Press Release
Department of Public Information · News Coverage Service · New York

5 March 1998

Commission on the Status of Women
Forty-second Session
7th Meeting (AM)


The need for a systematic approach to gender mainstreaming and an active
education process on its meaning was stressed this morning, as the
Commission on the Status of Women reviewed gender mainstreaming in the
United Nations system and emerging issues affecting the situation of women,
particularly matters relating to older women.

The representative of the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the
European Union and associated States, welcomed the fact that some parts of
the United Nations system were taking active steps to address the problem
of mainstreaming and urged others to do likewise. Senior managers should
be made fully accountable for that process, and the necessary training in
that regard arranged, where appropriate.

On the emerging issue of older women, a representative of the American
Association of Retired Persons, also speaking on behalf of HELP-AGE
International and the Older Women's Network Europe, said the life-span
approach to dealing with the problems of older persons, based on gender

and age, offered an innovative policy framework, which permitted the
identification and targetting of specific areas for action. The observance
of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999 would offer a further
incentive for the application of such a policy framework and integration
of gender perspective fully in the work of the Commission, she added.

Statements were also made by the representatives of Israel, Republic of
Korea, Canada, Dominican Republic, Greece and China. A representative of
the European Community also spoke.

Also this morning, the Commission Chairperson, Patricia Flor (Germany),
announced that the following members of the Commission had been appointed
to serve on the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women:
Dienebou Kaba Camara (Cote d'Ivoire), Sissel Salomon (Norway), Krystyna
Zurek (Poland), and Fidel Coloma (Chile). A representative of the Asian
Group of States would be announced at a later date. The Working Group
considers confidential and non-confidential information sent to the

The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m today to hold a panel discussion
on another critical area of concern in the Beijing Platform for Action -
violence against women.

Commission Work Programme

The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to review gender
mainstreaming in the United Nations system and to take up emerging issues
affecting the situation of women. It has before it three reports and two
notes by the Secretary-General on issues related to the review of gender

The Secretary-General's report on mainstreaming a gender perspective and
other follow-up activities by organizations of the United Nations system
(documents E/CN.6/1998/2 and Adds.1 and 2) emphasizes efforts undertaken by
the Secretariat to achieve that objective. It states that the Secretary-

General conveyed agreed conclusions 1997/2 on gender mainstreaming, adopted
by the Economic and Social Council, to all heads of departments, funds,
programmes and regional commissions and to the heads of specialized agencies
and international trade and financial institutions, stressing that gender
mainstreaming was the responsibility of all staff and emphasizing the

accountability of senior managers for implementing those conclusions.

According to the report, senior managers were invited to take a number of
steps to ensure that gender issues were brought into the mainstream of
activities of each senior manager's area of responsibility; the systematic
use of gender analysis in the preparation of reports or in operational
activities; and the preparation of medium-term plans and programme budgets
in a manner that made gender perspective apparent. The Secretary-General
also invited the convenors of the four executive committees to consider
gender issues as part of their responsibilities. The Special Adviser on
Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women is cooperating with senior
managers as they take steps to implement gender mainstreaming.

The report notes that the responsibility of the new Department of
Economic and Social Affairs -- of which the Division for the Advancement of
Women is a part -- for gender mainstreaming has been clearly established.
An account of the various conferences and workshops on gender mainstreaming
organized by specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), including the second session of the Administrative Committee on
Coordination (ACC) Inter-Agency Committee on Women and Gender Equality, are
included in the report. The replies of six governments -- Azerbaijan, El
Salvador, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama and the Philippines -- to a note verbale
on the release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflicts,
including those subsequently imprisoned, are also included in the report,
as are similar ones received from four entities of the United Nations

Addendum 1 to the report reviews the joint work plan of the Division for
the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights providing an assessment of its implementation
and of plans for 1998. It states that the exchange of information between
the Division and the High Commissioner's Office regarding the work of the
human rights treaty bodies serviced by them continued on a regular basis.

The technical cooperation programme of the Office of the High Commissioner
has prepared a project on the integration of a gender perspective into
technical cooperation practices and procedures, currently being implemented.

Cooperation between the two on the work of treaty bodies and the
preparation of the various optional protocols will be enhanced in 1998,
according to the report. The Division, in cooperation with the Office of
the High Commissioner, will continue the targeted approach in all human
rights activities of the United Nations. The Office has developed a
tentative programme of activities for the commemoration of the fiftieth
anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of the
themes being considered is "Women's rights -- the responsibility of all".
The contributions of the Division will include close collaboration in the

organization of an expert panel, the preparation of a booklet and the
development of a page on its website on how the Declaration might be
interpreted in relation to the rights of women.

Addendum 2 to the report examines the situation of Palestinian women and
assistance provided by organizations of the United Nations system. It
states that their condition has not improved in the period under review.
Considerable efforts were being made by the Palestinian authorities and civil

society to improve their economic and social conditions, including
legislative revisions. In the follow-up to the Beijing Conference, the
international community, including the United Nations system, has provided
assistance at various levels to implement the recommendations contained in
the Platform for Action, the report states. It adds that the status
and living conditions of Palestinian women are closely linked with the
progress of the peace process. The report indicates that women in the
occupied territories continue to be directly affected in injurious ways by
security measures and the overall effects of occupation.

Information provided by the United Nations system shows that an
increasing number of programmes and agencies paid attention to gender
aspects in development and continued to provide support to Palestinian
women, in particular in the field of conference follow-up, income
generation, health, education and training.

The report of the Secretary-General on a mid-term review of the
systemwide medium-term plan for the advancement of women, 1996-2001
(document E/CN.6/1998/3) outlines efforts of United Nations system entities
in 1996 and 1997 to carry out the plan. The report was prepared in
response to Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/34, in which it

endorsed the plan and called for a mid-term review to be undertaken by the
Commission at its session in 1998. The plan is structured around the 12
critical areas of concern contained in the Beijing Platform for Action.
It largely addresses activities targeted to women, but also included gender-
responsive activities that were planned as part of mainstreaming programmes
and projects.

The information is based on a survey of 33 entities in the United Nations
system. Some of the bodies noted that most of their activities are still
in the implementation stage. However, despite considerable progress, a

number of obstacles have been encountered, including lack of data, and of
methodologies and indicators for monitoring progress; a lack of tools for
tracking expenditures for cross-sectoral activities at both headquarters
and field levels; inadequate human and financial resources; low levels of

commitment, both politically, in some countries, and at the level of
management in some agencies of the United Nations; and cultural and other
constraints and delays in the delivery of technical assistance.

The recommendations suggest action that would further a coordinated and
cohesive approach to the work of the United Nations system in relation to
the system-wide medium-term plan and the Platform for Action. They
include: support for the coordination, collection, packaging and
dissemination of data disaggregated by sex, as well as gender-sensitive
studies, and the development and testing of women's empowerment indicators;
encouraging efforts for a workable methodology for quantifying and tracking
budget allocations made towards achieving gender equality; and ensuring
that staffing policies throughout the United Nations system fully reflect
the needs for gender competence and gender equality.

A report of the Secretary-General on improvement of the status of women
in the Secretariat (document E/CN.6/1998/8) updates information contained
in his reports on the same subject (document A/52/408) and the composition
of the Secretariat (document A/52/580). The present report includes
statistical data and follow-up on measures taken to achieve gender balance,
and sets forth forecasts and alternative actions.

The statistics on the status of women in the Secretariat show slow but
steady improvement, the report states. In the overall workforce over the
last year, the percentage of women at the Professional level on posts
subject to geographical representation has increased from 35.5 per cent to
36.8 per cent, as of 1 January 1998. Although progress in achieving the
50/50 goal has been modest, gains have been made at a time when the
Organization is undergoing significant restructuring and downsizing, the
report stresses, adding that it was a small but positive step towards

reaching the mandated targets set by the Assembly. Over the same time
period, the percentage of women staff in higherlevel positions (D-1 and
above), where their representation has traditionally been low, has
increased from 18.5 per cent in December 1996 to 22.6 per cent as at 1
January 1998.

The Secretary-General's commitment to bringing gender balance to the
United Nations has been unequivocal, as recently demonstrated by his
appointment of a woman as the first Deputy Secretary-General of the
Organization, the report further states. While the median (fiftieth
percentile) grade of men was that of P-4 between December 1987 and April
1997, over the same period the median grade of women was P-3. As of 1
January 1998, there was one woman Under-Secretary-General as compared to 17
men, and three women Assistant Secretaries-General as compared to nine.

The report also gives an update on measures taken for the achievement of
gender equality, including measures for the improvement of the status of
women in the Secretariat. It states that training incorporating gender
mainstreaming has now been completed in the Division for the Advancement of

Women. It was intended to expand the training to other departments and
overseas offices.

Also before the Commission is a note by the Secretary-General
transmitting information provided by the United Nations Development Fund
for Women (UNIFEM) on the implementation of General Assembly resolution

50/166 on the Fund's role in eliminating violence against women (document E/CN.6/1998/9). The UNIFEM report states that it has worked to implement
activities towards the elimination of violence against women through gender
training for legal administrative, governmental and non-governmental
personnel; assistance to women's organizations to analyse and change
legislation; production and dissemination of information on violence against
women directed at change of social and policy attitudes towards the problem;
and other innovative strategies being piloted by NGOs and governments.

In 1997, the Fund's agenda in the area of violence against women was
implemented to a large extent through the Trust Fund in Support of Actions
to Eliminate Violence against Women. During 1997, funds were allocated to
36 projects selected from almost 200 proposals submitted for consideration.
An additional 19 projects, also approved for funding, are awaiting
additional contributions to the Trust Fund. Over 20 of the projects are
already being implemented, while the rest were slated to begin by the end
of January 1998. Those projects reflect the recommendations of the Beijing
Platform for Action and represent a wide range of strategies undertaken by
national and regional groups to eliminate gender-based violence.

The note by the Secretariat on the high-level plenary review in the year
2000 (document E/CN.6/1998/10) requests the Commission to consider the
report of the Secretary-General presented to the Assembly's fifty-second
session (document A/52/789) on the convening of a high-level plenary review
in the year 2000. The review is expected to assess the progress achieved
in the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the
Advancement of Women and the Beijing Platform for Action, and to consider
further actions and initiatives.

The Secretary-General's report on older women and support systems: new
challenges (document E/CN.6/1998/4) provides a substantive basis on which
the Commission can discuss the status of older women and make relevant
recommendations. The discussion on the issue is also expected to
contribute to the ongoing preparations for the International Year of Older

Persons (1999). The report focuses on support systems for older persons,
which include both financial support for those who do not earn a regular
income and psycho-social support and assistance for dependent older persons.
It also gives an overview of the new challenges those support systems face,
highlights the situation of older women and suggests gender-sensitive
policies and programmes to address the situation. The report proposes recommendations in the areas of research; economic security; education and
empowerment; and the well-being of caregivers.


PAULINE BARRETT (United Kingdom) spoke on behalf of the European Union
and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The

Union stressed the need for systematic approach to gender mainstreaming
and agreed that the process of education on the meaning of gender main-
streaming needed to be pursued more actively. It also welcomed the fact
that some parts of the system were taking active steps to address
the problem and urged others to do likewise. Senior managers should be
made fully accountable for that process and the necessary training arranged,
where appropriate.

The Union welcomed the progress made since the Beijing Conference, but
was concerned that the gender focal points had, in some cases, been a
victim of the financial constraints facing the United Nations system, and
that their role and responsibilities were not always fully understood and
supported, she said. The Union was disturbed to learn that significant
problems remained in the area of political and cultural obstacles, despite
the commitment by all governments to the policies and principles in the
Platform for Action. It would welcome a fuller analysis on the problem in
future. She stressed the need for inter-agency coordination, adding that
the executive committees should integrate gender equality and women's
empowerment goals in their work.

ZIVIA COHEN (Israel), addressing the review of gender mainstreaming, said
she welcomed the Secretary-General's emphasis on the urgent implementation
of the plan for improving the status of women in the Secretariat by
appointing more women to high-level positions. However, there should be more

appointments of women from countries that were underrepresented in the
Secretariat. In her country, a law had been passed to promote the
representation of women on all boards and commissions. It was being
implemented and had resulted in an increase in the number of women on such
bodies. The numbers were expected to increase gradually until there was
50/50 per cent participation of men and women.

She went on to say that the incorporation of NGOs into the work of the
United Nations should be enhanced. Non-governmental organizations should
be considered the "third power" (to governments and international
organizations), and could offer assistance to governments by working on
projects in a less formal way than governments did. Such increased

cooperation would ensure that, through the NGOs, governments reached the
people. By working together, they could ensure a better understanding of
the status of women throughout the world.

JAE HONG YUH (Republic of Korea) welcomed the progress made in improving
the status of women in the Secretariat. However, the goals so far had been
modest, and he wished to see more progress. In particular, there should be
more appointments of women from countries that were underrepresented. He
welcomed the appointment of the new High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The format, timing and duration of the high-level plenary review in the year
2000 should be agreed on during the session so that the Commission
could make recommendations to the next session of the Economic and Social
Council, he concluded.

SOLEDAD BLANCO, Head of the Equal Opportunities Unit at the European
Commission, speaking on behalf of the European Community, said it was
firmly committed to gender mainstreaming, which had been formalized in
February 1996 through the adoption of a communication called "Integrating a
gender and equal opportunities dimension in all Community policies and
activities". Since then, significant progress had been achieved and
shortcomings identified. She introduced to the session the first progress
report of the European Commission on the implementation of its mainstreaming

strategy at European Community level. A working group of mainstreaming
officials had been set up as a support structure in the mainstreaming
process. A guide to gender impact assessment of Community policies and
measures was now being widely used.

She said the European Commission had yesterday adopted a progress report
which noted the progress made since 1996 in employment policy, the
Community's internal cohesion policy, external relations, including

development cooperation, and women's human rights, education, training
and youth policies. Main barriers to further progress identified in the
report included the lack of awareness of gender issues at decision-making
levels, the need for further allocation of human and budgetary resources to
that task and the lack of gender expertise. The report looked at steps
to be taken to overcome the barriers and improve the organizational and
methodological framework for gender mainstreaming. It also looked at a
number of policies for specific attention in 1998 in accordance with the
political priorities set by the European Commission's work programme for
the year.

SHEILA REGEHR (Canada) welcomed the Secretary-General's report and said
she was pleased with its analysis. For Canada, the issue of unpaid work
was of particular interest. Canada supported the life-cycle approach,
particularly the caregiving relations. It had taken steps to improve
child-support systems following divorce. It was engaged in helping women

learn about financial issues and financial planning, as they very often
left household planning to husbands and were unable to handle it when they
were on their own. Canada supported continued support for all aspects of
needs of older women. She stressed the need for greater sharing of
responsibilities between women and men.

JULIA TAVARES DE ALVAREZ (Dominican Republic), addressing the issue of
population ageing, she said the social, economic and psychological impact
of caregiving would be enormous, especially in developing countries. She
noted that women would make up more than half of those being cared for, and
they would likely bear an inordinate amount of the task of caregiving.
Gender, as well as geography, was again likely to colour the picture when
one looked at who the caregivers for old people were likely to be -- mostly
adult daughters and daughters-in-law. The issue of caregiving -- from the
point of view both of the person being cared, as well as that of the

caregiver -- had far-reaching socio-psychological, as well as economic
implications. It challenged the way people perceived themselves within the
nexus of social relationships, particularly with issues related to
dependence and independence.

ANASTASIA SOTIRIADOV (Greece) said there was a need for full
implementation of gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system. In
that process, it was important to follow democratic values and political

will to achieve the goals of mainstreaming. Education and management issues
should be addressed in implementing mainstreaming at all levels. Different
types of mechanisms were needed to fulfil those goals. Relevant data
collection was also essential. A conference held in Greece last week had
focused on the mainstreaming issue throughout the country. It was an
example that decentralization of the approach to mainstreaming was important.

SONG WENYAN (China) said that in the economic and environmental areas in
the United Nations system, there should be further attention to the issue
of gender mainstreaming. The issue should also be addressed more fully in
developing countries.

Ms. BARRETT (United Kingdom), speaking on behalf of the European Union,
Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland,
Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway on
the status of older women, said the report on the matter could have been
more widely focused, putting its recommendations more in the context of

preparations for the International Year of Older Persons in 1999. While the
focus on women as caregivers was important, it was only part of the wider
issue of the status of older women across the board, on which the report
should focus. Older women must be seen as active and competent resource
persons. They were one pillar to forming the bridge between the generations.

At the same time, however, the report should have had a more substantive
analysis of caregiving issues, she said. It was based on the assumption
that traditional social support systems were breaking down, but the
evidence for that was not fully developed in the report. The European
Union, therefore, considered that a more detailed analysis was needed
before the Commission could endorse particular recommendations for future
policy. Research and development should be improved by governments and
organizations concerned with older people. There was a lack of gender-
sensitive expertise and research on support systems for older persons. An
analysis of pension and health-care provisions should focus on wider
questions of affordability and sustainability of pension schemes. Where
disaggregated data was available, it should be fed effectively into the
policy-making process.

Discrimination against older women, including in pension schemes, should
be eliminated, she said. Special attention should be given to the
different needs and problems that older men and women had to face, so that
the autonomy of older women was ensured. Men and women should be involved

on an equal basis when designing and implementing those policies. The key
aim of recommendations on caregiving must be to promote an equal sharing of
caregiving responsibilities between men and women and a better
reconciliation of working and caregiving responsibilities. National policies

in support of caregivers needed to be based on careful analyses of specific
local conditions.

MICHAL CAFREY-YARDENI (Israel), speaking on emerging issues, trends and
new approaches to women's issues, said the feminist revolution had been one
of the twentieth century's major success stories. Women had succeeded in

changing the political, economic and social structure of societies of which
they were a significant part. With the first stage of elementary rights
and recognition behind them, women should now realize society's commitment
and achieve political, economic and social equality. The status of women's
rights was dealt with in Israel in an outstanding way in the country's
political arena, and she believed it could serve as a model to feminists

A number of significant bills were to be passed in the Knesset on the
occasion of International Women's Day, which would be celebrated in the
Knesset on 10 March, she said. Among those bills were one on the

establishment of an authority for the equality and advancement of women's
rights and another dealing with sexual abuse of women in the workplace.
She expressed certainty that those steps would bring about a revolution in
the treatment of one of Israel's most painful social phenomena -- sexual
harassment. Affirmative action had been implemented in governmental boards
of directors and there had been a rise from 3 per cent to 30 per cent of
women on those bodies. The progress was not achieved easily and had
necessitated an appeal to the high court of justice. Legal procedures
should be made use of to achieve equal opportunity for women.

IRENE HOSKINS, of the American Association of Retired Persons, speaking
on behalf of HELP-AGE International, and the Older Women's Network Europe,
all NGOs, said the care of older persons was too often viewed as a cause
for alarm due to rising health costs. Examining the important gender
dimensions of both care recipient and caregiver provided an important
policy perspective. Their organizations were encouraged to see that the

Commission on the Status of Women was applying such a perspective in its
ongoing deliberations on the girl child.

That was particularly important as the discrimination of girls and women
experienced throughout their lives led to an accumulation of disadvantages
in their later years. A life-span approach based on gender and age offered
an innovative policy framework, permitting identification and targetting
specific areas for action.

She said the observance of the International Year of Older Persons in 1999
would offer a further incentive for the application of such a policy frame-
work and integration of gender perspective fully in the work of the Commission.

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