Statement by Mrs. Siham Sukkar, Head of Observer Delegation of Palestine, before the 42nd Session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, 17 March 1997:

At the outset, Madame Chairperson, I wish to express my delegation's commendations of your efforts and the outstanding manner in which you have been chairing this important Commission. I would also like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for his report on the situation of, and assistance to, Palestinian women, contained in document E/CN.6/1997/2.

Madame Chairperson,

The Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies (FLS) formulated the basis for the advancement of women and laid the foundations for achieving its objectives: equality, development and peace. The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995, adopted a realistic Platform of Action which focuses on critical areas of concern, including, inter alia, `women under foreign occupation', and set concrete mechanisms of implementation for the achievement of the goals and objectives of that Platform of Action.

Madame Chairperson,

Examining the situation of Palestinian women, it is clear that the impact of the Israeli occupation continues to affect all aspects of the daily life of the Palestinian people. The harsh economic conditions, the building and expansion of Israeli settlements, isolation and closure of areas of the occupied territory, including Jerusalem, and land and water confiscation are issues that still have detrimental effects on the conditions of Palestinian women and children and pose real obstacles to their advancement. Furthermore, and as a result of the long years of occupation, there has been a rise in the number of refugees and displaced persons, an increase in the breakup of families, the deterioration of health conditions, a decline in education, an increase in unemployment and further depletion of the environment.

In spite of all these obstacles, Palestinian women have been determined to continue participating actively in all of the international community's efforts relating to issues concerning the advancement and empowerment of women. On our part, in the field of taking concrete steps for the implementation of the outcome of the Beijing Conference, efforts are being made at both the governmental and NGO levels, as committees are being established to coordinate and produce a unified strategy for the advancement of Palestinian women. The work of these committees has been divided into two phases. The first is to prioritize their needs for the implementation of the Platform of Action and the second involves assisting the government and concerned NGOs in the development of detailed work plans for the implementation of specific activities corresponding to the priority areas of need for women. An important step with regard to the involvement of Palestinian women in decision-making and politics was the first general Palestinian election held in January 1996 in the occupied Palestinian territory, during which 6 women were elected to the Legislative Council out of 87 seats, 2 women were appointed Ministers out of 21 posts and 3 were appointed Ambassadors out of ninety-three posts. These figures do not fulfill the aspirations of Palestinian women in this regard, however, and we will continue our work to reach more satisfactory results.

Madame Chairperson,

Having studied the above-mentioned the report of the Secretary-General, which dealt with issues concerning the situation of, and assistance to, Palestinian women in an effort to alleviate their suffering and improve their condition, my delegation would like to draw your attention to the following:

The need to have an integrated approach when dealing with the occupied Palestinian territory as one territorial unit, comprised of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

The importance of implementing the integration of gender perspective in all policies and programs of the agencies and bodies of the United Nations system towards the advancement and empowerment of Palestinian women.

The need for the report to more strongly assert the negative impacts of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian women and children and the fact that the occupation remains the major obstacle against the advancement of Palestinian women.

The necessity of monitoring more closely the severe consequences of the continuous Israeli illegal settlement activities and the continuous closure of the occupied territory as a measure of collective punishment and the negative impact of such policies and measures on the advancement of women.

Our deep appreciation for the efforts of all the United Nations agencies and bodies and donor countries who have extended their support and assistance to Palestinian women and our hope that this will continue, especially during this transitional period and critical time in our struggle.

Madame Chairperson,

As of 1993, following the signing of the peace accords and the outset of negotiations with the Israelis, under the sponsorship of the U.S. and the Russian Federation, we have been engaged in the peace process, considering it our basic strategy, to which we remain committed until our aspirations for liberation are achieved in spite of the many difficulties encountered. Contrary to the early expectations raised by the peace process, the situation on the ground worsened and the Palestinian people have not experienced the predicted benefits of peace. The occupation remains the bitter reality and Israeli oppressive policies and practices have increased and continue to impede the efforts of Palestinian women for advancement and any attempts to improve their condition and status. In fact, the credibility of the peace process is at stake when the Israeli authorities continuously violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Madame Chairperson,

In order for Palestinian women to fully participate in the national development of the institutions of our society, Palestinian women anticipate that the Palestinian National Authority, in conjunction with the international community, will provide them with the financial and educational support necessary to advance the goals towards which they strive, including progress in their living conditions and overall status. Further, in this regard, we look forward to unanimous support of the draft resolution that will be presented by our delegation regarding assistance to Palestinian women. I thank you Madame Chairperson.