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        General Assembly
4 November 2003

Original: English

Third Committee
Summary record of the 15th meeting

Held at Headquarters, New York, on Friday, 17 October 2003, at 10 a.m.

Chairman: Mr. Priputen (Vice-Chairman) ............................................ (Slovakia)

Agenda item 110: Advancement of women ( continued)

Agenda item 111: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century” (continued)

In the absence of Mr. Belinga-Eboutou (Cameroon), Mr. Priputen (Slovakia), Vice-Chairman, took the Chair.

The meeting was called to order at 10.10 a.m.

Agenda item 110: Advancement of women (continued ) (A/58/3, 16, 38, 161, 167 and Add.1, 168, 169, 341, 374 and 417)

Agenda item 111: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century” (continued) (A/58/3 and 166)


14. Ms. Al-Haj-Ali (Syrian Arab Republic) said that the role of women in promoting social progress ranked equally with that of men and the Syrian Government had therefore worked to promote the advancement of women on the basis of equality with men in terms of rights, duties and opportunity. As part of the follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action, a national strategy for Syrian women until the year 2005 had been devised, under which Syrian women participated fully in the political, economic and social life of the country.

15. Her country believed that education was a key to ensuring development and progress and was an essential factor in the empowerment of women, making them aware of their role in society and enabling them to confront the challenges of poverty and ignorance. On that basis, a forum on Arab women and education had met in the first quarter of 2003 under the patronage of the First Lady and had focused on the vital importance of education and the empowerment of women to enable them to play their role in the development process. Among other recommendations, the forum had appealed to ministries of education in the Arab States to raise the rate of enrolment of women and girls in formal education, to provide girls with forms of non-formal education and facilitate their access to them, and to address the problems of rural, illiterate and handicapped women through vocational, education and social services so as to enable them to play an effective role in development. Special committees in all Arab countries would be following up the implementation of those recommendations.

16. The principal recent development in the efforts of the Government to strengthen the role of women and ensure their rights had been the accession of the Syrian Arab Republic to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Referring to the report of the Secretary-General on traditional or customary practices affecting the health of women and girls (A/58/169), she said that Syrian legislation imposed severe penalties on the perpetrators of any crimes or practices affecting the health or rights of women.

17. Her delegation had hoped that substantial progress would have been made by the international community in the full implementation, without double standards, of the Beijing Programme of Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. Those hopes, unfortunately, had not been realized. Women’s rights should apply to all women without exception; talk of the equality, freedoms and empowerment of women, and the assertion of their rights, was in vain unless all countries addressed the situation of women under foreign occupation, which was a violation of the basic rights of both men and women and was incompatible with international law, including the relevant resolutions of the Security Council. Women living under Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories, in Lebanon and in the Syrian Golan were still denied their basic rights to health care, education and employment and other human rights and suffered gross discrimination, which was an essential aspect of the occupation and of the application by the Israel Defense Forces of a policy of repression, settlement and economic blockade.

18. Women’s organizations in the Syrian Arab Republic, in cooperation with the appropriate international organizations, would continue to monitor the situation of Syrian women in the occupied Syrian Golan with a view to ensuring their rights, first among which was the right to the ending of the occupation and the attainment of peace. To the extent that those rights had not so far been attained, all talk of the need for the advancement and empowerment of women was lacking in substance.


48. Ms. Weistman (Israel) said that Israel placed gender equality high on its political and social agenda, and had taken a number of steps to eliminate discrimination and replace it with encouragement. The establishment of the Authority for the Advancement of the Status of Women within the Prime Minister’s Office had marked a turning point in efforts to promote gender equality. Its main task was to place issues related to the status of women on the national agenda, create programmes and policies and promote gender mainstreaming in all areas of society. The advancement of women was no longer seen as a “women’s issue” gender equality required the attention and commitment of society as a whole. For example, every local authority was required to appoint an adviser on the status of women, who would participate in meetings of the local council. Violence against women was a serious problem facing women in almost every country. In recent years, the Government and non-governmental organizations had made tremendous progress in increasing public awareness of the problem, and new legislation protected all women, regardless of their ethnicity or religion.

49. Many women remained mired in poverty, and Israel’s efforts in that area closely followed the conclusions and recommendations of the Beijing Platform for Action. One avenue for poverty eradication was the establishment of small businesses, and the Government was providing financing, information, workshops, mentoring and networking opportunities for women. Several microloan funds for women had also been established. A project among Bedouin women in the southern part of the country had demonstrated that a comprehensive approach led to success. The project had included a combination of vocational education and management training, together with financial support and counselling, which had resulted in the establishment of new microbusinesses owned by women, job creation and the empowerment of women in a traditional society. Her delegation looked forward to a fruitful dialogue on the common pursuit of gender equality. The creation of a more egalitarian society, committed to social justice and peace, would yield tremendous benefits for all the people of the world.


The meeting rose at 1.05 p.m.

This record is subject to correction. Corrections should be sent under the signature of a member of the delegation concerned within one week of the date of publication to the Chief of the Official Records Editing Section, room DC2-750, 2 United Nations Plaza, and incorporated in a copy of the record.

Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.

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