Under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Fatima Bint Moubarak, Chairperson of the General Women's Union, Supreme Chairperson of the family Welfare Foundation, and President of the Arab Women Organization, Abu Dhabi hosted two major UN-ESCWA events, namely: the Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on the Impact of War and Armed Conflict on the Advancement of Women (13 March 2007), and the third session of UN-ESCWA Committee on Women (14-15 March 2007).
Participants in the two events included government officials, members of the National Machineries for Women in UN-ESCWA member countries, representatives of UN agencies and organizations, members of regional and international governmental organizations, as well as non-governmental organizations accredited to the UN Economic and Social Council. This is in addition to experts, consultants, academics, and members of research centers active in women's issues.
Women and Armed Conflict
The EGM aimed at highlighting the economic, social, political, and psychological impacts of war, armed and non armed conflicts as well as occupation on Arab women. The Meeting also shed light on some successful experiences in other regions of the world that would be of benefit; and discussed the various UN international agreements and conventions on the protection of women and their participation in fundamental political decision making, as well as the means to benefit Arab women from the resulting decisions.
The results of the meeting emphasized that peace and security are the main conditions for reaching gender equality, empowering women and involving them in the development process. Participants noted that national, regional and international interventions to empower women should target both the governmental and grass root levels. They urged governments to ratify and monitor the implementation of pertinent international agreements and conventions, as well as to withdraw their reservations. Recommended measures also included the formulation of national plans to implement the Security Council Resolution 1325 on empowering women living in war and armed conflict areas to participate in conflict resolution and peace building.
At the international level, the participants called for the organization of campaigns compelling the United Nations and its specialized agencies to implement the Security Council resolutions related to the Palestinian cause and to safeguarding the rights of the Palestinian people. They recommended that the United Nations be requested to make the Middle East region free of mass destruction weapons, and submit Israeli weapons to international control.
The Committee on Women
The third session of UN-ESCWA Committee on Women aimed at reviewing and identifying the priorities until 2015 as well as proposing new initiatives and procedures to speed up the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA), and the Arab Plan for the advancement of women. The meeting also discussed ways to implement the Beirut Declaration "Ten years after Beijing: Call for Peace" adopted by the second session of the Committee on Women, while taking into account the Millennium Development Goals in the Arab region, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and examined the role of Arab women in conflict resolution, peace building and peace making, particularly as war and conflict in the Arab region over the past decade have adversely impacted their status. The meeting reviewed the report of UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary on the activities of the Centre for Women since the second session; as well as discussed and adopted the centre's work programme for the 2008-2009 biennium.
The session concluded with recommendations to Arab governments to review and amend discriminative laws and enact new legislations that are in line with international instruments especially the CEDAW. The participants also urged Arab governments to ratify the optional protocol of the CEDAW and demanded the enactment of laws that would protect women during wars and conflict by punishing the perpetrators of crimes against women and providing recovery and rehabilitation services as well as compensations.
The participants recommended that UN-ESCWA continues its collaboration with the League of Arab States, the Arab Women Organization, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR), and other stakeholders involved in the implementation of international conventions, the unification of Arab positions in international conferences and forums, the preparation for the Beijing +15, and the review of the evaluation of Beijing +10. They also requested UN-ESCWA to support and assist the National Machineries for Women by providing training, technical and advisory services, and studies. The participants highlighted the need to continue working with the media in order to raise awareness on the importance of implementing international conventions and amend the stereotypical portrayal of women in the media.
Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak and UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy were honored at the opening ceremony. Awards were also presented during the session to Ms. Haifa Abou Ghazale, UNIFEM Regional Director for the Arab states, and Ms. Wadouda Badran, Director-General of the Arab women organization.