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Opening remarks by the President of the Human Rights Council at the side-event "Empowering women through economic, social and cultural rights"

12 September 2012

Madam Deputy High Commissioner,
Distinguished panellists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by expressing my appreciation to the Permanent Missions of Finland, Morocco, Peru, Portugal, Spain and Thailand, as well as the NGO Committee on the Status of Women and Young Woman’s Christian Association for inviting me to be present, in my capacity of President of the Human Rights Council, at the opening of this timely side event. Unfortunately, due to a full-day session today, I will have to leave the room before the end to chair the plenary, but H.E. Ms Paivi Kairamo-hella, Permanent Representative of Finland will take the moderator’s place.

I thank Ms Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights for being here with us today.

I would also like to thank the presence today of our distinguished panellists:

  1. Ms. Magdalena Sepúlveda, Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.
  2. Mr Niklas Bruun, Member of the CEDAW Committee.
  3. Ms. Ruth Abril Sttoffels, professor of international law and international relations, at the University Cardenal Herrera CEU, who is specialised in gender issues.
  4. Ms Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, President of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women and General Secretary of YWCA

Women’s rights and gender issues have been at the top of the agenda of the Human Rights Council and it has also been a priority for the Uruguayan presidency, by including remarks on gender issues and women’s rights that need to be highlighted in order to be addressed.

As you know, the Council will hold an annual discussion on this issue on September 20th, precisely on the issue of economic, social and cultural rights of women and the empowerment of women. This side-event is an excellent opportunity to receive a first insight on issues that may arise at the Council’s panel next week.

Moreover, the newly established Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice which presented its first report in our June session, constitutes a new tool of universal scope contributing to the removal of obstacles to the full enjoyment of women’s rights. Indeed, the Working Group intends to focus on States’ obligation to eliminate discrimination against women in economic and social life, especially in view of the international crisis.

The global financial, economic, food and climate crisis have seriously affected human rights worldwide, and in particular women, who are victims of multiple forms of discrimination. Feminized poverty and exclusion are discouragingly rampant. Root causes should be addressed with a human rights perspective. In our first high level panel on human rights mainstreaming, we clearly identified that giving women access to education (starting from childhood of course), health, credit, land, inheritance and jobs, will do a lot in lifting millions of people (not only women) out of poverty.

At Rio+20, Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Executive Director, reminded us that “today one woman dies every 2 minutes from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Violence against women remains a global epidemic. Women earn less than men for the same work, and remain under-represented in decision-making. Less than one in ten Heads of State and Government, less than one in five members of parliament, and less than 4 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are women”.

If women could enjoy equal rights, opportunities as well as participation, they could make a great contribution to society as a whole and to the country’s development.

Sustainable development includes the 3 dimensions: environmental, economic and social. There is a whole chapter in the final outcome of Rio+20 Summit on gender equality and the empowerment of women. In addition to this, it calls to eradicate poverty and integrate human rights in every effort towards sustainable development. Sustainable development goals will be negotiated and therefore, we should closely follow this process in New York.

I will now give the floor to Ms. Kyung-wha Kang, UN Deputy High Commissioner, for an opening statement.