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Speech by State Councillor Wu Yi, Head of Chinese delegation at the Special Session of The UN General Assembly on Women

2000/10/26

Mr. Chairman,

At the turn of the century and the millennium, the United Nations is convening a special session of the General Assembly on women, which is undoubtedly of great importance for the advancement of women's cause and the prosperity and progress of the whole humanity. I am confident that, under your guidance, the current session will achieve its objectives and be crowned with a complete success.

Mr. Chairman,

Five years ago, we successfully hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing. That conference not only fully demonstrated the determination and confidence of the international community in resolving women's issues, but also defined more clearly the objectives of the cause of women's advancement worldwide as well as the concrete measures that should be adopted to achieve them, thereby injecting new vitality into the global women's cause. In the five years between then and now, the world situation has continued to move towards multi-polarity and the call of people of all countries for peace, stability and development has been getting louder and louder. Science and technology has been advancing with each passing day, the productive forces have developed to an unprecedentedly high level, and to seek social progress and development of civilization has become an irresistible historical trend. Under such circumstances, to improve women's status, safeguard their rights and interests, tap their potentials and ensure gender equality have become a common understanding of the international community, which has been making unremitting efforts for the implementation of the follow-up actions of the FWCW. Many countries have formulated their national programs to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the FWCW. The UN system has also paid more attention to incorporating women's issues into its overall working plan and has played a positive role in coordinating international cooperation in women's affairs. In retrospect, our efforts have been tremendous and our achievements have been noteworthy.

Mr. Chairman,

The cause of women now enjoys unprecedented opportunities, but at the same time, it is faced with many challenges and difficulties. At present, destabilizing factors of all types still exist in the world. Some regions are plagued by incessant warfare. Certain countries have willfully resorted to force and interfered in other countries' internal affairs. All this keeps reminding us that the world today is far from being tranquil. Economic globalization presents both opportunities and challenges to many developing countries. The gap between developed and developing countries is widening and the number of people in poverty worldwide is growing. All this keeps warning us that the road to development is by no means smooth and even. Gender inequality and discrimination against women still exist and the problem of women being unable to get equal access to education, employment, participation in political affairs and utilization of resources is striking. All this keeps telling us that it is no easy job to realize gender equality. Obviously, it remains an arduous task for the international community to make our world safer, to achieve common development of all countries and to promote the advancement of women.

Women have played an important role in creating human civilization and promoting social development. Like men, they are creators of the human history and producers of material as well as spiritual wealth of the society. Respect for and protection of the legitimate rights and interests of women and the efforts to bring into full play their talents and expertise are important components of social progress and represent legal norms and moral standards that any civilized society should have.

To raise women's status and promote gender equality bears not only on the vital interests of women, but also on whether human talents can be fully exploited and whether social productive forces can be liberated completely. At the same time, it is closely linked to world peace and development. Undoubtedly, women are a great force for human progress and world peace. Without the participation of women, there can be no development and lasting peace will be difficult to come by. It is precisely for this reason that women's cause should be incorporated into the overall strategy for peace and development and accorded due consideration therein. Only by doing so can an effective and fundamental solution be achieved for all relevant issues. The Chinese Government wishes to take this opportunity to appeal to the international community to do the following:

I. to create a peaceful environment for the advancement of women. Women are the most vulnerable and biggest victims in war and armed conflicts. Only when wars and armed conflicts are rooted out can women's cause move forward. To that end, all countries must strictly abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic principles of international law, work to resolve international disputes by peaceful means and firmly uphold the leading role of the UN for international peace and security,

II. to make earnest efforts to eliminate women's poverty. The significance of poverty elimination to the development of women should be fully recognized and priority should be given to promoting economic and social development and eliminating poverty among women in the effort to raise their status. Effective steps should be taken to help out women in poverty and create a reliable material basis for the development and advancement of women. Developed countries and relevant international institutions should faithfully fulfill their obligations in this regard.

III. to ensure women's full participation in the process of economic globalization. Economic globalization both affords opportunities and presents severe challenges to the cause of women. There should be serious efforts to study its negative impact on women's development as well as effective measures to prevent women, particularly those in developing countries, from being marginalized in the process.

IV. to actively promote the role of the UN system. The UN should play a more effective role in guiding and coordinating international cooperation with women's participation, including assessing the progress of the work on women and disseminating the successful experience of all countries in this field. In the meantime, as countries and regions differ from one another, the UN should encourage regional efforts to establish and strengthen coordinating mechanisms in relation to women's issues so as to enhance regional cooperation and promote the progress of women's cause in all regions.

Mr. Chairman,

The Chinese Government has always attached importance to gender equality. Following the successful hosting of the FWCW, we have been making vigorous efforts and achieved considerable progress in raising the status of women and promoting the all-round development of women in China. For the implementation of the follow-up actions of the FWCW, the Chinese Government has formulated and promulgated the Program for the Development of Chinese Women 1995-2000. As a national program for implementing the Platform for Action, it includes specific measures to formulate and improve jaws and regulations on the protection of women and children and the national mechanisms for higher status of women, to provide a stronger leadership for the work on women, to organize education and training to get women better prepared for participation in state affairs and the policy-making process, and to set up a sound monitoring and assessment system for periodical review and assessment of the development of women's cause in China so as to provide a basis for the making of policies by the Central Government.

Thanks to efforts in the past five years, women's participation in the policy-making process in China has further enhanced in terms of both breath and depth. The ratios of women deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the women members of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) have increased. Job opportunities for women and the number of women in employment have been on a steady rise. In recent years, the number of employed women has reached 340 million, or 46.7% of the total employment nationwide. Women's educational level has also gone up steadily, with a drastic fall in illiteracy among women. We have, by and large, realized the objective of elementary health care for all and Chinese women are now enjoying better health. The maternal health care coverage has reached 85% of women. Thanks to intensified poverty alleviation efforts, the number of people living in poverty in rural areas has dropped markedly and relief and assistance have been made available to low-income residents in urban areas. At the same time, however, due to the constraints of China's economic and social development level and the lingering impacts of some out-dated ideas and mentalities, the development of Chinese women is still faced with many difficulties. Poverty remains the biggest constraining factor. Currently, the Chinese Government is adopting strong measures to resolve these problems.

I also want to point out in particular that the governments of the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions have attached great importance as well to the work on women since their successive return to China. They have taken forceful measures to implement the follow-up actions of the FWCW and achieved considerable progress in improving women's status, safeguarding women's rights and interests and promoting the all-round progress of women's cause.

Mr. Chairman,

The advent of the new century has filled us with hope. Predictably, the realization of gender equality will be unstoppable and the cause of women's development will achieve greater progress. We are confident that, with the joint efforts of people of all countries, the 21st century will truly become one of "gender equality, development and peace". The Chinese Government is ready to make unremitting efforts together with governments of all other countries for the early realization of this lofty goal in accordance with the purposes and spirit of the FWCW.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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