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At Second Committee Meeting, Delegates Underline Structural Obstacles for Countries in Special Situations

Buffeted by a global economic slowdown, the impacts of climate change and falling commodity prices, least developed and landlocked developing States needed sustained international support, Member States said today as the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) discussed groups of countries in special situations.

At the meeting’s outset, Thailand’s representative introduced, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, a draft resolution on information and communications technology for sustainable development (document A/C.2/71/L.15).

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, then introduced three reports:  Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 (document A/71/66-E/2016/11); Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries (document A/71/363); and Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014-2024 (document A/71/313).

In the ensuing discussion, Bangladesh’s representative, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, said there remained significant structural obstacles to improvement in the least developed States.  Almost all were food-deficit countries, and lagged behind in science and innovation.  Despite many discouraging facts, however, least developed countries were gradually meeting graduation criteria, with 10 additional States reaching the threshold in March 2015.

Zambia’s representative, speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said land degradation, desertification and deforestation were hindering them from achieving sustainable development.  The countries could not attain development goals without realizing the Vienna Programme of Action.  He pointed to the vulnerability of landlocked developing countries to the volatility of commodity prices, also noting their high transport and transaction costs.

Niger’s representative, continuing the theme of landlocked countries, said that the challenges to be met for those States were beyond the simple difficulties linked to delivering goods in a timely way to major markets.  They were also related to the lack of productive capacities, low levels of investment and the informal nature of the private sector.  Landlocked developing countries would need a more comprehensive development programme in the future.

The representative of the Maldives, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said eight of its members were least developed States and “sea-locked”.  Targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.  That also included nations that were both small island developing States and least developed countries, as they faced structural challenges on two fronts.

Also speaking today were representatives from Lao People’s Democratic Republic (for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Haiti (for the Caribbean Community), Paraguay, India, Russian Federation, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Mongolia, Mexico, Viet Nam, Tajikistan, Botswana, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, Turkey, Morocco, Myanmar, Tuvalu, Ethiopia, China and Bhutan.

The Second Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 20 October, on the agenda item 17, “Macroeconomic Policy Questions”, and agenda item 18, “Follow-up to and implementation of the outcomes of the International Conferences on Financing for Development.”

Introduction of Draft Resolution

PATTAMAWADEE AUEAREECHIT (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced a draft resolution on information and communications technology for sustainable development (document A/C.2/71/L.15).  Recognizing the complex nature of the digital divides between and within countries, and between women and men, the draft considered the matter of access in all its dimensions for the world’s next 1.5 billion citizens.  It encouraged international cooperation, technology transfer and dissemination between Governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community and all other relevant stakeholders.

Introduction of Reports

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, introduced the Secretary-General’s report Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011‑2020 (document A/71/66-E/2016/11).  He noted that the international community’s high participation in the least developed country decade showed its willingness to stand by those countries and assist with development.  The private sector and parliamentarians had also demonstrated their support.  The midterm review of implementation found least developed countries had made considerable progress in several areas, including economic growth, benefits from interregional trade, humanitarian and social development, access to education, women’s empowerment and rule of law.  Progress had also been made towards graduation from the least developed status, which some would accomplish within the next couple of years.

However, progress in development was uneven both within and between least developed countries, he said.  Many suffered from high unemployment, public health emergencies and the negative effects of climate change.  Due to the global economic crisis, they were also experiencing a slowdown, with growth rates falling to a level considerably lower than during the period 2001—2010.  The Millennium Development Goal to eradicate poverty was being achieved generally but at a slower pace in least developed countries.  Progress to increase productive capacity was mixed, with many still lacking access to the Internet and mobile phones.  There had been modest improvements in transport and access to electricity but road and rail transport remained underdeveloped.  Total official development assistance (ODA) flows had fallen below pre-2008 levels, prior to the economic crisis.

He then introduced the Secretary-General’s note Charter of the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries (document A/71/363), and the Secretary-General’s report Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014—2024 (document A/71/313).

Speaking on the latter, he highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  The report stressed the linkage between the Vienna Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, as well as other processes including the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and others.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had slowed in recent years, which was a matter of great concern, and many landlocked developing countries had faced trade slowdowns.  A large number of landlocked developing countries were still marginalized in the international system, particularly given the decline in commodity prices.

Landlocked developing countries had nonetheless seen positive development results in recent years, including a decline in the proportion of their citizens living below the poverty line, he continued.  It was important to mobilize elements for infrastructure between landlocked developing countries and transit countries.  Landlocked developing countries still faced the high costs of trade, and trade facilitation initiatives needed to be scaled up, as did ODA, which remained the main form of finance for many of these countries.

Statements

PITCHAPORN LIWJAROEN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said it welcomed the political declaration of the recent Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action.  It would give more strength to the global partnership for development for the least developed countries in all priority areas.  It also would ensure the timely, effective and full implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action during the remaining decade.

She emphasized that international cooperation was crucial to ensure effective development and meet agreed commitments, such as ODA commitments and the timely implementation of duty-free and quota-free market access on a lasting basis.  Furthermore, foreign direct investment (FDI) was important to helping the Group’s countries build a strong economic base.  Yet less than 2 per cent of global FDI had been directed to its countries and most of those funds went to the extractive industry.

Any unilateral economic measures imposed on least developed countries had to be lifted and totally eliminated, she said.  Those measures negatively impacted the countries’ development and prosperity.  She also reiterated the Group’s appreciation to the Government of Turkey for hosting the Technology Bank.  In order to drive the socioeconomic progress of the landlocked developing countries, it was necessary for States to mainstream the Vienna Programme of Action into national development strategies.  The Group reaffirmed that infrastructure development played a key role in reducing the development costs of the landlocked developing countries.  It welcomed the launch of the Global Infrastructure Forum in April 2016.  It was an important follow-up to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.  The Forum aimed to enhance coordination among multilateral development banks and their development partners to better develop sustainable, accessible and resilient infrastructure for developing States, including the landlocked least developed countries.

KHIANE PHANSOURIVONG (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that least developed countries and landlocked developing countries continued to face various challenges such as poverty.  They were highly vulnerable to external shocks and the adverse impact of climate change, and needed to be given special priority by the international community.

He said ASEAN believed that the quadrennial comprehensive policy review would need to take into account the special needs and unique challenges of those countries by having a strategic guidance for the United Nations agencies to support them.  The Association needed to narrow the development gap among its members and had adopted various frameworks and declarations to do so.  Countries in special situations needed adequate and predictable financial support from development partners as reflected in the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.

MARIYAM MIDHFA NAEEM (Maldives), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said that eight of its members were least developed countries and “sea-locked”.  The Alliance reiterated the importance of fully integrating the Istanbul Programme of Action and the Vienna Programme of Action into the 2030 Agenda.  Targeted approaches were necessary to support the efforts of countries in special situations to achieve sustainable development and economic growth.  That also included small island developing States that were also least developed countries as they faced structural challenges on two fronts.

It was important for international organizations and financial institutions to align their support programmes with the 2030 Agenda as the absence of such an alignment would mean that the Agenda could not be successfully implemented, she continued.  Furthermore, income-based indicators did not reflect the advancement or the vulnerabilities of a society as many least developed countries on track for graduation were extremely vulnerable to shocks, she said, adding that “it takes a big storm to wipe out years of hard-earned development gains”.  Sustaining those gains must be a priority.

DENIS REGIS (Haiti), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said his group had paid special attention to the Midterm Review for Least Developed Countries.  The Istanbul Programme of Action must remain a central element for least developed countries.  It was important to ensure that the architecture of global development reinforced coherence at the international, regional and local levels.  Noting that only two least developed countries had graduated from their status since 2011, he said progress was clearly insufficient.  All stakeholders should redouble their efforts to enable graduation.

He expressed regret that many least developed countries had failed to achieve structural change.  More than two-thirds of their population worked in the agricultural sector, which had remained stagnant since 2013.  Also, the integration of those nations into global and regional value chains had remained low.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) had dropped slightly and exports had a strong sectoral concentration, which made them sensitive to external shocks.  All such trends were hindering poverty eradication.  Those countries should make greater use of domestic resource mobilization using public, private, South-South and triangular cooperation.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the reports provided a comprehensive picture of the challenges faced by the least developed countries.  The 2030 Agenda, Addis Ababa Action Agenda, Sendai Framework and the Paris Agreement recognized the vulnerability of the least developed countries.  There had been efforts to strengthen transit networks and trade through air travel and creating an enabling environment for the private sector.  However, the pace of development was slow and uneven, and many least developed countries failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

There remained significant structural obstacles to improvement in the least developed countries, he continued.  Almost all least developed nations were food-deficit countries, and lagged behind in science and innovation.  Despite many discouraging facts, however, those States were gradually meeting graduation criteria, with 10 additional least developed countries reaching the threshold in March 2015.  There was no alternative to strengthening partnerships at the global level to enhance capacity-building in the least developed countries.  Development partners needed to fulfil their ODA commitments.  Least developed countries also had limited capacity to respond to hazards or shocks, and needed international support.

Mr. MUNDANDA (Zambia), speaking for the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said land degradation, desertification and deforestation was hindering landlocked countries in achieving sustainable development.  Those countries could not attain the development goals without realizing the Vienna Programme of Action.  He stressed the need for synergy and coherence, which was critical for transforming landlocked countries.  He pointed to the vulnerability of those States to the volatility of commodity prices, also noting their high transport and transaction costs.

The international community must address mainstreaming of the Vienna Programme into development goals to ensure its implementation, he continued.  It was necessary to establish secure and efficient transport systems to reduce costs and enhance competitiveness and full integration into global markets.  As funding for transport infrastructure remained a challenge, he called on the international community to establish infrastructure funding or special windows to meet transport needs.  Also, trade facilitation would lead to lower trade transaction and transport costs.

JUAN MANUEL PEÑA (Paraguay), associating himself with the Group of 77 and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said while consideration of the latter group of States had increased in recent years, major challenges persisted.  The Almaty Programme of Action of 2004 and the Vienna Programme of Action of 2014 strengthened international commitment to solve the particular challenges of landlocked developing countries.  Paraguay urged the rapid ratification and implemented trade agreements and called on developed countries to offer trade technology and assistance for developing countries.  The 2030 Agenda must effectively recognize the specific challenges of landlocked countries and cooperate in offering solutions and continuous support.  His country recognized the importance of transport as a method of development.  Regarding the work of the Second Committee, efforts must be doubled to implement the Vienna Programme.  He also urged delegations to strengthen support for landlocked developing countries.

ASHISH SINHA (India) said his nation was fully committed to helping the least developed countries grow and develop rapidly and its partnerships with those States focused on capacity-building, sharing of technological expertise and financial assistance.  In 2008, India was the first emerging market economy to offer a duty-free trade preference scheme for those countries.  There were now 31 beneficiaries of that scheme, by which India provided duty-free and preferential market access on 98.2 per cent of its tariff lines.  His Government was proud of its relationship with countries in special situations and three India-Africa Forum summits and the Forum for India-Pacific Island Cooperation had crystallized that special relationship.  In addition to its ongoing credit programme, India had extended a grant assistance of $600 million, including an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million.  As commodity-exporting countries, the landlocked developing countries faced challenges as they tried to build links to the international economy.  The international community needed to help build the productive capacities of those countries and mobilize resources to fill their huge financing gap for development.  Donor countries needed to fill their ODA commitments.

AHMED SAREER (Maldives) said his country had been the third to graduate from least developed country status.  Noting that transition had taken place in 2011, she pointed out that it had been paramount to diversify the domestic economy as development challenges would be exacerbated by the loss of least developing countries benefits.  The Maldives had invested heavily in the tourism and fishing industries, but access to large scale financing for the building of ports, hospitals and harbours had become difficult due to the loss of preferential and concessional arrangements for financing.  Those limitations had placed at risk the development gains which had enabled the country’s graduation from the status of least developing country in the first place.  International cooperation would be essential for a smooth transition out of such a status.  Equally important was the recognition that vulnerabilities experienced by least developing countries that were also small island developing States would not go away after those countries had graduated.  Furthermore, the existing assessment for graduation, GDP per capita, was an inadequate measurement as it failed to fully reflect a country’s vulnerabilities.  It was therefore necessary to integrate the concept of economic vulnerability into the measurement of development.

IRINA MEDVEDEVA (Russian Federation) said that the 2030 Agenda noted that least developed countries and countries in special situations required priority in international affairs.  Those countries, particularly landlocked ones, faced major challenges.  Their development achievements were often slow, unsustainable and threatened by their economic situation and geography.  Hence, it was critical to step up cooperation to improve the quality of technology assistance and also stimulate industrial production.  The Russian Federation had proposed a special programme that would promote and provide much-needed technology assistance to landlocked developing countries.  The Russian Federation also welcomed the streamlining of trade agreements.  The average duration of going through customs had declined significantly through such programmes. In April 2017, the Russian Federation and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) would sponsor a conference aimed at boosting regional trade.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said the main challenge facing landlocked developing countries was achieving sustainable economic growth.  She emphasized the role of multilateral trade and the need to set up a working programme for landlocked countries that tackled the issues of trade and trade assistance, services and market access.  Kyrgyzstan had developed regional and international trade links and was also establishing a road network in the country.  Moreover, it was constructing a high voltage electrical line link that would connect with Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Challenges remained, however, and Kyrgyzstan needed enhanced cooperation at the regional and global levels.  As there were still transit tariffs between States, she called on international community to resolve and remove factors which had a negative impact on trade.

PRASAD SHARMA POKHAREL (Nepal), associating himself with Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said special needs and challenges of those countries deserved special attention.  The United Nations must continue to recognize their uniqueness, he said, emphasizing that those countries needed collective international support to meet development goals.  Resources must be predictable and sustainable.  The role of technology was vital, he added, welcoming the Technology Bank and calling on relevant stakeholders to ensure its successful implementation.  In its own experience, Nepal faced major challenges in relation to poor connectivity and trade facilitation.  The overarching goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 would not be achieved without fully taking least developed countries and landlocked developing countries on board.  Without the full and timely implementation of those commitments, sustainable development would not be achievable.

SUKHCOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Landlocked Developed Countries, said the latter group of countries continued to face considerable challenges linked to their geographic handicap.  Landlocked nations were among the hardest hit by the global economic slowdown, failing commodity prices, and food and energy shortages.  They also remained largely marginalized in the global economy, with a 0.96 per cent share of global exports in 2015.  Increased international assistance for export diversification and better market access were essential for the development and growth of those countries.  Mongolia had been utilizing its regional partners to establish economic trade corridors with its neighbours.  At the national level, Mongolia was committed to implementing relevant goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda.  It was particularly focusing on development plans in the areas of transit, infrastructure development, trade and trade facilitation, structural transformation and commodity value chains.

Ms. OCAMPO (Mexico) said landlocked developing countries were exposed and vulnerable to financial and economic crisis as well as climate change and natural hazards.  The international community must increase and maintain its support for their sustainable development.  Expressing regret over the loss of life and material damage caused by Hurricane Matthew, she said Mexico was providing the country with drinking water and purification tablets.  She stressed that all types of financing in addition to ODA were needed for landlocked countries to facilitate their access to technology and capacity-building.

PHAM THI KIM ANH (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said that effective cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries remained crucial to enable the former countries’ participation in international and regional trade.  The 2030 Agenda recognized that landlocked developing countries faced specific challenges and deserved special attention. Measures must be taken to deepen cooperation between landlocked developing countries and transit countries to improve infrastructure, trade and economic growth. In the Euro-Asia region, investments had been made to build and improve roads, railways, ports and transport logistics systems.  Such transit projects were examples of the efforts to better facilitate cooperation and trade and connect landlocked developing countries with major Asian and European markets.  He also looked forward to the high-level meeting on improving cooperation in regional transit, to take place in Hanoi in March 2017.

JONIBEK HIKMATOV (Tajikistan), associating himself with Group of 77 and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said it was time to move forward from commitment to action.  He expressed hope that upcoming discussions would bring fresh and innovative ideas that would strengthen cooperation.  Tajikistan was committed to the recommendations of the Vienna Programme of Action and attached particular importance to expanding sub-regional and regional trade.  Efforts had been made to simplify custom rules and regulations.  Transport and energy sectors were considered priorities for Tajikistan, he said, outlining plans and programmes focusing on renewable energy to promote sustainability and reduce emissions.  More than 50 per cent of the world would face water scarcity in the near future.  Collective international action was needed to address those challenges.  He also looked forward to cooperating with Member States to tackle challenges faced by countries in special situations.

TLHALEFO MADISA (Botswana) said landlocked developing countries’ trade costs and risks were high in comparison to coastal economies.  Those countries were also heavily dependent on single commodity markets, especially in the mineral and agricultural sectors, which exposed them to the fluctuations in global demand and commodity prices.  The implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action remained central to implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the mainstreaming of both those instruments was critical to Botswana’s national development.  To that end, Botswana needed the support of transit countries, development partners and regional and sub-regional partners.  Additionally, his Government continued to emphasize the role of the World Trade Organization in integrating landlocked developing countries in the global trade and sought increasing participation of those countries in the multilateral trading system.

PHILIP FOX-DRUMMOND GOUGH (Brazil), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the recent Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action was an important opportunity to renew and strengthen the international community’s resolve to support the least developed countries’ development.  That was especially true in light of the Programme’s goals and the Sustainable Development Goals.  As for the landlocked developing countries, the forward-looking Vienna Programme of Action, adopted in 2014, also showed international support by setting a new level of commitment and a new standard of follow-up to their implementation.  It aimed to align its structure and content with the achievements of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.  The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action renewed the collective impetus to achieve the goals in the eight priority areas.  Brazil particularly welcomed the steps taken to put the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries into operation by 2017.  His country was also encouraged by the progress reached towards the adoption of investment promotion regimes for the least developed countries.

KUMBIRAYI TAREMBA (Zimbabwe) said her country joined other landlocked developing countries in calling for the full implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action and support from the United Nations development system to mainstream the Programme into national development strategies.  She also urged multilateral development agencies and banks to put in place frameworks that would help landlocked developing countries diversify their economies and partake in global value chains.  Inadequate logistics infrastructure continued to limit those countries’ participation in international trade.  Her delegation therefore urged the Global Infrastructure Forum to establish action-oriented programmes that would address the infrastructure needs of landlocked developing countries.  In an effort to facilitate trade, Zimbabwe had introduced the One-Stop Border Post initiative at the country’s border with Zambia.  The initiative had resulted in reduced transaction costs and waiting times, in addition to strengthening political ties between the two countries, she said, concluding measures like that would help transform her country from landlocked to land-linked.

Ms. NAEEM (Kuwait), associating with the Group of 77, said that, without innovative international partnerships, vulnerable countries could not succeed on their own.  Least developed countries needed developed countries to fulfil their ODA commitments.  The principles of peace and security must be fostered to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  Kuwait continued to extend extensive development assistance throughout the world to achieve the aspirations of developing countries, particularly those States facing special situations.

BARIS CEYHUN ERCIYES (Turkey) said that development cooperation was an integral part of Turkey’s foreign policy and that it would remain committed to continuing its contributions in support of countries in special situations.  Turkey’s assistance to the least developed countries had exceeded $1.5 billion over the last five years.  Excluding humanitarian aid, approximately 20 per cent of Turkish ODA had been delivered to least developed countries.  It was vital to pay greater attention to the Technology Bank and science, technology and innovation-supporting mechanism dedicated to help the poorest countries address technology gaps.  Turkish authorities were in the process of considering a financial pledge to the Technology Bank, in particular at its start-up base.  He called on Member States and other stakeholders, including the private sector, to contribute to the trust fund and the Secretariat to take necessary steps to mobilize financial and human resources.

Ms. MANALE (Morocco), associating herself with the Group of 77, said concrete measures were needed to assist landlocked developing and least developed countries with sustainable development, which they could not achieve without the international community.  She welcomed the creation of the Technology Bank and stressed the need to increase ODA, and bilateral and multilateral funding as well to help developing countries overcome constraints to their development.  Morocco had worked for multi-sectoral strengthening in its framework vision for trade policies.  It favoured South-South and triangular cooperation, which had helped improve living standards in many least developed and landlocked developing countries.  The international community must help create an environment conducive to trade, especially for importers of food products.  Morocco had signed several agreements providing for preferential tariffs and the abolition of customs duties.

SANN THIT YEE (Myanmar), associating himself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said technology was a key enabler of development, emphasizing the vital role of science, technology and innovation in eradicating poverty and attaining the sustainable development of least developed countries.  He anticipated the support of the Technology Bank in those areas and looked forward to its full operationalization by 2017.  Financial inclusion was also important in reducing extreme poverty.  In Myanmar, it was estimated that only 30 per cent of adults had formal access to financial services and only 6 per cent were using more than one financial service.  The majority of citizens still relied on unregulated providers, often at substantially higher costs.  Myanmar also faced substantive infrastructure and human resources deficits, which constrained social and economic development.  It had considerable challenges in implementing the 2030 Agenda and other development goals in a timely and effective manner.

MOUNKAILA YACOUBA (Niger), associating with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries, and Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the lack of access to the sea and the distance from major markets meant that landlocked countries depended on transit States.  There were fundamental problems related to transit policies, the development of infrastructure and trade and trade facilitation.  Since the adoption of the Almaty Declaration and Programme of Action, landlocked developing countries had shown higher growth rates, though they had experienced a decrease in terms of industrial value added and agricultural productivity.  Ports and roads were being built through the African region for landlocked countries.  Exports had grown dramatically for landlocked countries, and that showed that the challenges to be met were beyond the simple difficulties linked to delivering goods in a timely way to major markets.  It was also related to the lack of productive capacities, low levels of investment, and the informal nature of the private sector.  Landlocked developing countries would need a more comprehensive development programme in the future.

SUNEMA PIE SIMATI (Tuvalu) said landlocked developing countries needed genuine partnerships in the transfer of information and communications technology.  She noted that they continued to rely heavily on ODA, soft loans, private investment and remittances, but were increasingly leveraging their own domestic resources for complementarities.  She urged partners to honour and mobilize all financial pledges of ODA and collaborate for easy access to climate appropriations for landlocked countries and small-island developing States.  Landlocked developing countries must have stable and democratically elected administrations, strong institutions and legal underpinnings to ensure investments.  Social inclusive infrastructure and services must be efficiently provided.  As many landlocked developing countries were caught up in conflicts and desperately seeking peace, the root causes of violence and extremist behaviour should be examined.  She also noted that the inundation of sea water and loss of coastal territories for small island developing States created social and economic stress beyond the coping capacity of nations and individuals.

BELACHEW GUJUBO GUTULO (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77, Group of Landlocked Developing Countries and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the overarching goal of the Istanbul Program of Action was to overcome structural challenges faced by least developed nations to eradicate poverty, enhance productive capacity and achieve structural transformation.  Those countries had made positive progress but still faced significant development challenges.  The sharp drop in ODA to least developed countries in 2014 was a source of concern, though there was a trend to address that decline.  That assistance remained critical to fill the financial gaps least developed countries continued to face.  Access to climate finance and technology development and transfer and capacity-building were all essential, and it was time to fully operationalize the Technology Bank.  Ethiopia had rapid and sustained double-digit economic growth, and the recently opened Ethio-Djibouti train line could be highlighted as a major regional initiative.

ZHANG YANHUA (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, said landlocked developing and least developed countries faced a daunting task in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international community must urgently assist those countries in graduating from their least developed status and continue to support them after their graduation.  The global community should also step up support for landlocked developing countries in addressing their geographical constraints, inadequate infrastructures and transit problems.

PEMA TOBGAY (Bhutan) associated himself with the Group of 77, Group of Least Developed Countries and the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.  He said least developed countries continued to face low levels of productivity, compounded by natural hazards and the impacts of climate change.  Structural transformation of their economies could contribute to building productive capacity in least developed countries, which could assist with sustainable and inclusive growth.  He noted that the vast human resource potential in those nations remained to be tapped.  A long-term development strategy based on delivery of quality education, including vocational skills and providing women and young people with avenues for entrepreneurship, could unlock the economic potential in least developed countries.  Given the structural constraints those countries faced, global support in terms of resources, capacity and technical assistance, would be critical in full realization of the Istanbul Programme of Action in the years ahead.

AIGERIM BOZZHIGITOVA (Kazakhstan), associating herself with the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said that the Almaty Programme of Action had strengthened partnerships between landlocked developing nations and transit countries.  As the furthest country from any seaport, Kazakhstan understood the necessity of transit infrastructure, and was actively building and renovating rail lines and highways.  The Vienna Programme of Action called for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all by 2030, but the most vulnerable countries still faced challenges in meeting their energy needs.

News

Secretary-General Hails History-Making Ceremony as World Leaders from 175 Countries Sign Paris Agreement on Climate Change

Day-long Event Sees 14 States Parties to Treaty Deposit Ratification Instruments

World leaders from 175 countries gathered at United Nations Headquarters today for the official signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the historic accord reached last December, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling upon all States to quickly sign up to the treaty so it could enter into force as soon as possible.

“The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” said Secretary-General Ban as he opened the high-level signature ceremony in the General Assembly Hall.  Climate action could help eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of girls and women.  However, the window for keeping global temperature rise below 2°C, let alone 1.5°, was closing and intensified efforts were needed to decarbonize economies, he said.

Noting that today’s event had made history, he said it had involved the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.  Among them were the following 14 States parties that deposited their ratification instruments:  Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Somalia, as well as the State of Palestine.  The treaty must find expression in actions taken on behalf of the current generation and all future generations, the Secretary-General said.  “Young people are our future.  Our covenant is with them.”

Following his remarks, Getrude Clement, a youth leader from the United Republic of Tanzania who spoke on behalf of children, said they would feel the effects of climate change most acutely.  “This is not the future we want for ourselves,” she emphasized.  “We expect action, action on a big scale, and we expect action today, not tomorrow.”

In a similar vein General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark) pressed Member States to take bold steps to make that transformation happen now.  Among others, he congratulated the leaders of France and Peru — Presidents of the two previous climate conferences — for having shepherded a remarkable breakthrough.

President François Hollande of France said that in the run-up to the Paris Agreement, important steps had been taken by Governments, business, local leaders, civil society and ordinary citizens.  And yet, since agreement on the treaty, temperatures continued to rise and disasters had occurred, including the cyclone that had devastated Fiji, spreading drought in Africa, the shrinking of Lake Chad, and rising sea levels that threatened small islands with disappearance under the waves.

On that point, Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu lamented that an average of 62,000 people were displaced due to climate change each day, a staggering figure that should ring alarm bells.  He called for an Assembly resolution establishing a legal protection system for people displaced by climate change.

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil said that developing countries like her own had achieved significant emission reductions and taken on even more ambitious targets.  She called for increasing climate financing beyond the annual $100 billion commitment, saying that international financial flows must be permanently reoriented to support measures that would facilitate solutions.

President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, speaking for the least developed countries, said that category had been among the most progressive during the climate negotiations, with 47 of them having communicated their intended nationally determined contributions, although such efforts were not mandatory.

Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of China said that, as a responsible, major developing country, whose people owned their commitments, China would work earnestly to implement the Paris Agreement, notably by early accession to the treaty.  The Government of China would finalize the domestic legal accession procedures before the Group of 20 (G20) Summit in September, he said.

John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States, said the Paris Agreement’s power lay in the opportunity it created.  The deal had sent a message to the markets that innovation, entrepreneurial activities, allocation of capital and Government decisions would define the new energy future.  Investment in renewable energy had been at an-all time high of nearly $330 billion in 2015, he noted.

Anand Mahindra of India’s Mahindra Group said that addressing climate change was the responsibility of the private sector, given its role in contributing to the problem.  The Agreement gave business a chance to redeem itself from the “trust deficit” it faced.  Many companies had joined programmes to double energy productivity by 2030, or made a commitment to transition towards 100 per cent renewable energy in the future, he said.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Indigenous Women and Peoples Association of Chad, said climate change was “adding poverty to poverty”, forcing people to leave their homes in search of a better future.  “It is time to change your hope into promise,” she said, urging leaders to sign, ratify and implement the Agreement.  “We want you to act.”

The signature event extended throughout the day, in parallel with meetings in which Heads of State and Government offered updates on how they would integrate national climate plans into broader sustainable development programmes.  Opening the event was a brass quintet from the Juilliard School in New York City, joined by 197 children representing the States parties that have adopted the Paris Agreement.

Also speaking during the signature ceremony were the Presidents of Peru and Bolivia and the Prime Ministers of Canada and Italy.  The Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation also spoke, as did a royal Princess from Morocco.  United Nations Messenger of Peace Leonardo DiCaprio also addressed the ceremony.

Opening Remarks

GETRUDE CLEMENT, youth representative from the United Republic of Tanzania, spoke on behalf of young children in the opening ceremony, saying that climate change presented a big problem all over the planet, but it was children who would feel its effects most acutely, both now and in the future.  Climate change affected the lives of young people, their planet and their education, and children saw its negative results in their daily lives.  “This is not the future we want for ourselves,” she said, adding that children were leading their communities in taking action.  Youth leaders in the United Republic of Tanzania had visited many communities to talk about the effects of climate change and had learned how it impacted the lives of young people.  “We expect action, action on a big scale, and we expect action today, not tomorrow,” she emphasized.  “The future is ours, and the future is bright.”

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, recalled that in Paris last December, the international community had adopted the world’s first universal climate agreement, with every country pledging to curb emissions and strengthen resilience to potentially devastating climate impacts.  Today, more than 165 Governments had gathered to sign the Paris Agreement.  “This is history,” he said, describing the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.  He commended the 14 States parties depositing their ratification instruments:  Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Jamaica, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Saint Lucia, Samoa and Somalia, as well as the State of Palestine.  Noting that records were being broken inside the chamber today, he said they were also being broken outside — record global temperatures, ice loss and carbon levels.

“We are in a race against time,” he emphasized, urging countries to join the Agreement quickly so that it could enter into force as early as possible.  The window for keeping global temperature rise below 2 °C was closing, he warned.  The era of consumption without consequences was over and intensified efforts were needed to decarbonize economies and support developing countries in making that transition.  “The poor and vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” he stressed.  Climate action was not a burden.  Rather, it could help eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of women and girls and it was essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  He said he had worked towards this day since “day one” as Secretary-General.  “You are signing a new covenant with the future,” which must find expression in actions taken on behalf of the present and future generations to protect communities.  “The power to build a better world is in your hands,” he declared.

FRANÇOIS HOLLANDE, President of France, said 12 December 2015 had been a historic day for the whole international community.  The moment it had become clear that agreement had been reached had been an emotional one.  It was important to recall that the terrorist attacks on Paris had been the backdrop to the Agreement, he said, adding that world leaders had nevertheless demonstrated their ability to come together with a sense of partnership and responsibility to ensure that an agreement would be the fruit of the Paris meeting, as a symbolic act for the rest of the world.

In the run-up to the Agreement, important steps had been taken by Governments, business, local leaders, civil society and ordinary citizens, he recalled.  The success of the Paris meeting had compelled Governments to go even further than the promises and pledges made, and there was a need to ensure that words became actions.  Since 12 December, temperatures had continued to rise and further disasters had occurred, including the devastating cyclone in Fiji, the spread of drought in Africa, the continuing shrinkage of Lake Chad and the rising sea levels that threatened small islands at risk of disappearing under the waves.

Never in the history of the United Nations had it been possible to bring together 170 countries to sign an agreement, all together, on one day, he noted, emphasizing that there was no turning back now.  The world must accelerate action to implement low-carbon policies.  Noting that some $100 billion was needed between now and 2020, he said every country must set an example, particularly developed countries, by stepping up contributions for combating climate change.  “It is not just a question of States taking action, the entire world must come together,” he stressed.  “Everyone must feel that they have a stake in this.”

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, congratulated Governments for having demonstrated what true leadership was all about; society and business leaders, for keeping the pressure and momentum going; the leaders of France and Peru – Presidents of the previous two Conference of Parties – for having shepherded a remarkable breakthrough; and the Secretary-General, for his tireless commitment on the long journey to Paris.  “We must raise the level of ambition even further,” he said, calling for bold steps to make the transformation happen now.

OLLANTA HUMALA TASSO, President of Peru, said the Paris efforts went hand in hand with others under way at the heart of the United Nations, energetically promoted by the Secretary-General, to combat poverty and inequality, notably with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Against that backdrop, he said, he was grateful for his country’s important role in that process, and to the international community for its trust in his Government.  Recalling that the Lima Call for Action had been adopted in 2014, laying the foundations for the Paris Agreement, he said Peru had worked with France to craft a historic accord that must now be implemented responsibly.

The unprecedented presence of so many Heads of State and Government to sign — and some to ratify — the Agreement was proof of the worthy efforts deployed in reaching the accord, he said.  Peru had been motivated by the need to mobilize the greatest partnership in history for the benefit of climate and development.  Indeed, the Paris Agreement contained weighty obligations that the international community must assume under the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.  States would need to ramp up dialogue and cooperation, and ensure robust commitment was in place to push forward the climate financing needed for mitigation and adaptation efforts, and to shape low-carbon, climate-resilient economies.

In that context, he went on to point out the importance of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, saying it must play a full part in the run-up to the twenty-second Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco, which aimed to promote climate action at all levels of society.  For its part, Peru was working to become a climate-responsible country, having committed to reducing greenhouse gases by 30 per cent by 2030, and to enhance adaptation actions.  Those included reducing vulnerability in terms of access to water, agriculture, fisheries, forests and health, as well as across five sectors — disaster risk management, resilient public infrastructure, the fight against poverty, gender equality and promoting private investment.  The Paris Agreement represented the tangible expression of a desire to achieve fair, secure and sustainable development for all.  “Today, we can ratify the greatest partnership against the enemy — climate change,” he declared.

JOSEPH KABILA KABANGE, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noted that the Group of Least Developed Countries had been among the most progressive in the climate negotiations and had played a significant role in building important components of the Paris Agreement.  For them, today was not merely a symbolic event; it was an important opportunity to reaffirm the positive spirit and narrative created in Paris.  Today was an opportunity to outline a timetable for ensuring the Agreement would have full force in international law and would be implemented.  Ministers from the least developed countries had met in Kinshasa earlier this month to reiterate their commitment to the Paris Agreement and had declared that their Governments would take all necessary steps required for ratification of the Agreement, as soon as possible.

The Paris Agreement created many challenges and opportunities for economies, he continued.  To reach many of the goals it set out, predictable and significantly increased financial flows and other resources would have to be put in place to enable robust action.  Resilience to the adverse effects of climate change and enhanced actions on adaptation would also be required.  The Democratic Republic of the Congo was fully aware of the need for a global effort to tackle global warming and had committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent between 2020 and 2030, he said.  That represented a considerable effort for a country that was resolutely working to rebuild itself and move ahead.  The transfer of technology, building capacity, securing financing, ensuring resilience in the face of climate change, and developing renewable energy were the main priorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, noting that it had a significant and diverse range of natural resources that made it an important partner in the fight against climate change.  The development of hydroelectric power would help meet its own energy needs, as well as those of its neighbours and beyond, he said, emphasizing that States had a duty to overcome narrow self-interest and opt for proactive, mutually beneficial cooperation.

EVO MORALES AYMA, President of Bolivia, declared:  “The Earth is not an object that can be sold,” emphasizing that his community had taught him that land was “our mother, our home that should be protected”.  He described the main enemies of life as consumerism, mercantilism, the arms race and greed — in sum, the capitalist system, which should be eradicated.  The world was witnessing the most serious disasters — temperature rise, drought, hurricanes and other extreme events — and unless Governments lived up to their Paris commitments, temperatures would rise by between 5 and 6 °C, he warned.

He went on to state that the Paris Agreement could change that reality, depending on its implementation.  It marked an important step, but it was not sufficient to save Mother Earth.  He called for examining the structural causes of the climate crisis, stressing that the rights of Mother Earth were more important than individual rights.  The environment must be protected and, as such, it was essential to adopt a universal declaration on the rights of Mother Earth, and an international climate justice tribunal.  They would judge and punish States responsible for the climate crisis, as well as businesses that caused social and environmental damage.  “If we don’t change the capitalist system in the future, we will see the destruction of humankind,” he asserted.

DILMA ROUSSEFF, President of Brazil, said that the successful conclusion of the Paris Agreement represented an historic milestone towards creating the world humanity wanted — a world of sustainable development for all, with the full achievement of the Goals enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Realizing the commitments made in Paris would demand converging action by all countries and societies towards lives and economies less dependent on fossil fuels and dedicated to sustainable environmental practices.  Developing countries like Brazil had achieved significant emission reductions and taken on even more ambitious targets, she said.  The challenge of tackling climate would require a gradual increase in the ambition of developed countries and the continuous mobilization of the appropriate means of implementation.

She went on to emphasize that it was necessary to increase climate financing beyond the annual $100 billion commitment.  International financial flows must be permanently reoriented to support measures that would translate into solutions.  Brazil was determined to intensify mitigation and adaptation actions, and in that regard, would work for a 37 per cent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, and 43 per cent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, she said.  The country would also achieve zero deforestation in the Amazon and neutralize emissions from the legal suppression of vegetation.  Another challenge would be the restoration and reforestation of 12 million hectares of forest and another 15 million hectares of degraded pasture, he said.  Those were indeed ambitious targets, but they were based on Brazil’s understanding of the grave, negative impacts of climate change.

ZHANG GAOLI, Vice-Premier of China, described the Paris Agreement as a milestone in the global response to climate change, which his country had actively worked to conclude.  In Paris, the President of China had put forward the country’s vision and proposals, and China had played a vital role in the negotiation process.  It was a responsible, major developing country, whose people owned their commitments, he said.  “We will work hard to earnestly implement the Paris Agreement,” notably by acceding early to the accord, and would finalize its domestic legal procedures on its accession before the Group of 20 (G-20) Summit in September.  China would work with the rest of the international community for early accession in order to ensure the accord’s early entry into force.

He said China would take actions at home to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, setting a peak by 2030 and making its best efforts to peak early.  Those efforts had been included in national development plans.  Under the national five-year plan, efforts would be made to cut carbon emissions by 18 per cent, control carbon intensity and launch near-zero carbon emission projects.  It would also put in place a strict accountability system for environmental protection and ensure implementation of all targets.  More broadly, China would enhance international cooperation against climate change by taking part in follow-up negotiations on the Paris Agreement, while deepening South-South cooperation on climate change.  New projects had been launched in 2016, especially those focused on enhancing the climate financing capacity of developing countries.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Prime Minister of Canada, said climate change represented not only a challenge that must be met, but also an opportunity that must be grasped.  It was a challenge that Canada had already begun to address, he said, noting that his Government had met with a range of stakeholders to create a plan that would meet or exceed emissions targets, and taken steps towards clean economic growth.  Canada had encouraged actions to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and invested billions in a green energy fund.  It had also signed on to “Mission Innovation”, a global partnership that aimed to double Government investment in climate-change initiatives over five years, while encouraging a more prominent role for the private sector.

“These actions are just the beginning,” he said, emphasizing that the country was not making such investments to be “nice”.  Rather, Canada was doing so because it was the right thing to do for the environment and the economy.  The humanitarian case was also clear.  It was well known that climate change would hit the poorest citizens the hardest, making it more difficult for the international community to address other challenges, such as food insecurity and the growing needs of refugee populations.  The business case was also obvious, and there were tremendous opportunities in that regard.  Canada’s ambitions would not end with those planned steps aimed at addressing the issue at home.  The country would also play a prominent role in supporting developing countries, which should neither be punished for a problem they had not created, nor deprived of the opportunities for clean growth that developed countries were pursuing.  That was why Canada would investment $2.5 billion over the next five years to help developing countries move towards sustainable development, he said.

MATTEO RENZI, Prime Minister of Italy, asked delegates to close their eyes and imagine their sons and grandsons in the General Assembly chamber for the first time.  “Today, finally, we give a message of hope,” he said.  The Paris Agreement was important, but not only for a single issue.  Its most important aspect was its political message.  “We give the message that politics is able to give hope for the next generations,” he said, emphasizing that Italy would work for implementation of the Paris Agreement in the coming months.  The international community had demonstrated that it understood the importance of delivering a collective message, and Italy would consider that a priority for its presidency of the Group of Seven (G-7) and for its role in Europe.

ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said “we need to take the Paris Agreement and mould it into an international call to action” — a “document of revival”.  Signature was the first step, to be followed by ratification to ensure its early entry into force.  He said that he had arrived today with Tuvalu’s instrument of ratification, and encouraged the legislatures of other countries also to ratify.  He welcomed the decision by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to develop a special report on the impacts of a 1.5 °C global temperature rise, saying he suspected that would have serious implications for small-island countries, such as his own.

More broadly, he said an average 62,000 people were displaced each day due to climate change, a staggering figure that should ring alarm bells.  Calling for an Assembly resolution to establish a legal protection system for people displaced by the impacts of climate change, he said that, since small island developing States required better access to climate financing, disbursement of the Green Climate Facility must be based on accessibility and level of vulnerability, rather than how well a State party could write its adaptation or mitigation proposals.  He also sought support for a Pacific island climate change insurance facility.

ALEXANDER KHLOPONIN, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, said today’s signing was a remarkable and important step by the international community towards achieving the goal of tackling global climate change.  The Paris Agreement created a reliable international legal framework that united actions of developed and developing countries, including the main emitters of greenhouse gases.  The quality of life of all of humanity and the move towards a more sustainable future depended on resolving climate issues.

The Agreement, he said, contained important provisions on the role of market-based mechanisms to provide incentives to Governments and businesses to take effective measures to address climate challenges.  His country was prepared to cooperate with all States and had laid out an ambitious set of intended nationally determined contributions, which included its intention to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 70 per cent of 1990s levels by 2030.  The preservation of forests was of major concern for the Russian Federation.  The potential of forests must be maximized, without artificial restrictions.  The Russian Federation had created a national plan to implement the Agreement, which included a long-term strategy of low-carbon development through 2050, and systemic efforts for the sustainable management of forests.  There needed to be innovative approaches based on technologies, with a particular focus placed on technical cooperation to address climate problems.  He concluded by highlighting a proposal by his Government to convene a scientific forum under the United Nations to discuss climate change challenges, including the depletion of natural resources.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State of the United States, recalled that he was a young organizer just back from Viet Nam on the first Earth Day in 1970, and a young Senator advocating in Rio de Janeiro for the first Earth Summit.  After having attended many Conferences of Parties, it was fair to say that all felt an “extraordinary sweep of joy” when 196 nations said in Paris that they would live up to their responsibility to future generations.  That meeting was a turning point in the fight against climate change, when the world had decided to heed the mountain of evidence, put to rest the debate of whether climate change was real, and instead, began to galvanize the focus on how to address the irrefutable reality that nature was changing rapidly due to our own choices.

The power of the Agreement was not that it guaranteed States would hold the global temperature rise to a target of 1.5 or 2 °C.  “It does not and we know it”, he said.  Its power was in the opportunity it created, the message it sent to the marketplace that innovation, entrepreneurial activities, allocation of capital and Government decisions would define the new energy future.  Its power lay in what it would do to unleash the private sector.  In 2015, renewable energy investment reached an-all time high of nearly $330 billion.  It was predicted that States would invest tens of trillions of dollars by the end of the century.  More of the world’s money was now being spent on fostering renewable technologies than on fossil fuel plants.

“None of what we have to achieve is beyond our capacity technologically,” he said.  “The only question is whether it was beyond our collective resolve.”  The urgency of the challenge was only becoming more pronounced.  The United States looked forward to formally joining the Agreement this year and called on all its international partners to do likewise.  Quoting former South African President Nelson Mandela, he said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

LALLA HASNA, Princess of Morocco, whose country would host the twenty-second Conference of the Parties in Marrakech, said collective efforts should focus on the Agreement’s effective implementation.  To honour its commitments, she said that Morocco would, by 2030, cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 per cent while meeting 52 per cent of its energy needs through renewable sources such as solar and wind farms.  It stood ready to share its know-how with others, particularly countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Noting how the next Conference would see the adoption of procedures and mechanisms for implementing the Paris Agreement, she emphasized the importance of a clear and predictable road map to raise funds for projects, thus fostering change in private investment patterns.  Countries needed to benefit from a full range of incentives, with developing States getting access to patented technology on preferential terms and solutions being found to environmental trade barriers.  Negotiations on implementing the Agreement had reflected a spirit of international solidarity and responsibility, she said, and with the commitment of all parties, the pledges made in Paris would result in specific objectives, effective mechanisms and concrete projects that would turn ambitions into reality.

ANAND MAHINDRA, private sector representative, said the transition to a greener way of life was happening after much “churning”.  Nevertheless, indisputably positive things were beginning to take place, starting with today’s signing of the Paris Agreement.  It was the first step towards visibly integrating the private sector’s future with the future of the planet.  Addressing climate change was the responsibility of the business sector given its role in contributing to the problem.  It gave businesses a chance to redeem themselves from the “trust deficit” it had faced following the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Many corporations were joining programmes to double energy productivity by 2030 or had committed to transitioning towards 100 per cent renewable energy in the future.  Investment in renewable energy options now outstripped that in conventional energy for the first time and represented an attractive business opportunity.  It would be on the best investment he, as a business leader, could make.  He welcomed the Agreement’s signing today as a sign that the inner conscious of nations and corporations had been stirred.

HINDOU OUMAROU IBRAHIM, civil society representative from Chad, said her people were nomadic pastoralists, where more than 10 million depended on a fragile ecosystem.  Thirty years ago, her mother used to walk 10 kilometres a day to collect water and food.  Today, young mothers were climate refugees.  They could not walk to Lake Chad because it was vanishing.  The land was being used by Boko Haram and her people’s rights and dignity were under threat.  “Climate change is adding poverty to poverty every day,” she said, forcing people to leave their homes in search of a better future.  Migration was a tragedy for those who had been left behind — women and children who must stay and fight the consequences of climate change on their own.  They fought for survival.

“Nature is our supermarket.  To protect it, we use our indigenous and science knowledge,” she said, noting that her people had developed a participatory treaty to help women and children manage the few resources left.  But their traditional knowledge could not solve everything.  It could not end fossil fuel or protect people from land grabbing.  Today, delegates had the responsibility to ensure international citizenship.  In her community, thousands of women and children had never used electricity.  They had seen the damage caused by fossil fuels and carbon.  For her people, true climate justice was renewable energy for all.  “Without adaptation measures, soon there will be no one to adapt.  In Paris, you gave us hope.  Now it is time to change your hope into promise,” she said, urging leaders to sign, ratify and implement the Agreement.  “We want you to act.”

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, United Nations Messenger of Peace, recalled how he had travelled the world over the past two years to document how climate change had altered the natural balance of life.  “All that I have seen and heard on my journey absolutely terrified me,” he said.  It was proven that climate change was a direct result of human action and would get astronomically worse in the future.  “You know what will happen if this scourge is left unchecked,” he warned, calling climate change a “runaway freight train” that threatened impending disaster for the world.

Although the Paris Agreement had been reached, he said, evidence proved that it would not be enough.  The planet would not be saved unless fossil fuels were left in the ground, where they belonged.  Reversing the course of climate change would not be easy, but the tools were in the international community’s hands, provided they were applied before it was too late.  Many of the steps that had been taken were already yielding fruit, but it was now incumbent upon world leaders to lead, empower and inspire.  Signing the Paris Agreement would mean nothing without bold, unprecedented action.  After 21 years of debate, it was time to declare — no more talk, no more excuses, no more 10-year studies, no more allowing fossil fuels companies to dictate the policies that will affect the future.  The United Nations was the body that could make a difference.  “The world is now watching.  You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them,” he warned.  “You are the last, best hope for earth,” he concluded.

National Statements (A to L)

MOGENS LYKKETOFT (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, opened the segment, calling it an opportunity for Parties to the Convention to provide updates on how their Governments were implementing their national climate plans and integrating them into their overall sustainable development plans.  Speakers would also set out their countries’ road maps towards achieving the overall aim of limiting the global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and indicate their respective Governments’ timetables for ratifying the Paris Agreement.  In addition, he said, participants would indicate how their Governments would accelerate climate action before 2020 by drawing on the ingenuity, resources and efforts of all sectors of society.

JUAN MANUEL SANTOS CALDERÓN, President of Colombia, called climate change the greatest challenge faced by mankind.  The sooner the Paris Agreement was ratified, the faster the benefits would be seen, he said, adding that his country had recently concluded an agreement on climate change that called for effective and coordinated action, with a national policy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as deforestation in the Amazon region.

He said his country was particularly vulnerable, having experienced in recent years some of the worst flooding and drought in its history.  Acting on climate change would benefit the environment, turn those who had been engaged in conflict into promoters of change, and help restore forests that had been impacted by conflict and drug trafficking.

ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, President of Gabon, called upon States to adopt economic development models that were low in carbon emissions.  Doing that would require new ways of cooperating internationally to combat climate change, he said, stating that Gabon stood ready to work with the international community to reduce global warming.  With 88 per cent of his country covered by forests, he said Gabon had opted for the mainstreaming of land management.

Politically, his State had sought to bring national legislation in line with the challenges of climate change, he said, reiterating a commitment to transition to renewable energy.  Implementation of the Paris Agreement should create a climate that was conducive to private sector investment, particularly in countries committed to a green environment.

ROSEN PLEVNELIEV, President of Bulgaria, calling the Paris Agreement a decisive step forward, said that there was “no turning back”.  Transformation would be made in all key sectors.

Having achieved its targets under the Kyoto Protocol, he said that his country had an ambitious national framework to meet the new targets it had set in compliance with the Agreement’s standards and regional goals, putting an emphasis on energy efficiency within energy networks.  It was now up to everyone to secure early ratification and implementation action.

KOLINDA GRABAR-KITAROVIĆ, President of Croatia, said that the next 10 years were critical for the future existence of the world.  Efforts to face it must not take a back seat.  Having fairly low levels of emissions, but being very vulnerable to climate changes, her country was already seeing irreversible changes in the ecosystem.

Early ratification and implementation was now a priority for the country under the standards of the Paris Agreement and action of the European Union, she said.  Strong partnerships must be built to support collective efforts; her country was participating in cooperation with countries in all regions, as climate change affected all no matter where they were located.

ALASSANE OUATTARA, President of Côte d’Ivoire, said that today was a demonstration of solidarity to deal with the effects of climate change.  His country had experienced warming and a decrease in rainfall, resulting in smaller agricultural yields and other effects.  For his country, implementing the Paris Agreement was an imperative.  A framework for that purpose was now being constructed in coordination with the country’s development plans.  The support of the international community was needed in those efforts, particularly for the dissemination of clean electricity.  Scientific and technological progress, for that purpose, must be made available to all.

JÁNOS ÁDER, President of Hungary, said that despite progress on climate agreements and investments in green technology, it appeared that climate change was accelerating.  The Earth continued to give daily warnings of the consequences of our current practices.  It was not yet time to celebrate; much progress must be made urgently.  For that reason, the largest emitters must take accelerated action.  Research into storing energy must also be a priority.  Noting that “time is our most precious non-renewable resource,” he urged all stakeholders to use it carefully.

DALIA GRYBAUSKAITĖ, President of Lithuania, praised the Paris Agreement as “a win” for the planet, the people and the economy, urging all stakeholders to take action to implement it.  Lithuania, she said, was fully committed to the European Union’s pledge to reduce emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 and was a clear example that rapid economic growth was possible without harming the environment.  In the last 25 years, national emission levels fell by almost 60 per cent, while gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 30 per cent.  She concluded with a warning that although nuclear energy could be a component of a clean energy strategy, the safety of all related infrastructure must be in line with international law and ensure cooperation with neighbouring countries.

FAUSTIN ARCHANGE TOUADERA, Head of State of the Central African Republic, said decisions needed to be taken on measures that would limit the effects of climate change.  He recalled the commitment that his country’s delegation had made at the twenty-first Conference of the Parties to work towards reducing carbon emissions, and noted the need for financing to protect the Congo Basin forest.  It was his country’s desire to see mechanisms established quickly so as to maintain the global ecosystem.

DAVID ARTHUR GRANGER, President of Guyana, said his country was a net carbon sink, with forests that sequestered more carbon than what its population generated.  With the world’s second highest percentage of rainforest cover, Guyana commanded important carbon stocks.  Nevertheless, he said his country was committed to limiting the rise in global temperatures with ambitious initiatives in the forest and renewable energy sectors, moving closer towards a 100 per cent renewable power supply by 2025.  It would invest in such measures as timber monitoring and alternative forms of power generation.

JOCELERME PRIVERT, President of Haiti, said that after Paris, there is now a race against the clock for implementation.  It was a matter of survival of the planet.  In Haiti, hurricanes had become more devastating and droughts more extreme.  In that light, his Government was committed to measures to reduce emissions by 31 per cent by 2030.  Energy reform, reforestation and strengthening human settlements would be among the priorities in that effort.  The climate regime must be implemented along with action to reduce poverty and inequality.  He appealed for that reason for stepped-up assistance to developing countries.

ANA HELENA CHACÓN ECHEVERRÍA, Vice-President of Costa Rica, said that her peaceful, unarmed country had placed its faith in multilateralism and in international agreements such as the Paris Agreement.  She urged its early ratification.  Costa Rica had long provided a model in renewable energy, forest preservation and other measures to reduce its carbon imprint, and was continuing plans to move towards a carbon neutral economy.  All measures were taken in line with the country’s human rights and development plan.  She pledged that her State would build on its achievements and urged all stakeholders to work along with it.

JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister and Minister for iTaukei Affairs and the Sugar Industry of Fiji, said the citizens of his country and other small and vulnerable developing States desperately needed help.  The Paris Agreement was a positive first step, but it was not enough, and for that reason the Pacific Islands Development Forum was seeking a new limit on global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  He went on to call for changes to current arrangements for funding climate change adaptation, as they impeded the ability of small and vulnerable nations to gain access to appropriate financial arrangements.

GASTON ALPHONSO BROWNE, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance and Corporate Governance of Antigua and Barbuda, said that Caribbean countries had accumulated high debt due to increased spending to address climate change.  Adequate and predictable financing was needed to enable the region to meet climate challenges.  He also supported a proposal to swap debt for climate change adaptation.  With the financial services sector of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member States under existential threat, he appealed for a halt to the destructive practice of delinking Caribbean countries from the international payment system.

ALPHA CONDÉ, President of Guinea, said that his country was ready to go into action to implement the Paris Agreement, particularly in respect to renewable energy.  In that area, the Agreement included a framework for assistance to his continent.  African States were waiting for a clear response in their appeals for such provisions of the Agreement to be operationalized in a timely manner.  Early implementation was critical for Africa and the world.

JIMMY MORALES, President of Guatemala, said that the Paris Agreement provided hope for developing countries that had been severely affected by climate change.  His country had been battered by severe weather in many forms, causing loss of much life and harming the national economy.  Signing the Agreement was just the first step.  All States must commit to implementation.  His country was committed to managing resources in a sustainable way and to promoting a green economy for development.  More must be done to assist Guatemala and other vulnerable States to adapt to climate effects and reduce poverty while mitigating emissions.

DEAN BARROW, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Belize, speaking on behalf of CARICOM, said that small island development States had long been weathering — “no pun intended” — severe climate events spawned by an industrial revolution not of their making.  The world knew in 2009 that survival was at stake, yet it took a veritable labour of Sisyphus to finalize an agreement.  To avoid Armageddon, it was essential to maintain unrelenting pressure, with everyone playing a part and major emitters carrying their commensurate share.  CARICOM was calling for an equitable climate financing architecture and saw promise in the Green Climate Fund as an effective model for implementation.  He also said that, by depriving their domestic financial institutions of correspondent relationships, the phenomenon of de-risking was threating to lock Caribbean economies out of international trade and finance.

FREUNDEL STUART, Prime Minister of Barbados, said his Government’s signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement sanctioned the consideration and acceptance of its first intended nationally determined contribution, which was submitted in 2015 to the Climate Change Convention.  In light of recent reports that 2015 was the hottest year on record and of the study that concluded that climate forecasts underestimated the sea-rise impact of Antarctic thaw, there was no time for complacency.  The contribution of fragile island nations like Barbados would be constrained by the development of operational methods to support the Agreement’s implementation, the outcomes of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impact of the 1.5°C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels, and by the facilitative dialogue among parties, all of which would not occur until 2018.

PERRY GLADSTONE CHRISTIE, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Bahamas, said that his Government welcomed the commitments in the Agreement, including the aim to limit the annual average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.  That ceiling was the only way to ensure the survival of low-lying islands such as the Bahamas.  His country was still recovering from Hurricane Joaquin.  Climate change was threatening its very existence.  Policies and programmes towards climate change adaptation and mitigation were in the early stages of implementation due to limited capacity and other constraints.  They would operate in the wider context of the national development plan, which aimed to decrease emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030.  To implement it, the Government would continue making the necessary investments.  He called on developed countries to fulfil their financial aid pledges on concessionary terms.

KEITH C. MITCHELL, Prime Minister of Grenada, said the unique characteristics, particular vulnerabilities and special circumstances of small island developing States must continue to be a pillar in climate change deliberations.  Grenada had begun the process of integrating climate change into its national development plans and was assessing major national investments for their sensitivities to climate risks.  Grenada intended to increase emissions reduction targets over time and pursue action to fulfil commitments as an integral part of national development.  Grenada was fully committed to achieving common climate change objectives.  He presented Grenada’s instrument of ratification of the Paris Agreement with the hope that it would take effect in the not too distant future.

ANTONI MARTÍ PETIT, Head of Government of Andorra, said that his country had already put in place plans to reduce carbon emissions by 37 per cent by 2020 in comparison with earlier periods.  It was now focused on reductions in the energy and transportation sectors, which combined caused 90 per cent of emissions.  There was a plan of investment for renewable energy in place that amounted to 10 per cent of the gross national product (GNP).  Educational systems and the private sector would be engaged in the effort.

PAUL KABA THIEBA, Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, welcoming the signing of the Paris Agreement, said that ratificat

News

Speakers Condemn Gender-Based Violence, Including Rape as ‘Weapon of War’, in Commission on Status of Women Discussion

Describing national policies aimed at boosting the status of women and protecting their human rights, speakers today condemned gender-based violence — including the use of rape as a weapon of war or tactic of terrorism — as the Commission on the Status of Women entered the second day of its sixtieth annual session.

“[Women] are at the eye of the storm of conflict and repression, their bodies the focus of social and cultural battles and the object of aggression and contempt”, said Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice of the United Kingdom.  Women had the right to live free of fear, she said, noting that her country had recently launched a new cross-Government Violence Against Women and Girls strategy which set out ambitious plans to prevent violence, support victims and take action against perpetrators.

Throughout the day, speakers echoed the importance of implementing national policies to combat gender-based violence and other human rights violations.  Among those was Maria Filomena Delgado, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, who cited progress in legally protecting women from sexual abuse, violence and early marriage in her country.  She noted that her country had in 2015 created a domestic violence hotline, as well as family counselling centres and shelters.

Tatau Godinho, Secretary of Policies for Women’s Work and Economic Autonomy of Brazil, described her country’s programme to fight gender-based violence, known as “Women:  living without violence”, which had set up 27 facilities to provide help for female victims of violence.  In addition, Brazil had recently passed a bill criminalizing femicide, which imposed harsher penalties for those who harmed or killed women or girls.

Aisha Jummai Al-Hassan, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, described gender-based violence as a great concern for her country.  The Government, civil society and other stakeholders would continue to work tirelessly towards its elimination, she said, noting that the country’s Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, enacted in May 2015, criminalized all forms of gender-based violence, harmful practices against women and girls, rape and economic and political marginalization.

Among the obstacles to ending gender-based violence was the persistence of traditional stereotypes of masculinity, said Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden.  She urged a focus on the root causes of violence, calling for more effective prosecution of perpetrators and greater emphasis on lowering the threshold for men to seek help to change their violent behaviour.  Investing in violence prevention in schools was also needed in order to change attitudes associated with destructive masculinity.

Laurence Rossignol, Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights of France, said human rights violations continued to occur due to religious extremism and under the guise of cultural relativism.  Women were raped as a weapon of war or were reduced to slavery by groups such as Da’esh.  However, such violations were not limited to war zones.  Domestic violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation occurred around the world.

Similarly, Maxime Prévot, Minister for Public Works, Health and Social Action of Belgium, agreed that violence against women and girls constituted a violation of their human rights.  No custom, tradition or religion could justify an act of violence against a woman.  The international community must denounce and specifically condemn rape perpetrated as a weapon of war or tactic of terrorism, he stressed.

Also speaking today were ministers and other senior officials from Botswana (on behalf of Southern African Development Community (SADC)), Papua New Guinea (on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum), Canada, Morocco, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Japan, Peru, Israel, Poland, Republic of Korea, Qatar, Iceland, Austria, Mozambique, South Africa, Bahrain, Côte d’Ivoire, Norway, Czech Republic, Cuba, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Paraguay, Mali, Latvia, Philippines, Indonesia, Tunisia, Trinidad and Tobago, Malawi, India, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Ghana, Dominican Republic, Guinea, Mongolia, Honduras, Viet Nam, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, El Salvador, Kenya, Jordan, Afghanistan, Suriname, Liechtenstein, Zambia, Mauritius, Republic of Moldova, China, Sri Lanka, Mauritania, Uganda, South Sudan, Botswana, United Republic of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Mexico, Egypt, Argentina, Turkmenistan, Switzerland, Hungary, Bahamas, Chile, Russian Federation, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ukraine, Portugal, Spain, Tonga and Solomon Islands.

Statements

EDWIN J. BATSHU, Minister for Labour and Home Affairs of Botswana, speaking for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said women’s economic empowerment and strengthening the policy and legal frameworks to combat violence against women and children were priority areas for the Community’s gender and development programme.  In addition, the Community’s Protocol on Gender and Development had been aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals, the Beijing+20 Review and the African Union Agenda 2063, while since 1999, SADC had sponsored the resolution on women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS.  Expressing concern that the majority of new HIV infections occurred among adolescent girls and young women in eastern and Southern Africa, he said in sub-Saharan Africa, infection rates were twice as high among girls and young women as compared to boys and men.  Keeping girls in school and providing culturally sensitive and age appropriate sex education had a positive impact on sexual and reproductive health.

DELILAH GORE, Minister for Religion, Youth and Community Development of Papua New Guinea, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, said gender equality and poverty alleviation was the “unfinished business” of the Millennium Development Goals, and she supported accelerating commitments in those areas under the Sustainable Development Goals framework.  There was now gender parity in primary education in most Pacific countries and improved legislative frameworks to prevent and respond to violence against women.  Urging the Secretary-General to advance gender-sensitive implementation of the sustainable development agenda, she said the Forum was committed to addressing gender-based inequalities and violence, discrimination, poverty and a lack of economic opportunities, among other issues.  She advocated strengthening institutional capacities, such as gender-sensitive data collection; enhancing partnerships among Governments, civil society, the private sector and faith-based organizations; and supporting resource mobilization to advance gender equality.

PATRICIA HAJDU, Minister for the Status of Women of Canada, said her country would remain a world leader in the advancement of gender equality and realization of women’s human rights, as the former was not only a human rights issue but an essential part of social justice, peace, security and prosperity.  As gender-based violence was a reality for women and girls, she was engaging with experts, grass-roots organizations, and provincial and territorial governments to develop a comprehensive federal strategy to end such abuse, as well as improve services for survivors.  The disproportionate rate of such abuse against indigenous women was a major concern, and, as such, her State had launched an inquiry into the high number of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, having met with survivors and loved ones.  In the coming months, it would announce the details of that study and its contribution to Canada’s commitment to reconciliation.

BASSIMA HAKKAOUI, Minister for Solidarity, Women and Social Development of Morocco, said the Government had spared no effort in empowering women and girls.  The 2011 Constitution enshrined principles of equality.  The 2012-2016 gender equality plan included 24 goals related to women’s empowerment.  A draft law aimed to establish a gender equality and anti-discrimination agency, she said, adding that the Council for Family and Childhood had been created.  During elections in September 2015, women had been elected to 12 per cent of the seats in Parliament and 22 per cent of those seats in municipal governments.  In 2011, a family solidarity forum had been created for divorced women with children, and a social cohesion support fund had also been created.  The Government was providing direct support to widowed mothers.  Despite progress in Morocco and elsewhere, more efforts were needed to enshrine women’s cultural, political and economic rights.  That required more cooperation worldwide.

MARIA FILOMENA DELGADO, Minister for Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, pointed to her country’s national legal instruments for combating domestic violence, promoting gender equality, supporting rural women, providing basic education for children, reducing illiteracy, protecting domestic workers and supporting youth.  Women now occupied 38 per cent of parliamentary seats and 23 per cent of cabinet minister positions.  A quota system required 40 per cent women’s representation in decision-making bodies.  She cited progress in legally protecting women from sexual abuse, violence, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, and early marriage through a national youth development plan and campaign to end early marriage and pregnancy.  In 2015, the Government created a domestic violence hotline, family counselling centres and shelters.  

ANJA KOPAČ MRAK, Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of Slovenia, pointed to the creation of a new advisory body in her Ministry comprising non-governmental, academic and Government administration experts to mainstream gender policy across all sectors and ministries, and to the adoption last year of the 2015-2020 national gender equality policy.  Thanks to mandatory gender quotas, women now occupied 35.6 per cent of parliamentary seats and half of Cabinet seats.  The Government was preparing legislation aimed at increasing women’s participation in corporate boards.  Slovenia was committed to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care, including for family planning.  Combating violence against women and girls was also high on the national political agenda.  Slovenia had ratified the Council or Europe’s Istanbul Convention.  Stalking and forced marriage had been legally declared offences.  Special attention was given to women asylum seekers and refugee women and girls, who were at high risk for sexual violence and early and forced marriage.  

LYDIA MUTSCH, Minister for Gender Equality of Luxembourg, advocated a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment, underscoring women’s important role in the attainment of all Sustainable Development Goals in all areas.  She urged eliminating discrimination and promoting true equality by working for a better balance in sharing domestic, political and social responsibilities.  “We must be proactive to achieve tangible progress in equality and decision-making,” she said, by implementing a broad array of binding measures, including legislative and awareness-raising aimed at dismantling stereotypes and questioning the traditional responsibilities between men and women.  The strength of the 2030 Agenda was in its universal nature.  Luxembourg’s priorities included the establishment of quotas for political decision-making, as well as voluntary quotas for economic decision-making, and combating gender stereotypes.  It would ratify the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also called the Istanbul Convention.

YOJI MUTO, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Japan, welcomed that gender parity had been included in the 2030 Agenda, a common recognition that it was necessary for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.  A society where “all women shine” was a priority for the Cabinet, based on the idea that women’s empowerment was essential for achieving sustainable growth.  In December 2015, it had drafted the Fourth Basic Plan for Gender Equality, covering the next five years.  Women and girls today suffered from violent extremism and displacement by regional conflicts, an issue that must be addressed.  Women also must be given the opportunity to exercise their abilities to the fullest extent, he said, stressing the importance of securing high quality education for girls.  Japan sought to enhance its partnerships, including with UN-Women.

MARCELA HUAITA, Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations of Peru, reaffirmed the commitments made in Vienna, Cairo and Beijing and their respective reviews, stressing that the gender equality goals, found across all Sustainable Development Goals, were reflected in her State’s efforts to empower women.  “My country wants gender equality to be cross-cutting,” she said, noting that women were their own agents of development, as well as for their families and communities.  Citing examples, she said the “Juntos” programme focused on access to education and health, covering more than 1 million women.  Another programme provided food to 2 million children.  Peru was also the first country in South America to develop an action plan for gender and climate change.  On the economic front, intersectoral policies promoted women’s empowerment in trade and tourism, among other areas.

GILA GAMLIEL, Minister for Social Equality of Israel, said that today women in her country held leading positions in Government, business and academia.  Despite living in a region where women were often excluded from positions of power, Israel had had a female Prime Minster.  Currently, her country had a female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, fighter pilots and an Arab woman was Chairperson of the Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Knesset.  Committed to full gender equality, she had created a plan for every Government office to submit a gender budget.  More than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women, including two Arab Israeli lawmakers.  The Cabinet recently approved a landmark billion-dollar budget aimed at reducing the social gaps and improving living conditions for Arab citizens and other minority groups.  Millions of women were affected by conflict and were often the first victims of war.  Women had to be afforded the opportunity to take part in conflict resolution.  They were powerful agents of moderation, particularly in the face of extremism.   Especially in the Middle East, women were an untapped potential for more peaceful societies.

WOJCIECH KACZMARCZYK, Minister for Equal Treatment and Civil Society of Poland, pointed to his Government’s active involvement in initiatives to promote and protect women’s rights within the United Nations system, European Union, Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).  Women in Poland were becoming more visible and active in all areas of public life, including in politics and the economy.  The principle of equal treatment was enshrined in the Constitution.  Government programmes aimed to improve women’s status and opportunities in the labour market and erase gender stereotypes.  To ensure work-life balance, the Government guaranteed parental leave for six months.  Efforts were under way to reduce the gender wage gap.  The concept of family mainstreaming was being promoted widely within social, political, education and health-care policies.

KANG EUN-HEE, Minister for Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, stressed her Government’s focus on women’s empowerment and economic participation.  She pointed to skills’ enhancement and entrepreneurship programmes offered at university career development centres.  Such facilities also provided support for women start-up companies and provided training for women in occupations traditionally dominated by men.  Companies were required to publicly disclose hiring policies to protect women from discrimination.  Women’s economic participation could only be strengthened when home and work life was balanced.  Towards that end, the Government had strengthened maternity leave and required that all public institutions had family friendly policies by 2017.  Women’s empowerment must be in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals.   The Korean Government planned to give $200 million in the next five years to improve the lives of girls in developing nations.  The Government supported women with disabilities.  It was working with UN-Women to build safe cities for girls.

ISSA BIN SAAD AL JAFALI AL NUAIMI, Minister for Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs of Qatar, said gender equality was enshrined in national legislation, which was aligned with international instruments to which his country was party.  Women had taken a lead role in devising national strategies and development plans, raising their status, while Qatar’s “Vision 2030” strategy highlighted women’s role in policymaking and participation in all facets of life.  Government agencies and civil society worked to support women’s rights.  Qatar’s success in implementing plans to empower women had been seen in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, which had ranked the country first among Arab States in that regard, and thirty-first internationally in human development.  He drew attention to the difficult conditions of Palestinian women, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

EYGLÓ HARÐARDÓTTIR, Minister for Social Affairs and Housing of Iceland, said the Commission must focus on how to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in a gender-responsive manner, and called on States to ratify or accede to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  She said that women were “not going to wait for 117 years for gender equality”, which, according to the World Economic Forum, was the amount of time it would take if we continued at the current speed.  For its part, Iceland aimed to better protect women from domestic violence by removing the perpetrator from the home and making restraining orders more effective.  It also had made the purchase of sexual services and profiting from prostitution illegal, while not penalizing prostitutes.  It planned to ratify the Istanbul Convention this spring.

GABRIELE HEINISCH-HOSEK, Federal Minister for Education and Women’s Affairs of Austria, associating herself with the European Union, said the empowerment of women and girls was both a determinant for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and a main goal of that plan.  Her country would continue to advance towards gender equality in all areas of life.  Tackling gender stereotypes in order to diversify women and girls’ education and career choices was a priority.  Austria would continue to work towards eliminating women’s disadvantages in the labour market by increasing women’s participation and wages.  Comprehensive actions would be taken to promote gender-sensitive health and improve the health literacy of female migrants.  Protecting women and girls from violence was among her central concerns, and an important amendment to the criminal law had entered into force at the start of 2016, defining cyberbullying as a new form of violence punishable under that law.

CIDÁLIA MANUEL CHAÚQUE OLIVEIRA, Minister for Gender, Child and Social Action of Mozambique, pointed to efforts to promote girls’ education in order to achieve gender parity and women’s access to health services, with a focus on prenatal care and the creation of waiting rooms for pregnant women.  Mozambique had had a female Prime Minister, and today women held the position of Speaker of Parliament and Attorney General.  She pointed to provisions in laws on the family, human trafficking, domestic violence and land ownership to better protect women.  Mozambique had a multisectoral mechanism to assist women victims of violence.  The Government had adopted gender-responsive budgeting to empower women in various sectors.  Mozambique’s Agrarian Development Fund gave preferential terms to women entrepreneurs.  Maternal mortality was being reduced thanks to better access to health care, including sexual reproductive health, family planning and disease prevention.  A national strategy aimed to end early marriage and other harmful social practices.

SUSAN SHABANGU, Minister for Women of South Africa, associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, the African Group and SADC, said her Government had consistently empowered women and promoted gender equality.  The 2010-2030 national development plan was aligned with the 2030 Agenda.  A commitment to women’s empowerment and addressing gender oppression and racism through gender mainstreaming was as at the heart of South Africa’s democracy.  This year marked the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the continent’s Year of Human Rights.  Her Government was committed to ending violence against women and girls and had hosted a visit by the Special Rapporteur on the subject in December.  She supported the call for United Nations reform, particularly in appointing a woman Secretary-General.

HALA MOHAMMED JABER AL ANSARI, Secretary-General of the Supreme Council for Women of Bahrain, said gender mainstreaming was required of all State institutions and the Supreme Council for Women supported that process.  A national strategy was recently established to protect women from domestic violence.  To encourage women’s economic entrepreneurship and access to the labour market, the Supreme Council for Women had set up a centre offering consultancy services, a fund with initial capital of $5 million offering loans to microprojects and a $100 million fund that offered low-interest loans for small and medium-sized businesses.  Free legal aid, family counselling and divorce settlement services were offered to support family stability.  The Court of Cessation Law had been amended to allow for rulings of the Sharia Judiciary Court to be challenged.  The Procedures Law before Sharia Courts had been amended to reflect that is was now mandatory to refer family disputes to the Family Reconciliation Office before being brought to the Court.  Divorced, widowed and unmarried orphaned women were allowed to benefit from housing services.

EUPHRASIE KOUASSI YAO, Minister for the Promotion of Women, Family and for the Protection of Children of Côte d’Ivoire, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, cited gains in various sectors.  A 2012 law allowed married women with families to enjoy a reduction in income tax that was equal to men.  In 2015, an education law made education mandatory for all children aged 6 to 16.  The Government also had strengthened a 10 billion franc support fund to help women carry out income-generating activities.  New buildings for the national gendarmerie had taken women’s needs into account.  Côte d’Ivoire must still rise to several challenges, she said, citing gender discrimination, and pursuit of legal reforms to improve women’s representation in parliament and local government bodies.  Her country would not cower in the face of terrorism, and instead continued to work for women’s empowerment.

SOLVEIG HORNE, Minster for Children, Equality and Social Inclusion of Norway, said girls and women must have equal access to education, jobs and decision-making.  Empowerment was about education, the most important investment that could be made, and it was vital that girls started and completed their schooling.  Norway was doubling its financial contribution to education for development in the 2013-2017 period.  Empowerment was also about the absence of violence.  One in three women around the world had experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, while more than 600 million women lived in countries where domestic violence was not punishable, she said, urging action against early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.  Men had a crucial role to play in that regard.  Empowerment also meant that women must have control over their sexuality, and traditional values could not be used to deprive women of that right.

TATAU GODINHO, Secretary of Policies for Women’s Work and Economic Autonomy of Brazil, urged promotion and protection of human rights for all women and girls, stressing that the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean in January had recognized the importance of women’s and feminist movements in advancing the sustainable development agenda.  For its part, Brazil had recently passed a bill criminalizing femicide.  The “Women:  living without violence” national programme had set up 27 facilities to provide help for women victims of violence.  Going forward, Brazil hoped to guarantee sexual and reproductive health and rights for all, implement a comprehensive sex education in schools and have equal pay for work of equal value.

JIRI DIENSTBIER, Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, said the link between gender equality and sustainable development was clear.  Under-representation of women in decision-making, gender inequalities in the labour market, violence against women, persisting gender stereotypes or low engagement of men in care continued to hinder social development.  The active promotion of gender equality continued to be one of his Government’s priorities, having adopted, among other things, the Strategy for Equality of Women and Men in 2014.  Describing positive developments in the area of gender equality in the labour market, he went on to say that, in order to help reconcile work and private life, the Act on Children Groups had been adopted, guaranteeing pre-schoolers the right to a place in kindergarten from the age of four by 2017 and from the age of three by 2018.  Other progress included the adoption of a new Action Plan for the Prevention of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence for 2015-2018 and a recently adopted Strategy for Human Rights and Democracy Promotion. 

TERESA BOUÉ, Secretary-General for the Federation of Cuban Women and Member of the Council of State of Cuba, said her country had enacted laws to ensure equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities for men and women.  Women in Cuba could elect and be elected.  They decided and directed their own lives and had the capacity to meet their needs.  They received the same pay as men for work of equal value and were entitled to the same benefits.  However, despite results achieved, gender gaps remained.  In the political arena, the United States Government had acknowledged the failure and the severe damaged caused by its economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba.  While it had taken several recent positive steps, there was still no tangible progress, and the blockade continued to be an obstacle for the full development of the country and the advancement of women.  She therefore continued to demand its full lifting, and went on to call for compliance with all commitments regarding the transfer of resources and official development assistance (ODA). 

ALGIMANTA PABEDINSKIENE, Minister for Social Security and Labour of Lithuania, stressed the importance of effective national implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including the goal of reaching gender parity in spheres of life.  In Lithuania the main objectives of the 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, as well as former recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), had already been incorporated into national legislation and policies.  Its National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men was based on a gender mainstreaming approach and was closely related to the 2030 Agenda.  Its main priorities included the promotion of equal opportunities for women and men in employment, the balancing of participation in decision-making, the promotion of gender mainstreaming and the strengthening of national institutions.  Such mechanisms, as well as their funding, were very important.  In her country, funds from the State budget were allocated annually for the implementation of the National Programme.

ALEJANDRA MORA MORA, Minister for Women’s Condition of Costa Rica, associating herself with the Group of 77, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Central American Integration System and the Group of Friends of the Elderly, said her Government had prioritized socially responsible employment, rights protection, violence against women, political participation and strengthening the institutional framework for gender equality.  Sexual and reproductive rights remained a challenge and a cultural change was needed in that regard, to be achieved through training and awareness-raising.  As local elections had shown, it was not enough to have vertical gender parity.  Horizontal parity was needed to ensure that women were at the top of electoral lists, a point understood by the Constitutional Tribunal.  Costa Rica had a comprehensive platform to help victims of sexual harassment and trafficking.  She urged combating the normalization of sexual violence and the resulting pregnancies.

ONITIANA REALY, Minister for Population, Women and Social Protection of Madagascar, associating with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said her Ministry was drafting and soon would have a new gender equality policy that would encourage all institutions to assume shared responsibility to advance that goal. Those bodies would soon be invited to put forward measures in their respective fields of work, a critical comprehensive approach.  “Gender equality is not solely a concern for women; it largely depends on men”, she said, noting that the Beijing Declaration was explicit on that point.  An education fund for vulnerable women had been set up with other ministries, as it was necessary to grant women’s access, and the drafting of a gender equality law was ongoing.

ANA BAIARDI, Minister for Women of Paraguay, noting that women’s empowerment and sustainable development must be viewed comprehensively, urged an end to all forms of gender-based violence.  She advocated more resources and partnerships to strengthen gender equality entities.  For its part, Paraguay had focused on women’s empowerment, women’s access to resources and work, and participation of indigenous and rural women.  It had passed laws on paid domestic work and on maternity and breast feeding.  For two years, Paraguay had worked with women’s policy organizations, feminist and women’s groups, UN-Women and others to draft a law on democratic parity, which had been submitted to Congress.  An amendment to the criminal code last year had deemed domestic violence a crime.  A more comprehensive approach was needed and Paraguay was studying a draft law on violence against women, which took femicide into account.

SANGARE OUMOU BA, Minister for the Advancement of Women, Children and Family of Mali, associating herself with Group of 77 and the African Group, said the session was taking place on the heels of the launch of the 2030 Agenda, which had among its core goals the eradication of poverty, the end of inequality and the promotion of prosperity while protecting the environment.  The empowerment of women was closely linked to sustainable development.  Her country was gradually emerging from a multidimensional crisis in which women and children had played the heaviest price; in that regard, she reaffirmed her Government’s determination to implement the provisions of the peace agreement.  It had also firmly committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 5 and those related to poverty, health and peace and security — each of which also took into account gender equality and women’s empowerment.  No sustainable development policy could yield results without women’s engagement in socioeconomic policies and political life.  Mali therefore sought to achieve greater participation of women in decision-making bodies. 

MAXIME PRÉVOT, Minister for Public Works, Health and Social Action of Belgium, aligning himself with the European Union, said sustainable development required the achievement of women’s rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.  “We can no longer have taboos” when it came to contraception and sexual and reproductive health and services.  The systematic mainstreaming of gender equality in all the Sustainable Development Goals was critical, as was the determination to achieve Goal 5.  The 2030 Agenda was a formidable opportunity to put forward women as drivers of sustainable development.  Gender mainstreaming was a priority for Belgium, which had been the first country in the world to adopt legislation in that regard.  Violence against women and girls constituted a violation of their human rights, he said, stressing that no custom, tradition or religion could justify an act of violence against a woman.  Furthermore, the international community must denounce and specifically condemn rape perpetrated as a weapon of war and terrorism; the crimes of the Da’esh group against women must be punished.

JĀNIS REIRS, Minister for Welfare of Latvia, associating himself with the European Union, said gender equality was smart economics.  In his country, the female employment rate was 70 per cent in 2015 and women made up 51 per cent of all employed persons.  One in three businesses in Latvia belonged to women.  However, gender segregation still existed in education and employment and that was reflected in the gender pay gap.  More efforts were being made to eliminate violence against women, with improvements to the legal framework in line with the Istanbul Convention and State-funded programmes being made available to victims and perpetrators alike.  Flexible child care enabled working parents to become economically independent.  Measures had been introduced to strengthen the role of fathers, as men and boys had a crucial role to play in gender equality.

ÅSA REGNÉR, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality of Sweden, noting that her country had a feminist Government, said gender power relations and traditional stereotypes of masculinity associated with violence had hindered gender equality.  She urged a focus on the root causes of violence, calling for more effective prosecution of perpetrators and greater emphasis on lowering the threshold for men to seek help to change their violent behaviour.  Investing in violence prevention in schools was also needed in order to change attitudes associated with destructive masculinity.  Expressing deep concern that more than half a million women died annually in pregnancy and childbirth or from unsafe abortions, she said investments in those areas were investments in women’s empowerment, social justice and human rights.  Sweden had increased its contribution to women, peace and security issues, with a focus on promoting women’s participation in mediation and peace processes.

AISHA JUMMAI AL-HASSAN, Minister for Women Affairs and Social Development of Nigeria, said the national gender policy and its strategic implementation framework and plan focused on reproductive health, education, countering violence against women, and economic empowerment.  Further, the Government had created programmes that addressed specific social needs, such as skills acquisition for youth, meals for primary school students and financial support to 1 million female marketers and artisans.  Describing gender-based violence as a great concern for her country, she noted that the Government, civil society and other stakeholders would continue to work tirelessly towards its elimination.  In that regard, the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act enacted in May 2015 criminalized all forms of gender-based violence, harmful practices against women and girls, rape, and economic and political marginalization.

ROSALINDA DIMAPILIS-BALDOZ, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines, associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), recalled that the United Nations had recognized her country’s President as an Impact Head of State Champion for the “HeForShe” campaign.  Indeed, 43 per cent of leaders in her Government were women, while an increasing number of women were senior leaders in private companies.  For the first time, a woman led the judiciary and the Commission on Audit.  A new labour law compliance system, with decent work indicators, had shifted from a regulatory to a developmental approach, which had increased compliance with gender standards.  The country had ratified International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189 on domestic work and passed a law recognizing domestic helpers as workers with labour rights and benefits.

YOHANA SUSANA YEMBISE, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia, associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77, said gender equality and women’s empowerment commitments were reflected in such strategies as gender responsive planning and budgeting, while the national action plan on human rights for 2015-2019 outlined policies to protect women from violence and discrimination.  Further, the rural development law enabled equal access to the benefits of rural development.  Gender parity at almost all levels had helped reduce child marriage and illiteracy among women.  Health reforms had improved women’s access to reproductive health services.  The Government had enacted national action plans to eliminate trafficking in persons and to promote and protect women and children in social conflict areas, working with national human rights bodies in their implementation.

SAMIRA MERAI FRIAA, Minister for Women, Family and Childhood of Tunisia, said that her country valued equality between men and women and, in that regard, it truly appreciated the fifth goal of the 2030 Agenda.  The 2030 Agenda had been integrated into Tunisia’s 2016-2020 development plans.  Economic empowerment of women had been made a fundamental priority with a view to improving opportunities for women in the labour market.  Special attention was being given to women in rural areas and in border areas threatened by terrorists.  A national strategy to combat violence against women and girls had been implemented, with necessary services being provided to victims.  Utmost priority was given to peace and security, particularly in light of the transformations now under way in the Arab world.

AYANNA WEBSTER-ROY, Minister for State in the Office of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, said equal rights of men and women were guaranteed under the 1976 Constitution.  Further, relevant laws and policies were guided by a number of international and regional instruments, including the Women’s Convention and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.  Welcoming the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, she noted that it defined strategic policy goals to be prioritized for national action over the next 15 years.  The health and well-being of all citizens, and the promotion and protection of their rights, were central to national sustainable development efforts, including poverty eradication initiatives.  To reduce and prevent violence against women and girls, the Government had enacted, reviewed and amended legislation and partnered with civil society organizations to provide a range of services to victims and survivors, including shelters, hotlines and counselling, workshops and grants.

PATRICIA KALIATI, Minister for Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and Member of Parliament of Malawi, said the sixtieth session of the Commission came at a time when a plethora of global challenges were impacting women.  She described gender-related progress that had been achieved in her country, which had been due, among other things, to education and gender mainstreaming.  In addition, legislation was currently being reviewed with an eye to gender parity.  Maternal mortality rates had declined, as had the rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission and new HIV infection.  All Government sector heads of planning had been trained in gender-sensitive budgeting.

MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI, Minister for Women and Child Development of India, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her country had achieved gender parity in primary education, while the disparity in secondary education was falling fast.  Remarkable progress had been made in reducing maternal death, while nearly half of all elected representatives to local governing bodies were women.  Various laws addressed all forms of violence against women and girls in a comprehensive manner.  Last year a multisectoral programme was launched to overcome deep-seated bias against the girl child.  One-stop centres provided medical help, police assistance, legal aid and psycho-social counselling under one roof, while efforts were being made to make the police more gender-responsive and sensitized.

DOREEN SIOKA, Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare of Namibia, said gender equality, human rights and empowerment of women and girls were national priorities that were enshrined in the Constitution of her country.  Notable achievements included better provision of health services and increased representation of women in Parliament.  Primary and secondary education was free, while legislation was being enacted to make it easier for women to access resources for economic development.  The aim was for men and women, boys and girls, to benefit equally from economic development.  The current session of Parliament was amending a number of gender-related laws, including one that dealt with human trafficking.

NYASHA EUNICE ANNE CHIKWINYA, Minister for Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development of Zimbabwe, associated herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, saying her country’s Constitution explicitly provided for gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Although 29 per cent of women had acquired land, much remained to be done, given that 68 per cent of Zimbabwean women were farmers.  The Constitutional Court had banned child marriages after two young women who married before the age of 18 challenged the constitutionality of the Marriages Act.  The Government, through her Ministry, was pushing for a minimum prison sentence of 30 years for rapists, with life imprisonment for those who raped minors.  Climate change had a negative impact on rural women; it needed to be addressed with such measures as the introduction of drought-resistant crops and water conservation methods.

JULIA DUNCAN-CASSELL, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her Government had recently set in motion national processes aligned with its development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Liberia’s successes in the Millennium Development Goals were reflected in the reduction of maternal and child mortality, girls’ education and women’s empowerment.  Listing a number of other achievements related to gender quality and women’s empowerment — including the launch of the second phase of the national sexual and gender-based violence programme — she went on to say that the Domestic Violence Act submitted to the national legislature would strengthen the safety of women and forbid female genital mutilation.

NANA OYE LITHUR, Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana, said women’s empowerment was not just a call for the protection of women’s human rights but also made good sustainable development sense.  “The opportunity to achieve sustainable development will be missed if the concerns of women, who constitute more than half of the global population, are not addressed”, she said.  Africa had made substantial progress towards the achievement of universal primary education, a high primary enrolment rate, improved girls’ enrolment and gender parity.  The continent was leading the world in terms of women’s representation in national parliaments.  Describing development progress made in her country — including the halving of poverty before the target date of 2015 — she went on to note a number of successes related specifically to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

ALEJANDRINA GERMAN, Minister for Women of the Dominican Republic, associating with the Group of 77, the Council of Ministers of Women, the Group of Friends of the Elderly, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said the launch of the 2030 Agenda recognized women’s diversity, human rights and the need for development.  Her country had recently ratified the ILO Convention protecting the labour rights of women.  It had made progress on women’s economic empowerment, including training thousands of women in marketable technical skills.  Legal sanctions and other measures had been put in place to protect female victims of violence, and a hotline to support victims had been set up.  Furthermore, the Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health was set up in 2015.  To help achieve women’s goals related to the Agenda 2030, the Dominican Republic had a range of public policy tools to help solve the main challenges facing women and girls, and funds had been specifically allocated to target women’s issues.

CAMARA SANABA KABA, Minister for Social Action and the Advancement of Women and Children of Guinea, said that she was grateful for the solidarity of the women of the world when her country was dealing with Ebola.  Women in particular had been hit hard by the consequences of that crisis.  Several investors had left the country, including mining companies that had been a major source of financing for the State.  A slowdown in domestic and cross-border trade had had an adverse impact, and the agricultural sector, largely steered by women, had deteriorated.  International support was still needed in order to stabilize the economy for the benefit of all citizens, and particularly for women.

ERDENE SODNOMZUNDUI, Minister for Population Development and Social Protection of Mongolia, said that, under revisions to the Criminal Code in 2015, domestic violence — for the first time — had been criminalized, with stiff penalties for intentional homicide or for serious injuries inflicted on victims of such violence.  Under a draft labour law, employers had to provide working conditions that were free of discrimination, sexual harassment and abuse.  Increasing women’s participation in decision-making, ensuring inclusive economic growth and targeted social welfare were still pressing challenges, but the country was committed to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and to raising public awareness of gender issues.

ANA AMINTA MADRID, Minister for the National Institute for Women of Honduras, listed a number of successes her country had made in the areas of gender equality and empowerment.  Those included:  the adoption of a national programme for solidarity credit for rural women; the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into public policy; the adoption of a gender equity law and a law for women’s full employment; and affirmative action programmes.  The country had also taken actions aimed at increasing the employment of teenagers and supporting migrants and female-headed households.  In addition, a specialized unit dealing with femicide and a comprehensive care centre for survivors of gender-based violence had been established, and a campaign for the prevention of violence against women had been launched.

CAROLINE DINENAGE, Minister for Women, Equalities and Family Justice of the United Kingdom, said that, while progress had been made for women and girls around the world, “[women] are at the eye of the storm of conflict and repression, their bodies the focus of social and cultural battles and the object of aggression and contempt”.  Gender equality was at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The United Kingdom had more women in work and more women-led businesses than ever before and it had reduced the gender pay gap to the lowest level ever.  However, economic freedom must go hand in hand with social freedom, in particular the right to live free from fear.  Last week, the country had launched a new cross-Government violence against women and girls strategy, which set out ambitious plans to prevent violence, support victims and take action against perpetrators.  That included tackling challenges facing women in the age of modern technology and social media.

PHẠM THỊ HẲI CHUYỂN, Minister for Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs of Viet Nam, said that her country had, in its quest for gender equality, learned to be aware of the needs and aspirations of women in the development process and to promote women’s empowerment in all areas.  However, many challenges remained.  There had been no decline in violence against women in girls.  In rural, mountainous and remote areas, outmoded customs and traditions persisted.  Climate change was having a negative impact on both men and women, and a number of social policies stood in the way of women’s participation in management and leadership positions.  Mainstreaming gender equality in legal documents was also a challenge.

MARGUS TSAHKNA, Minister for Social Protection of Estonia, associating himself with the European Union, said his country was committed to reducing the gender pay gap, preventing violence against women, promoting women’s rights and gender equality, and opening opportunities for women in information and communications technologies, an area in which it already stood out.  Digitalization created better educational opportunities for children in remote areas and in conflict situations.  Women and girls with Internet access could participate in society on more equal terms with men and make their voices more widely heard.  In Afghanistan, Estonia had been supporting a project that gave local women six months of information technology training, contributing to their economic empowerment and benefiting the community as a whole.

NOURA BINT MOHAMMED AL KAABI, Minister for Federal National Council Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, said the international community must commit to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 5.  Women made up close to one third of her country’s Cabinet, she said, adding that national partners with strong institutions were critical to achieving progress.  Effective monitoring of the implementation of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals would be critical and provide an opportunity for States to share best practices.  Gender equality was critical to peaceful societies, she said, noting the rise of extremism and the related increase in violations of the human rights of women and girls.  Her State was committed to strengthening the capacity of countries worldwide in post-conflict development.

LAURENCE ROSSIGNOL, Minister for Families, Children and Women’s Rights of France, noting that more than 20 years had elapsed since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration, said that more remained to be done to promote and protect women’s human rights.  For example, violations continued to occur due to religious extremism and under the guise of cultural relativism.  Women were raped as a weapon of war or were reduced to slavery by groups such as Da’esh.  However, such violations were not limited to war zones.  Domestic violence, forced marriages and female genital mutilation occurred around the world.  All international agendas, including the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement, converged on the same goal:  upholding human rights.  There were an alarming number of unsafe abortions in places where the practice was banned, and States needed to eliminate legal barriers to safe abortions, especially in cases of rape or in the face of health threats such as the Zika virus.

YANIRA ARGUETA, Minister for Women of El Salvador, associating herself with the Central American Integration System and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said it was worth reflecting on the achievements that had been made.  Doing so would enable progress.  In her country, women were recognized as peacebuilders and drivers of good governance.  A specialized justice mechanism for women was being built, and measures to address violence against women would soon be adopted.  UN-Women had an important role to play in ensuring the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

SICILY KARIUKI, Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affair