Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, Agenda Item 103: Advancement of Women, Agenda Item 104: Implementation of the outcome of the 4th World Conference on Women, 51st Session, 30 October 1996

Madame Chairperson,

Women and their advancement comprise one of the main factors in the development of any society. Clearly, women play an essential role in the drive towards the achievement of justice, peace, prosperity and the enhancement of social and economic status in any society. "The Advancement of Women" and "Implementation of the Outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women", two of the items on our agenda, are linked and interrelated, and my delegation would therefore like to address these items jointly.

Madame Chairperson,

The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995, made significant progress with regard to the struggle of women for equality, development and peace. The Platform of Action adopted by consensus can be a powerful tool for the empowerment of women and a concrete measure to their advancement. In addition, the recognition of the rights of women as basic human rights will advance gender equality and thus strengthen the participation of women in society and the integration of gender perspectives into the policies of nations.

What is important now is the degree of determination existing to effectively implement the outcome of the Conference. Women’s issues and affairs should be linked to the highest decision-making positions, with the necessary mandates, financial resources and follow-up among the various institutions of governments and NGOs. Also, this requires United Nations bodies and relevant international organizations to take more direct action to achieve the goals and objectives delineated in the Platform of Action.

Among other issues, the issue of women living under foreign occupation was given considerable attention at the Conference and this was clearly reflected in the outcome of the Conference. The Platform of Action considered that foreign occupation, inter alia, is "incompatible with the dignity and the worth of the human person and must be combated and eliminated". In addition, it called for the protection of women living under foreign occupation.

Palestinian women, who today still suffer the consequences of the Israeli occupation have received world attention for their particular problems as well as for the difficulties they face within the context of the obstacles being faced by the Palestinian society as a whole. The plight of Palestinian women has also been on the agenda of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and the Division for the Advancement of Women for more than a decade. We appreciate the work done by these important U.N. bodies and we hope that more concrete action will be taken to address and improve the situation of Palestinian women in the near future towards the achievement of their national and social goals.

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 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.

The governmental committee has been formed under the Gender Development and Planning Directorate at the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation of the Palestinian National Authority. The NGO committee has been formed under the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW). In this regard, we would like to express our thanks and appreciation to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for their assistance to Palestinian women in their endeavors to achieve the above-mentioned objectives. We would also like to extend our appreciation and thanks to the European Union for funding projects geared towards the achievement of these goals.

Madame Chairperson,

Contrary to the early expectations raised by the peace process, which we do remain committed to, the situation on the ground worsened and 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 their status. The impact of the Israeli occupation continues to affect all aspects of daily life of the Palestinian people, including, and particularly, women and children. Harsh economic conditions, continuous 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 have a detrimental effect on the current situation of Palestinian women and children. Furthermore, and as a result of the long years of occupation, there has been a rise in the number of refugees and displaced persons and the break-up of families and women prisoners continue to be held. The current situation has also witnessed further deterioration in health conditions and in the field of education and an increase in unemployment.

Madame Chairperson,

In order for Palestinian women to fully participate in the national development of the institutions of our society, the Palestinian Authority is ready, with the help of the international community, to provide them with the financial and educational support necessary. In addition, women should be accorded equal opportunities in terms of employment and a role in decision-making, especially with regard to laws and regulations to guarantee their rights. Such a position stems from our conviction that women’s rights should not depend solely on political, economical, cultural or moral considerations, but rather also that women’s rights should be among the obligations of governments to promote and protect.