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Michelle Bachelet’s Closing Statement at the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women

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Date: 16 March 2013

Speaker: Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women

Closing Statement of Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, at the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

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Madame Chair,
Excellencies and distinguished delegates,
Colleagues, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

Greetings to all of you as we conclude this historic 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

It has been an intensive past two weeks. We have witnessed one of the highest levels of participation from Member States, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, and colleagues from the United Nations.

I must start by expressing my appreciation to all of you. I would especially like to thank the Chair of the Commission, Ambassador Marjon Kamara of Liberia, for her strong and steady leadership, and Vice-Chair, Ms. Ana Marie Hernando of the Philippines who facilitated the negotiations in such a skilful manner, and the Bureau.

I say thank you to the delegates for the determination and the drive to get the job done! I hope you get some sleep and food now. I thank my staff, the staff of UN Women, who worked so hard and did an amazing job and I know you will agree with me that they are a great team! I also thank the journalists for their extensive global media coverage of this session. We saw headlines about CSW and I hope this and continuing coverage will improve the realization of the rights of women around the world. Thank you all very much.

It is a tribute to this Commission that since its first session 66 years ago, it has welcomed representatives of civil society, in a model of inclusion. I pay a special tribute to the thousands of civil society representatives who came here and raised their voices.

The interest and attendance at this 57th session of CSW reflects the importance in all of our countries of the urgency to end violence against women and girls. The world has been watching us. We came here two weeks ago with the opportunity, and the obligation, to do all we could to protect the rights of women and girls, the right to live in dignity, free of violence and discrimination. People expected action and we have no right to let down the world’s women. And we have not failed them. Yes, we did it!

Sixty-six years ago, the Commission on the Status of Women met for the first time with 15 member States in attendance. Since then, we have witnessed critical gains in ensuring that women enjoy the same human rights as men. Today 131 member States attended the 57th session of this Commission.

Since its inception, this Commission has moved forward, guided by the principle articulated in the UN Charter — the principle of the equal rights of men and women.

Today, 66 years later, the world is far different than it was then. There is a truly global movement for women’s empowerment and gender equality. There are human rights treaties such as CEDAW, global agreements from Cairo to Beijing, and Security Council resolutions to move this agenda forward. This is our base to progress from. The calls for inclusion, equality and for women’s full and equal rights, opportunities and participation are ever growing.

We have all the evidence to know that progress for peace that is lasting, and for development that is sustainable, depends on progress, the long overdue progress, for the women and girls of this world. They are half the world’s population. If we are to make real progress for peace, equality and development, then we must make real progress for and with girls and women.

But today, just as 66 years ago, we are still fighting to realize the promise articulated by the founders of the United Nations, the promise of the equal rights of men and women.

Two weeks ago, when we came together at this historic 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, we came on the heels of high-profile violence cases that fuelled global outrage and sparked rising demands for justice. During the past two weeks, as we have been meeting, countless women and girls around the world have suffered violence as their human rights were violated.

We came here knowing that 10 years ago when this Commission took up violence against women and human rights, no agreement was reached. Last year when the focus was on rural women, members were also not able to reach agreement.

We all know how pervasive violence against women is. Violence knows no borders. Violence does not discriminate according to nationality, ethnicity, social class, culture or religion. And it takes a heavy cost on individuals, families and societies.

We came here to this 57th session with a second opportunity, knowing that the world was watching us and that this time, this year, we could not fail the world’s girls and women.

We came determined to move forward, determined to set global standards for action to prevent and end one of the gravest violations of human rights in our world, the violence that is committed against women and girls.

During the past two weeks, discussions centred on matters of urgency to people around the world — eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, ending impunity for perpetrators, fully engaging men and boys, and advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality to prevent and end these human rights violations.

This session was marked with vibrancy, relevance and substance, as we witnessed in the deliberations; the 128 official side events; and in the many side events organized by non-governmental organizations. Important and timely matters were addressed — ending child and early forced marriage, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and providing justice and critical services for survivors of violence.

There were debates on ending sexual violence in conflict, tackling human trafficking, protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and on the role of culture, religion and the family.

You had many intense late-night negotiations, going over every single word and paragraph, debating long and hard in order to come to a strong agreement.

As I have said before, we find ourselves at a tipping point in history.

My friends,

The calls of countless human beings were heard. The 45 Member States of this Commission reached agreement to prevent and end violence against women and girls. I thank you for your determination and hard work in the service of women and girls and their future. You were able to put aside differences. You were able to live up to the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations.

Our common humanity united us over that which divides us. That humanity here is our shared conviction that ending violence against women and girls is a must, is possible, and is stronger than any doubts, difficulties, or inflexibility.

This agreement is one step more for realizing the rights and dignity of girls and women.

But we cannot stop here. We need to do so much more. Words now need to be matched with deeds, with action. Now is the time for implementation and accountability. We must continue moving forward, with courage, conviction and commitment.

During this 57th session, in addition to the agreed conclusions, delegates adopted resolutions on the future organization and methods of work of the Commission on the Status of Women, and on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women. UN Women looks forward to working with countries and partners to contribute to ways and means to enhance the Commission’s work. We also look forward to fully supporting the preparatory process and the Commission in 2015 at its 59th session, when it reviews the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

UN Women fully supports preparations for next year’s priority theme of achieving the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls, and we will continue to work very hard on the emerging issue this year so that key gender equality issues, such as ending violence against women, are prioritized in the post-2015 development framework.

Now as we close the session, we look forward to implementation and accountability for action to prevent and end violence against women and girls. I commend the 53 Governments and the European Union for joining the COMMIT initiative and announcing actions to prevent and end violence against women.

I said it before and I will say it again: There can be no peace, no progress as long as there is discrimination and violence against women.

There is no turning back. We will keep moving forward. We must keep pace with social transformations in attitudes, beliefs, and values and people’s hopes and aspirations. Their hope, our hope, is to see gender equality become reality in this, our 21st century.

I thank you.

But let me now pass to a personal note. This will be my last session of the CSW. For personal reasons, I will go back to my country. Be sure that I will continue working for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of this historical moment with all of you. The Commission on the Status of Women was created with great foresight to be the preeminent global forum for advancing the human rights of women.

You have the privilege, but also the responsibility, to work together to make this world a better place to live. I urge you to never rest in this effort. Millions and millions of women and girls place hope and trust in you.

As our song says, we are One Woman, and we shall shine!

Thank you very much.

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