Magazine article UN Chronicle

The End of the UN Decade for Women: 'Really Only a Beginning.' (Editorial)

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The End of the UN Decade for Women: 'Really Only a Beginning.' (Editorial)

Article excerpt

The End of the UN Decade for Women: 'Really only a beginning'

We gather here today with two purposes in mind: firstly, to evaluate the progress that has been made in improving the situation of women in the course of the Decade and, in doing so, to identify the obstacles preventing the full realization of its objectives; secondly, on the basis of this appraisal, to establish priorities and strategies for overcoming these objectives in a practical and realistic manner.

The themes of the Decade--Equality, Development and Peace--are of crucial importance and interdependent. Of the three themes, it is perhaps in the area of equality where the most progress has been made. Equality, however, cannot simply mean the enshrining of legal equality in national legislation and international instruments, necessary as these are in themselves. De jure equality supplies the foundation, but much still remains to be done in transforming it into de facto equality and in enabling women to participate fully and on equal terms with men in all spheres of society and at all levels of decision-making.

The many-sided relationship between development and the advancement of women has also become increasingly recognized during the Decade. The earlier belief that economic growth would automatically benefit women is now acknowledged to be a simplistic assumption. As the International Development Strategy for the Third United Nations Development, it called for appropriate measures that would generate the social and economic changes required to eliminate the structural imbalances which compound the disadvantages facing women.

Similarly, without peace there can be no lasting development. We are all too well aware that despite efforts of the international community to promote peace and security, conflicts persist in many regions of the world. Invevitably, women have been involved in these conflicts, sometimes as combatants but more often as innocent victims.

Evidently, the issues of women's advancement cannot be separated from those of peace. The deadly destructive potential of existing arsenals, particularly nuclear ones, and the opportunities for development that are lost through the diversion of greatly needed resources for military and destructive purposes is a major concern to us all. It is to be applauded and encouraged that women are participating increasingly in the struggle for peace and diarmament.

Ten years after the Mexico Conference of 1975, it is only logical that this Conference should consider the achievements and shortcomings of this important Decade. To expect that the goal of women's equality and full participation will be attained in so short a span of time is to belittle its magnitude. The social change that it involves is so fundamental and so related to the life of societies around the globe that it cannot but be affected, quickened or slowed, by a great variety of factors, including the world's political and economic climate.

It is nonetheless possible for all to see that, compared with 1975, there is today much greater awareness of women's problems, greater advocacy of their rights and greater understanding of their needs. It is recognized that women's issues and cannot be dissociated from the political, economic and social problems which beset countries and peoples. There is no doubt, on my part, that your deliberations will reflect these realities of our world, although it cannot be expected that this Conference can provide the solutions to such long-standing problems, which are also being discussed in other fora of the United Nations. When dealing with such issues, we should not lose sight of the need to preserve and to build upon the gains achieved during the decade, on the basis of the broad and genuine support of the entire international community.

A major achievement has been the elaboration of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women which, to date, has been ratified by more than 70 Governments. …

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