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31 December 1999

Original: ENGLISH

Commission on the Status of Women
Forty-fourth session
28 February-17 March 2000
Item 3 of the provisional agenda* (*E/CN.6/2000/1.)
Follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women

Follow-up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

Report of the Secretary-General
I. Introduction

1. The Economic and Social Council, in its resolution 1996/6, on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women, established the work programme of the Commission on the Status of Women, in particular the items to be included on the agenda of the Commission. As regards documentation for the sessions of the Commission, the Council decided, inter alia, that under item 3 (a) of the Commission’s agenda, a review by the Secretary-General of mainstreaming a gender perspective within the United Nations system should be prepared on an annual basis.

2. In its resolution 53/120 of 9 December 1998, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report annually to it, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Economic and Social Council on follow-up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Similar mandates were contained in General Assembly resolutions 50/203, 51/69, and 52/100.

3. In each of the three reports submitted in the course of a year, the information that is most pertinent to the respective intergovernmental body is provided. The report to the Commission on the Status of Women emphasizes efforts undertaken by the Secretariat in support of mainstreaming a gender perspective and follow-up activities undertaken by non-governmental organizations. The report to the Economic and Social Council focuses on facilitating the coordination function of the Council. The report to the General Assembly contains information from all entities of the United Nations system, including specialized agencies and international financial institutions, and an analysis of activities undertaken at the national level and by non-governmental organizations and civil society.

4. Section II of the present report has been prepared in compliance with General Assembly resolution 53/120. Section III responds to resolution 1999/15 of the Economic and Social Council on Palestinian women and to resolution 43/1 of the Commission on the Status of Women on the release of women and children taken hostage in armed conflict and imprisoned.

5. Section IV responds to resolution 43/2 of the Commission on the Status of Women on women, the girl child and human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

6. In addition, the present report includes an addendum, section V (E/CN.6/2000/2/Add.1), which responds to the request made by the Commission on Human Rights in its resolution 1999/41 and by the Commission on the Status of Women in its resolution 39/5 that a joint work plan be made available to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fifth session and to the Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-fourth session.

III. Information supplied in accordance with specific mandates

A. Situation of Palestinian women and assistance provided by organizations in the United Nations system

42. The Economic and Social Council, in its resolution 1999/15, requested a report on the situation of Palestinian women and assistance provided by organizations of the United Nations system. The paragraphs below cover the period from September 1998 to September 1999 and are based on information from United Nations bodies monitoring the situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories as well as in refugee camps. Such bodies include the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO) and the Special Rapporteur of the Commission for Human Rights on Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967. Information on assistance to Palestinian women was requested from the United Nations system, and replies from six entities have been included in the present report.

1. Situation of Palestinian women

43. In his report on economic and social conditions in the West Bank and Gaza, the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories stated that the overall economic performance in the West Bank and Gaza had improved since 1997. The positive economic growth rate had led to an increase in employment and higher household incomes in the occupied territories. Women’s unemployment rate in 1998 declined by 21.3 per cent, to 16.9 per cent; for men it fell to 15.5 per cent. The overall proportion of women active in the labour force declined in 1998, falling to 11.7 per cent from 12.3 per cent in 1997. 5/ In 1998, over 92 per cent of all new job opportunities in the West Bank and Gaza were filled by men. This could be due to the fact that most of the jobs were in Israeli-controlled Areas 6/ and in the construction sector where women’s participation is negligible for both cultural and structural reasons. Labour-force surveys continue to show that women’s wages have remained consistently below those of men and that wages in the economic sectors where women were disproportionately represented are below-average. 7/

44. An increase in household income in 1998 was due to a real increase in average wages. In 1998, wages could cover an average of 70.5 per cent of basic household needs and 52.2 per cent of total household expenditures, compared to 63.79 per cent and 46.4 per cent, respectively, in 1997. However, with the exception of a 4.5-per-cent increase in education expenditures, due perhaps to the increased enrolments in more expensive private schools, there was an overall decline of 2.1 per cent in real household expenditures in 1998.7 It seems that uncertainty about the future continues to constrain consumer confidence, resulting in higher levels of forgone consumption. Also, household income that fails to cover all households needs has negative gender-related impacts, such as increasing the burden of unpaid work on women.

45. There were considerably fewer comprehensive and internal closure days imposed by the Israeli authorities on the West Bank and Gaza during 1998 — a loss of 5.2 per cent of total potential work days, as compared to a 20.5 per cent loss in 1997 — greatly enhancing income and productivity.7 However, the severity of the closure policies continues to manifest itself in both the social and economic spheres.

46. The Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967, Mr. Hannu Halinen (Finland) noted in his report to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-fifth session, on 20 January 1999, that the number of Palestinian prisoners being detained in Israeli prisons and detention centres has gone down to 2,200, of whom seven were women. The issue of Palestinian prisoners who remained in detention, in violation of articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, was a cause of concern and tension in the occupied territories. 8/ In Gaza, the Special Rapporteur met with former detainees and prisoners and was informed that their wives and children had experienced economic difficulties because the prisoners were often the sole breadwinners of their families. Family visits had been few, owing to both frequent transfer of prisoners in Israel and the difficulty of obtaining a permit to enter Israel. 9/

47. According to the report of the Special Rapporteur, some former prisoners suffered from psychological traumas which affected their families. 10/ He suggested that the disturbing phenomenon of domestic violence in the occupied territories could partly be a consequence of psychological trauma experienced by former prisoners.

48. The Special Rapporteur reported that there had been fewer deaths at checkpoints as a result of ambulances being delayed by permit checks. Two deaths were reported in 1998. One was that of a mother who did not have a permit to enter Israel who died after childbirth while waiting at the checkpoint in Hebron. The Rapporteur noted that the Israeli army admitted that that was a mistake and brought the soldiers before a military court. 11/

49. According to the Special Rapporteur, the expansion of existing Israeli settlements and the building of new ones, as well as the construction of bypass roads, continued to be a source of great concern in the occupied territories and to have an effect on the socio-economic life of Palestinians. For example, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories reported that on 23 November a Palestinian woman from Hebron was found dead near the settlement of El-Azar, south of Bethlehem. Palestinian police accused settlers of her murder. 12/ The Special Committee also reported an incident in which a Palestinian woman was attacked by settlers while re-entering her neighbourhood which had been under closure. 13/

50. The Special Committee reported that five Palestinian girls were injured in an incident which took place on 26 November 1998, involving Palestinian teachers and schoolgirls, Israeli policemen and some female settlers from Bet-Hadassa. The head teacher stated that female settlers began shouting at them as they walked by the Jewish settlement. The confrontation then escalated into a major scuffle. Israeli police were called in and reported that the students were asked to end their protest and go back to school. After refusing, a few were detained. 14/

51. It was also reported by the Special Committee that a violent confrontation occurred between angry Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli soldiers on 28 December 1998, following the eviction of two families at Kifl Harith. 15/ During the confrontation seven Palestinians and two soldiers were injured, and 20 women refused to evacuate one family’s house. They were forced out by tear gas fired into the house.

2. Follow-up activities to the Fourth World Conference on Women

52. Palestine responded to the Secretariat’s questionnaire on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.

53. Following the adoption of the Platform for Action and in light of regional, Arab and national Palestinian instruments approved in the preparatory stages of the Conference and the outcome of the Arab ministerial conference held in Amman in September 1996, work was carried out at official and grass-roots levels to formulate a national strategy for Palestinian women, taking into account Palestinian resources and the priority needs of Palestinian women. As a result of these efforts, a national strategy for Palestinian women was formulated and announced at a conference held in June 1997.

54. Organizational mechanisms have been created to fulfil this goal. At the governmental level, a coordination framework (the Interministerial Coordination Committee) was formed of representatives from the women’s affairs departments in ministries and State institutions with a view to promoting the national status of Palestinian women. The Committee pursues its work in accordance with the Beijing Platform and the needs and priorities of Palestinian women with a view to translating those into various activities and programmes.

55. The response of the Palestinian National Authority to the questionnaire provided comprehensive information on the situation of women. Based on the priorities of Palestinian women, activities were undertaken in accordance with the Platform with particular emphasis on the eight priority areas.

56. According to the report, traditions notwithstanding, the gender concept is now accepted in Palestinian society and the stereotypical image of women has begun to change. More education and employment are now available for women, and their capacity to work and participate in production and to use modern technologies will grow, thus strengthening their role and their equality with men in the fundamental areas of concern discussed in Beijing.

3. Assistance to Palestinian women

57. Information provided by the United Nations system shows that gender concerns are being increasingly integrated into the continuing assistance of organizations of the United Nations system to Palestinian women. This assistance ranges across various areas such as education, income-generation activities, capacity-building and institution-building. However, no information was provided in the critical area of reproductive health.

58. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) supported the establishment of a Women’s Human Rights Unit in a local non-governmental organization which focuses on legal research and education to improve the status of women in Palestinian society and the provision of legal aid to both individual women and women’s groups. The Office is also assisting legislators and civil society organizations in a review of personal status legislation. In addition, it is participating in the United Nations Gender Task Force, which has recently been focusing its efforts on the organization of a campaign on the prevention of violence against women.

59. During the period under review, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) carried out the following activities in support of the Palestinian National Authority:

(a) Provision of technical assistance and advisory services to the National Committee for Palestinian Women for Follow-up to Beijing in preparation of the Palestinian national report on implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action;

(b) Preparation of a research paper on gender and citizenship and the role of non-governmental organizations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before and after the peace accords.

60. Since 1994, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been concentrating its activities in Gaza and the West Bank on poverty alleviation and social relief, aimed at reaching the most severely affected populations.

61. In May 1998, the WFP office began a two-year project which supports the social safety net programme of the Ministry of Social Affairs, addressing the urgent food security needs of poor households. About 16,000 very poor households in Gaza and 12,000 in the West Bank are benefiting from WFP food assistance. Of those, over 65 per cent are headed by women.

62. This strategy is based on the WFP commitments to women’s advancement (1996-2001) following the Beijing Conference, which are aimed at reducing gender inequalities. In addition to the social safety net schemes, WFP has been providing food for the following gender-related activities in 1998-1999: training of 23 women in social work; literacy programmes for 754 women in Gaza; training in kitchen gardening and water recycling for 150 women; training in health care for 85 women; food-for-work for 50 women from low-income households.

63. In addition, to combat the conservative values limiting opportunities for Palestinian women, the WFP office is organizing gender-awareness sessions with WFP staff, governmental counterparts, and non-governmental organization implementing partners.

64. A recent assessment of activities (April 1999) noted that particular efforts had been made to involve women in all project activities at the decision-making level and as active beneficiaries.

65. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) provides essential education, health and relief and social services to some 3.6 million registered Palestine refugees in the Agency’s area of operations, comprising Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Assistance to Palestinian women was delivered within the context of the Agency’s regular programmes for Palestinian refugees.

66. In the 1998/99 scholastic year, 458,716 pupils were enrolled in Agency preparatory, elementary, and secondary schools, of whom 228,935, or 49.9 per cent, were female. Women accounted for 62 per cent of trainees in UNRWA’s technical/semi-professional courses. Of the 866 continuing UNRWA scholarships in 1998/99, 46 per cent were held by women.

67. UNRWA provided expanded maternal and child health care and family planning services to Palestine refugees as an integral part of its primary health care services, in recognition of the fact that the burden of child and reproductive ill-health falls overwhelmingly on women in terms of complications in pregnancy and childbirth, infant and maternal mortality, congenital malformations and disability. With women of reproductive age and children comprising two thirds of the 3.6 million registered Palestinian refugees, that investment in maternal and child health was key for socio-economic development.

68. Difficult socio-economic conditions in refugee communities during the reporting period continued to create greater reliance on income earned by women. More than 50 per cent of UNRWA’s special hardship case families, who received direct food and material assistance from the Agency, were headed by women. UNRWA’s women-in-development programme provided a wide range of social, cultural, and educational services at the community level. Seventy women’s programme centres served as focal points within the refugee community for UNRWA’s work with women. During the period from June 1998 to July 1999, a total of 20,534 participants benefited from various programme centre activities such as lectures on health and civil society, legal assistance, childcare, computer and language skills training, and physical fitness courses. The programme centres continued to work towards administrative and financial self-sustainability.

69. During 1998/99, UNRWA’s Income Generation Programme granted loans valued at $1.67 million to 2,612 women who supported 13,060 dependants. Since 1994 the programme has provided loans worth $8.18 million to 11,736 women organized in 1,773 solidarity groups. These women were granted loans at the end of each successful repayment cycle. The programme was self-sufficient, with all operational costs and loan loss provision covered from revenues generated by lending and banking activities. The programme maintained an annual repayment rate of 99.64 percent.

70. During the reporting period, a total of 1,526 women benefited from the UNRWA Poverty Alleviation Programme, which provided small amounts of credit for income-generation projects.

71. In 1996 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiated a project to support women’s departments within various ministries to promote gender equality The project aimed to enhance the capacity of the
ministries to mainstream gender and development and to create gender-sensitive policies, strategies and programmes. The project was completed in 1998.

72. The sharing of information, coordination of planning and exchange of experience within the framework of the project have improved the capacity of the women’s departments to impart a gender perspective into all ministries of the Palestinian National Authority. Due to UNDP’s capacity-building, organizational strengthening and institutional development efforts, different ministries were subsequently able to create, formulate and begin to implement their own projects to meet the needs of their target groups.

73. In order to strengthen the newly established women’s department at the Ministry for Culture, UNDP, in 1998, funded a women’s creative writing and illustrative arts competition. Almost 200 women participated in the competition, and the winners were honoured in an official ceremony. The five winning pieces in each category will be published in 1999 in the form of booklets.

74. In 1999, in an attempt to move away from the welfare system currently utilized by the Ministry of Social Affairs towards a more development-oriented approach, UNDP, in cooperation with the women’s department in the Ministry, initiated a poverty alleviation project within the Ministry to support deprived families and groups, through income-generating projects and the creation of new job opportunities, with a special focus on women-headed households. Phase I of the project will entail the creation of a poverty alleviation centre. During phase II, the centre will study project proposals from the target groups based on pre-established criteria which will enable the individuals or groups to work their way out of poverty.

75. During 1997-1998 UNDP, in cooperation with the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Advancement of Women, initiated and succeeded in establishing a one-year pilot project, the Rural Girls Development Project, in Silt El-Dhaher, Jenin. In 1999, the Project was implemented in three centres in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

76. On the non-governmental level, UNDP supports the formulation of a gap analysis report on the status of women in the occupied territories within the framework of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This initiative is being implemented in cooperation with the Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling and involves a training symposium for mid-level and upper-level decision makers from non-governmental as well as governmental organizations to disseminate information on CEDAW and create working groups that will be following economic rights, education and training, family rights, health rights, political participation and representation, and the eradication of violence against women. The gap analysis report is expected to be published in March 2000.

77. In an attempt to promote a gender sensitive educational system, UNDP in 1997 developed a project to assist four educational non-governmental organizations in elaborating gender-sensitive curricula addressing the special needs of boys and girls. Teachers have been trained to develop modules that incorporate gender concerns into the learning process. During these training sessions a training manual on gender issues was prepared. Distributed to schools, it is to be used as an aid in the practical application of a gender perspective in the classrooms. The project covered public, private and UNRWA schools and included a community awareness campaign with a variety of reach-out activities such as a weekly radio programmes for youth addressing gender issues. It was successfully completed at the end of 1998.

78. UNDP participates actively in the United Nations Inter-Agency Gender Task Force, which aims to move towards joint Women in Development/Gender and Development (WID/GAD) programming among United Nations agencies and to advocate for and support Palestinian partner institutions to mainstream gender into their policy-making process. In November 1999, within the framework of the Women’s Rights Campaign, UNDP funded three TV spots on violence against women and a study day “Poverty and violence”.

79. UNIFEM has established the second phase of its post-Beijing follow-up project with the following objectives: to support and strengthen permanent institutional women’s machinery; to ensure the integration of gender concerns into the national planning process; and to consolidate the women’s machinery network on the national, regional and international levels. The project which was initiated in October 1998 endeavours to focus on the three main thematic areas. In each project country, critical areas of concern have been identified as national priorities. For the Palestinian territories, they are: legislation, policies, economics, social dimension, education, health, environment, media and women under occupation.

80. UNIFEM has also initiated a Women in Development Facilitation Project which aims to strengthen the capacity of governmental and non-governmental organizations to follow up on the Platform of Action by documenting WID/GAD programmes and projects that are being undertaken in the Palestinian territories by various international and national governmental and non-governmental organizations. The compiled information will be widely disseminated to facilitate information exchange on WID/GAD issues among donors, United Nations agencies, and the Palestinian Authority, in addition to local and international civil society organizations, in order to ensure complementation of initiatives and prevent duplication.

4. Concluding remarks

81. In spite of considerable efforts on the part of the Palestinian Authority and civil society and by the organizations of the United Nations system to improve the economic and social conditions of Palestinian women, their situation still requires special attention. They still experience unequal access to the labour market and to income-generating activities. They are also victims of de facto occupational segregation accompanied by lower wages in the employment sectors in which they are concentrated.

82. As reflected in previous reports, the status and living conditions of Palestinian women are closely linked with the progress of the peace process. The present report shows that women in the occupied territories continue to be affected in an adverse manner by a variety of measures, such as closures and settlement activities.

83. The mainstreaming of a gender perspective into nation-building programmes and the full and equal participation of Palestinian women are critical to the sustainable outcome of the peace. With those objectives in mind, organizations of the United Nations system will continue to assist Palestinian women to increase their capabilities to participate fully and equally in the peace process and to build and develop Palestinian society.



5/ UNSCO Report on Economic and Social Conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (spring 1999), issued by the Office of the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (Gaza, 30 April 1999).

6/ According to the 1999 UNSCO report, Israeli-controlled areas included Israel, Israeli settlements and industrial zones in the occupied territories.

7/ According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, and cited in the 1999 UNSCO report.

8/ “Report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, submitted by Mr. Hannu Halinen, Special Rapporteur, pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1993/2 A” (E/CN.4/1999/24), para. 28.

9/ Ibid., para. 29.

10/ Ibid., para. 36.

11/ Ibid., para. 46.

12/ Note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (A/54/73), para. 148.

13/ Ibid., para 173.

14/ Ibid., para. 150.

15/ Ibid., para. 171.

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