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Joint Declaration: On Advancing Women’s Political Participation

Following is a joint declaration issued at the conclusion of the September 19, 2011 United Nations Women event on Women’s Political Participation.

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We, the undersigned Heads of State and Government, Foreign Ministers, and High Representatives, affirm that women’s political participation is fundamental to democracy and essential to the achievement of sustainable development and peace.

We reaffirm the human right of women to take part in the Governments of their countries, directly or through freely chosen representatives, on an equal basis with men, and that all States should take affirmative steps to respect and promote women’s equal right to participate in all areas and at all levels of political life.

We stress the critical importance of women’s political participation in all contexts, including in times of peace, conflict and in all stages of political transition.

We recognize the essential contributions women around the world continue to make to the achievement and maintenance of international peace and security and to the full realization of human rights; to the promotion of sustainable development; and to the eradication of poverty, hunger, and disease. Even so, we are concerned that women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from decision-making, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, and attitudes, and due to poverty disproportionately affecting women.

We reaffirm our commitment to the equal rights and inherent human dignity of women enshrined in the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other relevant international human rights instruments. We call upon all States to ratify and fulfill their obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and to implement fully Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women and Peace and Security and other relevant UN resolutions.

We call upon all States, including those emerging from conflict or undergoing political transitions, to eliminate all discriminatory barriers faced by women, particularly marginalized women, and we encourage all States to take proactive measures to address the factors preventing women from participating in politics such as violence, poverty, lack of access to quality education and health care, the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and to actively promote women’s political participation including through affirmative measures, as appropriate.

We reaffirm and express full support for the important role of the United Nations system in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and we welcome UN Women and its mandate in this regard.

 


Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Women and the Economy Summit

Good morning. Good morning. (Applause.)

Good morning everyone. Thank you. Thank you so much. Oh, it is absolutely a pleasure to see all of you here today and I’ve been getting reports about the conference, and I am so excited to join you today to talk about what we are focused on here at this Summit on Women and the Economy.

Before I begin, I want to apologize for the delay but there were so many people who showed up, and because this is the largest gathering of distinguished foreign diplomats in San Francisco, since the founding of the United Nations – (applause) – there was a little more of a delay in getting everyone in, and there are still people outside we hope will be able to get in. Before I begin my remarks, let me recognize a few of our special guests here. We have two members of Congress, Zoe Lofgren and Jackie Speier. Thank you very much for being with us. (Applause.)

And we have two distinguished mayors. I want to welcome Mayor Edwin Lee and his wife Anita from right here in San Francisco. Mayor Lee? (Applause.) And Mayor Jean Quan from Oakland. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) And on a personal note I want to acknowledge a wonderful and former chief of protocol, Charlotte Shultz. Thank you, Charlotte. (Applause.)

Now as this summit comes to a close, we will adopt a declaration for the first time in APEC’s history that will affirm this organization’s and each member economy’s commitment to improving women’s access to capital and markets, to building women’s capacities and skills, and to supporting the rise of women leaders in both the public and private sectors. And it is fitting that this declaration would be adopted here in San Francisco because it was just one mile from here, in the Herbst Theater, where the United Nations Charter was signed 66 years ago. In fact, the APEC Summit, which brings you all here is a celebration of that important occasion and a recognition that history is made right here in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is an appropriate venue for this economic discussion. Because this is a community that is renowned for its spirit of inclusion and opportunity for all. So on behalf of the United States and our people I give each of you, and you nations, my heartiest welcome and my heartfelt thanks for being here and undertaking this great mission with us.

Now there will be a temptation on the part of those observing or covering this summit, perhaps on the part of those of us attending it as well, to say that our purpose is chiefly to advance the rights of women, to achieve justice and equality on women’s behalf. And that is, of course, a noble cause to be sure and one that is very close to my heart. But at the risk of being somewhat provocative at the outset, I believe our goal is even bolder, one that extends beyond women to all humankind. The big challenge we face in these early years of 21st century is how to grow our economies and ensure shared prosperity for all nations and all people. We want to give every one of our citizens, men and women alike, young and old alike, greater opportunity to find work, to save and spend money, to pursue happiness ultimately to live up to their own God-given potentials.

That is a clear and simple vision to state. But to make it real, to achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women. With economic models straining in every corner of the world, none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers facing women in the workforce. Because by increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can bring about a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies. Because when everyone has a chance to participate in the economic life of a nation, we can all be richer. More of us can contribute to the global GDP. And the gap between the developed and the developing countries would narrow significantly as productivity rises in economies from Haiti to Papua New Guinea.

But that great, global dream cannot be realized by tinkering around the edges of reform. Nor, candidly, can it be secured though any singular commitment on the part of us here. It requires, rather, a fundamental transformation, a paradigm shift in how governments make and enforce laws and policies, how businesses invest and operate, how people make choices in the marketplace.

The transformational nature of this undertaking that lies ahead is, in my view, not unlike other momentous shifts in the economic history of our world. In the 19th century, many nations began moving from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Then the inventions and mass productions of that era gave rise in the 20th century to the information age and the knowledge economy, with an unprecedented rise in innovation and prosperity.

As information transcends borders and creates opportunities for farmers to bank on mobile phones and children in distant villages to learn remotely, I believe that here, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are entering the participation age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

In some APEC economies, this transformation has been underway for quite awhile now. In others, it has begun more recently. But in all, progress has been too slow and too uneven. But there is no doubt that the increasing numbers of women in the economy and the rising productivity gains from improving the distribution of their talents and skills has helped fuel significant growth everywhere. And economies that are making the shift more effectively and rapidly are dramatically outperforming those that have not.

So if we are serious about this undertaking, if we really want to achieve parity for women in the workforce, both that they participate and how they participate, then we must remove structural and social impediments that stack the deck against them. Now, I don’t urge this because it is the right thing to do, though I believe that it is, but for the sake of our children and our nations, it is necessary to do. Because a rising tide of women in an economy raises the fortunes of families and nations.

Now, my husband often says, in making the argument that everyone should be involved, that we don’t have a person to waste. I think that’s true. When it comes to the enormous challenge of our time, to systematically and relentlessly pursue more economic opportunity in all of our lands, we don’t have a person to waste, and we certainly don’t have a gender to waste either.

So let’s look at the evidence. The case for unlocking the potential of women and including them more fully in the economic life of our nations begins with the accounting of how women already are driving growth. The 21 economies of APEC are among the most dynamic in the world. Together, we represent more than half of total economic global output, and more than 60 percent of women in the APEC economies are part of our formal workforces. They’re opening stores, they’re running businesses, they’re harvesting crops, they’re assembling electronics, and designing software.

The Economist points out that the increase in employment of women in developed countries during the past decade has added more to global growth than China has, and that’s a lot. And in the United States, a McKinsey study found that women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs to nearly 48 percent over the past 40 years, and that in sheer value terms, these women have punched well above their weight.

The productivity gains attributable to this modest increase in women’s overall share of the labor market accounts for approximately one-quarter of the current U.S. GDP. That works out to more than three and a half trillion dollars, more than the GDP of Germany and more than half the GDPs of both China and Japan.

So the promise is clear. What then is the problem? If women are already making such contributions to economic growth, why do we need a major realignment in our thinking, our markets, and our policies? Why do we need to issue a declaration from this summit? Well, because evidence of progress is not evidence of success, and to be sure, the rate of progress for women in the economies of our region varies widely. Laws, customs, and the values that fuel them provide roadblocks to full inclusion.

In the United States and in every economy in APEC, millions of women are still sidelined, unable to find a meaningful place for themselves in the formal workforce. And some of those who get to enter the workforce are really confined by very clear signals to a lower rung on the job ladder, and there’s a web of legal and social restrictions that limit their potential. Or they are confronted with a glass ceiling that keeps them from the most senior positions.

Only 11 of the CEOs of the Fortune Global 500 companies are women. That’s less than 3 percent. Some women in the APEC region don’t have the same inheritance rights as men. So they can’t inherit property or businesses owned by their fathers. Some don’t have the power to confer citizenship on their children, so their families have less access to housing and education, and they must constantly renew residency permits making it harder for them to work. Some are even subject to different taxes than men. Too often they are denied access to credit and may even be prohibited from opening bank accounts, signing contracts, purchasing property, incorporating a business, or filing lawsuits without a male guardian. Some women earn almost as much as men before they have children but less afterwards and even less if they are single mothers.

These barriers and restrictions, some formal, some informal, erode women’s abilities to participate fully in their economies and to support their families whether as employees or entrepreneurs. Now, these barriers are certainly not unique to this region, the Asia Pacific region. Variations of them can be found everywhere in the world. But because this is the most dynamic economic region in the world, what we do will have an impact on everywhere else.

Some barriers are left over from a different time and haven’t changed to reflect new economic realities or concepts of justice. Some seek to preserve an economic order that ensures that men have the higher paying jobs to support their families. And some reflect lingering cultural norms, the belief that women need to be protected from work that is thought to be dangerous or unhealthy for them.

In truth, what is dangerous is denying ourselves the level of economic growth we need to build stronger societies. And what is unhealthy is for women to be denied the chance to contribute fully to that growth, because that denies everyone, first and foremost their families, a chance at greater prosperity.

Now, economic orders do not perpetuate themselves. They are made and remade through countless decisions, small and large, by economic policymakers, political leaders, and business executives. So if we want to see opportunities for women improve, we must begin with sound economic policies that explicitly address the unique challenges that limit women. And here’s why: A Goldman Sachs report shows how a reduction in barriers to female labor force participation would increase America’s GDP by 9 percent. We admit we still have such barriers. It would increase the Eurozone’s by 13 percent – and they need it – and Japan’s by 16 percent. Unlocking the potential of women by narrowing the gender gap could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by the year 2020 in several APEC economies, including China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea.

Of course, rising income means increased spending, which in itself helps to fuel more growth. And here, too, women make a strong contribution. A Boston Consulting Group survey concludes that, globally, women will control $15 trillion in spending by the year 2014. And by 2028, BCG says women will be responsible for about two-thirds of consumer spending worldwide.

Digging a little deeper into the data, we can see positive benefits that flow from both the quality of spending and the quantity of saving by women because multiple studies have shown that women spend more of their earned income on food, healthcare, home improvement, and schooling for themselves and their children. In short, they reinvest, and that kind of spending has a multiplier effect leading to more job growth and diversified local economies. And that, in turn, can help ensure better educated, healthier citizens as well as provide a cushion in the event of market downturns.

The research also shows that women are stronger savers than men. Data – does that surprise any of the women in the audience? (Laughter.) Data from 20 semi-industrialized countries suggest that for every one percentage point increase in the share of household income generated by women, aggregate domestic savings increased by roughly 15 basis points. And a higher savings rate translates into a higher tax base as well.

Integrating women more effectively into the way businesses invest, market, and recruit also yields benefits in terms of profitability and corporate governance. In a McKinsey survey, a third of executives reported increased profits as a result of investments in empowering women in emerging markets. Research also demonstrates a strong correlation between higher degrees of gender diversity in the leadership ranks of business and organizational performance. The World Bank finds that by eliminating discrimination against female workers and managers, managers could significantly increase productivity per worker by 25 to 40 percent. Reducing barriers preventing women from working in certain sectors would lower the productivity gap between male and female workers by a third to one half across a range of countries.

Now, these gains are achieved because removing barriers means that the talent and skills of women can be deployed more efficiently. And in our globalized world today, this is a competitive edge that is more important than ever. All of this underscores my primary point: When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.

Take just one sector of our economy – agriculture – to illustrate what I mean. We know women play an important role in driving agriculture-led growth worldwide. Agriculture is a powerful engine for development, as we have seen in the remarkable rise of China and India. And in several APEC economies, women comprise nearly half of the agriculture labor force. They sustain every link in the agricultural chain: They plant the seeds; they care for the livestock; they harvest the crops; they sell them at markets; they store the food, and then they prepare it for consumption.

But as for the role of women in agriculture nowadays, despite their presence in all of these kinds of jobs, they have less to show for all of their work. Women farmers are up to 30 percent less productive than male farmers, and that’s not because they are working less or are less committed. It’s because women farmers have access to fewer resources. They have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, and less access to training or to land. And they have much less time to farm because they also have to do most of the household work. When that resource gap is closed and resources are allocated equally – and better yet, efficiently – women and men are equally productive in agriculture. And that has positive benefits. In Nepal, for example, where mothers have greater ownership of land because of their inheritance rights, there are fewer severely underweight children.

So what we have here is an opportunity to accelerate growth in developing economies while, at the same time, producing more and cheaper food for our planet. Close the resource gap holding women back in developing economies, and we could feed 150 million more people worldwide every year, and that’s according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, and that’s in addition to the higher incomes for families and the more efficient markets and the more agricultural trade that would result.

The same kind of impact can be seen in other sectors in our economies, because we know that the entrepreneurial spirit of women is strong. More than half a million enterprises in Indonesia and nearly 400,000 in Korea are headed by women. They run fully 20 percent of all of China’s small businesses. All across Asia, women have and continue to dominate light manufacturing sectors that have proved crucial to the region’s economic takeoff. And economists predict that women-owned businesses, which now provide for 16 percent of all U.S. jobs, will create nearly a third of the new jobs anticipated over the next seven years.

So with that kind of evidence at hand, it is little wonder that the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report finds a direct correlation between the gender gap and economic productivity – the lower the former, the higher the latter. As Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum concludes, “Women and girls must be treated equally if a country is to grow and prosper.” The declaration we will adopt here today can begin to close that gender gap, by making it possible for more women to unleash their potential as workers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.

And the goals in this declaration are very specific. We commit to giving women access to capital so women entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into the small and medium enterprises that are the source of so much growth and job creation. We urge examining and reforming our legal and regulatory systems so women can avail themselves of the full range of financial services. And such reforms can also help ensure that women are not forced to compromise on the well-being of their children to pursue a business career.

We must improve women’s access to markets so those who start businesses can keep them open. For example, we need to correct the problem of what’s called information asymmetric problems, meaning that woman are not informed about the trade and technical assistance programs that are available, as we just discussed in agriculture.

There are two State Department programs that we are using to try to model a lot of these approaches. A program called Pathways to Prosperity connects policymakers and private sector leaders in 15 countries across the Americas. It’s aimed at helping small business owners, small farmers, craftspeople do more business, both locally and through regional trade. And the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program reaches out to women that are part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act countries to provide them with information and tools to take advantage of what AGOA has to offer.

And then finally, we must support the rise of women leaders in the public and private sectors because they bring firsthand knowledge and understanding of these challenges, and their perspectives will add great value as we shape policies and programs that will eliminate barriers to bring women into all economic sectors.

Several businesses already are taking significant steps to meet such goals. Goldman Sachs is training the next generation of women business leaders in developing economies with its Ten Thousand Women campaign. Coca Cola’s “Five by Twenty” campaign aims to support five million women entrepreneurs worldwide by 2020. And just this week, Wal-Mart announced that it will use its purchasing power to support women entrepreneurs by doubling the amount of goods it will buy from women-owned businesses globally to $20 billion by 2016. (Applause.) In addition, Wal-Mart will invest $100 million to help women develop their job skills, including women who work on the farms and factories overseas that are Wal-Mart suppliers.

Now, these programs are just the start of the type of permanent shift we need to see in how businesses worldwide invest in women.

Now, I do not underestimate the difficulty of ushering in what I call the participation age. Legal changes require political will. Cultural and behavioral changes require social will. All of this requires leadership by governments, civil society, and by the private sector. And even when countries pursue aggressive structural reforms to get more women into their economy and enhance their productivity, they don’t always produce the results that we would like to see. So we have to stay with this. Persistence is part of our long-term plan.

And while economic orders may be hard to change, and policy strategies—no matter how good—can only get us so far, we all have to make a choice, not simply to remove the barriers but to really fill this field with active investment and involvement from all of us. Those of you who are here today are leaders from across the APEC region, and it is your choice to come here, it is your choice to focus on women and the economy that will send a message rippling across APEC. And the countless decisions that will be taken by leaders and citizens to encourage young girls to stay in school, to acquire skills, to talk to that banker, to understand what it means to give a loan to a woman who will work her heart out to produce a result for herself and her children. And when we do that, we are going to really make a big difference in helping elevate the age of participation for women.

And there are many other areas we have to be attentive to. Our medical research dollars need to be sure that we are equally investing in women as men. Our tax systems have to ensure that we don’t either deliberately or inadvertently discriminate against women. And women should be given the same opportunities to be productive and contributing members of society.

But big and bold ideas, I think are called for in our world today, because a lot of what we’re doing is not achieving the outcomes that we are seeking. There is a stimulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic fortunes of their families, their communities, and their countries. Many people say that there are all kinds of benefits that will flow from this, but I want to be somewhat modest in our goals. Yes, I do think it will produce more food and more educational opportunity and more financial stability for more families around the world, and that will have dividends across the full spectrum of society.

But our declaration will be meaningless if we don’t put our will and effort behind it. I think this summit just might make the history books if people look back in years to come and say, that meeting in San Francisco with all of those important people from across the Asia Pacific said something that had never been said before. They didn’t just assert that involving women was the good thing to do or the right thing to do. They put their heads together and came up with a declaration committing themselves to really tackle the obstacles, because it will benefit the people we all represent.

And then we need to measure our progress to be sure that we are tracking what we care about. We obviously do that in our own lives, but it’s important we do it across our countries and our regions. And I am sure that if we leave this summit and go back to our governments and our businesses and focus on how we’re going to improve employment, bring down national debts, create greater trade between us, tackling all of that, and always in the back of our mind keep in focus what more can we do to make sure women contribute to those results, we will see progress and we will be in the lead at not only asserting what we think should be done, but in measuring and tracking how well we are doing.

So I thank you for gathering here in San Francisco, mindful that we’re on a long journey together. I look out and I see friends from across the region representing countries that have been so amazing in the progress that you have made in the last 50 years, even in the last 30 years. It will take time. It will take our concerted effort. But I am convinced that if we come into pursuing the promise of this participation age and unleashing and harnessing the economic potential of women, we will see a new and better future.

That is why I am honored to be here representing the people of the United States, bearing witness to what begins right here in San Francisco, on September 16th, 2011. This is the beginning of a very promising future for us all. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

 
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Charge d’Affaires Robbins’ Response to the Secretary General’s Report on the Implementation of the 2004 OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States joins other delegations in expressing appreciation for this very comprehensive report. We would like to thank the Secretary General, the Gender Unit, ODIHR, the High Commissioner for National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and all those in various OSCE structures who contributed.

The United States strongly supports efforts to make gender issues a priority in all three OSCE dimensions, including in the politico-military and the economic and environmental dimensions, where women are still significantly under-represented. We attach great importance to the discussions of gender and security in the FSC and the Security Committee this past year and would like to see them continued.

The United States commends the Secretariat’s continuing development of tools and methodologies to help participating States implement their commitments on gender equality. A growing number of field operations focusing on integrating a gender perspective into OSCE policies, programs and field work and the appointment of gender focal points in field operations are noteworthy examples of progress in mainstreaming gender issues. We likewise applaud the March 2011 conference on Women’s Entrepreneurship in the OSCE: Trends and Good Practices and the continuing publication of the newsletter “Gender Monitor” to highlight best practices.

We also commend the steady increase in the recruitment of women to higher management positions and hope to see improvement also in the representation of women in OSCE field missions and institutions. The United States has been a strong advocate and actor in pursuing this goal. According to the report more than half of all OSCE staff seconded by the United States is female. We believe more can and should be done. As the CiO’s Special Representative on Gender Affairs Wendy Patten highlighted in March, the severe under-representation of women among Heads of Mission and Deputy Heads of Mission remains a matter of grave concern. We urge participating States to nominate more qualified female candidates to fill these and other critical positions in top OSCE leadership and management. We appreciate the increasing number of gender-inclusive projects and programs conducted in the field missions across all three dimensions, but we believe that additional attention can be paid to initiatives that boost the participation of women in conflict prevention, crisis management, conflict resolution, and post-conflict rehabilitation efforts. Programs initiated by OSCE missions in Armenia, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro and Serbia are noteworthy examples.

Similarly, we commend ODIHR for the development of its Human Rights, Women and Security Programme as well as its focus and training on Women in Armed Forces within its new Handbook on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel. Marking the 10th Anniversary of UN Resolution 1325, the U.S. delegation co-sponsored a side event at the Review Conference in Warsaw to discuss successful strategies for involving women in security, conflict resolution and peace building. OSCE participating States have yet to implement all gender-related OSCE commitments and we strongly encourage continued efforts to help participating States reach gender equality, prevention of violence against women, women’s political and economic participation, and inclusion of women in conflict prevention, crisis management and post conflict reconstruction. In concluding, I quote Secretary Clinton on the occasion of the centennial of International Women’s Day in March of this year: “.., the United States continues to make women a cornerstone of our foreign policy. It’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone – the world over.”

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 
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Statement by Courtney Nemroff at the Economic and Social Council regarding Empowerment of Women

U.S. Statement on Agenda Items 4, 7(a) and 7(e)

Thank you, Mr. Vice-President, Excellencies, Distinguished delegates,

The United States recognizes the need to improve coordination on policies and programs within the UN system to empower women, and fully supports UN Women, Under-Secretary-General Bachelet and her team in stepping up to this challenge. The founding resolution of UN Women, General Assembly resolution 63/289, last year’s ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration, and the ECOSOC resolutions we are about to adopt later this morning give UN Women a firm mandate to work with other parts of the UN system to clearly define the respective roles and responsibilities of each Fund, Programme, Agency and Organization. The Executive Board of UN Women last month endorsed a Management Results Framework for its Strategic Plan. This Framework emphasizes UN system coordination, coherence, efficiency, partnerships and accountability to further women’s empowerment. We expect to see the fruits of improved cooperation and coordination both at headquarters level and in the field. As the 2010 Ministerial Declaration said, “investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth.”

The mandates and objectives of the UN system cannot be fully met if half the world’s population is overlooked by any part of UN family in its planning and policies. Each part of the UN system must do what is needed within its own mandate to see that a gender perspective is incorporated in its work, and that women benefit fully and equitably from its projects. UN Women, playing its leadership and coordination role, will need to hold all parts of the system accountable for upholding their responsibilities towards meeting women’s needs, as well as men’s, in their programming.

We support UN Women’s efforts to enhance its country and regional level capacities. However, UN Women does not yet have all the required resources to meet the needs of women and girls throughout the world. For this reason, it must work particularly closely at this early stage with Country Teams and Resident Coordinators to build upon the strong field presence of other UN Funds, Programmes and Agencies to get the tasks done and to help member states maximize their capacities to empower women. We look to UN Women, and other parts of the UN system, as much as possible, to involve gender equality advocates in decision-making processes that affect women, develop knowledge and expertise on gender equality issues, provide technical assistance, and improve coordination on gender issues within the Resident Coordinator system. The objective of these efforts is to assist governments in developing the necessary laws and policies to ensure women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Despite the critical linkage between the situation of women and a nation’s development, prosperity, and security, issues of women’s empowerment received inconsistent and insufficient attention prior to the creation of UN Women. We have high expectations of UN Women Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director Michelle Bachelet to turn that situation around, and have already seen the energy and high profile she has brought to this issue. Her status as a member of the UN Secretary-General’s core leadership team and her presence on senior governing bodies – including the Chief Executive Board, Committee on Programmes, Committee on Management, and the UN Development Group – elevates women’s issues to the appropriate higher level and injects gender considerations into policies throughout UN entities.

The United States is active on cross-cutting issues contained in the 2010 Ministerial Declaration to strengthen implementation of internationally agreed goals and commitments regarding gender equality and empowerment of women. We continue to work both at home and abroad towards eliminating violence against women, including by welcoming a visit from Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Rashida Manjoo in January 2011. The United States supports Special Rapporteur Manjoo, her mandate, and her activities in calling attention to some of the world’s worst human rights abuses.

FAO’s 2011 report on the “State of Food and Agriculture” notes that women lag significantly behind men in access to land, seeds, credit, and modern technologies. Women also remain underrepresented in political and administrative structures. This prevents their equal participation in agricultural training programs and producer organizations. Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, is focused on promoting practical measures that have been demonstrated to empower rural women. We strive to include women in all stages of consultations and planning. The United States is also working with partners to expand women’s participation in all levels of decision-making and to ensure women’s equal access to assets, technologies, and markets, including financial services such as savings and credit. Mobile innovations such as smart cards allow women to deposit money into their accounts and control their earnings.

Thank you and we look forward to hearing about other member states’ progress in implementing the goals of last year’s Ministerial Declaration.

 


U.S. Welcomes Historic Resolution Protecting the Human Rights of LGBT People

Click here for the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution “Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Mr. President,

The United States is thrilled to join with our friends from South Africa and Brazil and many others in support of this simple but historic resolution. More than sixty years ago the Commission on Human Rights approved the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – the first internationally approved affirmation that all people have human rights and all people have fundamental rights. Distinctions on account of race, religion, gender, ethnicity or other status were deemed incompatible with human dignity.

Today, we have taken an important step forward in our recognition that human rights are indeed universal. We recognize that violence against a person because of who they are is wrong. The right to choose who we love, and with whom to share our lives – is sacred. Further, we send the unequivocal message that each human being deserves equal protection from violence and discrimination.

Today, we make history in the fight for basic fairness and equality. We are moving forward, aspiring to the best of our nature, and welcome all member states to join this movement in furthering the human rights of all people.

Finally, we thank the South African government for its stunning leadership and consultative approach to this issue, and we look forward to working with Council members as we implement this exceptional step towards equality.

Thank you.

 


Ambassador Verveer’s Remarks to the OECD Ministerial Session on Development and Gender

As we mark the OECD’s 50th anniversary, we are rightly focused on addressing today’s challenges to ensure a future based on smart economic policies, inclusive and sustainable growth and effective development. If we are to achieve these goals, women and girls need to be at the core of our efforts.

When we boost female employment and promote women’s entrepreneurship, we drive economic growth. It also helps to reverse the plummeting birthrates that some countries are experiencing. It is a simple fact that economies are severely shortchanged when we do not tap the economic potential of women–or as Secretary Clinton described the consequences, “Global progress and prosperity will have its own glass ceiling.”

Further, development investments in women and girls correlate positively with poverty reduction and a country’s general prosperity. According to the World Bank, the greater the representation of women in government decision-making, the lower the level of corruption.

The OECD Gender Initiative, which the United States is pleased to support, is focused on education, employment, and entrepreneurship; and it is a much-needed resource for the promotion of economic growth. One outcome of the Initiative will be the creation of a data bank of vital economic data disaggregated by gender. This will be essential to better capture women’s economic status and enable the creation of indicators for evidence-based decisions, as well as identify better ways to address the barriers women confront.

In her opening remarks, Secretary Clinton called for the OECD and other partners, like UN Women and the World Bank, to work together to improve gender data. This coordination will improve data comparability and build a more comprehensive body of evidence to track progress and analyze the impact of different practices, regulations and policies.

We also join in supporting preparations on the joint plan for discussion at the upcoming High-Level Aid Effectiveness Forum in Busan by OECD, the UN and the World Bank.

In addition, we are pleased that the OECD will produce a report focused on the APEC countries and their 21 economies to be released at the APEC Women and the Economy Summit which will take place in San Francisco in September.

Lastly, unprecedented changes in North Africa and the Middle East (MENA) include serious economic challenges as well. I want to commend the OECD and Ambassador Karen Kornbluh for the important work that is being done to create an open and growing inter-regional network to support the creation and growth of women-led businesses. The MENA region has the lowest rates of women’s economic participation.

Without women’s empowerment, the promise of the Arab Spring will be dashed. The OECD Women’s Business Forum has undertaken an ambitious program to identify the barriers that persist and to develop recommendations to MENA governments on how to create enabling environments to foster women entrepreneurs and business owners. Few initiatives will be more important in the days ahead.

In short, as we chart a future that results in “better lives for all,” it is critical to promote gender quality. Otherwise we will have neither smart economics nor smart development.

 


Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

This is a historic step forward for all Americans, a step toward a more perfect union and a more perfect reflection of our core values. As the President and I have repeatedly said, we are committed to universal standards abroad and here at home. Our progress on equality here strengthens our advocacy for human dignity everywhere.

 


Protecting LGBT Asylum Seekers and Refugees

Thank you Bob, for that kind introduction. It is an honor to be here today with all of you to celebrate LGBT Pride Month, and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities ahead. I’d like to thank Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA) and the Office of Civil Rights for organizing this important event, and for inviting me to participate.

I know you all join me in recognizing Secretary Clinton for her inspiring words, and for her unparalleled leadership and principled advocacy on behalf of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender) individuals throughout the world, starting here at the Department of State. And we could not have a better ally at USAID than Administrator Raj Shah.

Let me just echo what you’ve already heard this morning: protecting the rights of LGBT persons around the world is a priority for the Obama administration. We will continue to stand against persecution and other violations of human rights against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, anywhere in the world.

For the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), this means identifying and addressing protection challenges for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. We know that in some countries, people are threatened, tortured and even killed for their sexual orientation or gender identity, or for not conforming to social and cultural norms about how men and women should behave, dress, or speak. LGBT individuals who have fled their own countries may continue to face serious threats in countries of asylum, where they may be isolated and reluctant to seek help.

This is a problem that demands a response. Our Bureau will continue to engage with both non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international organization partners to strengthen our collaboration on behalf of vulnerable LGBT refugees and asylum seekers.

We have raised this issue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at both senior and working levels and will continue to do so. UNHCR’s 2008 Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity is an important foundation for enhancing protection for those facing persecution or threats based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. UNHCR must ensure that the Guidance Note is thoroughly understood and implemented by UNHCR personnel worldwide.

This Administration has a strong interest in UNHCR leadership taking effective actions to improve protection for LGBT refugees and asylum seekers. And with our encouragement and support, UNHCR is planning a number of new internal initiatives linked to refugee status determination and resettlement procedures that will focus on identifying protection concerns related to sexual orientation or gender identity. UNHCR will continue training of their staff on these issues, and work with NGOs to clarify the roles and responsibilities for everyone involved through all stages of a refugee situation.

UNHCR is also drafting a revised version of its resettlement handbook that will address these issues. We will remain engaged with UNHCR on these and related efforts, including an upcoming UNHCR-hosted workshop on LGBT refugees.

We have also worked to improve the speed with which we process all highly vulnerable refugee resettlement cases, and the Department will continue to coordinate with our U.S. government, international organization, and NGO partners to ensure these cases are processed as quickly as possible, and that vulnerable individuals, including LGBT persons, are afforded necessary protections.

Earlier this month, PRM hosted a meeting with NGO representatives to exchange information and ideas for enhancing protection for vulnerable LGBT refugees. We will establish a working group to further develop recommendations from that meeting, including on issues related to expedited resettlement to the U.S. and protection challenges overseas. The working group will include NGO representatives, PRM staff, and other U.S. government offices involved in refugee protection and assistance. We look forward to continuing our positive collaboration with members of the NGO community, many of whom I see here today.

We will also continue our efforts to mainstream broader gender issues into our programming in humanitarian settings and in our institutional relationships with international organization and NGO partners. This means assessing the impact of programs we fund on women and girls, and men and boys, and promoting inclusion. It also means enhancing our work to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including violence directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

This violence is often rooted in destructive notions of how men and women should behave and interact, and we cannot make progress towards achieving gender equality without addressing these fundamental problems.

As Secretary Clinton noted this morning, this is a battle not yet won, but one well worth fighting. Today, we acknowledge those who risk their lives to speak out, and those who advocate tirelessly at home and abroad, for basic principles of equality, justice, and tolerance.

I look forward to working on these challenges with my colleagues in the Administration, and with many of you here, in the coming months.

And I hope that by next June, we have even more to celebrate. Thank you.

 
 

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