Subject: [fem-women2000 500] Angela King Speech at ECOSOC [2000/07/10]
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 10:57:16 +0900
Seq: 500

United Nations Nations Unies
Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues
and Advancement of Women
2 UN Plaza, DC-2-1220, New York, NY 10017 USA
Internet location:

ECOSOC Panel Discussion on:
Main challenges currently facing the UN system for supporting conference
implementation in an integrated and coordinated way

Statement by
Ms. Angela E.V. King
Special Adviser on Gender Issues and 
Advancement of Women

New York  10 July 2000

It is a pleasure to participate in this panel discussion to assess the
lessons we have learned from recent world conferences and special
sessions and how  to utilize them in a crucial area of our activities -
taking stock of progress achieved and implementation of outcomes.  But 
it is particularly timely, as we have just completed two five year
reviews: Beijing and Copenhagen.  It is also useful as some of the
lessons learned - thematic as well as process - might well be taken into
account in the deliberations of the Millennium Summit and Assembly 
which the  Secretary-General stated will afford an opportunity for
reflection and improvement.

I think that this is also a good time to ask what are the goals of five-
year reviews.  It is to keep up the momentum for action and for moving
forward based on commitments made and in the case of Beijing, they are 
gender equality and the empowerment of women.   In addition, they
provide valuable insights into best practices and achievements and how 
they can be shared  with others; they monitor how Governments have
adhered to their commitments and how the UN system and NGOs have
undertaken their responsibilities - in fact five-year reviews provide a
global overview of advances and steer us towards further action.

They also turn a spotlight on the omissions in areas where action has
been limited or non-existent and provide invaluable opportunities for
all stakeholders to plan and agree further on joint further action. 
Follow-up reviews also confirm that no single conference outcome can be
implemented in isolation: sustainable development, population and
development, housing, food security and human rights are highly relevant
to the achievement of gender equality; similarly gender equality is a
cross-cutting theme crucial to the attainment of these other goals.

An excellent example of the interdependence of these themes is the
integrated conference follow-up spearheaded by ECOSOC over the last few
years.  In the case of gender equality, the Member States of ECOSOC have
kept priority attention focused through the coordination segment in
1997; the operational segment in 1998 and the high level segment in 1999.

To highlight a most important outcome of these initiatives , I should
mention that the discussion in 1997 led to Agreed Conclusions 1997/2
which provided Governments and the UN system with an unequivocal
definition of "gender mainstreaming" and with a blueprint on how to
mainstream gender in all policies and programmes.  It set benchmarks for
assessing accountability and progress.  This was followed by a series of
letters from the Secretary-General starting in October 1997 to all heads
of agencies in which he set out his expectation that all agencies, funds
and programmes would reflect gender issues thus fully underlining the
importance of political commitment at the highest level.

The following  year, the highlight of the discussions was  the general
agreement that in all operational activities, strategic plans for
countries in crisis and country assessments, there had to be a gender
dimension as well as a review of the impact of plans and programmes on
women and men.   

Finally, in 1999 at the high level segment on the eradication of
poverty: employment and empowerment of women, Member States, in a very
interactive and high level debate, drew strong connections between the
level of women's education on the one hand, with employment and poverty
reduction on the other.

Many questions have been raised about the challenges currently facing
the United Nations system for supporting conference implementation and
outcome. Some of the answers are positive.  For example one lesson which
we learned from this process  was that the  review process provided
renewed attention and awareness of the theme in question that is, gender
equality.  Another, was that for the most part, our appraisals yielded
entirely valid and objective information.  The Beijing review and
appraisal document was the result of a questionnaire sent to all Member
States.  We had a 70% response, and that information together with
States Parties reports to CEDAW, inputs from UN agencies, NGO documents
and other sources, led us to certain conclusions about achievements and
remaining obstacles to women's status and gender equality worldwide. 
The review also confirmed that there has been progress - not as much as
one would wish, but enough to enable us to conclude there has been gains
in health, employment, education and in legislation against violence
against women.  There is however no doubt that in many areas, a great
deal of work remains to be done.

It was heartening for us to discover that the accuracy and validity of
the review's conclusions were  borne out by additional research, for
example, DESA's  The World's Women 2000, UNIFEM's Progress of the
World's Women and the Inter-Parliamentary Union's Women in Politics 2000.
Conclusions about new and continuing challenges facing women were also
confirmed and there was agreement  that  the major issues generating
concern were and still continue to be:

*   globalization and its negative and positive effects on women; 
*   levels of decision-making, particularly representation of women in
*   access to quality education and training for girls;
*   sexual and reproductive rights and access to adequate services;
*   access to new information communication technologies to ensure  that
women were not marginalized;
*   economic empowerment and equal access to economic resources;
*   violence against women, particularly domestic violence; 
*   trafficking in women and girls
*   the HIV/AIDS pandemic;
*   acknowledgement of direct links between women's participation in all
levels of society and positive growth, development and poverty
*   involvement and partnership of men and boys in gender issues
*   eradication of gender stereotyping
*   time bound targets and data collection disaggregated by sex and age

Another challenge is how the UN system responded to the Beijing process.
The close collaboration with all agencies concerned was one of the most
useful in the whole process. The establishment of the Inter-Agency
Committee on Women and Gender Equality as a standing committee of the
ACC enabled its members to play a pivotal role in support of the
DESA/DAW Secretariat in the follow-up to Beijing and its preparations
for the Special Session.

The especially valuable contribution which this collaboration
facilitated  began with inputs from each agency based on their close
study of the Beijing Platform for Action and its practical application
in transforming their programmes to be gender sensitive.  This was
reflected in the system-wide medium-term plan for women, where ideas and
discussions with and between various agencies generated new thinking and
fresh approaches based on the constant interchange of strategies on the
most effective ways to implement the mandate and on each agency's
comparative advantage.

Because of this strong institutional machinery and the framework of the
system-wide plan, collaboration on the Beijing +5 substantive
preparations was greatly facilitated.  For example, advice on such
matters as factual accuracy of the draft outcome document in its early
stage; on agreed language from  other relevant summits and conferences;
on an understanding of what were likely to be difficult areas; and on
the views of regional groups was invaluable. The availability of
technical staff to assist delegates at the  PrepCom and informal
meetings in collaboration and support of the Division for the
Advancement of Women; and the deployment of staff  was enormously 

The Inter-Agency Committee has also produced solid reports for the
special session for example, on good practices in gender mainstreaming;
on gender budgeting in the UN system, compiled gender training materials
and the role of gender focal points. One major challenge continues to be
how to ensure that a gender equality dimension is brought into all
discussions.  I am happy to note that in last week's discussion here on
ICTS, gender was included.  We need to redouble our efforts in this
regard. For example, we need to ensure that gender is fully discussed in
the context of the Millennium Summit, and for example, the new financial

Just as I said Mr. President, that the answers to questions raised have
been positive, some have been negative.  In this context, I would like
to raise the issue of the process itself.  Do we need to look at our
rules of procedure not only for conferences but also for informal
meetings?  Do we also need to look at how we arrive at consensus and how
binding should it be? Underlying this is the question of how do we
ensure that once decisions have been agreed, they are no longer debated
and that we move forward with no attempts at roll back.  In addition, do
we not need to weigh in the balance, the outcomes even though positive
on the one hand, with the cost in terms of scarce financial and human
resources and the time spent, on the other?

I now turn to another important challenge - the question of 
relationships with NGOs.  In his Millennium report the Secretary-General
said we must spare no effort to make the United Nations a more effective
instrument in the hands of the world' s peoples.  One way was to "give
full opportunities to non-governmental organizations and other non-state
actors to make their indispensable contribution to the Organization's

We certainly succeeded in realizing this at Beijing+5.  There, NGOs
enjoyed unprecedented access through an innovative system of transfer
passes and they spoke in plenary as they did at Rio+5 and Copenhagen+5
on an exceptional basis.  We encouraged their inputs at regional 
preparatory meetings and  promoted their inclusion in delegations.

Yet despite all these efforts and despite the fact that there is a core
of knowledgeable NGOs  based in New York and Geneva who followed the
process carefully, the bulk of the new NGOs, formed since the global
conferences of the nineties, felt they were not truly a part of the
process.  We have to recognize that there is a certain level of 
frustration among NGOs based on their perceived inability to influence
the process, on the burdensome  registration and accreditation
procedures and a lack of knowledge of UN procedures, particularly the
difference between General Assembly, ECOSOC and conference procedures. 
Perhaps we need to improve the two-way flow of communications between us
and NGOs to ensure that they understand how the UN works and that we
understand their concerns, possibly through ongoing on-line conferences.
Many came to Beijing+5 with unrealistic expectations of what was
required and of what could be achieved.  I think that this frustration
could have been alleviated by greater use of regional networks to brief
them fully on the requirements for their participation.  Improving this
process, Mr. President, remains a major challenge.

Thanks to DPI we were able to transmit the opening session to five
regional hubs around the world - a small but significant attempt to
interface with people who would otherwise have been unable to
participate in these activities.  This interface was extended to hubs
throughout the city, thanks to the host country.  Special efforts to
involve the media - newspapers, television, radio, and sites- in
the issues being discussed at the special session were also made to give
world-wide coverage to the UN's activities for women.

So, Mr. President, I believe that in the case of Beijing +5 we have
fully met the goals which we currently have for mid-term reviews. But
what of the future?

Mid-term reviews (not necessarily at five-year intervals) to assess
overall progress in meeting conference and summit goals are
indispensable and should be kept. From our recent experience, I would
like to suggest two approaches: First that we focus these mid-term
reviews on the national and regional levels delegating much more scope
to regional commissions and interregional bodies with the functional
intergovernmental body, in our case the Commission on the Status of
Women, serving at an enhanced level as the fulcrum for review, appraisal
and debate on achievements made and obstacles remaining.

In mentioning this we can clearly see how systematically the Commission
pursued its mandate to serve as chief monitoring body for the
implementation of  the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The
sales publication issued this year by the Division for the Advancement
of Women entitled "Agreed Conclusions on the Critical Areas of Concern
of the Beijing Platform for Action 1996 - 1999" attests to this. Each
year, following an in-depth analysis, the Commission reviewed a cluster
of related areas of concern and called on governments, UN organizations
and civil society to undertake further and more specific actions to meet
the Platform's goals. I make special mention of the resolution "women
and poverty" of 1996 which took the discussion of the gender dimensions
of poverty throughout the UN system to a higher level of consciousness
and action.  Others too on inheritance of land, women and the girl child,
HIV/AIDS, and women and armed conflict supported pioneering actions.

The second approach Mr. President, I would urge is that our review and
appraisal processes should take place at least one year ahead of the
adoption of future actions, platforms or programmes, to give ourselves a
chance to really study the wealth of analytical documentation before us
on our progress.

In the case of both Beijing +5 and Copenhagen +5 some participants
particularly those from capitals who may not have received early
versions of the appraisal documents had not had the benefit of studying
them thoroughly or at all, before steeping themselves in the somewhat
painful negotiation process.

I do think that achieving a global consensus on achievements and
obstacles during an international gathering is important. It focuses
attention on the specific theme e.g. gender equality, enhances awareness,
promotes the exchange of good practices and enables us to craft a
pragmatic and soundly based way forward.

So finally, Mr. President, I would propose;

*   a mid-term review five or six years after, focused at the national
and regional level with a global review at the functional commission
level, and better coinciding with our planning and budgeting processes;
*   a global appraisal after ten or twelve years to allow for a better
assessment and reflection on impact and real gains and losses. This
would be preceded by a review and appraisal the previous year;
*   staggering conferences between the various themes, that is, in
different years to enhance Member States' attention and the substantive
and technical servicing by the Secretariat

I thank you Mr. President.


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