Advancement of women

16 October 2003

58th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations

THIRD COMMITTEE AGENDA ITEMS 110 AND 111 -
Advancement of women
Implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women and of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twentyfirst century"


Mr. Chairman,

Allow me to congratulate you and the Bureau on your election.

Mr. Chairman,

Ten years ago, at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, we declared that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings. Their protection and promotion is the first responsibility of Governments.

We also stated that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. And we reaffirmed our duty to protect, all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of our varying political, economic and cultural systems.

In Beijing in 1995, we reaffirmed our commitment to ensure the full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Yet, as the Secretary General has pointed out in his follow-up report on the Millennium Goals, "virtually nowhere are [women's] rights given the priority they deserve". He further observes that violence against women in war zones has actually increased. He also points to the increasingly widespread practice of trafficking and the lack of inclusion of women in decision making structures around the world, not least in peace negotiations and post conflict situations. Indeed the Secretary General's conclusion is that while there may be increased global awareness of issues affecting women's rights, there is little progress at the country level and in many cases even the rights that have been achieved are under threat. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions about why this is so.

Mr. Chairman,

There is certainly no lack of agreed standards at the international level.

We have done an excellent job at the UN in reaching agreements on women's rights and as Member states have committed ourselves to abiding by those agreements. It is not acceptable to weaken commitments already made. Our working methods have to aim at improving the situation of women worldwide. Our approach should be progress oriented, focusing on actions and implementation.

Iceland will be putting forward a resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on behalf of the Nordic countries this year. The Convention and its Optional Protocol are central elements in ensuring that all human rights are extended equally to women.

Iceland has ratified both instruments and urges all states which have not yet done so to ratify or accede to them. At the same time we strongly urge those States parties with reservations, in many cases far-reaching, to withdraw them as soon as possible. In particular this is important for reservations that are incompatible with the objective and purpose of the Convention. It is not enough to ratify CEDAW. The situation de jure is meaningless if it isn't followed up by actions. The importance of full compliance by States parties with their obligations under the Convention is vital.

We welcome the new initiative at this session on women's political participation. This is a timely initiative and we hope for a progressive and forward looking text.

We also welcome the attempt being made to have one omnibus resolution on violence against women. Gender based violence is universal, differing only in scope from one society to the other. We especially welcome the inclusion of domestic violence, which is the most common form of gender-based violence. The inclusion of the chapter on domestic violence will serve to break the silence and denial surrounding these crimes.

In Iceland non-governmental organisations have played a pivotal role in addressing violence against women, not least domestic violence. A committee has also been established by the Minister of Social Affairs to coordinate measures on violence against women. These measures include campaigns to increase public awareness about violence against women and its high social costs. The committee will make it a priority to reinforce the cooperation between the Government of Iceland and non-governmental organisations which is of vital importance in this field.

At the end of this month we will mark the third anniversary of Security Council resolution 1325. We, the member states, are requested to take certain actions on the basis of the resolution. We must strengthen our efforts to secure its full implementation, especially as regards increasing the participation of women at all levels of decision making. Iceland welcomes references to the resolution in draft resolutions currently under negotiations in the third committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman

Video Gallery

View more videos