I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States. The Acceding Country Croatia, the Candidate Countries the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Iceland and Serbia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the EFTA country Liechtenstein, a member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this declaration.
As the ECOSOC turns to the discussion of “Advancement of Women” and reviews the report on the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on Status of Women, we would like to reaffirm our strong support for the continuous advancement of women and to determined worldwide efforts to foster the implementation of all international instruments and commitments on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Gender equality is a fundamental right enshrined in the EU Treaty and guaranteed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, a common value and core objective, also strongly present in our external action. It is reflected not only in a large body of European legislative texts dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as policy frameworks such as the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men for 2010-2015, but also a highly important feature of EU assistance throughout the world.
In view of our high level of activity in that area, we regret to note that, aside from significant progress in certain sectors such as education, the objectives set out in the Millennium Development goals (MDGs) related to gender equality and women’s empowerment are far from being achieved. In particular, maternal mortality continues to be pervasive and sexual and gender-based violence remains, sadly, a daily occurrence which dramatic consequences for our societies. Therefore, Mr President, we believe it is as necessary as ever to call on all states to support the work of the CSW and the wider cause of the empowerment of women.
The Commission on the Status of Women has over the years played an important role in setting standards to guide the UN system and member States in implementing internationally agreed goals for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Our work has been and shall continue to be based on the international agreements and commitments on gender equality and women empowerment, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action and the International Conference Population and Development Programme of Action. In those we have a shared and universally supported basis for our work and guidance also for the work of other fora of the UN and actions by Member States. We can only deliver on common goals and the specific mandate of the Commission to promote and protect the rights and situation of women if we uphold these standards and prioritize their implementation, if we are vigilant against any attempt to backtrack from them or dilute their content.
The EU strongly regrets that no agreement was found on the Agreed Conclusions on rural women during this year’s session of the CSW. We would have liked to adopt a text of concrete relevance to rural women around the world, addressing their rights, situation and challenges. In our view, mobilising the full productive potential of women is essential to achieving economic and sustainable growth to fight poverty and hunger. This is even more the case for rural women as in many countries women are the backbone of local and national food and nutrition security and a critical force in promoting development. Empowering women in rural development has been shown to increase production and productivity, raise household incomes, ensure food and nutrition security for families, ensure significant improvements to child health and educational levels and facilitate successful adaptation to impacts of climate change etc.
In order to meet the MDGs and remaining committed to the full implementation of ICPD/Cairo Declaration and Programme of Action and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the EU pays special attention to the rights of women and men to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexual and reproductive health. We will work actively to ensure that health systems provide information and health services addressing the sexual and reproductive needs of women and family planning, as this is crucial for women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment and subsequently benefits society as a whole.
In order to support women in fully realizing their potential, we also believe it is important to address issues such as harmful traditional practices, including early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting, the provision of comprehensive sexuality education and to ensure the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual and reproductive health for women and girls.
In this light, we welcome that the Commission has again addressed the issue of FGM and taken the decision to bring it the General Assembly. We look forward to supporting further action the African Group in this regard. We also applaud the adoption of a comprehensive resolution on Maternal Mortality.
On a procedural note, however, we would like to reiterate that we did not think the prolongation of the negotiations on this text beyond the scheduled CSW session bore fruit and that the Commission, in coming years, should avoid to proceed in such a way.
On this occasion we would also like to recall that, two years ago, in July 2010, we adopted historical resolution A/Res/64/289 which established UN Women as the leading entity in the UN system for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment – an act welcomed by ECOSOC that year in the Ministerial Declaration of its High-level Segment.
Since then, under the able leadership of its Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, the still young entity has already proven its ability to make an impact on the lives of women and girls around the world and to trigger positive developments in fundamental areas such as economic empowerment and political participation. During the most recent UN Women’s Executive Board session, the leading role of the entity in mainstreaming a gender perspective in intergovernmental fora was widely commended.
In this regard, UN Women has already provided valuable support to the CSW and we would like to encourage it to continue taking a proactive approach in intergovernmental processes in order to facilitate the work of Member States in reaching the strongest possible agreements for gender equality. The EU is convinced that the Commission on the Status of Women will also have to do its part in this process, always maintaining a forward-looking approach.
In closing, we would like to reiterate our strong support to the full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which remains a highly relevant and valuable normative instrument. As evidence shows, it is far from being implemented in full in any country, and we trust that the Commission on the Status of Women and other relevant bodies will address how to accelerate its implementation in their next session in the perspective of advancing the cause of women empowerment and gender equality worldwide.
Finally, we would also like to express our support for the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the UN system and the related the resolution that the ECOSOC adopts today.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
 Iceland continues to be a member of the EFTA and of the European Economic Area.