Beirut, 04 October 2017 (Communication and Information Unit) – United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCWA Mohamed Ali Al-Hakim, today said: "Even as we welcome the positive developments with regard to guaranteeing equality and social justice in Arab societies and reforms aimed at enhancing women’s rights and their participation in community building, we should not overlook the tremendous challenges facing our region. Arab countries are racked by all manner of violence and conflicts that, aside from shattering the peace, are threatening all that has been achieved in terms of social development and progress. One country in particular, Palestine, has suffered under, and continues to endure, decades of occupation.”
Al-Hakim was speaking before a crowd of ministers and high-level government officials and experts who came to the ESCWA headquarters in Beirut to take part in the 8th Session of the ESCWA Committee on Women. Participants came from Lebanon, Palestine, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Sultanate of Oman, Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Kingdom of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Tunisia, Syria, Mauritania , Yemen and Morocco to present the achievements of their countries, as well as to set up a roadmap in order to maintain the gains and meet the obstacles related to the status of women in the region. The Session will continue till Thursday 5 October 2017.
In addition to Al-Hakim’s statement, the opening ceremony saw statements by Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Development in Oman Yahya bin Badr Al Mawali in his capacity as the representative of the State, which chaired the 7th Session of the ESCWA Committee on Women, and by Lebanese Minister of State for Women’s Affairs Jean Ogasappian.
Al-Hakim also said in his statement: “Amid all the security, political and development difficulties facing our region, let us be guided by key international initiatives and direct our efforts to improving the position of women. The Secretary-General has made a priority of gender justice in Member States and within the United Nations itself. One of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is dedicated to the empowerment of women and the achievement of gender equality. We at ESCWA are striving with our member States to fulfil those international commitments and follow up on related achievements.”
He concluded: “Day by day, our conviction deepens that the participation of women and gender equality represent a key pillar of development and of social and economic progress. No economic, social and environmental vision can claim to be comprehensive and sustainable unless it is conceived, implemented and owned by all members of society. This personal conviction, which is shared by ESCWA, drives our determination to support your Committee in its efforts to advance and empower women, and thereby empower society.”
For his part, Al Mawaly said in his statement, “this meeting, held in Beirut, is part of the continuous sequence that ESCWA is keen to implement and that all Member States are keen to participate in. This is an opportunity to discuss a number of issues related to empowering women and enhancing the role of their institutions in achieving gender equality. It is also an opportunity to discuss a number of issues related to the empowerment of women and strengthening the role of the concerned institutions in achieving equity and equality.”
He added, “the Sultanate of Oman has attached great importance to the empowerment of women as a fundamental partner in development and has devoted one day to Omani women on 17 October every year, with the aim of continuously emphasizing through its governmental institutions and National Women’s Machineries, their pioneering role in development and is committed to implementing the recommendations adopted in the 7th Session of the Committee and all international and Arab conventions in support of women's rights.”
Al Mawaly also noted, “The Sultanate seeks to strengthen the role of civil society associations in the framework of the social partnership, and encourage the private sector’s institutions to contribute to the programs of the Ministry of Social Development out of its sense of social responsibility. It also works to expand the voluntary social work base and guide it as a partner in the comprehensive development in addition to activating communication with civil society organizations, namely charities, professional associations, and women’s associations in Oman (which are 62), distributed over most of the Sultanate's governorates in order to contribute to and participate in the planning and implementation of social and development programs.
Minister Ogasappian concluded the opening ceremony by saying that Lebanese and Arab women have made enormous sacrifices not only at the level of family and community but also in defending freedom in the Arab world. Palestinian women have not stopped fighting and making sacrifices, which makes them worthy of appreciation.
He added: “Lebanon is a place of freedom and the convergence of civilizations, cultures, ethnicities and nationalities. Expensive prices have been paid to preserve this feature, which confirms that two persons can live with each other, whatever the differences are, after the removal of the barriers that prevent this convergence. In this context, this joint meeting in ESCWA is an opportunity to meet and share experiences and benefit from shared experiences, thus contributing not only to activating the development of women but also to the development of societies.
Ogasappian concluded that his participation to the ESCWA forum was an occasion to reaffirm and emphasize the importance of women in building human beings and societies. Based on this conviction, the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri during the mandate of President Michel Aoun formed for the first time a Ministry of State for Women's Affairs, which constituted a major achievement that led to long struggles fought by civil society in Lebanon and the National Commission for Lebanese Women (NCLW).
Following the opening ceremony, the agenda of the Session was adopted. The delegate of Palestine, Minister of Women’s Affairs Hayfa Al Agha, chaired the 8th Session of the ESCWA Committee on Women while the representative of Oman, Deputy Minister of Social Affairs Yehya bin Badr Mawaly, assumed the functions of First Deputy Chairperson; the representative of Qatar, Mohammad Ahemed Al Saadi of Qatari Foundation for Social Work, the functions of Second Deputy Chairperson; and the representative of Kuwait, Badriyeh Jaber Ministry of Education Coordinator at the Women’s Committee and the Council of Ministers, the functions of Rapporteur.
The ESCWA Committee on Women was established in 2003 with a view to following up the global and regional conferences on women and the participation of its member States and coordinating the efforts of Member States and regional organizations in the implementation of their resolutions and recommendations. In the last two years, the Committee has succeeded in framing and following up the efforts of ESCWA, which have led to the development of a set of theoretical and practical studies to translate its results into development projects that benefit all Member States in developing their policies to improve the status of women and their social standing and empower them, in addition to the necessary advice and support to decision-makers to formulate steps and mechanisms to develop national plans for the advancement of women in a number of Arab countries.
ESCWA in brief
ESCWA is one of the five UN regional commissions. It is part of the UN Secretariat, and works under the supervision of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It provides a framework for the formulation and harmonization of sectoral policies for member countries; a platform for congress and coordination; a home for expertise and knowledge, and an information observatory. It aims at supporting economic and social cooperation between the region’s countries and promoting development process in order to achieve regional integration.
Mauritania became member of ESCWA in October 2015. The Republic of Tunis, Libya, and the Kingdom of Morocco had joined it in September 2012. By those new memberships, the number of ESCWA countries rose to 18, including: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
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