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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of International Organization Affairs > Reports to Congress, U.S. Votes, Fact Sheets, Testimony > Other Remarks > 2002

Advancement of Women

Ellen Sauerbrey, U.S. Representative to the UN Commission on the Status of Women
Statement in the Third Committee
New York, New York
October 9, 2002

Released by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations

I appreciate the opportunity to address the 57th General Assembly on its agenda items on Advancement of Women and follow-up to the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. As U.S. Representative to the Commission on the Status of Women, I look forward to working with all member states to advance the well-being of women throughout the world.

Securing the human rights of women is an important part of U.S. foreign policy. Upholding these rights is consistent with a civil, law-abiding society, which is a foundation of true democracy.

President Bush has said, "America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law; limits on the power of the state; and respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice, and religious tolerance."

And Secretary of State Colin Powell observed, "The worldwide advancement of women’s issues is not only in keeping with the deeply held values of the American people, it is strongly felt in our national interest as well. Women’s issues affect not only women, they have profound implications for all humankind. Women’s issues are human rights issues. We, as a world community, cannot even begin to tackle the array of problems and challenges confronting us without the full and equal participation of women in all aspects of life."

Let me speak to some key concepts that the United States will continue to advance.

First, women should be empowered through access to education. Only then can women escape from poverty and take part in decision-making processes. Educating women and girls contributes to all aspects of development. Education is directly related to health: Educated women are healthier mothers and have healthier children. Infant mortality is as much as two to three times higher among children of uneducated women compared with women with at least some secondary education. And educated women are more likely to utilize family planning.

Second, women must have access to economic opportunity. Women’s integration into the mainstream of economic life leads not only to significant economic progress for the family, but ultimately for the country as well.

Micro-credit and micro finance programs have great potential to help the poorest and most vulnerable women. During the last two decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development has consistently led all bilateral donors in funding micro-enterprise programs. USAID is now working with over 700 micro-enterprise institutions worldwide. It has supported micro-enterprise and micro-credit development for income and employment generation among the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa. 60% of the beneficiaries are women.

Third, the use of information and communications technologies and the media help strengthen women’s economic situations. We look forward to considering this theme at the 2003 Commission on the Status of Women. We support increased use of these media to advance the status of women in all countries, and particularly in developing countries.

Fourth, women must be able to participate meaningfully and effectively in decision-making processes. Security Council Resolution 1325 of 2000 highlights how women suffer in conflict situations. They not only endure the most horrendous atrocities, including rape and exposure to HIV/AIDS, but they are also excluded from access to power structures and decision-making concerning armed conflict. They are powerless to draw attention to their hardships or to recommend preventative actions or means of redress.

Resolution 1325 also points out the constructive role women can play in decision-making processes. Women are more than victims: they are the keys to successful peace agreements. We support the participation of women in all activities aimed at assisting or protecting women, from design to implementation of a program in conflict and post-conflict situations.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has made progress in including women in the constitutional reform process. DPKO is active in East Timor, where political parties now voluntarily include women on the ticket, in Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, and the DRC.

Afghanistan, a critical ally emerging from over two decades of terrible conflict, has shown significant progress and willingness to include women in all spheres of life: political, economic, and social. Women have been appointed or elected to important political posts. However, there is still a long way to go. We will continue to help promote the rights of women throughout Afghan society.

Women have a role to play as decision-makers on environmental disasters. Women are managers of environmental resources. In many parts of the world, women gather the firewood, work the land, and tend the animals. Women and children are the ones most severely affected by natural disasters, and the ones who have the least access to necessary resources. They are also most susceptible to landmine accidents from the 70 million landmines planted in a third of the world’s nations. We support increased participation of women in key roles in disaster prevention, preparedness, and responses.

Upholding women’s human rights has produced significant benefits for society. While maintaining their central role in the family, women have increasingly assumed leadership positions in government, business, academia, law, the sciences, the media, and the arts.

But some problems confronting women are of such magnitude that they cannot be alleviated except through the coordinated efforts of the international community.

One of these problems is violence against women. Violence can take many forms, including trafficking in persons, particularly women and girls; domestic violence; rape; harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation; and honor crimes. These are women’s issues, but more fundamentally they are human rights issues. The March 2003 Commission on the Status of Women will take up the theme of advancing women’s human rights and eliminating violence against women and girls.

One of the greatest challenges is trafficking in persons, which is among the fastest growing criminal activities worldwide and within countries. Victims fall prey to the full spectrum of criminal organizations, from major criminal syndicates to smuggling rings to loosely associated networks. They are subjected to violence and slave-like conditions in brothels, sweatshops, and fields.

Mr. Chairman, the United States commends the Secretary-General for his report A/57/170, entitled "Trafficking in Women and Girls." This report documents actions taken by member states, the UN system, and international bodies. But we would like to point out that the report does not mention U.S. efforts and accomplishments in combating trafficking.

These activities include landmark legislation and helping countries enact anti-trafficking legislation. The U.S. law entitled "Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000" enhances criminal penalties; gives new protections to victims; makes certain benefits available to victims of severe forms of trafficking; and establishes a Cabinet-level federal interagency task force to investigate and prosecute trafficking.

U.S. involvement also includes grant programs to create shelters, services, and economic opportunities for victims; strengthening the capacities of women’s and anti-trafficking organizations; prevention campaigns including disseminating information; training for law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and non-governmental organizations; international cooperation on investigations, and prosecution of traffickers.

Another problem requiring the concerted efforts of the international community is the plight of women and girls in conflict regions. Not surprisingly the current focus is on Afghanistan and Africa.

For the past five years, we have introduced resolutions at the Commission on the Status of Women condemning human rights violations against women and girls in Afghanistan.

In 2002 we introduced a resolution welcoming developments in Afghanistan and encouraging the Afghan government to continue taking steps to ensure respect for equal rights for women.

The United States has provided nearly $450 million since October 2001 for Afghan relief and reconstruction. In addition to specific initiatives for women, children, and refugees, the overall reconstruction program focuses on Afghan women as planners, implementers, and beneficiaries of all relief, reconstruction, and development efforts. We have supported health projects on maternal and child health needs. We have worked to ensure that teacher training, textbook distribution, and food-for-education projects reach female teachers, students, and schools.

In January 2002, President Bush and then Afghan Interim Authority Chairman Karzai established the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. The Council promotes private/public partnerships between both countries, helping to mobilize resources to allow Afghan women to obtain the skills and education they need to rebuild their country.

Mr. Chairman, while I have gone into some detail about my country’s efforts on Afghanistan, I would like to state that we are committed to similar efforts throughout the world. We are working from Cambodia to Colombia, from Bosnia to Burundi, and in many other nations.

Before closing I want to emphasize the importance of continued gender mainstreaming in all UN policies and programs. We must ensure that neither women nor men are disadvantaged and that women and girls are not forgotten.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



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