Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Item 58: Eradication of poverty and other development issues
(b) Women in Development
Sixty-second Session of the General Assembly
06 November 2007
Of the three important and inter-related issues under the item on our agenda today, namely eradication of poverty and other development issues much has already been said today. I will, however, make a few comments on Item 58(b), Women in development.
I would like to begin by thanking the Secretary General for his thorough report on the progress made in the implementation of GA resolution 60/210 on women in development, including the increased participation in government decision-making bodies, and its impact on the eradication of poverty.
Advancement of Women in general, is of critical importance, not only as a fundamental human rights issue - and as such an important end in itself - but also as a precondition for successful achievements of all the Millennium Development Goals. It is therefore of concern that women are underrepresented in political and economic decision making. Women and men need to be equally represented and listened to everywhere.
Women play a central role in economic and social development. We know that there are strong links between women's empowerment and poverty reduction. The advancement of women and women's rights must be central in all development efforts and in our global fight against poverty. The participation of women in decision-making will not increase without overall empowerment of women. We know now that support for the education, health and economic activities of women has a multiplier effect for their communities. For this reason, Iceland’s development co-operation has increasingly been directed at the affairs and interests of women in the developing countries with the goal of enhancing their role in society.
UNIFEM has been a key partner in this regard, and therefore, the Government of Iceland decided to double its current contribution to the Fund. This marks a thirty fold increase in Iceland's contributions to UNIFEM since 2003, an increase which will bring Iceland amongst the top donors, as we have stated in other contexts.
In its bilateral work, the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA) has supported equal rights, for example through its support for the evolution of the Ministry of Women’s affairs in Mozambique and in various social projects, in several countries, which are specifically intended for women. Women’s affairs will continue to be a key feature of our development co-operation. An effort will be made to link our emphasis on equal rights with our participation in bilateral co-operation, multilateral co-operation and post-conflict reconstruction.
One way to strengthen the participation of women in decision making is to support the training and education of women in developing countries.
With this goal in mind, the ICEIDA focuses on adult literacy in its bilateral co-operation in Africa, and is in that way supporting the poorest of the poor, illiterate women and men. We have also placed a special emphasis on education for girls, which will help them to build skills for participation in decision-making and income-generating activities in general.
Another field in which ICEIDA aims to improve the position of women is through cooperation in the field of basic health care, focusing on reproductive health.
To name one example of ICEIDA´s support in this field, a maternal house will be opened in Engela, Namibia early next year intended for pregnant women from rural areas who do not have direct access to health services. The construction of the maternal house is funded by ICEIDA which has provided for the construction and rebuilding of five such houses in Nicaragua as well. The maternal houses provide shelter for the women during the last days or weeks of their pregnancy and they return to the Maternal House after the delivery while they are recovering. The service of the Maternal House is free of charge.
In the course of its work within international organizations, Iceland has placed great emphasis on the issue of women in war-torn societies. Women and children are not only the principal victims of conflict. Women and girls are also particularly vulnerable, as we all know, to various forms of abuse where conflicts rage and law and order are ignored.
In post-conflict reconstruction women play a key role, as in development activities in general. UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security of 2000 lays the foundation for further focus by the international community on the affairs of women in war zones and post-conflict territories. Iceland has emphasized the role of women in its peacebuilding operations.
Gender issues should not be put in a separate box. They need to be catered for throughout the system and focused on by men as well as women.
In accordance with existing policies in international development co-operation, Iceland is in the process of mainstreaming gender equality into all its development activities. Account will be taken of the needs and roles of both women and men during the implementation of the Icelandic Development Co-operation Policy to ensure equal opportunity for women and men to influence, participate in and benefit from it.