Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., before the Third Committee, Agenda item 105: Advancement of Women, Agenda item 106: Implementation of the outcome of the 4th World Conference on Women, 52nd Session (1997):

At the outset, allow me, Mr. Chairperson, to convey the congratulations of my delegation upon your election to the chairmanship of this important committee, and to offer our congratulations to your colleagues who have been elected to the bureau. We are confident that your leadership and skills will contribute to the success of our work.

Mr. Chairperson,

Items 105 "Advancement of Women" and 106 "Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women", deals with one of the most important issues on our agenda. The advancement and empowerment of women are considered to be essential elements in the dynamics of any society, necessary towards the achievement of equality, development and peace.

Following the general debate of the 52nd Session of the General Assembly, it is noticeable that the international community is placing more emphasis on social and economic issues. The advancement of women and their economic and social rights are issues that enjoy great attention among governments, the United Nations system and relevant NGO’s. What is required now is the translation of this concern into action-oriented policies with new and adequate resources for the implementation of the outcomes of the relevant United Nations conferences.

The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, adopted a clear and realistic Platform of Action, focusing on critical areas of concern and setting a concrete mechanism of implementation towards the achievement of the goals and objectives of that Platform Action. Now it is the responsibility of the international community to take specific measures to promote and protect women’s human rights and their empowerment.

Mr. Chairperson,

In this regard, the Platform of Action gave attention to women living under foreign occupation. Paragraph 44 states that "Governments, the international community and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, are called upon to take strategic action in the critical areas of concern, inter alia,"The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation."

Palestinian women strive for peace, freedom and prosperity yet they are faced with the harsh reality of the continuing Israeli occupation, which greatly impedes their efforts to improve their conditions and advance their status. The impact of the Israeli occupation continues to effect all aspects of the daily lives of Palestinian people, especially women and children. The building and expansion of Israeli colonial settlements, the ongoing confiscation of land and water and the closure of the Occupied Territory, including Jerusalem, and are policies that still have a detrimental effect on the overall conditions of Palestinian women and children and pose real obstacles to their advancement. Further, as the result of the long years of occupation, there has been a rise in the number of refugees and displaced persons, the break-up of families, a deterioration of health conditions, a decline in education and an increase in unemployment.

In spite of such obstacles Palestinian women continue to participate actively in the international community’s efforts with regard to issues concerning the advancement and empowerment of women. Since the Fourth World Conference on Women, they have been taking concrete steps towards the implementation of the Beijing Platform of Action. Diligent efforts have been exerted at the official and grassroots levels to produce a national strategy for the advancement of Palestinian women, taking into consideration their priorities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and abroad. The development of Palestinian women’s political, economic, social and legal status cannot be isolated from the general political situation of the Palestinian people as a whole.

The national strategy for Palestinian women is based on the women’s primary needs, potentials and particularities and the prevailing conditions of Palestinian society. This strategy draws upon the Palestine Liberation Organization’s National Program and its basic principles, and the Declaration of Independence of 15 November 1988, which asserts that: The state of Palestine is established on the basis of social justice, equality, and the prohibition of discrimination with regard to race, religion, color or sex. The strategy has further evolved as a result of a series of discussions, workshops and debates administered by a working mechanism in the form of follow–up committees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and abroad, as well as of coordination between various ministries and relevant NGO’s, institutions and associations.

Moreover, Palestinian women seek to link this strategy with the highest decision-making positions in the Palestinian Authority, with the necessary mandate, financial resources, action and follow-up among the various institutions of the Authority and relevant grassroots organizations. This is an indication of the increase in awareness among Palestinian women of the importance of their role and involvement in the political life of the Palestinian people. A significant step with regard to such involvement was the first general democratic Palestinian election held in January 1996, during which 6 women were elected to the Legislative Council out of 88 seats and 2 women were appointed Ministers out of 21 posts. Clearly, these figures do not completely fulfill the aspirations of Palestinian women in this respect however, they do reflect the determination to work to reach more satisfactory results.

Mr. Chairperson,

The peace process has suffered serious deterioration as a result of the Israeli policies and actions in the Occupied Palestine Territory, including Jerusalem. Now is the time for the international community to intensify its efforts in this regard. We call upon the international community, especially the United Nations, to continue to support and increase their assistance to Palestinian women during this difficult time of their struggle for independence, freedom and prosperity, and we wish to once again emphasize the importance of implementing the integration of gender perspective in all policies and programs of the agencies and bodies of the United Nations system toward the advancement and empowerment of Palestinian Women. I would like to this opportunity to extend our appreciation to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for their assistance to Palestinian women, especially in establishment of their national committee, and I would also like to express our thanks to the European Union for their support and funding of these efforts. I thank you Mr. Chairman.