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Sixty-ninth session,
8th & 9th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4101

General Assembly President, Agency Heads Urge Speedy Efforts towards Equality, Millennium Goals, Ending Gender Violence, Third Committee Hears

Conscious of women’s potential as agents for development, heads of United Nations agencies called for removing barriers to their full participation in all facets of life, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, beginning its discussion on the advancement of women with an interactive debate.

“The scourge of gender violence, inequality and discrimination continues to hamper women’s full potential to contribute to and benefit from sustainable development”, said Sam Kahamba Kutesa, President of the General Assembly.  As the international community prepared to formulate and adopt the post-2015 development agenda, the pledge was to leave no one behind, he continued, calling for an effective, coordinated and inclusive approach to development for all.

With a view to working in tandem towards gender equality, the work of the Third Committee, he said, gave “a voice to those who are marginalized, those who are vulnerable, suffer humanitarian crises, exclusion, discrimination, and violations of their fundamental rights”.

Echoing that sentiment, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said grave challenges remained.  Human trafficking, female genital mutilation, the denial of reproductive rights and forced and early marriages were the most dehumanizing forms of discrimination, she said.

Despite progress made since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals, much needed to be done, she added, since “no single country achieved the goal of women’s empowerment”.  Gender parity had not even been achieved within the United Nations system, she continued, as women held only 41.8 per cent of top positions.  Women’s involvement was indeed central to advancing other goals, including achieving peace and security, she stressed.

Indeed, women must be involved in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-building, since they were among the first victims and targets in armed conflicts, said Nicole Ameline, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  “Women’s rights are an essential component of peace,” she said.  While women could also be the main drivers of development, their continued under-representation in political and public life and exclusion from decision-making processes was reducing their ability to advance along that road, she said.

Also impeding them along the path to full participation in development were physical barriers, said Kate Gilmore, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  To overcome those impediments, she urged the international community to “end preventable maternal and new-born mortality and morbidity, including fistula”.  While obstetric fistula was almost entirely preventable and treatable, she added, more than 2 million women and girls were living with the condition.  Also hampering women’s participation in development were poverty, gender inequality, a failure to uphold women’s and girls’ human rights and limited access to health services, she said.

In the ensuing general debate, many delegates echoed similar concerns about the persistence of different forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls around the world, especially in relation to female genital mutilation, violence in conflict and reproductive rights.  Israel’s speaker said sexual and reproductive rights were not just a dry technical phrase, but “the difference between life and death”.

Some speakers raised the issue of female genital mutilation.  Malawi’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted with regret that the Secretary-General’s report on intensifying global efforts to eliminate that practice had failed to focus on its root causes, prevalence and contributing factors.

Calling for a coordinated and holistic approach to end inequalities, some speakers outlined their proactive efforts on a range of issues.  A representative of Guyana, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), described a regional plan aimed at ensuring that all adolescents had access to age appropriate, accurate information on sexual and reproductive health.  The end goal was to reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies in each country of the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean by at least 20 per cent between 2014 and 2019.

Many delegates agreed that gender-based violence during tensions or conflicts needed to be addressed early and on the ground.  Italy’s speaker said that conflict prevention, training for armed forces and security sector reform were necessary to include a gender perspective and prevent violence against women in conflict situations.

Also delivering statements were representatives of Bolivia (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Mozambique (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Cambodia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States, Russian Federation, Cuba, Australia, India, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico, Myanmar, Morocco, Brazil, Netherlands, Philippines, Syria, Liechtenstein, Senegal, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Nicaragua, Colombia, Suriname, Malaysia, Kuwait and Algeria, as well as the European Union Delegation.

Participating in the interactive discussion were representatives of Switzerland, Iran, Cameroon, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Japan and Algeria, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union Delegation.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 14 October, to continue its discussion of women’s advancement.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its consideration of its agenda item on the advancement of women.  Before it were reports by the Secretary-General on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/69/222); intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations (document A/69/211); supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/69/256); measures taken and progress achieved in follow-up to the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (document A/69/182); improvement in the status of women in the United Nations system (document A/69/346); and on trafficking in women and girls (document A/69/224).  Also before the Committee was the Report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its fifty-fifth, fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions (document A/69/38).

Opening Statement

SAM KAHAMBA KUTESA (Uganda), President of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, said the work of the Third Committee “gives a voice to those who are marginalized, those who are vulnerable, suffer humanitarian crises, exclusion, discrimination, and violations of their fundamental rights”.  As the international community prepared to formulate and adopt the post-2015 development agenda, the pledge was to leave no one behind, he continued, calling for an effective, coordinated and inclusive approach to development for all.  Turning to the Millennium Development Goals, he noted the progress made, but called for the acceleration of efforts to achieve unmet targets.

Looking forward, he said the post-2015 development agenda needed to be transformative and to promote democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all.  The upcoming year would see the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as a high-level thematic debate on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women.  Noting the progress made by the international community on those issues, he said “the scourge of gender violence, inequality and discrimination continues to hamper women’s full potential to contribute to and benefit from sustainable development.”

Interactive Debate

PHUMZILE MLAMBO-NGCUKA, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said for all the progress made on the Millennium Development Goals, “no single country achieved the goal of women’s empowerment”.  She urged that those and related issues became specific goals on the post-2015 development agenda, as well as being recognized as cross-cutting factors regarding all other targets.

Women’s involvement was indeed central to advancing other goals, she said.  On the fifteenth anniversary of the Security Council’s adoption of the resolution on women, peace and security, she called on Member States to contribute to an ongoing global study reviewing integration efforts.  Identifying women as the “best engine for development”, she noted that empowered women were critical to an effective response to climate change.

More broadly, the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was a chance to review progress made and challenges remaining, she said, applauding the 154 Member States that had reported their achievements, and urging others to submit their reports on the principle of information sharing.  Based on work of the Third Committee, she continued, the General Assembly had indicated that gender equality was a common responsibility.  Much work remained to be done, she said, describing a grim reality.  Human trafficking, female genital mutilation, the denial of reproductive rights and forced and early marriages were the most dehumanizing forms of discrimination.  Further, data showed that 50 per cent of murdered women had been killed by their partners or families.

Introducing reports on a range of related topics (see Background), she said despite progress in data collection and legislation, impunity for perpetrators of gender-based crimes was among the outstanding challenges.  So was progress at the United Nations itself, she continued, noting that the Organization had “not come close to gender parity”, because women held only 41.8 per cent of top positions.  She cited the Secretary-General, whose opening statement at the General Assembly’s current session had focused on change, when he said “Transformation is our goal.  I can think of no better place to start than with opening doors and shattering ceilings for women and girls.”  In closing, she said there was no better place to start than the United Nations.

KATE GILMORE, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said considerable progress had been made in focusing attention on maternal deaths and disabilities, such as obstetric fistula.  “The international community must act urgently to end preventable maternal and new-born mortality and morbidity, including fistula,” she declared.  While obstetric fistula was almost entirely preventable and treatable, more than 2 million women and girls were living with the condition, she said, adding that progress had been made in integrating fistula into national health plans and policies.

Poverty, gender inequality and a failure to uphold women’s and girls’ human rights limited access to health services and led to fatal gaps across the continuum of care throughout the life-cycle, she said.  Underlining that the international community was moving towards finalizing the post-2015 development framework, she called on all relevant stakeholders to sustain their commitment to improving and maintaining maternal/new-born health, strengthening health systems, eroding health inequities and bolstering funding levels.

Starting off the interactive discussions, representatives of Switzerland, Iran, Cameroon and Bolivia asked about the integration of the Beijing Platform of Action into the post-2015 development framework, measures to combat growing violence against women and the establishment of targets to enhance women’s participation.

Answering a question on the inclusion of women in the post-2015 development agenda, Ms. MLAMBO-NGCUKA underlined UN-Women’s engagement, saying a comprehensive report had already been issued on the need to establish and mainstream women’s empowerment and gender equality.  On violence against women, consultations with Member States and United Nations agencies were raising awareness, ensuring that the issue would be at the centre of the post-2015 development agenda.  She added that in that regard, the integration of men and boys would be critical.

Continuing, she said increasing the capacity to protect all citizens, especially women and girls, was essential, and that all partners must be committed to the rule of law, peace and development.  Asked by a representative of Costa Rica about teenage pregnancy, she recognized its negative effects on the lives of women and girls, and called for a comprehensive sexual education, underlining that women and girls must be aware of their rights to make better decisions.

Ms. GILMORE, echoing those concerns, said it was essential for young women to have a comprehensive sexual education and full access to health services.  Giving girls access to education was of key importance, yet financial investment was also essential to broaden success.  Regarding a joint report on the issue by UNFPA and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), she highlighted elements, including that Member States had voiced their support for deepening and broadening initiatives.  However, priorities must be adjusted urgently, she stressed, reiterating the need for focusing on increasing numbers of adolescents.

NICOLE AMELINE, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said that with 188 States parties, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was “the only nearly universally ratified human rights instrument which provides for comprehensive protection of women’s rights”.  At the same time, the Convention was an instrument for women’s empowerment and equal participation and an international pillar for sustainable development.  Recognizing that women could be main drivers of development and noting their continued under-representation in political and public life, and exclusion from decision-making processes, she welcomed the opportunity offered by the post-2015 development agenda to make women’s substantive equality with men a reality.

On the issue of women in conflict, she said “women’s rights are an essential component of peace, calling on the international community to reaffirm the place of women’s rights in a peaceful and equitable global manner.  Since women were among the first victims and targets in armed conflicts, she stressed the importance of their involvement in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding.  A concerted and integrated approach must place the Security Council agenda on women, peace and security into the broader framework of Convention’s implementation, she said.

Women also had critical roles to play with regard to climate change, she said.  Turning to the legal field, she emphasized the importance of parliaments in repealing discriminatory laws, adopting temporary special measures to accelerate substantive equality between women and men and in ensuring that national laws, policies and budgets reflected the rights and principles enshrined in the Convention.  In closing, she welcomed the increased presence of Parliamentarians in official delegations.

During the ensuing interactive segment, representatives of Switzerland, Japan, Algeria, the State of Palestine and the European Union delegation asked a number of questions, including the position of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on reproductive rights in conflict situations, the role of women in political and societal transitions, access to justice and on activities targeting parliamentary involvement in the ratification of the Convention.

Ms. AMELINE urged States to be vigilant on the issue of rape, adding that particular cases should ultimately allow for abortion.  On the issue of stereotypes, she noted the universal aspect of women’s human rights and called for the recognition of the human being as a whole.  The Convention was compatible with all religions, she added, as its aim was the elimination of violence and discrimination.

The Convention, when applied, could be used as a conflict prevention measure, one that not only aimed at protecting the human rights of women, but was also a weapon aimed at increasing their presence in decision-making processes.

With regard to the Convention’s universal ratification, she asked that countries lifted their reservations.  She also emphasized the importance for parliaments to recognize their responsibility, and said close contacts had been made with countries to strengthen their capacity to implement the Convention.

Statements

VALERIA VILASECA (Bolivia), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the international community faced a myriad of challenges that needed to be addressed in order to achieve the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  Obstacles included high incidences of poverty and gender-based violence, high levels of HIV and AIDS, as well as widespread unemployment and the lack of access to services, such as social protection, health and education.  The “Group of 77” also called for intensified efforts at all levels in addressing alarming statistics concerning the increased incidents of trafficking in women and girls and violence against them.

In addition to those persistent obstacles, she added, new threats were emerging, and it was vital to identify and address the negative impact of the global financial crisis, food crisis and climate change challenges on women and girls.  The Group also underscored the importance of gender-responsive budgeting initiatives to address gender gaps in policies and budgets.  Stressing the importance of sharing national experiences with gender equality programmes, she concluded that the role of UN-Women was crucial in promoting better coordination within the United Nations system to address multiple barriers that impeded women.

CHARLES MSOSA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted with regret that the Secretary-General’s report on intensifying global efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation did not focus on the root causes and contributing factors to the practice and its prevalence, as requested by General Assembly resolution A/RES/67/146.  For its part, Africa had continued to establish ground-breaking initiatives and commitments to further gender equality, including the declaration of 2010 to 2020 as the African Women’s Decade.  As rural women constituted one fourth of the world’s population and the majority of Africa’s women, he said there was an urgent need to focus on their empowerment.

Broaching on a range of issues, he said women and girls who lived in war-torn economies were excluded from participating in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding processes.  It was also vital to address the challenges of infant and maternal mortality and the stigma encountered by women with HIV.  As frontline health workers and caregivers in their families and communities, women faced a greater risk from the Ebola outbreak.  Concluding, he said that the post-2015 development agenda, the Beijing Declaration and the African Union’s long-term development strategy were powerful vehicles in moving forward on meeting the needs of African women, particularly the poorest among them.

ADRIANA MURILLO RUÍN (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the post-2015 development agenda, including sustainable development goals, must build on lessons learned so far.  Those including directly tackling unequal gender relations and gender stereotypes that discriminated against women and girls.  They must also address the broader context for the realization of gender equality, such as the impact of economic crises, violence, persistent conflict, climate change and environmental degradation, and they must be relevant to the contexts of small island developing States, as well as of middle-income countries.

Eradicating the growing burden of poverty on women was essential, she said.  The centrality of gender equity in the development debate implied considering both the productive and reproductive dimensions and transforming the division of labour. Of particular concern was the situation of migrant, rural and indigenous women, women with disabilities, older women and women of African descent.  CELAC was also committed to intensifying measures to prevent and combat trafficking of persons, and the exploitation of migrants in all forms.  As a region composed primarily of middle-income countries, CELAC still faced challenges resulting from poverty and inequality, but also from cultural and social factors.  The Community, therefore, had advocated for more international dialogue, North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation, to support national initiatives in developing countries.

GEORGE WILFRED TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the violence inflicted daily on women and girls was one of the most pervasive violations of human rights, manifesting itself in many forms across ethnicity and class.  Citing a 2014 World Bank Report, he said, “In most of the world, no place is less safe for a woman than her own home”.  CARICOM States had been unceasing in efforts to improve the status of women.  The women of the region had themselves been key advocates and actors in this effort, and had contributed to change through family law reform and minimum wage legislation.  The region was also seeking to address further challenges, such as persistent poverty and sexual violence.

In August, the Community’s Council for Human and Social Development had approved a plan to reduce the number of adolescent pregnancies in each country of the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean by at least 20 per cent between 2014 and 2019.  The plan aimed at ensuring that all adolescents had access to age appropriate, accurate information on sexual and reproductive health.  As the Community plotted a path towards economic growth and sustainable development, a people-centred approach had been articulated to promote the welfare of its citizens.  Women had important contributions to make as providers of skills, knowledge and capital across the region, and the Community was committed to ensuring their equal participation in all aspects of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said its Protocol on Gender and Development encompassed commitments made in all regional, continental and global gender-equality instruments, with 28 measurable targets to be reached by 2015.  Aiming at providing for the empowerment of women and eliminating discrimination, the protocol called for the harmonization and implementation of national, regional, and international instruments on gender equality and equity.  Despite commendable achievements, constraints still hindered full gender equality, with gaps between commitment and implementation.

Contradictions between customary laws, national laws and international commitments, alongside a high incidence of poverty among women persisted, he said, adding that concerted efforts were needed to address those challenges.  Further, he said there was a need for joint efforts by all stakeholders, including women’s groups, political parties, government ministries, traditional leaders and parliamentarians.  Concluding, he reiterated the commitment of the Community’s members to strengthen collaboration and cooperation with the international community and development partners to achieve gender equality and the advancement of women, and to eliminate all forms of violence against women.

RY TUY (Cambodia), speaking on behalf of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted its members’ commitment to women’s empowerment and gender equality, exemplified by specific committees, programmes and work plans.  In addition, the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network had been established in 2012, with an aim to provide a platform to mentor one another and share best practices on ways to do business and how to expand it.

Mainstreaming gender perspectives across sectors and pillars, eliminating violence and discrimination, and promoting and protecting the rights of women were assured by a specific commission, he added.  In ensuring that the post-2015 development agenda was inclusive and gender responsive, he asked that issues across pillars, such as female migrant workers, women as victims and agents of change in response to climate change and in disaster risk reduction, were addressed in a holistic manner.

EVA CHARLOTTA SCHLYTER, of the European Union Delegation, said women’s economic empowerment and their full participation in economic life were crucial for development and for improving the life quality.  Gender equality was smart economics, which could enhance economic efficiency, improve other development outcomes and make institutions more representative.

UN-Women was playing a key role in empowering women and eliminating violence against them through its programmes, technical assistance, advocacy and normative work, she said.  In that regard, the European Union and UN-Women had intensified cooperation aimed at fostering policy dialogue and collaboration in several fields, including combatting sexual and gender-based violence, in line with the European Union Plan of Action on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Development for the 2010-2015 period.  Turning to ending sexual violence in conflict, she said protecting women and ending impunity remained priorities for the delegation, which was supporting an integrated approach to preventing and punishing acts of sexual violence, and to ensure justice services and reparations for its victims.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said that his country had long supported a number of efforts, including the fight to end female genital mutilation.  Working in partnerships, Italy and the African Group had cooperated to address obstetric fistula, and, with the European Union and other partners, Italy would continue to fight to eliminate every form of violence against women.  In terms of armed conflict, he said conflict prevention, training of armed forces and security sector reform were necessary to include a gender perspective and prevent violence against women in conflict situations.  In conclusion, he said in 2014, in the context of Italy’s presidency of the Council of the European Union, his country would host a major international conference in Rome on gender equality in Europe.

TERRI ROBL (United States) said that female genital mutilation and cutting were prohibited in her country, and hundreds of American organizations had been involved in efforts to fight the practice.  The report on fistula recognized the linkages between that condition, early marriages and reproductive rights.  Further, her delegation was pleased that the Committee would consider two resolutions on trafficking in persons.  The United States federal departments and agencies had worked together to coordinate the country’s efforts in preventing and raising awareness about trafficking.  Turning to elimination of violence against women, she added that recent United States legislation had strengthened penalties against those who committed violence against women, particularly indigenous women and girls.  “Beijing had set out a roadmap but implementation had fallen short of its lofty aims,” she said, calling on the international community to strengthen efforts to eradicate gender inequality.

NIKOLAI RAKOFSKY (Russian Federation) said the Commission on the Status of Women must remain the primary coordinating body in countering discrimination against women.  For its part, Russia had participated actively in the work of the Commission.  The Secretary General’s report recognized that the exclusion of a gender perspective in each Millennium Goal acted as an obstacle in achieving the agreed targets.  That oversight must be corrected in the new post-2015 global agenda, he said. However, he cautioned, it was important not to go to another extreme by mechanically inserting gender indicators into the new targets.  There was no “one-size-fits-all” solution, and the defining element for the new agenda should be the quality, not the quantity, of gender indicators.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), aligning his delegation with the statement delivered on behalf of CELAC, stated that the feminization of poverty had continued to be a barrier to gender equality.  The economic trade and blockade imposed unilaterally by the United States on Cuba constituted the main impediment for the progress of Cuban women and girls.  Nevertheless, Cuba had achieved many of the Millennium Goals, including universal health care for all citizens, reductions in maternal mortality and freedom for reproductive choices.  The recent 2013 elections had brought the largest number of women to the Cuban Government, exceeding the goals of the Beijing platform.  Cuban women also received the same wages as men and had access to credit services and social security, he concluded.

SHARMAN STONE (Australia) said that protecting women from violence, promoting women’s empowerment and supporting women’s leadership were priority areas for her country, domestically and internationally.  Australia was deeply committed to raising awareness about sexual violence and helping to ensure that crimes of sexual violence were prosecuted.  Turning to gender inequality, she said it undermined economic growth, human development and poverty reduction.  Further, she said, inequality came with unequal returns.  Limits on women’s participation in the workforce cost an estimated $89 billion every year in the Asia-Pacific region.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that his country was fully committed to the vision of empowered women living with dignity and contributing as equal partners in development.  India had achieved considerable progress, including with nearly 1.5 million elected women representatives, and legislation that had been enacted to ensure a safe and secure environment for women both at home and in the workplace, to protect women and girls from sexual offences.  Looking ahead, he said that the eradication of poverty and the promotion of the empowerment of women and gender mainstreaming must be key economic development imperatives of the post-2015 agenda.

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said her country aimed at building a society in which women shined.  To remove barriers, Japan had promoted several areas towards the empowerment of women, among them facilitating their active participation in society, enhancing efforts related to women’s health, supporting their participation and protecting their rights in the field of peace and security.  The 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action continued to serve as fundamental principles for the empowerment of women and the protection of their rights, she said, calling upon the international community to set gender equality as a central issue within the forthcoming post-2015 development agenda.

PAUL SEGER (Switzerland) said, regarding the widespread nature of rape, that legal frameworks guaranteeing gender equality were necessary as were monitoring mechanisms to ensure that offenders were held accountable.  Another unacceptable form of violence was female genital mutilation, a practice often closely linked to early marriage and early pregnancy, he said, calling on all Member States to end child marriage by establishing a legal foundation against the practice, and strengthening education for girls.  Turning to the report on trafficking in women, he expressed concern that a large majority of Member States had used the term “children”, thus failing to distinguish between boys and girls, even though girls were more affected than boys.  Switzerland firmly believed that the international community must tackle the root causes of gender inequality, including gender stereotypes and uneven power sharing.  A specific gender-equality objective must be included in the post-2015 agenda, he stressed.

NELLY SHILOH (Israel) said that sexual and reproductive health was not just a technical phrase, but often was “the difference between life and death”.  Further, women performed two thirds of the world’s work and produced half of the food, yet they earned only 10 per cent of the income and owned 1 per cent of the property.  Her country believed in investing in girls and women, with gender equality enshrined in the 1948 Declaration of Independence.  Israeli women stood out as leaders in politics, law and the private sector, and the country was also working to advance gender equality beyond its borders through programmes such as Innovation: Africa.  In the Ugandan village of Kolonyi, the programme was working with the local community to build a water pump and irrigation system.  As a result, the women of Kolonyi were no longer spending their days collecting water.  Instead, they were growing their own crops and earning an income, she said.

ELISA DIAZ GRAS (Mexico) said that her country supported the UN-Women’s Unite against Violence campaign, as well as various national campaigns against gender stereotypes.  The low number of complaints submitted by women victims of violence continued to be a problem, she said, noting that Mexico had emphasized the importance of drawing up gender statistics from cases brought to the police and  charges made by victims, because that was the best way to draw up public policies.  Her county’s national institute of statistics was taking a lead role in that matter, she said.  Mexico was also making efforts to mainstream a gender perspective into its national development plan.  More broadly, the post-2015 development agenda must include a transformative goal on gender equality, irrespective of the inclusion of a gender perspective in other goals, she concluded.

EI MON SWAI (Myanmar) said promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women had been integrated into the Millennium Development Goals, alongside which UN-Women had played an important role in guiding the United Nations system to accelerate progress in achieving their targets.  For its part, the Government of Myanmar, she said, was deeply committed to intensifying efforts to promote gender equality and empowerment of women and girls through international cooperation.  Being a State party to the Convention, her country had taken concrete steps for the elimination of discrimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.  In conclusion, she underlined that Myanmar was striving to reduce the poverty rate down to 16 per cent through increasing budget allocations in the social sector to benefit women and children.

ABIDINE ABDEL KADER (Morocco) said gender inequality was a universal problem, which involved prejudice and discrimination against women and girls.  His country had achieved an increase in the presence of women both in the management of public affairs and in decision-making positions.  Further, he said, Morocco’s constitution contained provisions on equality, fighting all forms of discrimination.  Concluding, he said his country ensured that Moroccan women and girls were protected against violence and, with that in view, had created mechanism to fight against violence.

ANTONIO DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil) said poverty eradication was the greatest challenge facing the world.  As of 2012, a man was three times as likely as a woman to get a job, leading to a gender gap in employment and a feminization of poverty.  Brazil’s women had greatly benefited from social policies, such as cash transfers and housing credit, and the country was also focusing on comprehensive sexuality education programmes and efforts to halt the march of HIV and AIDs among women.  Despite progress, there was growing consensus globally that without the full participation of women, development would be unsustainable.  Therefore, Brazil supported a stand-alone goal of gender equality in the post-2015 agenda that would frame the work of the United Nations for decades to come.  “We cannot afford to leave half of humanity behind,” he said.

MARGRIET VANDER LINDEN (Netherlands) said in the course of work, her conversations with women had revealed a variety of vulnerabilities, from a female chief executive officer, who told her she was abused by a family friend as a child, to a student, who had been assaulted by someone at a party.  “What stood out in each case was how vulnerable women are,” she said, “Vulnerable when they are struggling to come to terms with the violence, vulnerable because of what had been done to their bodies, and vulnerable because of being made to feel guilty.”  Security Council resolution 1325, on women, peace and security, acknowledged the vulnerability of women in armed conflict.  But that text had not even been considered regarding an international armed response to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS).  In countless refugee camps on the borders of Turkey and Syria, women had narrated accounts of despicable violence.  The women and children who had fallen into the hands of ISIL had a right to justice, as did the Indian girl on the bus on the way to school and the lesbians in Africa who were subjected to so-called “corrective rape.”  More needed to be done to educate boys, because sexual violence was as much a men’s and boys’ problem, she said.  In closing, she said securing the rights of women and girls was a constant battle, and the international community must be vigilant in preventing and punishing violence against women.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines) noted a narrowed gender gap in education, peace and political participation since the adoption of the Beijing Platform of Action in 1995.  Despite progress made, new challenges had emerged, including new forms of violence in electronic media and those related to the impact of climate change.  She then announced the presentation of a biannual resolution on trafficking in women and children, aimed at strengthening the gender aspect of trafficking and highlighting the impact of humanitarian and natural disasters on trafficking in women and girls.

BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syrian Arab Republic) said that it had been three years since Syrian women had been severely suffering from the worst forms of extremist and terrorist activities, including rape.  Wahhabi jihadist groups had imposed their “sick ideology and restrictions” on women in education, family and social life.  Citing the example of Saudi Arabia, he said, women and girls living there were allowed to drive or ride on bicycles.  He also emphasized that Syrian women and girls had been subjected to rape, murder, forced marriage and human trafficking in refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan.  He asked Member States hosting Syrian refugees to protect them from human trafficking and to help them live dignified lives.

RENÉ HOLBACH (Liechtenstein) noted that “not a single country in the world has actually achieved full gender equality”.  One of the reasons behind that failure was the lack of political will by the men in power, he said, welcoming UN-Women’s HeForShe campaign that focused on the role of men and boys in striving for gender equality.  Turning to the post-2015 development agenda, he noted the lack of a specific goal related to ending violence against women, which was a global phenomenon affecting developed and developing nations.  “The systematic lack of accountability will always be conducive to new violence,” he concluded.

FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said that a large majority of African women continued to face severe obstacles because social norms and stereotypes were slowing the progress to gender equality.  Female genital mutilation, early marriage and the violence women suffered in armed conflicts exacerbated the problem.  The use of rape as a weapon of war was a threat to human dignity, he said.  Reiterating the commitment of his country to combat fistula, he called on Member States to hold constructive negotiations on a draft resolution on that topic.  The international community could not hope to define the post-2015 agenda without a true awareness of the issue of empowerment of women.  Senegal had taken steps, he said.  Because women in Senegal confronted many challenges linked to access to financing, the Government had established a national credit fund to promote female entrepreneurship.  Further, the legal status of Senegalese women had improved considerably through new laws relating to violence against women, medical care, taxation and a law on political parity.

THIPHASONE SENGSOURINHA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said the empowerment of women and gender equality were priorities, as exemplified by laws and gender mainstreaming into the country’s development programmes, plans and projects.  On the promotion and protection of women’s rights, activities and programmes had focused on equal rights for women at work, enhancement of knowledge amongst women and their participation in politics, socio-cultural activities and the family.  In addition, 25 per cent of the members of parliament were women, he concluded.

AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates), hailing the work of the United Nations and its bodies in advancing gender equality, said that her country’s constitution guaranteed gender equality.  The Emirates was one of the first States to reduce gender gaps in education and health.  Further, the country had also lowered the rate of childbirth-related deaths.  Women in the Emirates participated at all levels of decision-making, ranging from the ministerial level to the judicial.  The Government was also developing legislation that ensured secure environments for women and children and prevented all types of organized crime, transnational crimes and trafficking in women and children.

GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said Member States must continue to fight for the full implementation of commitments made almost 20 years ago to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.  Fully supporting UN-Women in the campaign to celebrate Beijing+20, Iceland had partnered with Suriname to lead a group of countries to galvanize support to promote gender equality.  Men and boys must be engaged in the fight for the benefit of all, she said.  Concluding, she said Iceland was committed to treat gender equality not only as a women’s issue, but also as a human rights issue that required everyone’s participation.

MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) said gender equality and the empowerment of women were key factors for achieving social and economic development.  Nicaragua had established a policy based on gender equality as a means of deepening inclusive democracy and building a just and developed society.  Underlining the initiatives taken in the recent years, she said the country’s constitution had envisaged the creation of a fund enabling women to have the same rights as men in purchasing land and that benefited rural women, in particular.  Her country was among the countries with the highest representation of women in decision-making processes, she concluded.

MUSTAPHA KAMAL ROSDI (Malaysia) said that his country had achieved tremendous economic growth in the last few decades because of the greater participation of women in the development process.  Malaysia’s commitment to the economic empowerment of women was evident in its policies and programmes that intended to attract and retain female employees in workforce.  Further, his country was encouraging female entrepreneurship through specialized skills training workshops.  So far, 4,300 women entrepreneurs had benefited from those workshops and were now venturing into various sectors, including agriculture and business.  Malaysia was encouraged by the work of the United Nations agencies in combating violence.  Malaysia continued to safeguard women’s rights through amendments to the penal code that widened the definitions of rape and domestic abuse, and addressed sexual harassment in workplaces.

MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ (Colombia), lauding Malala Yousafzai for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, said that the discrimination and subordination of women was a pervasive problem for the international community.  His country was pleased to support a stand-alone goal concerning gender equality among the sustainable development goals.  As indicated by the Secretary-General, he said violence against women was based on structural inequalities and, therefore, laws were indispensable for protecting women.  An interdisciplinary approach was required to combat violence against women, he emphasized.

HENRY LEONARD MAC-DONALD (Suriname) said that his country had a history of close collaboration between the Government and civil society in advancing women’s empowerment.  The national gender policy and a draft policy on domestic violence had been formulated in collaboration with civil society.  The involvement of men and boys was also crucial for changing negative stereotypes about women and achieving lasting behavioural transformations, he said.  The Millennium Goals, he added, unfortunately, had not addressed the critical matter of ending violence against women.  Therefore, Suriname was pleased to note that the report on the proposed sustainable development goals made a specific reference to the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls.

SOLTAN ALARADAH (Kuwait) said his country had recognized the political rights of women and supported women and girls through various measures.  The position of women had improved both in public services and decision-making as the Government of Kuwait had empowered them in their political participation.  Kuwaiti women also thrived in the labour market, enjoying equal pay for equal work and benefits, such as maternity leave.  Further, the Government had offered comprehensive benefits and assistance to people with social challenges, such as widows and women with disabilities.  Concluding, he noted that his Government would continue to fight for the empowerment of women.

SABRI BOUKADOUM (Algeria) said that awareness-raising on violence against women needed to be complemented by other efforts, such as community mobilization.  It was worrying to note that women and girls constituted 75 per cent of trafficking victims detected globally.  For its part, Algeria had worked hard to improve its national legal framework to protect women’s rights.  The family and nationality codes had been amended to ensure greater balance in family relationships.  The adoption of a national strategy on gender had led the country to achieve a 93 per cent primary school registration rate for girls.  The rate of employed women had also increased significantly in the public sector, he said.  In the judicial system, the representation of women had reached 40 per cent of the total number of judges in 2013.  The combined action of the Government and civil society had improved women’s participation in politics.

For information media. Not an official record.