The 39th session of the Commission on the Status of Women was called to order by Ms. Patricia Licuanan (Philippines), Chair of the Commission. She stated that the goals of Nairobi remain valid but, for the most part, unattained. She noted that the conference title, "Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace," indicates the need for concerted action.
Under-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Development, Nitin Desai, then spoke and noted that this session is where the basic outcome of the Beijing Conference will be shaped. He urged delegates to place the Conference in the context of the other recent UN conferences. All of the UN conferences, beginning with the 1990 World Conference for Children, are part of the process of searching for a role for public policy in a rapidly changing world and of defining the responsibility of government for the social good.
Mrs. Gertrude Mongella, Secretary-General of the Fourth World Conference on Women, noted the productive work of the regional groups and highlighted the Secretariat"s innovative process of involving youth in these meetings. She noted that the draft Platform for Action sets forth more than 200 actions, and stressed the importance of the institutional and financial arrangements contained in the text. She also stated that NGOs are an essential, democratizing element in this process.
The Chair turned to the Provisional Agenda (E/CN.6/1995/1). The officers of the Commission will not change, with the exception of the Cte d"Ivoire, who is no longer on the Commission. Namibia was elected to the vacant Rapporteur post.
Delegates then turned to NGO accreditation. The EU, supported by several other delegations, called for a transparent, open NGO accreditation process, and proposed that the list of NGOs to be accredited be left open until the end of the CSW session. In response to delegates" concern over the accreditation process, the Secretary-General reported that over the past fifteen months applications for accreditation from over 140 countries had been carefully reviewed, standard UN review procedures had been applied, and every effort had been made to publicize deadlines. A total of 1700 applications had been considered, including 300 ECOSOC-accredited organizations. Armenia questioned the accreditation of the Armenian Relief Society, Inc. The Holy See challenged the accreditation of "Catholics for Free Choice," objecting to the use of the word "Catholic" in its title while espousing positions opposed to the Catholic Church, including its position on abortion. Delegates adopted the list of NGOs ad referendum, pending examination of the questioned NGOs and leaving the list open until the end of the CSW.
Mongella introduced Agenda Item 3, Preparations for the Fourth World Conference on Women, by noting that the Commission"s decisions will shape the conduct of the conference in Beijing. The remainder of 15 March, all of 16 March and the morning of 17 March were then devoted to statements about preparations for the Beijing Conference.
Dame Nita Barrow, Governor-General of Barbados and convener of the NGO Forum in Nairobi (1985), urged NGOs to use their arrival in the citadels of decision-making with thoughtfulness and a spirit of co-operation, in tribute to the tenacity of the women who had struggled to bring them out of the "wilderness." She described the preparations for Beijing as one of the greatest mobilizations around women"s issues.
SPAIN stated that women suffer from a democratic deficit and compared the issue of the equitable distribution of power to the women"s struggle to get the vote. She noted efforts by her country to prepare for the Beijing Conference. NAMIBIA called for a short, concise Platform for Action that examines the roots of the problems faced by women, and identified the girl-child problem as the root of youths" and women"s problems. She proposed the examination of a mechanism to implement the Platform, and noted Namibia"s efforts to develop a national program to implement the documents. The DOMINICAN REPUBLIC pointed out: obstacles to the goals of peace, equality and development; the need for women in high positions of responsibility; and the need for women in fields that are traditionally male. Present institutions are insufficient, and more support is needed for agencies that support the advancement of women, especially those that conduct research, such as INSTRAW. Change is necessary to involve women and men in social, economic, political and development structures.
UNIFEM looks for four achievements to come out of Beijing: a new vision of development founded on realities and built on women"s rights; adequate resources to implement the new vision; a basis of solidarity for the international women"s movement; and new partnerships between civil society and governments. She also stressed the need to empower women, especially in the areas of social and economic change, to influence decision making at all levels. HONDURAS warned against creating a world of individuals, and said that the family should be the target of delegates" efforts. She also underscored the importance of education. AUSTRALIA proposed a "Conference of Commitments," in which all participating governments would identify their priority goals to improve the status of women in their country. The commitments could be reinforced or updated commitments that were previously made, and they should be recorded in an annex to the Beijing agreement.
The OAU focused on the need to include African women in development and to empower African women socially, politically and economically. Recent economic and social crises on the continent have affected women greatly, and they must participate in conflict prevention and resolution. Traditional restrictive roles and lack of access to education must be changed in order for women to gain equality in all areas. TUNISIA stressed that women"s status is linked to economic, political and social stability, and when instability exists, fanaticism and extremism threaten their rights. The UN should create a preventative approach to international problems, including migration, environmental dangers, extremism, food security, and health, and special attention should be paid to violence against women, especially in war.
TANZANIA suggested that the critical area of violence in the Platform should be combined with the critical area of human rights, since violence against women represents a lack of respect for their rights. Attention was also drawn to the fact that culture is often used to justify practices that discriminate against women. BOTSWANA discussed national projects to enhance women"s participation, noted national efforts to ensure access to education and basic health care, and stressed the importance of the girl-child issue for the Platform for Action. The SPECIAL ADVISOR TO THE SECRETARY-GENERAL ON PUBLIC POLICY told delegates that one of the three female signers of the UN Charter recently told her that she now hears the same words that she heard 50 years ago, but has seen little action on those words. The Special Advisor noted her efforts to inform the media and the public about UN activities, including the Beijing Conference.
The ECONOMIC COMMISSION OF EUROPE reported on the ECE- sponsored regional meeting. An NGO forum met prior to the meeting and produced two documents that contributed to the outcome of the ECE meeting. The regional participants identified seven critical areas of concern, including recognition of women"s contribution to the economy and full participation of women in public life. Gender statistics and research methodologies were stressed by this region, as was regional monitoring. The ECE will hold a meeting with international organizations in the region, following Beijing, to develop an implementation strategy.
The ECONOMIC COMMISSION FOR LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN reported that delegates at the ECLAC-sponsored regional meeting called for better links between women and jobs and for better training. They noted that housework should be compatible with paid work, and that all family members should share in the housework. Education was stressed as a method to eliminate discrimination. The meeting noted the gap between women"s de jure and de facto rights, and that although women in the region are active, especially in human rights organizations, this is not reflected in decision-making levels and political organizations. The ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC-sponsored meeting noted that, although growth in the region has been significant and women"s employment has increased, most women have low wage, low skill jobs in the informal sector, leaving more women affected by poverty. The meeting stressed the need to empower women, improve women"s legal status, involve women in decision making, and reduce the portrayal of violence against women to close the gap between women"s de jure and de facto rights. Critical areas identified by this meeting include the feminization of poverty, elderly women, women migrant workers, health, education, power in decision making, the media, mechanisms for the advancement of women, and women"s role in peace building.
The ECONOMIC COMMISSION OF AFRICA, reporting on the fifth African regional conference, said the focus had been a review and appraisal of the Nairobi strategies. The meeting examined the achievements and shortfalls since 1985 in the integration of African women into the processes of economic and political renewal for sustainable development. In an opening declaration, government ministers from the 50 member states present noted the obstacles created for the post-Nairobi agenda by the series of crises that beset most African countries in the 1990s. The regional conference noted the responsibility of development partners in helping with implementation.
The ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR WESTERN ASIA representative underlined her regional conference"s commitment to a Platform for Action consistent with the region"s culture and values. The ESCWA"s Platform for Action stresses the need for governments to accelerate the provision of legal rights for women and to facilitate their participation in decision-making. Two critical areas of concern are the eradication of the causes and effects of poverty and women"s participation in conflict resolution and prevention measures. The Platform also calls for a central mechanism to facilitate NGO capacity building at the highest levels.
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