Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the 41st Session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (1996):

At the outset I wish, Madame Chairperson, to extend my delegation's congratulations to you upon your election to the chairmanship of this important commission, as well as to the other members of the Bureau, and to take this opportunity to wish you much success in your endeavors. I would also like to express the appreciation and thanks of my delegation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for his important report (E/CN.6/1996/8), entitled "Situation of and Assistance to Palestinian Women", and for his continuous efforts to extend all appropriate assistance to improve the situation of Palestinian women.

Madame Chairperson,

My delegation supports and adheres to the statement made by the delegation of Costa Rica on behalf of the Group of 77. Further, the Beijing Platform of Action, adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women, gives substantial attention to women living under foreign occupation or armed conflict. Of course, the translation of this platform into a meaningful document requires the formulation of concrete mechanisms as well as additional resources for implementation of its provisions.

At this time, I would like to highlight some specific issues concerning the condition of Palestinian women. The advancement of women in general, their integration in development and their achievement of full equality cannot be realized until peace, freedom and democracy prevail. The need for these prerequisites for advancement is considered most urgent in the case of Palestinian women, who still suffer the burdens and hardships of foreign occupation. However, new hope has emerged that the positive developments that have come with the peace process will help to bring an end to the suffering and grievances of the Palestinian people, allowing them, including women and children, to reap the benefits of peace politically, economically and socially.

Today, among the new priorities of Palestinian women is the adoption of a declaration of principles on the right of women and the exertion of all efforts to translate the stipulations of this declaration as part of the constitution or through legislation by the Palestinian National Authority. Furthermore, they seek to establish a mechanism concerned with following up women's issues linked to the highest decision-making position in the Authority. They have begun with strong participation in the democratic process, representing 47% of the voters in the recent Palestinian presidential and legislative elections and there were 28 women candidates out of 676 candidates, of which a total of 5 women were elected to office.

Nevertheless, the impact of the Israeli occupation continues to affect all aspects of the daily lives of Palestinian women and poses an obstacle to their advancement. The harsh economic conditions, isolation and closure of areas of the occupied territory, the building and expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements, the constant Israeli creation of obstacles to family reunification, the situation of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons and other oppressive measures continue to have a detrimental effect on the condition of Palestinian women. This situation, of course, is a factor affecting the role of these women in the development of their society on all levels. It is clear, therefore, that Palestinian women still have a long road ahead towards the achievements of their national goals, especially their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Madame Chairperson,

My delegation commends the efforts of the international community in support and in assistance of Palestinian women as they strive to enhance their status and their empowerment. However, more efforts should be exerted, especially by the United Nations and its specialized agencies, especially the Commission on the Status of Women, to implement the recommendations which have been included in the above-mentioned report and to comply with Economic and Social Council resolution 1995/30, which requested the Secretary-General "to continue to review the situation and to assist Palestinian women by all available means". This would be consistent with the duties arising from the permanent responsibility of the United Nations towards the Question of Palestine until it is justly and effectively resolved.

As far as efforts by Palestinian women themselves, it is clear that they must continue to emphasize the necessity of addressing women's rights with a vision geared toward their empowerment and full participation at all levels, especially in decision-making ones. They must now lay the foundations for the new state, which is now in formation, a state which will be one of democracy, equality and social justice.

In an effort to continue to support the endeavors of Palestinian women in this regard, my delegation will submit a draft resolution much similar to the one that was submitted last year, with some amendments to reflect the new developments in the occupied Palestinian territory. Thank you, Madame Chairperson.