• English

Special Session of the General Assembly

New York, 7 July 2000

Speech delivered by Mrs. Danuta Hübner, ECE Executive Secretary,

on behalf of the Regional Commissions,

"Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century"

Madame President, Excellencies and Colleagues, I have the honour to speak on behalf of the five Regional Commissions. The Commissions held regional preparatory meetings leading up to this Special Session of the General Assembly. They were a real success both in terms of level of participation and of the outcome.

They showed that the Commissions are in a unique position to provide a region wide forum for assessing the situation of gender equality, exchanging experiences, developing strategies to face the constraints encountered and facilitating the active interface between government and civil society. Thus the process was transparent and participatory, and constituted important building block in the global preparation of the special session.

The remarkable characteristic of the regional meetings has been their mobilizing effect and the sense of ownership developed by the governmental delegations and the NGOs participating in these meetings.

Building upon this positive experience, the five Regional Commissions held on 7 June a Round Table on "Dialogue between NGOs and governments for the gender-sensitive citizenship". This event, which I had the honour of chairing, gathered eminent personalities from the five regions, with Her Royal Highness Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan as the guest of honour.

Panellists addressed the issue of dialogue between civil society and public institutions for a gender-sensitive citizenship in the context of the profound changes induced by globalization. They also addressed the challenges raised by the need to adjust the current patterns of governance to these changes. This led the panellists to promote a forward-looking approach to the functioning of institutions at global, regional, national and local levels.

The panellists shared their diverse experiences and good practices regarding patterns of partnership between governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in the development process, like parliamentarians, local governments, trade unions and academia. This variety of experiences showed that progress in gender-sensitive citizenship has been significant where civil society movements have established a dialogue with public institutions, both on a regular basis and for specific actions.

Therefore, an important message of the Round Table was that such dialogue is a must for increasing women’s participation in decision making at all levels, is a basic prerequisite for democratic processes.

The panellists recognized that while crucial, this dialogue is not always exempt of tensions, which should be understood as salient feature of democratic practices. These tensions are mainly due to the difficulty of striking a balance between economic efficiency and social equity, including poverty eradication. While this has led to the erosion of some forms of social dialogue, positive developments such as the strengthening of civil society and the increasingly growing consciousness of human rights have counterbalanced such a trend at various degrees.

Our discussion revealed that all regions are affected by these tensions and changing patterns of relationships. This, however, has developed in a diversified way. Not only regions have specific features but also within governments and civil society one could find different trends and approaches and subsequently a large variety of partnership models to promote.

At this juncture, which is characterized by the interaction between global forces and diversity of local situations, fostering the debate on gender-sensitive citizenship becomes both crucial and timely.

Both the participants and the audience agreed that these circumstances call for a new innovative approaches and mechanisms for a sustainable partnership between strong civic engagement and accountable public institutions. Along this line the Panel called for a strong commitment to develop new ideas around the adjustment of global institutions, and the promotion of new arrangements between national institutions and civil society. The main goal of this open dialogue would be to set up enforcement mechanisms for the effective implementation of existing international commitments for the advancement of women, and to take further initiatives and new measures in order to face the emerging challenges. This should be embedded in a Post Beijing Vision aiming at a full democracy for the benefit of women and men, and the society as a whole.

Based on the positive experience made during the preparatory process for Beijing Plus 5 in all regions, the participants recommended to reinforce participatory process in all five regions in order to contribute to setting in motion the implementation of this Post Beijing Vision for a full gender-sensitive citizenship.

Let me conclude by saying that the Regional Commissions stand ready to take up this challenge through initiatives which would lead to ensuring enforcement mechanisms of the gender equality standards promoted by the international community, supporting capacity building in the countries of their respective regions, and facilitating the setting up of a solid system of benchmarks and monitoring in order to assess the progress achieved and to mobilize for further actions.