level segment must produce tangible results, whether in terms of policy guidance or the promotion of coherence. For that reason, the presidency had challenged all delegations to agree on a short, action-oriented Ministerial Declaration that could be understood by the “man in the street”, he said. “This means we have to move away from the long and ambiguous statements of yesteryears.”
Indeed, the change in the Declaration’s format and content was a point of the overall change in the Council, he said, pointing out that he had called for such a change on assuming the presidency. Outlining “five musts”, he said the Council must adopt a proactive and constructive agenda; adopt shorter, more focused agreements; promote greater transparency and honest dialogue; move beyond stale arguments; and do justice to its role in the operational aspects of the work of the United Nations. That could only be good for the Council’s collective constituencies: the world’s poorest people.
Citing the theme of this year’s Annual Ministerial Review — “Implementing the internationally agreed development goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women” — he said the Review allowed the Council to strengthen the link between gender equality, women’s human rights and non-discrimination. All the Millennium Development Goals depended on women having a greater say in their own development, he said, pointing out that nowhere was the interdependence between human rights and development stronger than on the issue of gender.
He went on to say that the Council had addressed the question of innovative partnerships through a special event on philanthropy, while the global preparatory meeting had sent a clear message that rural women were a critical force in reducing poverty and therefore sustainable development. Furthermore, the second Development Cooperation Forum would take place this year against the backdrop of competing demands on development policies and aid flows, and amid the continuing recovery from the global financial crisis.
While the Forum had the potential to become the principal venue for global dialogue and policy review on the coherence of development cooperation, it was constrained by the fact it was held just once every two years, he said. It only produced a Chair’s summary and was not institutionally linked to any other processes related to development cooperation. Such issues must be addressed during the General Assembly’s sixty-fifth session, he stressed. Meanwhile, the Council’s strong legislative basis and the enthusiastic involvement of the United Nations would allow it to move forward with strong political resolve to speed progress worldwide in the economic, social and cultural spheres.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the world still lived “under the shadow of continued global and economic uncertainty”. The financial, food, and climate crises had set back efforts towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals, threatening future progress. Despite setbacks, there was reason for optimism, he said, noting that the 2010 Millennium Development Goals Report showed significant progress on reducing poverty in some countries, with the overall rate expected to fall to 15 per cent by 2015 — half of 1990 levels.
More children now had access to education with the global school enrolment standing at 85 per cent, he continued. Furthermore, information showed significant declines in child mortality and dramatic increases in access to antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS. The successes achieved through collective action by Governments, civil society and international organizations — particularly in the world’s poorest countries — showed that the Millennium Development Goals were achievable, he said, adding that they showed the necessity of action. “Where we try, we succeed. If we don’t try, we fail.”
The recipe for success consisted of the right policies, adequate investment and reliable international support, he said, cautioning, however, that overall progress had been uneven thus far. Several Millennium Development Goals were likely to be missed, especially in the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and countries in or emerging from conflict. Climate change remained a threat to sustainability, while disparities persisted between rich and poor, men and women, and urban and rural populations.
Noting that there was a need for “a world where the benefits of economic and social development reach everyone — a world where the major economies are held accountable to their many commitments”, he said he had delivered that message to G-20 leaders at the weekend, and planned to reiterate it during the upcoming Millennium Development Goals Summit in September. The next G-20 meeting, to be held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, in November, would include development on the agenda for the first time, he said, urging Governments to agree on a concrete action plan that would provide a clear road map for meeting the Millennium Goals commitments by 2015.
Underscoring the need to deliver results to the world’s most vulnerable people, he said the Economic and Social Council played an important role as the central United Nations forum dealing with international economic and social issues. Three areas required urgent focus, including jobs. World unemployment was the highest on record, with 211 million people jobless. He called for the creation of 470 million jobs in the next 10 years. “It is time to focus on decent work in all nations, not just the wealthy,” he stressed.
Additionally, there was a need to focus on common-sense investment in green jobs, and ultimately developing a green recovery, he said. Food insecurity must also be tackled as more than 1 billion people went hungry. The international community should deliver on the commitments made in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009, and for investment in small farmers, who “produce most of the world’s food and are the mainstays of developing countries”.
He also called for global investment in women, the area in which progress was needed most, and emphasized that social, political and economic equality for women was integral to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. “Until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals — peace, security, sustainable development — stand in jeopardy”.
Empowering women was an economic and social imperative, he continued, noting that women continued to live in fear throughout the world. “Violence against women is a crime and must not be acceptable in any culture.” Furthermore, the necessary policies, legal frameworks and social justice systems were inadequate in several countries. Of the Millennium Development Goals, maternal health had enjoyed the least progress. Each year, between 10 million and 15 million women suffered from long-term disability due to complications arising from pregnancy or childbirth, and more than 1 million children were left motherless.
“In the twenty-first century, it is unacceptable that mothers should still be dying as they deliver new life”, he said, urging the Council to generate support for the Joint Action Plan on women’s and children’s health, and stressing that it had a crucial role to play in making women central to all future negotiations on development. The outcome of the recent 15-year review of the Beijing Declaration should feed directly into negotiations, as well as the outcome of the September Millennium Development Goals Summit. “Together, we must urge Governments to change attitudes and policies towards women and girls,” he said. “We must end inequality and discrimination and make women and girls aware of their inalienable rights.”
Describing 2010 as a landmark year for gender issues — in light of the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and the tenth anniversary of Security Council resolution 1365 (2000) — he welcomed the decision by the sixty-third General Assembly session to merge the four United Nations gender entities into one. “The creation of UN Women will mark a significant advance towards further strengthening our capacity to work with Member States to coherently meet the needs of women and girls,” he said. Women must be included at all levels of political decision-making, he emphasized, underscoring the need to strengthen the political commitment to change laws and policies discriminating against them. “Women’s contributions in homes and in workplaces are essential to improving food security, to building community resilience to climate change and natural disasters, and to finding lasting solutions to poverty,” he said in conclusion.
ANDREW MITCHELL, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, said that promoting gender equality was vital for meeting the Millennium Development Goals, adding that doing so led to flourishing economies and more peaceful societies. Where women were treated as inferior, a vicious cycle of ill health, forced marriage, violence and exploitation could be perpetuated, whereas a virtuous cycle would see women involved in local enterprises and enjoying more opportunities to ensure their children were educated.
“These are vital elements of change,” he stressed, noting that September’s High-Level Summit on the Millennium Development Goals could place investment in women and girls at the centre of an action agenda to meet the Goals by 2015. He pointed out that 10 years had passed since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), which recognized women’s vital role in preventing and resolving conflict. He recalled that, in 2003, brave Liberian women dressed in white had refused to move from the capital until peace had been restored.
Applauding the United Nations on the appointment of its first Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, he pressed the Organization to strengthen its support to all women by mainstreaming gender equality into all its work and ensuring that policies promoting women’s empowerment were as coherent as possible. He urged all Member States to complete the process of creating a new gender entity, which required the will to make a real difference, in real time, in the real world. The United Kingdom looked forward to the appointment of a strong and committed leader, in order to ensure that the entity lived up to expectations.
With five years remaining, it was clear that the Millennium Goals would only be achieved through a renewed focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment, he said, expressing hope that this week would shine the spotlight on women and girls. Attention must be given to reproductive rights and maternal health, given that more than about a third of 1 million women in low- and middle-income countries died because from complications arising from pregnancy, and that young women between the ages of 15 and 19 were twice as likely to die as those in their 20s. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” he said, emphasizing that a golden opportunity to eradicate or significantly reduce maternal morality was at hand.
He said the United Nations could increase its impact on maternal mortality through better use of its skills and by adopting innovative approaches like the “Delivering as One” initiative, which would lead to more efficient results on the ground. Applauding the Secretary-General’s leadership in efforts to address women’s and children’s health, he said it was only through concerted international effort that the world would see an end to mothers dying on the day that should be the happiest of their lives. The private sector, civil society and philanthropists should also join those efforts, he added.
Underlining that maternal health was about giving women a choice about whether and when they had children, he said that improving reproductive and maternal health was the linchpin of poverty eradication and, in the coming months and years, the United Kingdom would try to ensure that it made progress on that issue, in all bilateral programmes and in working with the United Nations. Overwhelming evidence showed that solutions to persistent problems could not be found without a sustained focus on women and girls, he said, expressing hope that the Council’s work would support broad innovations promoting gender equality.
MOUSHIRA KHATTAB, Minister of State for Family and Population Affairs of Egypt, said that, due to the collective efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, millions of women were now free from discrimination and violence. Women were enjoying the rights to education, employment and participation, as well as occupying leadership and decision-making positions, she said, noting that one of her country’s proudest achievements was its human rights system, which monitored the rights of those most at risk, particularly women and children.
Gender equality and empowerment of women had become a political priority and commitment, she noted. Honouring its commitments under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Egypt had adopted a rights-based integrated development approach, focused on respect for, as well as protection and fulfilment of, women’s rights and fundamental freedoms, and mainstreaming such consideration into all poverty-eradication policies and programmes, she said. Women had been granted equal civil and political rights, as well as the right to participate in economic, social and cultural development, she said.
In a historic step forward, Egypt’s Constitution had been amended to allocate a quota of 64 parliamentary seats for women, she said. “We hope it will afford women the equal opportunity to assert themselves and add to their competitive strength in the long run.” On the regional and national levels, she highlighted the establishment of the Organization of Arab Women and the critical role played by the Suzanne Mubarak Women for Peace Movement in stopping human trafficking. She said her country recognized that ensuring young girls’ rights was a logical entry point for women’s empowerment. “The inter-gender relationship is not a zero-sum game, and women regaining their rights does not come at the expense of men’s rights,” she stressed.
She also highlighted the launch of a social movement to uphold girls’ rights, noting that local communities played an exemplary role in breaking the silence regarding surrounding taboos that violated those rights. The overall success of Egypt’s efforts had lent itself to proving that all monolithic religions were vehemently opposed to discrimination and violence against women, she said, noting that Christian and Muslim religious leaders, in partnership, had proved both the inherent respect of both religions for women, and that discrimination and violence were not apart of their teachings. In that regard, Egypt continued to disseminate correct information and an enlightened interpretation of religious verses.
Noting with concern that women remained the victims of discrimination and harmful practices 62 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she affirmed her country’s support for the establishment of a central United Nations gender entity. She also underscored the need to reform United Nations treaty bodies so as to make them integral parts of the Organization’s efforts. A stronger role was needed for the Human Rights Council in monitoring women and children’s rights, she said, noting that it must target the implementation of all resolutions and agreed recommendations. Additionally, she stressed the need for increased coordination among United Nations agencies and bilateral and multilateral donors, as well as engagement by civil society.
MICHELLE BACHELET, former President of Chile, joined the session by video link and noted that, while there had been critical achievements since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action 15 years ago, decision-makers should pay particular attention to the subtle discrimination that women still faced, including multiple forms of cultural or even religious discrimination. Such violations that led to the subjugation of women, or even semi-slavery, must be condemned unreservedly.
In order to put an end to laws and customs that hampered gender equality, the international community must “move mountains” to end the persistent injustice that women faced, she said. Women had made progress, but generally fared worse than men in almost every sphere and sector of life. Politically correct statements about the situation of women were therefore inappropriate and no longer enough, she emphasized. Empowerment and equality must be made a reality so that women can be the protagonists of their own destinies, she said, stressing that anything less than full gender equality and equal participation stunted the progress of all humanity.
With that in mind, she recalled that her own election as the first women President of Chile was evidence of a profound transformation in that country. She said she would never forget how, on the day of her election victory, thousands of women across Chile had donned presidential sashes just like her own, as if they too were entering the Presidential Palace. Once in Office, she had remembered that women in many countries were practically invisible, especially in the political sphere, and had therefore put together cabinets made up equally of men and women. That had provoked much criticism, she said, describing the uneasiness that awaited females in some parts of the political arena.
She said her Administration had nevertheless held firm and set out to broaden women’s participation at all levels of Government, as well as in civil society, leading to the promulgation of several important bills that had been swiftly approved by Congress. Decrying “the imprint of masculinity” that had long been an obstacle to women in politics, she said she had realized quickly that people would be much more critical of her leadership merely because she was a woman. Indeed, it seemed she had had to constantly “prove that I could be President”, yet, despite everything, she had worked hard to prove that women could be efficient and get good results as well.
She went on to say that her Administration’s greatest achievements included the establishment of salary equality and reforming the country’s pension system. In that context, women in the three lowest pay sectors were now guaranteed a monthly pension when they turned 65, regardless of their previous jobs. While women had benefited, men had also done so, because their attitudes about what women could accomplish and their needs had also changed. Still, much remained to be done towards increasing the participation of women in all decision-making bodies, she said, adding that quota schemes would help, but hard work must be done to eliminate discriminatory policies once and for all.
Recalling the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that had struck her country earlier this year, she said that, following that catastrophe, many women had led the way in finding solutions for their communities. It had been encouraging to see many women coming together to lead the recovery effort, she said, adding that she had seen the same in Haiti. The outlook for women’s equality was optimistic, and her own experience had shown that “we women can make our voices heard”. At the same time, women must still work hard so the voices of democracy could become deeply rooted in their respective regions. Women could make major contributions to improving public life, development and tackling the challenges ahead.
FRANCES STEWART, Professor of Development Economics and Director of the Centre for Research and Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity at Oxford University, delivered the final keynote address, saying that, in general, there had been progress in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, but serious gaps remained and the progress achieved was threatened by intersecting crises — in food security, financial markets, human rights and security — as well as “the looming shadow” of climate change.
Ms. Stewart, current Chair of the Committee for Development Policy, said the Gender Equality Task Force on the Millennium Development Goals had identified three “domains” through which to monitor actions: the capability domain, dealing notably with girls’ and women’s education, training and health; access to resources, which dealt with assets, including land and finance, and employment; and the security domain, which covered protection from all types of violence, whether political, criminal or domestic. The Task Force had added a fourth domain –- decision-making – she said, reiterating that while, there had been progress on each, gender gaps remained.
Touching briefly on each domain in turn, she said there had been considerable global progress in education and training. Among other signs of that shift, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) showed that the ratio of girls to boys in educational attainment had risen in every region. But there were still unwarranted gaps, as in Pakistan, for example, where the literacy rate was 77 per cent for men, but only 40 per cent for women. In Ethiopia, the literacy rate for men was 50 per cent, but only 23 per cent for women. “It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of female education; it contributes to health and family nutrition, as well as incomes and economic productivity,” she said, declaring: “The promotion of female education must be a priority everywhere.”
On access to resources, she said that in many countries women traditionally had no right to land ownership, and credit was almost exclusively available for men. Yet, while early land reforms had all generally benefited men, in the past decade, they had prohibited gender-based discrimination in many countries in Africa and elsewhere. Sadly, though, many of those reforms were theoretical rather than real, and women were still prevented by custom and hierarchy from exercising their rights. As such, while land reforms were definitely necessary, women needed support in order to benefit fully from them, she said. Indeed, there was a need for better access to law, as well as the creation and strengthening of women’s associations to help women improve their access to land rights.
“Probably the least progress has been made in the security domain,” she continued, citing data that showed that, despite a decline in wars and violent conflict in the past 15 years, general violence remained unacceptably high, and women were often the prime victims. Moreover, women were suffering greatly at the hands of international organized criminal networks, especially those smuggling and trafficking people, she said, noting that the trade in women for sexual exploitation was estimated at some $3 billion a year.
Domestic violence was another great threat, as surveys showed that 16 per cent to 50 per cent of women across many countries had been assaulted at some point in their lives, she said, noting that concerns had been raised about indigenous women and other vulnerable groups. She urged the Council to be aware that many proposed cuts in development aid, owing to the ongoing financial crisis, could hamper the achievement of gender-equality goals.
Policy Messages from Annual Ministerial Review Preparatory Meetings
NDÈYE KHADY DIOP, Minister for Family, Food Security, Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Senegal, spoke via video link, outlining the conclusions of the Africa Regional Meeting on Women and Health, held in Dakar, Senegal, on 12‑13 January. She said the Meeting had been an opportunity for African countries to participate in the Annual Ministerial Review and renew their focus on female health care. Delegates had stressed the relevance of ensuring greater gender equality and empowerment, and of allowing women to integrate harmoniously into society.
She said that during debate, delegates had discussed maternal health care, reducing maternal and infant mortality, combating HIV/AIDS among on women and girls, and ensuring women’s empowerment with a view to improving their health care. To achieve Goals 4 (child health), 5 (maternal health) and 6 (combating HIV/AIDS), there must be increased social spending on the most vulnerable, sanitary situations must be improved by deploying trained and skilled personnel, and partnerships must be strengthened.
Discussing the recommendations from the Regional Meeting, she said the quality of health-care services must be strengthened, as must women’s legal rights. There was a need to ensure equality of rights and women’s independence when accessing jobs and property. Women must be more involved in decision-making processes to ensure that they had access to decent work. Furthermore, the financing of health care must be increased and the coordination of health-care policies improved at the regional and subregional levels.
Turning to HIV/AIDS, she said the Regional Meeting had recommended improving prenatal health care, increasing health care personnel during childbirth and strengthening the status of midwives in health care systems. Integrated basic services must be created, especially for addressing sexual hygiene and the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to child. Physical and sexual violence must end, as must female genital mutilation. Sexual education should be provided to young people, and the gender gap must be closed when addressing HIV/AIDS. Other recommendations included the need for legal frameworks to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women; the integration of gender into flagship health-care plans and budgets; the promotion of equal participation in decision-making; and building up the capacities of health-care professionals by reviewing recruitment and retention policies.
FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Minister for Agriculture of Liberia, discussed the global preparatory meeting on “Who feeds the world in 2010 and beyond? Rural women as agents of change and champions of global food security”, held in New York on 22 April. She said the purpose of the meeting had been to focus on the role of rural women in achieving the Millennium Developing Goals. It had aimed to take advantage of a growing shift in attitudes about the role of women in social and economic development. That was important because, in recent years, women had become increasingly seen as a “vulnerable group” rather than vital partners in and drivers of the sustainable development process.
She said more robust action was needed to support rural women and agents of change, stressing that she had been very encouraged by the dialogue held during the meeting. The talks had provided an opportunity for the Council to make a strong call for support to rural women and small farmers. To that end, she said she was pleased to see that references to those women were included in the draft ministerial statement to be adopted at the conclusion of the high-level segment.
The meeting had agreed on a host of key recommendations, including the need to recognize women as stakeholders and not beneficiaries. In order to accelerate results to that end, policy initiatives should prioritize gender equality, especially in agriculture. The meeting had also called for rural women to be “made visible” as a way to boost their positions in both the formal and informal work sectors, and to ensure that a larger share of resources reached rural women and small farmers. Delegations had also called for taking into account the inherent value of rural women as keepers of traditional practices and knowledge, as well as their importance as farmers and fisherfolk, among other occupations. With that in mind, the one-size-fits-all approach “will just not do”, she declared.
The meeting had called for and end to all forms of violence against women, for women to have access to land and “for women’s voices to be heard, not interpreted”, she continued. That specific aim would require bolstering women’s civil society groups and farmers’ organizations to address current challenges such as food security and climate change. She commended the Council for choosing women’s empowerment as a priority focus of its Annual Ministerial Review, and urged it to take that decision forward to the General Assembly’s review of the status of the Millennium Development Goals in September.
GEENA DAVIS, Academy Award-winning actor and Founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, spoke on behalf of the organizers of the special event on “Engaging Philanthropy to Promote Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women”, held in New York City on 22 February. Presenting the final report on the special event, she said it reflected discussions on the two priority themes — ending violence against women and girls, and promoting the economic empowerment of women. The special event had brought together more than 500 representatives from the private sector and philanthropic institutions, among others.
She said delegates had agreed it was crucial to work hand in hand with the United Nations, philanthropies, the private sector and civil society. They had also agreed that strong leadership was indispensable in the public and private sectors, while stressing that Chief Executive Officers should promote a culture of respect for women and girls. Governments and international institutions should put in place legally binding legislation to protect, prevent and prosecute those guilty of violence against women and girls. It had also been agreed that there must be additional human and financial resources in support of good practices that worked, including “multifunctional centres” for women and girls, which should be scaled up in and across countries.
By way of example, she cited Hasbro’s centres in Afghanistan and Sudan, which offered services to help women and girls cope with violence, and created opportunities in the local economies. Making long-term commitments to women and girls could be done by giving more through multi-year funding programmes, she said, cautioning, however, that involving men and boys was the “game-changer” in campaigns to end violence against women and in changing attitudes towards women’s traditional roles. On economic empowerment, delegates had stressed the importance of enhancing women’s access to property and economic assets, including agricultural inputs, finance and markets.
She said the delegates had also agreed that education for women and girls was indispensable for making opportunities for women viable. In that context, she drew attention to Business for Social Responsibility, which advised companies in developing countries on organizing health awareness training in their factories. Finally, she said that, in her capacity as founder of the Geena Davis Institute, she had discussed how disempowering female images on television and in movies shaped how women and girls were viewed. Improving gender representation was critical to changing attitudes towards women and girls, especially in media aimed at young children, who were just developing a sense of their role in society, she said.
Annual Ministerial Review — Brazil
Council President ALI (Malysia), opening the Annual Ministerial Review, whose theme was “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and empowerment of women”, said three years of experience had shown that linking discussions of policy options to specific country experiences resulted in a more “hands-on” debate. National voluntary presentations were an opportunity to assess progress towards the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and to explore possibilities for addressing lags in implementation.
NILCÉA FREIRE, Secretariat of Policies for Women of Brazil, discussing her country’s report (document E/2010/65), said promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment were key to Brazil’s development process, which was based on economic growth, environmental sustainability and social justice. In 2003, the President of Brazil had created the Secretariat of Policies for Women and, in 2004, the first National Conference of Policies for Women had been convened. “This Conference is the key to the work we have developed over the last seven years,” she said.
The National Women’s Policy Plan aimed to incorporate a gender perspective into all Government policies, she said. Between 2005 and 2007, the Plan had comprised 199 actions that had been distributed among five strategic axes: autonomy and equality in work; inclusive and non-sexist education; women’s health, sexual rights and reproductive rights; fighting violence against women; and managing the National Plan. In 2007, a second Conference had been held to assess the first Plan and discuss women’s participation in decision-making. Delegates had decided to expand the first Plan, especially in matters relating to development policies for income-transfer programmes, access to credit, and racism. Today, Brazil was implementing that expanded Plan through 388 actions distributed in 11 strategic axes and 22 federal organs, she said, adding that, on 8 March 2010, the President had transformed the Secretariat into a presidential body.
Discussing a priority policy in the Plan, she said the National Pact to Combat Violence against Women was implemented jointly with State and municipal governments. One part of the Pact, “Hotline 180”, created in 2005, provided counselling about violence against women, and another component, the 2006 law to prevent violence against women, included preventive, protection and punishment measures, and mobilized various Government branches in the search for solutions. Because Brazil was a federation of states, the Pact had to convince state and local governments to join such efforts, she said. A total of 22 federal units were incorporated into the Pact and a national unit monitored progress. The 2006 and 2009 period had seen more requests for information, reports of violence and services provided through the hotline, as more people had sought help in the knowledge that a law was in place to protect them.
While women had achieved progress, they still faced obstacles, she said. One challenge, relating to the legacy of slavery in Brazil, was being addressed through income distribution policies. Inequality in the workplace was another challenge, she said, noting that men and women would not have the same opportunities in the labour market if tasks related to social reproduction were not shared. Indeed, maternity was not an invisible task exclusively entrusted to women. Finally, political participation was vital and in that context, she pointed out that next year, there would be two women candidates for Brazil’s highest post — the presidency. “We’re very proud to have achieved that,” she said.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala), Moderator for the review of that presentation, said Brazil “practises what it preaches” in respect of women’s empowerment and equality. Indeed, the country had women in many positions of political prominence.
MARÍA DEL ROCÍO GARCÍA GAYTÁN, President of the National Institute for Women of Mexico, first reviewer of Brazil’s report, said it presented a broad picture of the situation, and asked why four federal states had not signed up to the Government’s national plan for women. She also requested statistics on the poverty-reduction programme that targeted women. She also asked: What was the status of implementation of the National Pact on Maternal Mortality? Could more specifics be provided on the programme to end violence against women? Was the family grant programme effective?
RICK BARTON (United States), the next reviewer, hailed Brazil’s report as “well thought-out and inclusive”, noting that the past few years had seen major economic and social changes in that country, including in the area of women’s empowerment. Yet, with so many new initiatives, how well was implementation being monitored, particularly at the state level? he asked. Which offices and strategies had proved to be most transformative? How were men being reached? Had black and indigenous women been left behind? He also wondered whether the Minister could provide a critique of programmes that had proved to be not quite as effective as hoped.
Ms. FEIRE said Brazilian women were indeed taking advantage of the family grant programme. The Government had been following up its success, and understood that providing stipends to pull people out of poverty was also a part of changing the conditions and attitudes of families. The funds were spent on maternal and neonatal needs and education, she said, explaining that putting money in the hands of women changed the consumption patterns within families. Research had shown that women taking part in the family grant programme felt they had the capacity to take care of their families’ needs.
“Individuals now perceive that they have rights, […] the programme has built confidence,” she continued, emphasizing that the Government had a substantive monitoring mechanism in place. While families could take part in the grant programme for as long as necessary, the Government was initiating a “next step” programme to provide education and training, particularly to boost employment opportunities. As for states that had not signed up to the National Plan, the three municipalities concerned “were not yet convinced”, but that did not mean they were not implementing local-level policies to address women’s rights. The process was complex, but the Government was working to bring those states around.
On education, she said that, while Brazilian women were generally better educated than men, the Government was nevertheless urging women to take up studies in mathematics, science and technology, fields in which they were less widely represented. The Government was very concerned that the country had not been able to reach its targets on maternal mortality. “We are far from our own goals and far from the targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO),” she said, pledging that the Government was taking a hard look at the situation in the municipalities where such deaths were highest.
The Government was also aware that much work needed to be done to implement all its policies on domestic and other violence against women, she said, adding that, ultimately, Brazil realized that some men would refuse to give up their posts or share positions of power with women. That must and would change as more and more women spoke out for their rights, improved their education, bolstered their skills training and won elections.
In a second round of questions, ministers and senior Government officials from Angola, Argentina and Morocco asked about specific policies and programmes to empower black women. One question focused on efforts to enhance cooperation efforts at the regional level, while another targeted men’s participation in efforts to empower women. Had Brazil seen any resistance among men to addressing violence against women? In the area of financing, did it promote gender-sensitive budgeting? In that context, a question was raised about the bolsa familia (family grant programme), and whether any abuses had been seen. How did Brazil target families that really needed the grants?
Ms. FREIRE responded by discussing projects to empower women, notably one that financed family agriculture and offered a credit programme for women in rural areas. Such work had previously been viewed as an extension of domestic labour, but thanks to the credit programme, women were starting to see that it could help them make an economic contribution, she said, adding that it had grown tremendously in plans to finance family agriculture. Another programme — productive organization of women — financed groups of women to understand the entire chain, from making a product to marketing and selling it. Still another programme provided documents like birth and civil marriage certificates, which could be delivered even to rural women by mobile units that travelled around the states.
Specifically addressing racism, she said there had been a myth that racism did not exist in Brazil, and black people did not face discrimination. However, the statistics told a different story: black men and women were not well represented in higher education, earned lower incomes and lived in the poorest housing, without basic services. Brazil had made strong efforts to make racism more visible in order to reverse it, she said, adding that, in terms of education, the country had started to close the education gap between black and white youths, due in part to affirmative action and quota programmes. Additionally, there were now policies addressing health problems among black women. “Gender and race are structural,” she said, emphasizing the importance of combating both gender and racial inequalities.
Turning to the area of cooperation, she described a joint Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) project to combat trafficking in persons, as well as Brazil’s first centre to welcome victims from the tripartite area covering Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. A shelter would also be established on the border between Brazil and Venezuela, she said. On the issue of men’s participation, she stressed that Brazil did not wish to have a society of only Amazon women. “We like men; we appreciate them,” she said, emphasizing that women wanted equality — no more, no less.
Recalling that her country had launched the “Men United against Violence against Women” in 2009, she said it was part of the Secretary-General’s campaign on that matter. As part of the National Pact to Combat Violence against Women, Brazil had established services to re-educate aggressors. However, nothing could be achieved without a budget, she said, noting that the national plan was administered by nine ministries, each of which had to provide a budget for its own policies. The Government worked on the basis of multi-year plans and every four years, new general planning was created, providing the basis for the annual national budget. The current four-year plan included 10 strategic objectives, one of which was to combat gender inequalities through social participation and consolidation of democracy, she said. That provided an opportunity for Parliament to debate the budget.
Annual Ministerial Review — Netherlands
HELEN CLARK, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Chairperson of the United Nations Development Group, said an evidence-based approach was at the heart of the Review’s theme. The presentations gave countries an opportunity to share their experiences, she said, adding that such dialogue was important ahead of the upcoming Millennium Development Goals Summit and in discussions on how to work to meet them by 2015. All countries had success stories to share, challenges to learn from and promising initiatives that could be scaled up or replicated to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, she said.
HERMAN SCHAPER (Netherlands), presenting his country’s report (document E/2010/62), said women were now part and parcel of all domains of public life, occupying 41 per cent of parliamentary seats. Furthermore, 53 per cent of university students were women and 70 per cent were in paid employment for more than one hour every week. However, social challenges remained, in the Netherlands and the world at large, he said.
Elaborating on five specific challenges, he said men and women could perceive issues differently, and highlighted the need for both perspectives in developing the most effective strategies. While the Dutch believed that women should be included in political decision-making and debate, women’s voices often went unheard. “There are cultural barriers and biases against women that need to be broken,” he noted. The Government had launched “Talent to the Top” in 2008, under which 140 businesses and public organizations committed to increase the number of women at the top levels. In 2007, it had established, jointly with non-governmental organizations, the MDG3 fund, which aimed to support women’s voices in worldwide public debate.
Another issue was that women represented a vast pool of untapped economic potential, he said. In light of an ageing population, it was imperative that the Netherlands increase women’s participation in the labour force, which would also increase economic freedom and lead to a more stable social economy. The Government had set up a comprehensive package to encourage women not to leave employment once they established a family and to work more hours.
Considering that several women were victims of gender-based violence, he said, the Government’s core responsibility was to ensure the safety of its citizens in both public and private places. While gender-based actions such as domestic violence, human trafficking and female genital mutilation were punishable offences under Dutch law, the prevention of violence against women was a core policy objective, he said, noting that the commercialization and sexualisation of the female body in the media put girls at risk, with one in six girls under 25 years old having been forced to perform or undergo sexual acts against their will. Since such incidents could have lifetime consequences, the Government placed the responsibility for sexual education with parents, while urging schools to contribute to empowering the young to set their own boundaries and defend themselves against sexual violence.
Emphasizing that the greatest opportunities existed where gender differences were greatest, he said that nearly 10 per cent of women in the Netherlands belonged to an ethnic minority group, with education levels significantly lower than those of native women and men of their own ethnic origin, he said. In efforts to close that “double gap”, the Government was focused on increasing the minority social and labour participation and self-sufficiency. Recognizing that gender equality was most visible in conflict and fragile societies, it had drafted, in 2007, a national action plan on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000). “It is in these situations of conflict and fragile societies where it is most important to appreciate women as essential actors of change in society,” he stressed.
Mr. ROSENTHAL ( Guatemala) said the report showed the Netherlands’ commitment to gender equality. The Government provided an example of how the Millennium Development Goals could be achieved, with political will at the highest level, accompanied by suitable funding. It was clear that the Government had made gender equality a policy focus, he said, adding that he had been struck by how a country with such a high level of development still suffered situations in which women did not enjoy equal opportunities, particularly those from ethnic minorities. What was the Government doing to achieve equality for them? he asked. To promote women’s participation in decision-making, what could the Government recommend to countries such as Guatemala, where women’s participation stood at 12 per cent? He also sought clarity on how to replicating national strategies in regional policies.
CECILE SPORTIS, Special Adviser on Gender Issues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France, asked about Dutch policies on part-time employment, saying that, in her own country, almost 30 per cent of women did it, as compared to 26 per cent of men. Had the Netherlands carried out surveys to determine whether women wished to increase their work time? As for immigrant women, she asked what measures had been taken to address discrimination to ensure they could participate in social and political life, noting that it was impossible to achieve true gender equality without ensuring socialization for all people. Concerned about gender-based violence in schools, she said she was also interested in measures to address that problem. In the area of women, peace and security, she said France planned to mainstream gender into conflict-prevention policies, and requested information on plans by the Netherlands that area, and that of gender-mainstreaming.
Mr. BARTON ( United States) said his country continued to learn from the experience of the Netherlands, and the report emphasized the need for political will to advance gender equality. How had that been built and maintained, and why had it lagged in areas like the workplace? Why was gender equality still considered a women’s issue? What lessons had been learned in conflict-affected places about expanding women’s involvement in demobilization programmes? He also asked for details on promising initiatives in the international arena, such as obtaining rights to titles.
Mr. SCHAPER (Netherlands) said that in less than 60 years, his country had changed from a very religious society into one “turned upside down”. Culture, particularly vis-à-vis women and society, had changed fundamentally and quickly. The number of women working more than 20 hours a week was relatively low, in part, because the country had not participated in the First World War. Also, Dutch society had been based on the idea that a woman’s primary role was in the home. That was slowly changing. Additionally, there had been a feeling in the late 1990s that “the job was done”.
ROBERT DIJKSTERHUIS, Head of the Gender Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands,addressed the question of working part time, saying that a survey had found that women wished to work between 20 and 27 hours a week. The Government had developed several new policies, one of which created more flexibility in working hours. Another issue involved where work was done, and the Government was conducting pilot projects on flexible locations. Women wanted to work more hours only if they could see a career in their future, and to foster that path, the Government had reduced tax benefits for households with one breadwinner, and increased them for dual breadwinners.
As for ethnic-minority women, he said they did indeed face double discrimination and the Government was working to increase their participation in society. Concerning the socialization of young people and sexual education, he said the Government had launched projects for men and boys centring on appropriate behaviour towards women and girls. There was a code governing women’s role in the media, but no legislation increasing their participation in politics. Rather, an agreement had been made in the early 1990s to include women in the lists of candidates for political parties.
Addressing the question of women, peace and security, he said his country had organized, within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), research on implementation of resolution 1325 (2000) in Afghanistan. The Government had also organized a meeting with women in Afghanistan, so as to learn their views on what peace might look like in that country. Twenty-five per cent of the people attending the peace jirga in May had been women, he pointed out, adding that they would not have been allowed in a year ago. He urged talking with perpetrators who used rape as a weapon of war, since without such dialogue, progress could not be achieved. He said he had been the first male head of the Foreign Ministry’s Gender Department and he was working to involve more men, in line with a policy outlined by Parliament.
VINAY SAHASRABUDDHE of Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini, a non-governmental organization based in India, asked in a second round of questions and comments about a reference in the report to the sexualization of the female body in the media. How was the Government dealing with such issues?
Mr. SCHAPER ( Netherlands) said the topic had been hotly debated in Parliament for three hours, and the Government was developing a code to guide the media against sexualizing women.
MAZAL RENFORD (Israel) asked how the Netherlands included men in its action plans to respond to the five challenges presented, particularly with regard to family planning.
Mr. SCHAPER (Netherlands) replied that, while family planning was not a major issue given the country’s ageing population, men were typically engaged with their partners on the family level, but difficulties remained in involving them in international policy. The Government’s support of secondary education for girls and boys was primarily channelled through activities run by men, and therefore bias existed, but in response, the Government had begun to require gender disaggregation, which was helpful in that regard.
Annual Ministerial Review — Guatemala
KARIN SLOWING UMAÑA, Minister of Planning in Guatemala, said that all women in her country experienced some form of inequality, with indigenous and rural women facing the most significant challenges. Despite huge efforts towards progress, there had been no rise in women’s empowerment due to a gender inversion. She stressed that greater efforts were needed to close the gender gap within such factors as HIV/AIDS and it impacts.
Gender gaps were also present in the employment sector, she said. There had been progress since 1990, yet women still faced difficulty in joining the labour market. Other challenges were linked to decent jobs for women and young people, she said, highlighting a very large salary gap. In rural areas, women earned only 69 per cent of what an urban man would earn, she said, adding that the Government recognized the need to reduce the gaps by region and ethnic group. Guatemalan society was highly stratified, and the issue of gender equality equated to several challenges, especially in the rural areas where indigenous women suffered greatly.
Gender-based violence was also among the many challenges to the empowerment of women, she said, noting that her country had seen an increase in violent deaths among women. Certain cultural and political concepts ultimately made it difficult for women to live without violence. Underscoring the need for sustained structural change, and for more women to be working in central Government, she noted that while municipalities were considered a cornerstone of development, very few women assumed the position of mayor or councillor.
However, there were some glimmers of hope, she said, noting that her country was moving in the right direction and had been able to make the most of lessons learned from the international dialogue on laws and regulations. Guatemala had developed a legal framework which included a national policy for the integration of women and equal opportunity. Nearly half of the country’s public policies incorporated gender mainstreaming as well as ethnic and gender equality. Among the main lessons learned were that alliances between women’s organizations and public institutions were essential; alliances between women and other marginalized groups were equally important; State-initiated action benefiting women created new opportunities; and increasing female representation in local Government and territories was vital.
In light of all the challenges, progress was slow, she said, adding that several elements contributed to the slow movement, including the current economic climate, radical social changes, and a reluctance to increase the tax rate, which was the main barrier to developing public policy. Additionally, Guatemala had experienced environmental disasters in the last 10 years, which continued to hamper its progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Looking ahead, the country needed to give priority to women’s empowerment policies, developing a good planning system, include women’s rights on the agenda, and aligning public policies with international efforts.
MIRNA MONTENEGRO, Technical Director, Guatemala’s Observatory for Reproductive Health, highlighted in a secondary presentation the issues of poverty, malnutrition, gender-based violence and murder of women. Guatemala had developed a family planning law, and another to combat sexual violence, she said. As a civil society participant in the report, she said that part of the work had involved assessing progress towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals. Strategic alliances between the State and civil society were an absolute necessity, she stressed.
MARIA SILVIA PINEDA, Executive Director of Guatemala’s FUNDAZUCAR, provided a perspective from the productive sector, saying there were cultural and social aspects that businesses must harness to reduce the gender gap. Change would not happen only through State policies; cultural aspects of families must be addressed, since girls had always been considered less important than boys. Studies had shown that an educated woman had — and generated — better health and economic conditions for herself and her family. As women achieved full empowerment, political mechanisms would enable the development of ministerial, decentralized agendas. In closing, she stressed that women’s empowerment was important for guaranteeing equal opportunities for the management of knowledge.
PETER WITTIG ( Germany) said the report was proof of Guatemala’s commitment, sincerity and realism in respect of the gender-equality-related Millennium Development Goals. Three key elements would be needed to achieve all the Goals by 2015: an economic policy that gave priority to sustainable growth and included women; a wealth redistribution policy; and social protection policies to combat racism. Other requirements had to be fulfilled, such as better planning, greater inter-ministerial coordination and more intense coordination with and among donors. He said he was pleased to see that the Government had undertaken fiscal reform, but noted that increased violence against women presented a big stumbling block to development. He asked about the Government’s priorities for achieving Millennium Development Goal indicators.
Ms. CARRENO, National Women’s Institute of Mexico, cited the National Forum for Women as a major achievement, since it represented women from all linguistic communities. Significant progress had also been seen in the creation of the National Policy for Women, as well as the Gender Equality Programme, which would be enforced until 2023. At the same time, there was a need to harmonize laws affecting women, to bring them into line with the Beijing Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration, she said.
Guatemala was right to implement programmes that provided extremely poor and rural women with the means to improve their economic well-being, she continued. Other efforts to involve women in decision-making also had been beneficial. Programmes for indigenous women must be reinforced and a human rights perspective taken into account in the allocation of budgets, which should also include a gender perspective. What other strategies would the Government implement to guarantee achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and further, how would the Government increase women’s participation in political and economic decision-making?
Ms. SLOWING said that since there would be a transition from one Government to the next, an analysis had been carried out with civil society so that even a change of Government would not disrupt the continuity of programmes. For its part, her Department was mainstreaming gender into all public offices and monitoring compliance. There was a major commitment to strengthening municipal-level efforts, including an initiative with 12 elements. National planning focused on achieving the Goals, and the role of municipal women’s officers was being strengthened. By 2015, all municipalities would have such officers, she said, stressing that the most important thing was to have a shared vision for the Goals.
The representative of Israel asked in a second round of questions and comments whether there was interaction between non-governmental organizations, civil society and Guatemalan immigrant organizations. What was the diaspora’s role in strengthening Government efforts?
Ms. SLOWING replied that the interaction among those actors was quite strong and increasing. Two years ago, a law had been approved to establish a national council for immigrants, she said. In addition, a joint plan aimed to capitalize on the experiences of Guatemalans abroad and transfer their skills to those living inside the country.
Ms. PINEDA added that Guatemala had partnered with Israel and was implementing a strategy that included local stakeholders.
Ms. SLOWING, responding to a question about research into the gender effects of natural disasters and the extent to which gender was included in disaster-related need activities, said Guatemala had been classified as among the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change. The impact of a 24-hour tropical storm caused mass destruction, and in such situations, women were both victims and main protagonists in reconstructing the national social fabric. During storm Stan, which had destroyed several communities, 600 people had died within an hour, most of them women and children. The greatest emphasis should be on reconstruction and transformation, she explained, with better public investment directed towards prevention measures. There was a need for greater involvement by women in emergency commitments.
Ms. MONTENEGRO added that shelters often included kits with information on preventing sexual violence. Civil society had seen that women suffered the most when such disasters occurred.
The representative of Congo requested information on actions to ensure that young mothers — or “girl mothers” — were socially and economically integrated into society, while the delegate of Burundi asked how Guatemala was working with men and boys to change attitudes.
Ms. SLOWING said in her final response that it was important to acknowledge the problem of young mothers as one that must be tackled through public policy. Guatemala’s diverse populations and religious backgrounds meant that people had resisted recognizing the issue. As for what had been done, she said civil society and the Ministry of Public Health and Social Care, among other institutions, had approved instruments and policies to strengthen sex education programmes, and the family planning law was an example of that. School curricula included responsible parenthood education, but there was still a long way to go to address significant cultural challenges in that regard.
Annual Ministerial Review — Republic of Moldova
VICTOR BODIU, Minister of State, Republic of Moldova, said his country had made progress on many of the Millennium Development Goals, yet was still lacking in the areas of gender equality and maternal health. Highlighting successes, he said the Government provided social aid to the poorest people and expected to cover two thirds of eligible recipients by the end of the year. To that end, it had undertaken an intensive public-awareness campaign and increased the minimum guaranteed income to those living on the absolute poverty line. Such efforts had had a positive impact, as the absolute poverty rate had dropped from 26.4 per cent in 2008 to 26.3 per cent in 2009, he said.
Gender equality had been of particular concern to the Government, which had adopted the gender equality law and the law on preventing and combating domestic violence, he continued. It had also adopted a national programme to ensure gender equality and action plans to implement it between 2010 and 2012. For the first time, the Republic of Moldova had begun to incorporate gender policies into its Government programme, and to develop and disseminate gender statistics. However, significant challenges remained with regard to preventing domestic violence and human trafficking, he said.
“Moldova is still deemed one of the worst affected countries by human trafficking,” he said, noting that 70 per cent of assisted victims were living in poverty and 90 per cent of women and girl victims had been subjected to domestic violence before being trafficked. One in four women between 16 and 35 years old had suffered domestic violence, he continued, noting that the national referral system — implemented in partnership with international organizations and non-governmental organizations — had provided assistance and protection to about 900 victims.
There were also issues in terms of education spending and subsidizing agriculture, he said. Despite high spending on education, only 39 per cent of expenses were allocated to reform, while the rest was dedicated to the payment of salaries. Women significantly outnumbered men in education, creating an overall gender pay gap of 73.3 per cent. Given that the general enrolment rate had been falling consistently since 2005, the Government had launched a reform measure to improve the efficiency of education by optimizing the schools network. With regard to agriculture, he said that, despite the availability of input and output subsidies, the sector was characterized by low efficiency and low competitiveness. Efforts to improve it included incentives for investing in high-value agriculture, he said.
The global economic crisis had clouded the Republic of Moldova’s short-term outlook, creating a stagnant national economy as well as a collapse in gross domestic product (GDP), he said. The country still lagged in terms of growth and development, he said, adding that it was an opportunity to streamline public spending and promote needed reforms. Gender-related challenges were still a major impediment, as difficulties remained for women in the labour market. They were mostly employed in low-paying sectors and occupied lower positions in those sectors, he said, adding that the number of discouraged women without a job was increasing.
He said the Republic of Moldova was working to ensure attainment of the Millennium Development Goals through the “Rethink Moldova” campaign and the national programme for ensuring gender equality. It extended education reform, developed the off-farm rural economy and increased access to assistance, including empowerment programmes.
ABULFAZ GARAYEV, Minister for Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan, as the first reviewer of that presentation, said that while the report showed variable results, national or regional initiatives on gender issues were highly admirable. The social aspect of the Millennium Goals was a priority and positive achievement had been seen vis-à-vis Goals 3 (gender equality), 4 (child health) and 5 (maternal health), but substantial funding was needed for better performance.
SIMONA MIRELA MICULESCU ( Romania) said the report reflected the Government’s commitment to the Goals, especially Goal 3, which was important from a perspective of human rights and eliminating discrimination. The normative anti-discrimination base was in place, she said, pointing to the national programme for ensuring gender equality, which was a credible instrument and essential for turning the Goals into reality. Apart from creating the necessary bodies, education was vital in fighting the prejudices of a traditional society, she said, adding that she had noted with growing concern the existence of a separatist region generating lawlessness. The human trafficking phenomenon showed that protracted conflicts only added to existing problems, she warned.
Mr. BARTON (United States) said the report was among the most honest self-appraisals that had been seen — a “breath of fresh air in these halls”. Hailing the presentation as “realistic and balanced”, he also applauded the Republic of Moldova’s broad civil-society engagement. The country had faced regional, social and economic challenges, he said, praising the Government’s sincere effort to make progress on gender equality. That progress included equal access to education, reducing maternal mortality and women’s growing participation in Parliament.
The United States strongly supported gender equality and women’s empowerment, he said, asking how the Government would advance social change. The discrepancy between the legal framework and reality was great; what would it take for efforts to gain traction? Related to that was the rule of law and the link between domestic violence and trafficking, which pointed to an inability by judges to enforce decisions, he said, asking whether the drop in population offered opportunities for women, and whether incentives were needed and/or planned.
VADIM PISTRINCIUC, Deputy Minister of Labour, Social Protection and Family of the Republic of Moldova, replied that the report was open and frank because the Republic of Moldova was moving from complex strategic policy frameworks towards those based on targeted interventions. By way of example, he said there was a good national legal framework to fight domestic violence and trafficking. At the same time, emergency actions were being undertaken to empower local communities. Attention was also focused on education, he said, adding that, in the last three years, the number of trafficking victims identified abroad had dropped three-fold, which showed that prevention measures were working. An important package of legal amendments on protection from violence was in Parliament and should be adopted next week, he said, adding that the adoption would be important in forcing the legal system to deal with domestic violence.
Mr. BODIU added that year-end elections could delay that process, but the Republic of Moldova clearly understood that the rule of law must be re-established.
Mr. PISTRINCIUC said with regard to women’s participation in politics that the legal framework allowed participation, and local education and capacity development was also very important.
KAARINA IMMONEN, United Nations Resident Coordinator for the Republic of Moldova, said in a second round of questions and comments, that despite the challenges, “we see a caring Government”. Hopefully, the adoption of laws, programmes and action plans, as well as the strengthened role of the judiciary, would be replicated in other areas. With the 2015 deadline approaching, the Government was challenged to implement its reforms, and the country could count on the United Nations for support in those endeavours.
Mr. PISTRINCIUC, discussing the integration of social services with a new cash benefit system, said the intersectoral approach was crucial. Linking social services with a new cash-benefit system could help address issues including violence and migration. In the next two years, the Government would integrate that approach into its social protection system, he said.
A civil society representative from the Republic of Moldova said she recognized the significant steps that the Government had taken, especially the adoption of gender-equality law. She recommended that civil society participate in the development and monitoring of programmes at the national, municipal and local levels.
Mr. BODIU noted in response that the National Participation Council involved 30 non-governmental organizations, and consulted in all normative acts approved by the Government.