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Opening of the Eighth Session of the Committee on Women

4 October 2017
Beirut, Lebanon

Statement by Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim

Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary
of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
at the opening of the eighth session of the Committee on Women

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear colleagues and representatives of United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, I am pleased to welcome you all to UN House in Beirut on the occasion of the opening of the eighth
session of the ESCWA Committee on Women. First of all, I would like to thank Oman for its fine stewardship of the work of the Committee’s seventh session and to wish Palestine all success in presiding over the present session.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Over the past year, we have witnessed great achievements in terms of gender equality. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), combined with the political will of member States, provided the necessary
bedrock for constitutional and legal reform, which is itself essential for institutional and practical reforms. Significant results have recently been achieved at the national and regional levels, which will have a positive
impact on the consolidation of women’s rights in Arab countries. In some, legislation has been passed or amended to strengthen women’s rights, protecting women against violence and punishing the perpetrators.

Arab countries have been commendably active in developing national plans for the empowerment of women and, in particular, in vital areas such as combating gender-based violence and implementing the women, peace and security agenda.

Women’s participation in most parliamentary elections held in the region since January 2016 has underscored their heightened involvement in political life, and women have been elected to parliament in a
number of countries. In Tunisia, for instance, female representation in the last elections was around 31 per cent, exceeding the 30 per cent baseline promoted by the United Nations in its declarations and at international conferences.

Ladies and gentlemen,
We at ESCWA have developed mechanisms in tune with the requirements and aspirations of our member States in promoting women’s rights. We have conducted an array of conceptual and practical studies
to guide decision-makers in the formulation and development of national plans for the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda. Our ultimate goal has always been to translate the findings of our studies into practical projects with a view to improving the status of and empowering women and enhancing their position in society. One such project, on the economic cost of violence, provides an economic model that can be used to measure the impact of violence against women on the economy.

In that regard, allow me to make particular mention of the special subcommittee tasked with following up on implementation of the SDGs, the establishment of which was approved by your Committee in its
previous session. It is playing a key role in the development of our joint action to implement gender-related SDGs and measure progress on their achievement. I dare say that all the SDGs are relevant to women and their concerns, insofar as they touch on the economy, society and the entire planet.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Even as we welcome the positive developments with regard to guaranteeing equality and social justice in Arab societies and reforms aimed at enhancing women’s rights and their participation in community
building, we should not overlook the tremendous challenges facing our region. Arab countries are racked by all manner of violence and conflicts that, aside from shattering the peace, are threatening all that has been achieved in terms of social development and progress. One country in particular, Palestine, has suffered under, and continues to endure, decades of occupation.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Amid all the security, political and development difficulties facing our region, let us be guided by key international initiatives and direct our efforts to improving the position of women. The Secretary-General has
made a priority of gender justice in Member States and within the United Nations itself. One of the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is dedicated to the empowerment of women and the
achievement of gender equality. We at ESCWA are striving with our member States to fulfil those international commitments and follow up on related achievements.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Day by day, our conviction deepens that the participation of women and gender equality represent a key pillar of development and of social and economic progress. No economic, social and environmental vision  can claim to be comprehensive and sustainable unless it is conceived, implemented and owned by all members of society. This personal conviction, which is shared by ESCWA, drives our determination to support your Committee in its efforts to advance and empower women, and thereby empower society.

Thank you.

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