Summary: October 12, 2004: Statement by Mr. Koen Davidse, Minister Plenipotentiary Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the UN on behalf of the European Union at the 59th SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY - THIRD COMMITTEE - Items 98 and 99 Advancement of women: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled: "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century" (New York)
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland and Liechtenstein, members of the European Economic Area, align themselves with this statement.
This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. And indeed, we have good reason to celebrate: 177 states are now party to the Convention (representing over 90% of the UN membership!) and 62 states have acceded to its Optional Protocol. The European Union strongly supported the adoption of CEDAW in 1979, and remains equally committed to the equality of rights for women as a basic principle of the United Nations today. The Convention has played an important role as a catalyst for change. Despite the festive mood of a 25th anniversary, we must acknowledge that the Convention's call for equal rights remains as relevant today as it was 25 years ago. The European Union would like to reiterate its call for universal ratification of CEDAW and urges states that have not yet done so to ratify and accede to the Convention without further delay. The European Union also calls upon states parties to regularly review their reservations to CEDAW and to withdraw those reservations that are contrary to the object and purpose of the Convention.
Since 1995, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women has discussed 166 country reports. The Committee has issued 25 general recommendations. The European Union would like to congratulate the Committee and its current Chair, Ms. Ayse Feride Acar, on a job well done. The EU has taken good note of the Committee's deliberations on ways to improve its working methods, and, in this context, its request for additional meeting time. The EU stands ready to engage in a discussion on these important issues - so as to ensure that the Committee can continue to carry out its important task in the most effective and efficient way, also in the next 25 years.
I would like to focus on two important examples of EU policy that have a strong relation to CEDAW. I will concentrate on employment and violence against women. Next, I will look at challenges ahead and ways to advance the goals of CEDAW in the context of the review of the Beijing Platform for Action and the review of the Millennium Declaration in 2005.
Article 11 of CEDAW recognises that participation of women in all spheres of life - political, public, social, economic - is essential not only for women's empowerment but for the prosperity of society as a whole. This principle is a central feature of the European Union's policies including the policies for the reduction of poverty and the promotion of sustainable national economic growth. In the area of employment, the European Union seeks to build synergies between key instruments, such as legislation, gender analysis, and financial tools. Equal treatment of women and men regarding access to employment, education, working conditions, and participation at all decision making and leadership levels in the public and the private sector are important corner stones of the EU's policies. The Lisbon strategy sets the objective of reaching 60% female employment by the year 2010. In 2003 the Employment Task Force of the European Union presented a report in which it urged EU Member States and social partners to remove tax disincentives for women to participate in the labour market and to address persistent problems in wage structures, sectoral and occupational segregation, obstacles to vertical mobility, as well as practical impediments to increased female employment such as the availability of affordable and flexible child care as imperative to reaching the target set for 2010. To achieve this, enhanced efforts to mainstream gender concerns in all fiscal policies, such as through gender budgeting, social, educational, professional training and employment policies, as well as specific targeted actions, are necessary. In the future, the European Union will make use of European Structural Funds to increase the participation of women, including immigrant women, and women from ethnic minorities.
2. Gender based violence and HIV/AIDS
The elimination of all forms of violence against women continues to be a high priority for the European Union. Often, such violence is a reflection of existing unequal balance of power structures between men and women. The European Union strongly supported the adoption of CEDAW in 1979, and remains unequivocally committed to gender equality as a basic right enshrined in international human rights law and as a fundamental principle of the United Nations today. Article 5 of the CEDAW Convention requires states parties to take appropriate measures "to modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women". This, undoubtedly, is an important element in changing power relations between men and women that will contribute to eliminating gender based violence. The most widespread form of gender-based violence is domestic violence, which is also a mass phenomenon in European Union Member States. The European Union attaches great importance to strengthen the efforts to carry out comprehensive programmes to combat and prevent domestic violence, including a broad variety of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders in this process.
At a European Union ministerial conference on Emancipation, that was held in Rotterdam in July 2004, EU ministers spoke about the continuation of the creation of laws and appropriate measures to combat harmful traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, and crimes committed in the name of honour. It was suggested by the Presidency to start a feasibility study for a possible community action programme to prevent and combat traditional practices harmful to women and girls. It has also been considered to set up national mechanisms on trafficking.
Crimes committed in the name of honour and trafficking are two important items on this year's agenda of the Third Committee. The European Union attaches great importance to both issues. We are satisfied to note that the resolution on working towards the elimination of crimes committed in the name of honour, that was adopted by consensus at the 57th session of the General Assembly (A/57/179), has had quite an impact. The resolution was translated in a considerable number of languages and widely distributed, also among civil society organisations. The EU looks forward to fruitful consultations on a draft resolution this year.
The European Union welcomes the fact that, as of June 2004, 61 states have ratified or acceded to the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons especially Women and Children. In this regard, the European Union also welcomes the establishment, at last session of the Commission on Human Rights, of a mandate of the CHR concerning the human rights aspects of the trafficking phenomenon. Such a Rapporteur can play a very important role in promoting measures to uphold and protect the human rights of the victims and potential victims. The three P's (prevention, prosecution and protection) should continue to guide us in our joint fight against trafficking.
At the 58th session of the General Assembly, the Secretary-General was requested to conduct an in-depth study on all forms and manifestations of violence against women as identified in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session (A/58/185). The European Union would like to thank the Secretariat for its progress report on this study, contained in A/59/281, and looks forward to its publication at next year's session of the General Assembly.
The landmark resolution 1325 on women, peace and security adopted by the Security Council in 2000 needs to be fully implemented. One important way is to ensure that all parties to conflicts and all other actors involved in peace processes are aware of the contents of the resolution and systematically integrate its obligations in their work.
Gender inequality is an important factor contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS; many women, including married women and young girls, cannot negotiate sex or turn down unwanted sex. Harmful practices, such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, as well as marital rape, place girls and women at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Stigma and discrimination against HIV positive women subject them to further violations of their human rights. The European Union looks forward to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women to the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights, which will focus on the intersectionality between violence against women and HIV/AIDS.
It is essential that women and girls be granted full enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive rights. As we commemorate the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development, the European Union reiterates its strong commitment to the Cairo agenda. We consider that implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action is an essential prerequisite for meeting the internationally agreed poverty reduction and development goals outlined in the Millennium Declaration, specifically those goals concerning the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, child mortality, maternal health, and HIV/AIDS. A strategy for achieving the MDGs as a whole must also address the issue of sexual and reproductive health rights. These rights are essential to women's empowerment, which is itself a prerequisite for realising all the MDG's.
3. Gender mainstreaming
The participation of men and boys in achieving gender equality must be consistent with the empowerment of women and girls. In this regard, we welcome the agreed conclusions on the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality from the CSW meeting in March 2004.
Gender mainstreaming and women's empowerment are strategic for promoting the structural changes needed in order to achieve gender equality. Mainstreaming and empowerment also contribute to secure the equal enjoyment of all human rights, including economic and social rights, by women and girls. The European Union welcomes the progress made within the United Nations system to mainstream gender concerns into its policies and programmes. It is clear from this summer's discussion in ECOSOC that more needs to be done in order to really put theory into practice. Key elements include the development of performance indicators underpinning accountability at all levels, institutional incentives for good performance and the establishment of sound monitoring systems and systematic integration into planning and reporting instruments, as well as into procedures of, testing and estimating (legal) consequences also at country level, through the Resident Co-ordinators system. Equally important is to address the empowerment of women through comprehensive policies and action policies.
The European Union welcomes the recent appointment of Ms. Rachel Mayanja as Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and looks forward to working with her in the fulfilment of her mandate.
4. Review of Beijing Platform of Action
2005 will be an important year of stocktaking. At the 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, we will review progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third UNGASS. The European Union reaffirms its strong support for and commitment to the Beijing and Beijing & 5 agenda and welcomes this ten-year review as an opportunity to identify gaps and challenges. CSW49 should result in renewed inspiration and reinforce our joint efforts to advance the cause of gender equality and women's empowerment. It is necessary that this inspiration is carried over to all United Nations events. Especially to the major event of 2005 concerning the Millennium Summit Review, but also to other summits such as the second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society. It is important that we do not regard "women's issues" in isolation from other important review processes, as if they have no broader bearing. We believe concerted efforts are needed to make a much stronger case for the role of the Beijing Platform for Action in achieving the MDGs. This should be linked to the importance of implementing CEDAW that is marking its 25th anniversary today.
In this respect, the European Union considers it extremely important that in implementing the outcomes of all major UN conferences, we keep a focus on gender. Gender equality is an important goal in itself and will contribute to the realisation of all Millennium Development Goals, not just MDG 3. Even long before the MDGs came into existence, the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against women in 1967, and the CEDAW Convention already recognised the relationship between development, security and equality. By stating that the full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace require the maximum participation of women on equal terms with men in all fields. Now as we embark on the preparations for the review of the MDGs in 2005, we should place gender equality more firmly on the agenda and thereby allow for the MDG review to reaffirm the commitment to the Beijing Platform of Action.
Thank you Mr/Mme Chairperson.
* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process