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PANEL DISCUSSION ON WOMEN AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The informal Ministerial Panel on Women and Sustainable Development provoked a lively debate. The five female panelists were: Nancy Barry (President, Women's World Banking); Sheila Copps (Minister for the Environment, Canada); Elizabeth Dowdswell (UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNEP); Dr. Nafis Sadik (Executive Director of UNFPA and Secretary-General of the International Conference on Population and Development); and Chief Bisi Ogunleye (Nigeria). The Chair, Ms. Copps, opened the discussion by asking why attempts to control reproduction always focus on women and not those who impregnate women -- particularly when women could have approximately 15 children in a lifetime whereas men could have hundreds. Dr. Sadik recognized that women have a special role in decision making and asked what kind of indicators could measure every member of the population, focusing on gender disparities. She noted that through the ages men have dominated women through control of fertility and that women should be given real choice.

Elizabeth Dowsdswell noted that there is no more reliable strategy than empowering women to solve the problems of poverty and environmental degradation. She said that the CSD is stuck somewhere between rhetoric and achievement. She noted that the time for set speeches is past and that we need to move to action.

Chief Bisi Ogunleye asked what the CSD wants her to sustain in Africa -- as there is nothing to sustain. She told the audience that if poverty is to be eradicated they must act. They must call women to the decision-making table and listen to them.

Nancy Barry noted that environmental degradation caused by poverty in the developing world and greed in the industrial world is at the core of this meeting's documents, but at no point does the text address these two concerns. Tim Worth (US) asked what can be learned from this -- what recommendations can be made to help the CSD process? Barry replied that one step would be to have quarterly panel discussions on women in each country and invite women to make concrete recommendations. Dowdswell called for the development of five to six key indicators.

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