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EU at the UN

The EU's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the UN at its core, is a central element of its external action. As a UN observer with enhanced status, the EU delegation coordinates with its 28 Member States to speak with one voice. The EU also works closely with the UN secretariat and its agencies, funds & programmes, partnering on a range of global issues and challenges.

Madame Chair,

I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union. The Central and Eastern European countries associated with the European Union, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the associated countries Cyprus and Malta, as well as the EFTA country member of the EEA Iceland align themselves with this statement. It is a great privilege for me to address the Commission on behalf of the European Union.

This is the first session after the Beijing plus five of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is the main forum for proposing strategies for the advancement of women within the UN system. I am pleased to note that there is now a strong momentum for an accelerated implementation of the commitments made both in Beijing and in New York last June. The Millennium Declaration placed gender into the heart of the development discourse. The Security Council urged in its resolution in October that the gender aspect should be considered in all areas and phases of conflict management. Finally, the third committee had a strong focus on resolutions regarding non-discrimination against women, including the resolution on “Elimination of all forms of violence against women, including crimes identified in the Outcome Document of Beijing+5” and the resolution on “Elimination of crimes against women committed in the name of honour”.

The European Union is encouraged by the fact that progress has been achieved with regard to gender equality in many countries. The aim to eradicate discrimination and discriminatory practices is not beyond reach. But women are still confronted with discriminatory practices and prejudices often on multiple grounds including, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

The European Union welcomes the adoption of the statute of the International Criminal Court, which declares that acts of sexual violence are war-crimes when committed in the context of armed conflicts and also, under defined circumstances, crimes against humanity. The European Union urges all states to ratify the Statute and to incorporate its principles into national legislation. Furthermore, the European Union strongly welcomes the recent decision by the Haag tribunal to sentence perpetrators of grave sexual violence during the war in the Balkans.

The European Union also believes that all forms of violence against women, such as rape, trafficking, domestic violence and traditional or customary practices which threaten the health and even lives of women and girls, must be urgently addressed. Social, cultural or religious factors can never be invoked as a justification for violating the human rights of women and girls. The European Union welcomes the growing readiness to fight this violence, inter alia through education and increased awareness – involving not only women and girls but also men and boys. Violence against women is largely an expression of the imbalance of power that prevails in relations between women and men. Thus, preventing violence against women is a gender equality issue of great importance.

Governments must ensure that women enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. We have to remember that women are not born vulnerable – but women are made vulnerable by persistent gender based discrimination. The principles of non-discrimination and equality together with a general recognition of the human rights of women and men are found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The human rights of women and the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of human rights. The European Union believes that further action to remove discriminatory practices through for instance by human rights education is needed to ensure that every woman and man can fully enjoy all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.

Madame chair,

We would like to thank the Secretary General for the comprehensive and informative reports and background papers which are of significant help for our work. The European Union would also like to express its appreciation of the persistent work of the Assistant Secretary General Madame Angela King and the Division for the Advancement of Women to promote gender equality in the UN system. Our thanks also goes to UNIFEM and its Executive Director for the achievements obtained in promoting the empowerment of women in many countries and for its crucial role within the UN system.

This session of CSW provides a crucial opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of the work programme and methods of the CSW. The CSW must become more dynamic to fulfil its mandate; to assist in monitoring and reviewing progress, to enhance gender equality, to mainstream gender into the work of the UN, to act catalyticly, to identify issues affecting gender and to enhance public awareness on gender issues.

Effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action involves all areas of policy-making and political decision, at national, regional and international level. Civil society also has an important role to play. At UN level interaction and co-ordination among relevant functional Commissions of ECOSOC, particularly the Commission on Human Rights and the CSW is required. Interaction is also needed with other actors, such as UN funds and programmes, inter alia in applying a gender perspective in combating poverty. The Commission on the Status of Women, naturally, has a special role of monitoring the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all areas of the work of the UN; and this role should be fully acknowledged and strengthened in the future.

The CSW agenda in the coming years should link to major processes in the UN to define the gender perspective on for instance the processes regarding

  • human rights and fundamental freedoms,
  • population and development including reproductive rights and sexual and reproductive health,
  • poverty eradication through sustainable development, and
  • social development including social exclusion.

Let me illustrate this important function of the CSW. One of the main themes for this year’s CSW is gender and HIV/AIDS. One of the messages of the CSW to the Special session on HIV/AIDS in June should be to place gender at the centre of all analysis and of all activities related to HIV/AIDS. In this context, specific attention should be given to the vulnerability of poor women and girls. We must also emphasise the importance of the empowerment of women – which will enable women to, if they so wish, say “no”! Because without the empowerment of women and without reproductive and sexual rights, nobody can fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The world conference against racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance should get a message from CSW to fully integrate a gender perspective and consider how gender interacts with other factors in the various forms of multiple discrimination which women suffer. The European Union is not only committed to combat discrimination on the ground of race, but also rejects any theory that seeks to determine the existence of human races, as stated in its Directive 2000/43.

The multi-year agenda for the CSW would also need to include other topics of particular importance, such as a gender perspective on poverty, decision-making and leadership, IT, post conflict reconstruction – and the involvement of men.

As regards the work of the CSW the European Union would like to point to the essential role of civil society and non-governmental organisations, and particularly women’s NGO:s, which over the years have worked tirelessly to promote the rights and well-being of women and girls. The European Union expresses its appreciation for their indispensable work and contribution in this field and will continue close co-operation with these organisations. The European Union appeals to all Governments to support and encourage the work of civil society.

Madame Chair,

The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women was adopted in 1979 and as of today 166 States have become party to the Convention. The European Union calls upon those states that have not done so to immediately ratify or accede to the Convention. The European Union is seriously concerned about the number of reservations made to the Convention which are incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention. The EU urges States Parties to withdraw such reservations. Also disturbing is the broad divergence remaining between state obligations and actual implementation. Governments should demonstrate stronger commitments to ensure that the rights enshrined in the Convention become reality for all women. CEDAW’s recommendations can provide valuable input to the CSW, including reviewing progress on ratifications, reservations and the implementation of the Convention, as part of a broader effort to better integrate the work of all UN bodies promoting the advancement of women.

The European Union welcomes the adoption and entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention providing for both an individual complaints procedure and the possibility for the Committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave and systematic violations of women’s rights. The EU congratulates CEDAW on the swift conclusion of the rules of procedure for the Optional Protocol and urges States Parties to the Convention to give serious consideration to ratify it.

Madame Chair,

The principle of equality between women and men is a fundamental value of the European Union. Further progress was made at the recent European Council held in Nice in regard to the enhancement of human rights and equality between women and men. The EU is committed by Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam to combat discrimination on all grounds including multiple discrimination, which will provide a strong instrument for reinforcing gender equality. The Fifth Programme for the Community Framework Strategy on gender equality (2001-2005) has recently been established as an overall Community strategy on gender equality. A proposal to create a European gender institute is under debate within the EU.

In implementing and assessing the results of Beijing, the European Union has developed indicators and benchmarks for a number of critical areas singled out in the Beijing Platform for Action, for example decision-making, reconciling work and family responsibilities for both women and men. The work for establishing indicators will continue with equal pay for equal work and work of equal value and violence against women.

The European Union is reinforcing its co-operation in the fields of social protection and pensions within the process of co-operative exchange on the modernisation of social protection. The EU will strengthen its efforts to combat social exclusion and further promote the ongoing exchange of information on policies for secure and sustainable pensions. If we are to remove obstacles to women’s participation in the labour market, it is vital to ensure that the gender dimension is fully taken into account.

Traditionally, in all countries, gender equality has been the concern of women. Men have seldom engaged themselves in efforts to achieve gender equality. Establishing gender equality in all areas of society requires a willingness for change and active participation by both women and men. A seminar will be held in the European Parliament 8th of March to highlight the importance of women and men working together for gender equality. Also an EU conference on the theme “Men and gender equality”, hosted by the Presidency, will be held on March 16th in Sweden.

Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation and labour exploitation requires urgent attention. The European Union welcomes the adoption of the Convention against transnational organised crime and its protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. The EU is developing a multi-dimensional strategy aimed at penalising traffickers, dissuading trafficking and taking care of the victims. Active involvement of the victims’ countries of origin is also a vital element for a successful strategy. The EU measures aim to enhance co-operation between Member States, providing a forum for the exchange of information, improving knowledge and identifying, stimulating and disseminating best practice. The European Union will continue to implement its various programmes, such as STOP, DAPHNE, EQUAL and the Fifth programme for gender equality in order to combat trafficking and support the victims in whatever way possible.

Madame Chair,

The CSW can play a vital role in encouraging Governments to take further steps to promote the empowerment of women and to facilitate the sharing of best practice. Measures could include legal reforms, enhanced political commitment, gender sensitive budgeting and the eradication of violence against women. The European Union urges Governments to provide counselling in sexual and reproductive matters, particularly to adolescents. Governments can also play a role in promoting women in decision-making and ensuring that women can influence the political agenda and decision-taking. It is also important to improve women’s economic prospects inter alia by ensuring equality with men before the law in matters of property and inheritance, to equal pay for equal work and work of equal value and to combat the sex-segregated labour market.

Most important, though, is for all of us to challenge sex stereotypes in all spheres of society. The Beijing Platform of Action and the Outcomes Documents of Beijing+5 give us all the principles needed for the empowerment of women. Implementation of those documents will ensure a future where gender-based discrimination is a thing of the past.

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