Statement by Mrs. Somaia Barghouti, Counsellor, before the Third Committee on Agenda Item 109: Advancement of Women and Agenda 110: Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, 14 October 1999: 

            Mr. Chairman, 

            At the outset, allow me, on behalf of my delegation to congratulate you on your election as Chairman of this important Committee, as well as the other members of the Bureau. We wish you all the success in your endeavor. 

            Mr. Chairman,        

 At the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, the international community decided to give special attention to the situation of women and their advancement. The Conference adopted a Platform of Action where a set of goals and objectives was adopted towards the elimination of discrimination against women, their integration in the development as well as the protection of their human rights. The Platform of Action provides a comprehensive and concrete basis for achieving significant progress in the situation of women worldwide and at all levels. 

            After five years since the adoption of the Platform of Action little progress has been registered in the implementation of its recommendations. The international community has to exert more efforts and provide adequate, new and additional resources for the full and effective implementation of the Platform of Action. 

            This year marks the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention. These two important events should inspire us to take concrete action towards the advancement of women and their empowerment. 

            Mr. Chairman, 

            My delegation is following with keen interest the preparation and the convening of the General Assembly’s Special Session on “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace” to review and appraise the implementation of the Platform of Action.  Equal attention should be given to all twelve critical areas of concern towards which the international community must direct strategic action and efforts, including “The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation”.  We are looking forward to a constructive and productive session. We believe that this session will be an excellent opportunity to evaluate where we have achieved success and what we still need to make progress on in the future.

              Mr. Chairman, 

            Palestinian women share other women problems of inequality, discrimination, violence and poverty and continue to face the harsh reality of the Israeli occupation and its oppressive policies and practices on a daily basis. The building and expansion of illegal Israeli colonial settlements, the confiscation of land and water and the recurrent closures of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and other measures continue to have detrimental effects on the overall conditions of Palestinian women. 

            This special situation of Palestinian women, which stems from the uniqueness of the Palestine question, has affected the nature of their struggle, the level of their advancement and their ability to meet the challenges that lay ahead. As a result of the occupation, the majority of the Palestinian people continue to live under difficult political, economic and social conditions. Moreover, more than half of our population are refugees, many have been displaced and break-up of families continue.

              The outcomes of the Beijing Platform of Action and the Arab Ministerial Conference, held in Amman, Jordan in 1996, formed the basis for Palestinian women’s endeavor to produce a national strategy that would take into consideration their needs, priorities and their limited financial and other resources. The Interministerial Coordinating Committee has been established as a new mechanism for the purpose of strengthening and coordinating the role and function of women’s institutions, including those within ministries.  In addition, many non-governmental organizations, especially the General Union of Palestinian Women, are coordinating their activities in this regard to reach a unified strategy to advance the situation of Palestinian women and to effectively implement the Platform of Action.

              All of these efforts culminated in producing the National Strategy for the Advancement of Palestinian Women, which was adopted at a Conference held in June 1997 and attended by various women’s institutions and organizations at both the governmental and non-governmental level, as well as representatives from the Palestinian National Authority and the Legislative Council. The Strategy constitutes the foundation for planning and guidelines for the work of the various women’s departments at the official level and for the NGOs on another level. This Strategy is based on the following:

           The Palestinian national program, which calls for the achievement of Palestinian inalienable rights, mainly the right to self-determination, to return and the establishment of their independent state.

           The Declaration of Independence adopted by the PNC in 1988, which inter alia, calls for gender equality in rights and duty. 

         United Nations Conventions and Declarations, mainly the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Right of the Child, as well as the outcome of various international conferences.

 Mr. Chairman, 

            Palestinian women are confronted with many obstacles in their efforts to implement the recommendations of the Platform of Action.  It remains very difficult for Palestinian women to achieve their goals when their progress is undermined by the continuing harsh realities of the occupation. Another major obstacle is the worsening economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, and the limited financial resources.

              Furthermore, the situation and the living conditions of Palestinian women are closely linked with the progress of the peace process. Progress in the peace process and genuine improvement in the living conditions of the Palestinian people depends largely on the Israeli government’s respect for and implementation of all the agreements signed. This should be coupled with respect, and compliance with the instruments of international law and international humanitarian law.  Our deep hope is that the recent signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum will propel the peace process forward towards real progress and positive change on the ground.

                          As we approach the new millennium, Palestinian women strive to live alongside Palestinian men in a free, prosperous, and democratic society. They strive to strengthen their participation at the decision-making level as well as their integration in development.  This requires the exertion of more efforts at the national and international levels towards supporting and assisting Palestinian women during this critical time of transition.

     Thank you, Mr. Chairman