STATEMENT BY DR. SUMIKO IWAO HEAD OF THE JAPANESE DELEGATION, AT THE DEBATE IN THE PLENARY OF THE TWENTY-THIRD SPECIAL SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: "WOMEN 2000: GENDER EQUALITY, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY"
5 June 2000
It is an honor to address this special session of the General Assembly, "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century," a meeting of utmost significance for both women and men the world over. On behalf of the Japanese Government, I would like to commend those who have contributed so much to the preparations for this conference, including all the NGOs.
In responding to the changing socio-economic situations, and with a view to making the twenty-first century truly peaceful and prosperous, it is imperative for us to build a gender-equal society in which women and men can fully exercise their individuality and abilities. We must act to achieve both de jure and de facto gender equality. Our efforts should be guided by the need to ensure the "empowerment of women" and "respect for the rights of women," and to demonstrate a "strong political will and actions based on partnership."
The empowerment of women plays a central role in the achievement of gender equality. In Japan, the Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society, enacted in June 1999, stipulates positive actions. As part of our efforts toward gender mainstreaming, the Japanese Government is promoting collection of gender disaggregated data and quantitative assessment of unpaid work, and has begun to develop a methodology for gender-based monitoring and evaluation of government policies.
The involvement of women in the decision-making process and in political activities is especially important for their empowerment. Since the Beijing Conference, many Japanese women have been elected to national and regional legislative bodies, and this year, for the first time, women were elected as governors in two prefectures. We welcome these developments, which have opened new horizons for women's political empowerment in Japan.
For economic empowerment, support for women's equal participation in economic activities is vital. The Japanese Government has been promoting measures to guarantee equal opportunities and treatment for women and men in employment as well as reinforcing vocational training and supporting entrepreneurial activities by women. In rural areas, we are providing support for women's participation and capacity-building, in the management of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. In order to deal with Japan's declining birthrate and ageing society, we are promoting an environment that will make possible a balance between life inside and outside the family while both women and men assume roles in caring for children and the elderly.
Japan, as the top ODA donor for nine consecutive years, attaches particular importance to addressing poverty and all other issues relating to the protection of women's dignity and livelihoods through the empowerment of women. We will continue to support women in developing countries by including a gender perspective in the humanitarian and development assistance process and placing emphasis on women's education, health, and participation in socio-economic activities.
Japan has recently decided to provide, within the international framework, a 100 percent reduction not only in ODA debt but also in non-ODA debt and to contribute an additional amount of up to 200 million dollars to the Debt Reduction Fund of the World Bank. We hope that developing countries will make effective use of such debt relief for poverty reduction.
Women's empowerment through education and the overcoming of gender-stereotyped ideas is a long-term challenge. Japan will continue to provide lifelong learning with a gender-equality perspective to promote changes in individual consciousness.
True gender equality cannot be achieved without respect for women's rights. Violence against women poses a serious threat to the women of the world, and the need to strenghthen our efforts is widely recognized.
Japan will continue its efforts to eradicate violence against and sexual harassment of women by taking measures to prevent such actions and to protect victims, as well as by enforcing existing laws, conducting surveys, and enacting further appropriate legislation. We will endeavor to ensure reproductive rights/health throughout a women's life span by providing health services appropriate to every stage of life.
It is also our hope that the activities of the Trust Fund for Eradication of Violence against Women established in 1996 under UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) will bring further results with the support of Member States.
We attach great importance to the adoption of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which will contribute to the well-being of children. In Japan, the Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Protecting Children was enacted in November last year and action is being taken to enforce it. As a further manifestation of our commitment to the eradication of sexual exploitation of children, Japan will host the Second World Congress Against Commercial and Other Forms of Sexual Exploitation of Children in Yokohama in December 2001, in cooperation with UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) and ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes).
The government's strong political will and action, based on partnership, are essential in achieving gender equality. Thus, in accordance with the Basic Law for a Gender-equal Society, the Japanese Government will formulate the Basic Plan for Gender Equality within the year 2000 and actively implement it through the national machinery, which will be greatly reinforce in January of next year.
Japan has endeavored to promote NGO activities through the Law to Promote Specified Non-profit Activities, which was enacted in December 1998, and will continue to attach importance to partnership with NGOs. In this connection, we welcome the contribution that Japanese NGOs, through exchanges with other NGOs, have made to ensuring the success of this conference.
As a result of ongoing globalization and progress in information technology, our daily lives and social systems are undergoing a period of major change. Increasing communication of ideas between people is bringing about new thinking and values not wedded to the past. Ultimately, individuals are the main actors in society, and it is they who change society. Thus, the present time offers an ideal opportunity to correct the gender inequality, a problem of long standing.
The realization of a gender-equal society is significant in the context of promoting the human-centered approach as articulated in the Millennium Report of the Secretary-General. It is our strong hope that this Special Session, along with the Millennium Summit, will be a major milestone in the ongoing effort to improve the status of women. For its part, Japan pledges to contribute to successful discussions of the issue this session is set to address and to promote gender equality worldwide.
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