Human Rights Council Holds Panel Discussion on Technical Cooperation and Full and Effective Participation of Women

OHCHR

The Human Rights Council this morning held its annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity building, on the theme of technical cooperation and the full and effective participation of women in decision-making and in public life and on the elimination of violence, with a view to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls

Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the rights of women and girls to full participation in decision-making and in public life were at the heart of the principles of equality of rights. The Office of the High Commissioner, together with the rest of the United Nations system, were supporting States to translate international human rights standards and commitments into national legal and policy frameworks. The panel discussion would highlight examples of technical cooperation in advancing the rights of women and girls to effective participation and to freedom from violence.

Suphatra Srimaitreephithak, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the theme of technical cooperation and the empowerment of all women and girls was timely and significant. With less than 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline, the international community should waste no time. The discussion today would provide a platform for the exchange of good practices in implementing technical cooperation and capacity-building activities to promote the full and effective participation of women in decision making and in public life, and to eliminate all forms of violence faced by women and girls.

Shara Duncan Villalobos, Deputy Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that efforts to ensure the greater participation and involvement of women must necessarily have a gender focus. All measures aimed at eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls must be designed with their participation, respecting their autonomy and knowledge of the challenges faced, and emphasising the principle of progressivity of the human rights of women. States and all their powers and institutions must ensure that there were no setbacks that violently stripped women of their historical conquests.

Najat Maalla M’jid, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said the ongoing humanitarian situations, including protracted conflicts, climate change, food insecurity and the effects of COVID-19, were at the core of the violence toll in women and girls. Ms. M’jid said she had met hundreds of girls over the past months who had left their countries escaping violence. To put an end to violence against children, it was necessary to address gender-based violence and disempowerment of women and girls and to break intergenerational cycles of violence.

Bafana Khumalo, Global Co-chair of MenEngage Alliance, and Co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice, said the elimination of barriers to women’s, girls’ and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals’ full participation in decision-making at all levels was essential to the advancement of gender equality, sustainable development and the achievement of peace worldwide. In every region and context, ideologies of men’s unearned entitlements and privileges over women, socialised men and boys to respond to conflict with violence and to dominate their partners and others in their lives both in the public and private spheres. A lot of work was needed to mitigate this toxic behaviour.

In the ensuing debate, speakers said that women and girls were disproportionately affected by violence, which was an impediment towards their achieving equality. Empowering women was vital for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and to eradicate all forms of violence, including gender-based violence. Strengthening the role of women in public life was a path requiring the convergence of many measures, including putting an end to impunity for violence. Technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights, and the full participation of women and girls in public life were crucial to prevent future violations of human rights.

Some speakers said that technical assistance programmes should be provided only on a voluntary basis, in line with States’ needs and at the request of the country concerned, whilst respecting their specific cultural and religious values. Promoting women’s rights to public and political participation required the repeal of laws and the elimination of discriminatory practices. All forms of physical, symbolic and political violence against women must be eliminated, and the economic empowerment of women must be promoted, allowing them to take up leadership positions.

Speaking in the panel discussion were Guyana, Timor Leste (on behalf of the community of Portuguese speaking countries), Saudi Arabia, Lithuania (on behalf of the a group of countries), Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group), Brazil (on behalf of a group of Latin American countries), European Union, Cambodia (on behalf of a group of Asian countries), Madagascar (on behalf of a group of countries), Cambodia, Honduras, Qatar, Venezuela, Namibia, Mauritania, United Nations Population Fund, Luxembourg, Togo, United Nations Women, Indonesia, Food and Agricultural Organization, India, China, Afghanistan, Argentina, Benin and Gambia.

Also speaking were Centro de Apoio aos Direitos Humanos “Valdício Barbosa dos Santos”, Plan International, and the Representative of South East Asia Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression Caucus.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fiftieth regular session can be found here.

At noon, the Council will consider the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review process of Moldova. Coverage of that review will be in the afternoon release alongside the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of South Sudan, Haiti and Sudan.

Panel Discussion on Technical Cooperation and the Full and Effective Participation of Women in Decision-making and in Public Life and on the Elimination of Violence, with a View to Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of All Women and Girls

Reports

The Council has before it the report of the Office of the High Commissioner on technical cooperation and capacity building to promote and protect the rights of women and girls to full and effective participation in decision-making and in public life and to freedom from violence (A/HRC/50/62)

It also has before it the report of the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights (A/HRC/49/93) (advance unedited version), 17 March 2022)

Statement by Keynote Speaker

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the rights of women and girls to full participation in decision-making and in public life were at the heart of the principles of equality of rights and were essential for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report prepared for the panel highlighted actions taken by the United Nations system to support the efforts of Member States in promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls. Ms. Al-Nashif said the Office of the High Commissioner, together with the rest of the United Nations system, were supporting States to translate international human rights standards and commitments into national legal and policy frameworks. States were supported to promote inclusive electoral processes.

In Iraq, ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections, the Supreme Committee of the Council of Ministers was established to address the barriers, including violence, faced by Iraqi women to participate in political life. The Committee also trained 669 female candidates for the parliamentary elections, with 96 women elected to the Iraqi parliament, exceeding the national quota of 25 per cent by 13 seats. In Turkey, the Young Women Building their Future Project was launched to promote the active participation of young women in economic and social life through vocational training, mentoring and employment opportunities.

In Colombia, the Leadership School of Women for Colombia was created with the objective of inspiring women to represent their communities and actively participate in decision-making processes. As of March 2022, 4,500 women had completed their training and more than 10,000 women were enrolled. Of the 3,500 women who enrolled in 2021, 62 per cent were aspiring to hold an elected position. In the Pacific, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched a report in 2021 on the situation of women human rights defenders in seven countries in the region, and was using this study to develop a protection strategy for women human rights defenders. States also received support to ensure that women and girl victims of violence had access to comprehensive support services. Togo, launched its first holistic care centre, called the One Stop Centre, providing medical, psychosocial and legal services for victims of gender-based violence, and established a legal aid fund for women and girls who were victims of violence.

Concluding, Ms. Al-Nashif said the panel discussion would highlight examples of technical cooperation in advancing the rights of women and girls to effective participation and to freedom from violence.

Statements by the Moderator and the Panellists

SUPHATRA SRIMAITREEPHITHAK, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva and moderator of the panel, said the theme of this year’s annual thematic panel discussion on technical cooperation and capacity building on technical cooperation and the empowerment of all women and girls was timely and significant. With less than 10 years to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by the 2030 deadline, the international community should waste no time. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic had held back some progress made on gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the past decades.

The empowerment of women and girls and their active, free and meaningful participation in decision-making and in public life, on the basis of equality, were fundamental for the achievement of human rights, peace and democracy. Governments and the international community should take necessary steps to build an enabling legal and policy environment to ensure gender equality and promote the empowerment of all women and girls. The discussion today would provide a platform for the exchange of good practices in implementing technical cooperation and capacity-building activities to promote the full and effective participation of women in decision-making and in public life, and to eliminate all forms of violence faced by women and girls.

SHARA DUNCAN VILLALOBOS, Deputy Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that efforts to ensure the greater participation and involvement of women must necessarily have a gender focus. All measures aimed at eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls must be designed with their participation, respecting their autonomy and knowledge of the challenges faced, and emphasising the principle of progressivity of the human rights of women. States and all their powers and institutions must ensure that there were no setbacks that violently stripped women of their historical conquests. Costa Rica had, among other instances to ensure the rights of women, a National Policy for Effective Equality between Women and Men that constituted the fundamental basis of the country strategy for the fulfilment of Sustainable Development Goal 5, related to the achievement of equality and empowerment of all women and girls. A reform of the Electoral Code had been made that had had a great impact changing the Costa Rican political landscape, having introduced the principle of parity and the mechanism of alternation in all structures and decision-making bodies. However, there was still a long way to go to eradicate violence against women in all spheres, including politics.

Despite the important efforts, for Costa Rica to be able to guarantee greater participation of women remained a challenge, but the support of the Office of the High Commissioner and international or regional organizations was appreciated for the execution of cooperation projects that contributed to respect and promotion of the rights of girls and women. For Costa Rica, mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review, the Special Procedures, and the recommendations of the treaty bodies represented an opportunity to receive recommendations, review challenges and continue working to improve the quality of life of inhabitants, which also allowed strengthening of the democratic and institutional system. Gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls must be a priority for governments, while the State must guarantee full, equitable, and true access at all levels to all girls and women to their human rights under conditions of equality.

NAJAT MAALLA M’JID, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said the ongoing humanitarian situations, including protracted conflicts, climate change, food insecurity and the effects of COVID-19, were at the core of the violence toll in women and girls. Ms. M’jid said she had met hundreds of girls over the past months who had left their countries escaping violence. To put an end to violence against children, it was necessary to address gender-based violence and disempowerment of women and girls and to break intergenerational cycles of violence. The High Political Level Forum would start tomorrow, which was a key momentum to turn the high political commitment into concrete actions. Her office was supporting 44 States in presenting analytical reviews on how to highlight issues around violence against children and to encourage meaningful girls’ and boys’ participation in the 2030 Agenda. The substantial economic and social costs of violence against children – boys and girls – could represent as high as 8 per cent of global gross domestic product and at the national level in some States up to 5 per cent of gross domestic product. Millions of dollars could be saved and expended in ensuring active empowerment of women and girls.

Ms. M’jid said her office had produced a mapping of worldwide child and youth-led initiatives to encourage and ensure the full participation of girls and young women. In Chad, the Super Girls were empowering their peers by creating spaces of dialogue on gender-based violence and HIV prevention, despite the strong cultural taboos. In 16 countries in Latin America ‘Tremendas’, an adolescent girl led network launched a collaborative platform to deliver climate education with a gender perspective to girls, while building a network of climate activists who devised solutions to address the climate crisis. Through the design and implementation of well-coordinated programmes, the results of sustainable and context specific technical cooperation could be optimised. Ms. M’jid said that these coordinated efforts should aim at building sustainable, integrated child and gender sensitive social protection systems that reached the most vulnerable girls and their caregivers.

BAFANA KHUMALO, Global Co-chair of MenEngage Alliance, and Co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice, said the elimination of barriers to women’s, girls’ and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals’ full participation in decision-making at all levels was essential to the advancement of gender equality, sustainable development and the achievement of peace worldwide. This task rested with all key stakeholders in society to ensure that this goal was realised. And yet, in every region and context, ideologies of men’s unearned entitlements and privileges over women, girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer individuals; rigid gender and social norms regarding masculinities; and unequal power relations and enforced stereotypical gender roles and practices, socialised men and boys to respond to conflict with violence and to dominate their partners and others in their lives both in the public and private spheres.

A lot of work was needed to mitigate this toxic behaviour. This included norm change interventions that would influence positive masculinities that recognised the importance of treating everyone justly, irrespective of difference. All work with men and boys and to transform patriarchal masculinities should centre accountability to feminist, women’s rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer plus individuals’ rights movements – and to movements for social and environmental justice. Work with men and boys was not an end goal in and of itself, but rather it was a means to achieve gender and social justice.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, some speakers said women and girls were disproportionately affected by violence, which was an impediment towards their achieving equality. They should have an enabling environment, allowing for the elimination of gender-based violence. Women and girls who were victims of gender-based violence could provide a holistic picture of the range of issues to be addressed by policy makers if this was to be effectively countered. Partnership with women and girls was indispensable in the process. Empowering women was vital for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and eradicating all forms of violence, including gender-based violence.

Strengthening the role of women in public life was a path requiring the convergence of many measures, including putting an end to impunity for violence, said some speakers. Women must be empowered and allowed to participate in the economic and social life of countries: attaining equality was fundamental for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The international community and national governments played a vital role in fighting violence and empowering women and girls.

Some speakers noted that technical cooperation and the implementation of recommendations from the human rights mechanisms should be at the core of strengthening national institutions and improving the situation, ensuring the full participation of women and girls. Technical assistance programmes should be provided only on a voluntary basis, in line with States’ needs and at the request of the country concerned, whilst respecting their specific cultural and religious values. Technical assistance and capacity building in the field of human rights, and the full participation of women and girls in public life were crucial in order to prevent future violations of human rights.

Speakers said that promoting women’s rights to public and political participation required the repeal of laws and the elimination of discriminatory practices. Opportunities must be broadened to allow the participation of women in decision-making, with the involvement of civil society. All forms of physical, symbolic and political violence against women must be eliminated, and economic empowerment of women promoted, allowing them to take up leadership positions. Regional cooperation could play a strategic role to allow this to take place.

There was a need to overcome the de-facto segregation of women to political roles that were paralleled with their stereotypical private roles. Spaces for dialogue would contribute to a peaceful and sustainable world for women and girls, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer plus persons and those of differing gender identity. Gender equality could only be ensured if the paradigm was changed, with gender-mainstreaming applied to all policies, some speakers said. The increased use of the Internet increased the risks of violence, and the digital divide and digital illiteracy impeded States’ ability to fight online violence. Women’s free and active participation in civil and political life were fundamental for their full enjoyment of human rights. Poverty and social exclusion were lasting impediments to women’s full enjoyment of these rights – thus economic involvement must be encouraged to ensure women had access to them.

Concluding Remarks

SUPHATRA SRIMAITREEPHITHAK, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva and moderator of the panel, thanked the speakers, noting that a number of interventions mentioned the importance of partnership. This could be seen in the partnership of women and girls as actors and through the partnership of all stakeholders to provide a programme of cooperation and capacity building. The importance of raising awareness through modern technology was highlighted, as well as the need to enable the environment for women and girls to take part in communities, and the non-politicised manner of participation of women and girls. Questions were asked, including how to better inform women and girls of their rights and how efforts in the future could be more sustainable.

SHARA DUNCAN VILLALOBOS, Deputy Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said this was an opportunity to work on recommendations and challenges, seeking to improve living standards for the populations while strengthening democratic institutions and the human rights protection system around the world. Gender equality needed to be a priority and equitable access must be ensured. States needed to identify areas where there were challenges and address them using technical cooperation. Costa Rica encouraged participation for all women and girls, including those who had been excluded due to intersectional discrimination. Everyone had the right to a space at the decision-making table.

NAJAT MAALLA M’JID, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, said the international community needed to be concrete and pragmatic, and make sure that opportunities existed. More and more opportunities needed to be strengthened: opportunities that were safe pathways allowing all to express themselves freely. There should not be “one shot” participation – it should be systematic. Women and girls needed to be consulted and involved in creating and implementing the policies concerning them. World-wide, there were wonderful opportunities. Social media and traditional media could be used to ensure that all people were informed, and their opportunities included. Governments should ensure that women’s, girls’ and boys’ voices were heard. The world was facing the most challenging crises, including the pandemic, and women and children were suffering from these to the greatest extent. There needed to be investment in involving them in the process of restoration, and this should be fully embedded in all initiatives.

Girls and boys were already taking action and needed to be brought on board in order to fulfil all promises and make sure that all were in line with international standards. Girls were facing many challenges, and requested that they be allowed to speak, and that others did not speak for them, not only at the national but also at local level, establishing an inter-generational dialogue in an inclusive and respective manner.

BAFANA KHUMALO, Global Co-chair of MenEngage Alliance, and Co-founder of Sonke Gender Justice, could not make concluding remarks because of technical issues.

SUPHATRA SRIMAITREEPHITHAK, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations Office at Geneva and moderator of the panel, said that it was clear that urgent action was required to advance the rights of women to full participation in public life, and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. The views expressed today highlighted opportunities for ensuring an end to violence against women and their effective participation, making their voices heard, and their lives better.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/07/le-conseil-tient-son-debat-annuel-sur-la-cooperation-technique

/Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.