Women's Commission Hears Introduction of Texts on Women and Child Hostages, HIV/AIDS, Female Genital Mutilation, Palestinian Women
Economic and Social Council President Also Addresses Commission, Highlights Synergies between Current Session's Debate, New Development Cooperation Forum
The Commission on the Status of Women this morning heard the introduction of draft resolutions dealing with key women's empowerment issues, including health care, violence against women and women in conflict situations, ahead of informal consultations to consider the outcome of its fifty-second session, which wraps up Friday.
Also today, Leo Merores, President of the Economic and Social Council, addressed the Commission, describing the increased synergies with the Council machinery provided by the new processes of the annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum. He said the Commission's contribution to the Council was pertinent and he stressed the importance of the role of women in assisting people suffering from HIV/AIDS and public health issues worldwide. This year, the Economic and Social Council would focus on poverty eradication and he supported the Commission's contribution in that regard.
The Forum, in the framework of the 2005 World Summit, contributed to world partnerships for development to which Member States had committed themselves in the Millennium Declaration, he said. The Commission's discussion on the gender dimension of climate change would be an important contribution to the Council's session in July. He noted the synergies between the Commission's debate and the Forum.
The Forum aimed to promote south-south cooperation and strengthen the links of operational activities of the United Nations as a whole, he added. Financing for gender parity and women's empowerment were key issues discussed during the Commission's session and were linked to the effectiveness of development aid. The Forum could also provide an opportunity to create guidelines of a more operational nature. The Commission's work this year would be presented to the Council in July, as would the reports of other functional commissions. The Council's aim was to have a specific event where their work would get the attention it deserved. The Council aimed to expand its framework to include urgent humanitarian situations and to make use of the expertise of the Commission in helping to prevent violence against women and work towards peacebuilding and conflict resolution. He said he asked the functional commissions to prepare by 8 June a list of things that would be useful.
Commission Chairman Olivier Belle (Belgium) said the President's statement had given delegations 'food for thought', especially as it had outlined the course the Commission must follow to enhance its contribution to the Council's work. Such input and cooperation was particularly important this year when the Commission was taking up such issues as development financing and the social dimensions of climate change, which were also on the Council's agenda through 2009.
Regarding synergies with the Development Cooperation Forum, he noted that the Commission's agreed conclusions would be ready and available in time for the Council's substantive session and provide delegations points of reference when they touched on gender and social development issues. The Commission's discussions this year might also be of interest to the Council's annual high-level spring meeting with the Bretton Woods Institutions.
The draft resolution on the release of women and children taken hostage, including those subsequently imprisoned, in armed conflict (document E/CN.6/2008/L.1) was introduced by Rana Salayeva (Azerbaijan), who said that, since 2001, the text had been adopted without a vote. It drew attention to a critical issue which did not receive enough international attention, even as women and children continued to be taken hostage in many conflict zones and elsewhere. She stressed that such hostage-taking violated international human rights laws and norms.
The text would have the Women's Commission reaffirm that hostage-taking, 'wherever and by whomever committed, is an illegal act aimed at the destruction of human rights and is, under any circumstances, unjustifiable, including as a means to promote and protect human rights'. It would also strongly urge all parties to armed conflicts to fully respect international humanitarian law and take all necessary measures to protect civilian populations as such, 'including measures to prevent, combat and punish acts of hostage-taking, and to release immediately all women and children who have been taken hostage'.
Manuel Ney Montiero Cardoso (Cape Verde), on behalf of the African Group, introduced the draft on ending female genital mutilation (document E/CN.6/2008/L.2), stressing that the international community had recognized the practice as a violation of the rights of women and girls and, among other things, endangered their well-being. The African Group was concerned that the practice was continuing and would urge Member States to provide resources necessary to bring an end to female genital mutilation. He added that negotiations on the draft were ongoing, but he hoped they would wrap up by the end of the day.
By that text, the Commission would recognize that female genital mutilation is an 'irreparable, irreversible abuse' affecting 100 to 140 million women and girls alive today, and that each year a further two million girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure. The Commission would urge States to condemn all harmful traditional practices, in particular female genital mutilation, and emphasize that 'awareness-raising, community mobilization, education and training' are needed to ensure that all key actors, including law enforcement and judicial personnel, health-care providers, teachers, and others working directly with girls, as well as parents, work to eliminate attitudes and harmful practices that negatively affect girls.
A draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women (document E/CN.6/2008/L.3) was introduced by Aqeelah Akbar ( Antigua and Barbuda), on behalf of the 'Group of 77' developing countries and China. She said that the persistent and serious difficulties faced by Palestinian women and the need to help alleviate that situation were at the heart of the resolution. Though it was largely based on last year's text, it reflected current on-the-ground realities, including the recent resumption of bilateral negotiations between the parties. She strongly hoped that the text would be adopted by consensus.
The draft would have the Women's Commission express concern about the grave situation of Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, resulting from the 'severe impact of ongoing illegal Israeli practices', such as the continued imposition of restrictions on the movement of persons and goods and the many severe consequences arising from Israeli military operations in and sieges of civilian areas, 'which have impacted detrimentally their social and economic conditions and deepened the humanitarian crisis faced by them and their families'. The Commission would call on the international community to continue to provide urgently needed assistance and services in an effort to alleviate the dire humanitarian crisis being faced by Palestinian women and their families and to help in the reconstruction of relevant Palestinian institutions.
Ms. Akbar also introduced, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, a draft on strengthening the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) (document E/CN.6/2008/L.4). She said that the resolution was based on past texts adopted by the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies. Its main goal was to acknowledge the progress the Institute had made and the continuing challenges it faced. It also underlined the importance of the voluntary nature of the contributions from Member States to the United Nations Trust Fund for INSTRAW, to enable it to carry out its mandate in an effective manner.
The final draft resolution before the Commission today on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS (document E/CN.6/2008/L.5) was introduced by Patricia Chanda Chisanga Condolo ( Zambia), on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). She said that women and girls were more adversely affected by HIV and AIDS and also disproportionately bore the burden of caring for those living with the virus. The current draft aimed to have States strengthen attention to the gender issues in national HIV responses, as well as increase their funding to women and facilities providing care and/or economic support for those infected with HIV/AIDS.
By the text, the Commission would express concern that the vulnerability of women and girls to HIV/AIDS is increased by their unequal legal, economic and social status, including poverty, as well as other cultural and physiological factors. It would also express concern that HIV infection rates are at least twice as high among young people, especially young and married women, who do not finish primary school, as among those who do. The Commission would stress the need to significantly increase and coordinate the political and financial commitment to address gender equality and equity in national HIV/AIDS responses, and, among others, urge Governments to work towards effectively reflecting the gender dimension of the pandemic in their national policies, strategies and budgets.
In other business today, the Commission took up matters related to the future work of its Working Group on Communications. Vice Chairperson Enna Park ( Republic of Korea) proposed that the Commission adopt an oral decision that would postpone consideration of the mater until its next session and request the Secretary-General to 'prepare a report for this purpose that should include the written views of Member States'.
Before a decision was taken, Cuba's representative said it would be appropriate to postpone the matter even without a new report from the Secretary-General. The 2004 report could be the basis for future deliberations on the subject since there were no new conditions or circumstances to make it necessary to request a new report. The representatives of Iran, Malaysia and the Russian Federation agreed with that assessment. So did China's representative, who said Member States should be allowed to resolve issues through consultations and that a new Secretary-General's report would not be able to resolve such differences on its own.
However, the representatives of Iceland and Croatia said it would be useful to have a new Secretary-General's report, as the 2004 report was already outdated. Switzerland's representative agreed, and also asked if United Nations Member States or just member States of the Commission would be able to submit their views in the report. In response, Ms. Parker said that, in the past, just 14 Member States had submitted their views, but the purpose now was to give all Member States the chance to do so. That was why the Bureau had requested that the Secretary-General prepare a report.
After a brief suspension for consultations with the Bureau, Ms. Park told delegations that further informal consultations on the matter were required and that the Commission would return to it at a later date. She also reminded delegations that five members of the Working Group on Commutations needed to be appointed to the Commission's fifty-third session, and added that letters to that effect had been sent to the Chairmen of the respective regional groups. She appealed to all regional groups to communicate to the Secretariat by 3 p.m. Friday, 7 March, the names of the representatives they would be endorsing in that regard.
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