Thank you Mr. President. The United States wishes to congratulate you, Ambassador Kim-Sook on your election and looks forward to your leadership over the coming year. We also express our appreciation to the outgoing president, Ambassador Ogwu, for her skillful leadership of the Board over the last year. And we thank Executive Director Bachelet for her briefing this morning.
Mr. President, it is a pleasure to be here today to discuss UN Women’s crucial work to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. The United States places great importance on addressing and preventing discrimination against women and girls and promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, through both our foreign policy and our domestic initiatives. As President Obama said in his address to the General Assembly last fall, “No country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs.”
As we said at this Board’s previous meeting, we believe it is essential for UN Women to set priorities and focus its efforts to produce measurable results quickly. One key area where UN Women can do so is a focus on efforts to promote women’s political leadership and participation, particularly in states undergoing political transitions and emerging from conflict. The stakes could not be higher or the issue more timely. In the Middle East and North Africa, for example, as countries are beginning the transition to democracy, steps must be taken to ensure women are not excluded or persecuted. As Secretary Clinton said last month in releasing the United States’ National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, a new democracy “cannot be built on the persecution of women, nor can any stable society.”
Even as we work to improve opportunity for women around the world, we are working hard to achieve vital goals on gender equality and women’s empowerment here at home. In his address to the UNGA last September, President Obama challenged all states, including our own, to announce within one year the steps they are taking to break down the economic and political barriers to women’s progress. For example, the first bill President Obama signed when he came into office was legislation to restore basic protections for women against pay discrimination.
The United States is also working to secure affordable and accessible health care for America’s women. For the first time, as part of the new U.S. health care legislation, new insurance plans must cover women’s preventive health care services, such as mammograms, with no deductibles, copayments or coinsurance. Beginning in 2014, all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy.
Initiatives to address violence against women are another important focus for the United States. With Vice President Biden’s leadership, we are addressing the high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault facing young women and girls, and last year announced historic new guidance for colleges and universities about their responsibilities under federal law to prevent sexual assault. Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced revisions to the Uniform Crime Report’s definition of rape, which will lead to a more comprehensive statistical reporting of rape nationwide. The new definition is more inclusive, better reflects state criminal codes, and it sends an important message to the broad range of rape survivors that they are supported and to perpetrators that they will be held accountable. We will continue to strengthen our efforts on all these fronts in the coming months.
Mr. President, we are grateful to Executive Director Bachelet for her briefing on UN Women’s operational activities. The breadth of UN Women’s written report on its activities underscores the complexity of the challenges confronting women worldwide and the extent of UN Women’s operations. We also would like to applaud some key results UN Women has achieved to date. For example, women make up 33.5 percent of the South Sudan Legislative Assembly, reflecting UN Women’s work to support the South Sudan Elections Committee. In the Caribbean, UN Women supports a regional NGO whose mission is to increase women’s political participation throughout the Caribbean. This effort not only underscores the importance of the recent election of Trinidad and Tobago’s first female Prime Minister, but also lays the groundwork for the rise of future female political leaders in the region. UN Women’s work with MINUSTAH, the Government of Haiti, and Haitian civil society to promote the inclusion and participation of women in relief, recovery, and rebuilding in Haiti is another significant initiative.
We also welcome UN Women’s emphasis on combating violence against women. UN Women’s comprehensive approach to combating the problem is the right one. For example, we welcome UN Women’s support for justice-sector programs in Thailand to assist survivors of domestic violence. We also encourage UN Women to ensure that its policies and programs are designed to protect women who are targeted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. In her speech on International Human Rights Day last month in Geneva, Secretary Clinton condemned cases in which “lesbian or transgender women are subjected to so-called corrective rape . . . or when people are murdered after public calls for violence toward gays.”
We look forward to working with UN Women and other member states to achieve greater progress on all of these issues. Similarly, we are interested to learn more about initiatives other states are taking to promote gender equality and empower women.
Thank you for your attention. The United States looks forward to contributing to a successful Board session.
This site is managed by U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York City and the Bureau of Public Affairs in Washington, DC. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.