Delegates Decry Gender-Based Violence, Call for Better Measures to Protect Rural, Migrant Women, as Third Committee Continues Debate on Achieving Equal Rights

Sustainable development cannot be achieved without gender equality and a meaningful enhancement in women’s political participation, delegates told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it continued its debate on the advanceme…

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Speakers Call for Prioritizing Education, Health in Quest to Level Gender Playing Field, as Third Committee Holds Debate on Women’s Advancement

Delegates in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) debated the international response to violence against women today, opening a discussion on the advancement of women.

The Committee heard from special mandate holders and heads of specialized agencies before opening its general debate on the matter.  Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said the representation of women in the wider United Nations system continued to be correlated negatively to seniority.  In the world at large, priority should be accorded to improving access to education and health, investing in infrastructure and promoting property rights, she said, calling upon Member States to catalyse the strengthening of gender perspectives in discussions across the United Nations system.

Education was also a topic addressed by Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, who noted work was continuing on its draft general recommendation on the rights of women and girls in that field.  The elimination of gender-based violence against women was a principal area of the Committee’s broad agenda, and in 2016, the Committee had taken action on 11 individual complaints centred mostly around gender-based violence against women.

The international community’s response to violence against women was the topic of a report introduced by Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.  At issue was the creation of a new treaty on violence against women, with some stakeholders favouring full implementation of existing treaties and instruments rather than a new, stand-alone convention. 

When the general debate opened, delegations addressed a range of issues, including women’s economic empowerment, with Thailand’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noting that countries with greater female involvement in the labour force had witnessed greater economic growth.

Women’s exclusion from economic opportunities and legal impediments to land ownership and access to inheritance were among their most significant challenges, said Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the African Group.  Rural women were extremely vulnerable as they were less able to access land, credit and agricultural inputs or such resources as electricity and water.  Women’s exclusion from social, economic and political opportunities could put them at risk of violence, he said, calling for gender equality to extend to the workplace.  Issues such as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap and gender-insensitive working conditions must be addressed.

Ecuador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, agreed that violence against women was an obstacle to gender equality and their empowerment, underlining the need for concrete actions to mainstream a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.

Ensuring the well-being of women and girls called for men and boys to be engaged as agents and beneficiaries of gender equality, said the European Union’s speaker.  In a point echoed by other speakers, men and boys played an important role as key agents of change for achieving gender equality, said El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  Another area of focus was in reaching vulnerable groups, with CELAC members recognizing the need to strengthen indigenous women’s economic activities to enhance their empowerment, autonomy and development.

The situation of rural women was addressed by Haiti’s delegate, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).  Since they represented a large proportion of his region’s agricultural workforce, it was vital to respond to their development needs, he emphasized.

Also speaking today were representatives of South Africa (for the Southern African Development Community), Australia (for a group of States), Japan, Switzerland, Paraguay, Netherlands, Italy, Finland, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Sierra Leone, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Australia, Venezuela, Lithuania, Iraq, Russian Federation, Syria, Myanmar, Mongolia, Viet Nam, United States, Jamaica, Norway, Zambia, Iran, Colombia and Egypt.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 6 October, to continue its debate on the advancement of women.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its general discussion on the advancement of women today.  Before it were reports of the Secretary-General on the status of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (document A/72/93); adequacy of the international legal framework on violence against women (document A/72/134); improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas (document A/72/207); violence against women migrant workers (document A/72/215); measures taken and progress achieved in the follow-up to and implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (A/72/203); improvement of the status of women in the United Nations system (A/72/220); and the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on its sixty-fourth, sixty-fifth and sixty-sixth sessions (document A/72/38).

Opening Remarks

LAKSHMI PURI, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), said that efforts over the past year had provided clear opportunities to consolidate the implementation of global gender equality commitments.  However, while economic integration lay at the centre of accelerated implementation efforts, women faced persistent challenges as they sought to enter the changing world of work.  Emphasizing that women and girls could not wait until 2030 to realize equity, she said UN-Women had joined forces with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to promote equal pay for equal work and work of equal value in the public and private sectors.  Targeted action in mainstreaming gender into all efforts must drive gender-responsive implementation, she emphasized.

However, mainstreaming remained inconsistent in intergovernmental bodies, and progress within the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) had plateaued, she continued, pointing out that the representation of women in the wider United Nations continued to be correlated negatively to seniority.  Migrant women as well as women and girls in rural communities remained particularly vulnerable, and the recommendations in the Secretary-General’s reports on that question would benefit those marginalized groups.  Priority should be accorded to improving access to education and health, investing in infrastructure and promoting property rights, she said.  To achieve forceful and vigorous implementation of those goals, institutional mechanisms required the authority and capacity to ensure accountability on the part of Governments and other relevant actors, she said, calling upon Member States to catalyse the strengthening of gender perspectives in discussions across the United Nations system.  Funding for organizations working towards gender equality, including UN-Women, must increase at all levels, she stressed.

The representative of the United Kingdom said his delegation supported the pursuit of gender parity in the United Nations system, but emphasized the importance of making concrete progress.

The representative of Guyana said he looked forward to cooperation between UN-Women and countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which had recently endured severe hurricane damage.  Such events tended to affect budget allocations, he noted.

Ms. PURI said that beyond UN-Women, efforts were being made with other United Nations partners to ensure that drivers of gender mainstreaming were highlighted in policymaking, adding that the link with Sustainable Development Goal 5 must be made during implementation.  Thanking Costa Rica for its sponsorship of the issue, she then turned to the question of gender parity.  The Secretary-General had declared that reaching gender parity must be “a game-changing effort” that must break all resistance, she recalled, pointing out that that determination was reflected in his gender parity strategy.  Citing several United Nations entities, she noted that many were very close to the goal of parity.  However, it was not only a numbers issue, she cautioned, explaining that it was about transforming the United Nations into a model for Governments and the corporate sector.  If the Organization could not demonstrate that, who would?

In response to the statement by the representative of Guyana, she said her office enjoyed close cooperation with CARICOM.  Offering her sympathy to those affected by the hurricanes, she noted UN-Women’s support for resilience-building efforts.

DALIA LEINARTE, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, highlighted three issues upon which that body had focused in the past year: furthering the impact of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; gender-based violence against women; and strengthening the human rights treaty process.  She said the Committee had encouraged States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to provide updates on their efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals relating to gender equality and had raised the relevant Goals during dialogues held with State party delegations.  It had also worked with UN-Women, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the OECD to develop methodologies for selected Sustainable Development Goals indicators used to assess gender equality efforts, she said, adding that the Committee had made substantive submissions to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, including by identifying concrete steps that States must take to realize women’s rights and eradicate poverty.

Turning to gender-based violence against women, she said its elimination was a principal area of the Committee’s broad agenda.  In addition to its dialogues with States parties, the issue was also under discussion in various other procedures of the Committee.  Its new general recommendation extended the scope of “violence against women” to all forms “gender-based violence against women”, she said.  That extension “strengthens the understanding of this type of violence as a social rather than merely an individual phenomenon”, she said, adding that it also highlighted the link between women’s exposure to violence and various forms of inequality, and was frequently a consequence of intersecting forms of discrimination.  The Committee also continued to work on its draft general recommendation on the rights of women and girls to education, and was elaborating a draft general recommendation that would reinforce the resilience of women and communities in the aftermath of natural disasters caused by climate change.  In 2016, the Committee had taken action on 11 individual complaints centred mostly around gender-based violence against women, she recalled.

Concerning the strengthening of human rights treaty bodies, she said the Committee had held an informational meeting with States parties to the Convention on November 2016, and had briefed them on implementation of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.  The Committee had also implemented measures set out in the General Assembly resolution 68/268, such as simplifying the reporting process for States parties and formulating shorter and more concrete country-specific observations.  She emphasized, however, that the human rights treaty body system had not received resources commensurate with its growth.  “Should we not receive the needed resources, we might no longer be able to cope with the increased workload,” she noted.

The representative of Japan asked what measures the Committee had taken to build stronger partnerships, and how Member States could better serve it.

The representative of Switzerland asked what mechanisms were available to support and strengthen the role of civil society during Committee sessions.

The representative of Slovenia, noting that gender equality remained a top thematic priority, asked what impact current trends related to women’s advancement efforts were having on the Committee’s work.

The representative of the European Union delegation commended efforts to develop more focused approaches to the pursuit of gender equity, and asked what measures could be taken to increase the impact of the Committee’s work on violence against women.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked how the Committee could amplify gender equality in development efforts.

The representative of the Maldives sought additional information on the working methodology for reporting mechanisms proposed for the open-ended working group.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, asked for an assessment of simplified reporting procedures.

The representative of Spain asked how coordination between the Committee and other United Nations entities could facilitate the implementation of efforts under the greater development agenda.

The representative of Liechtenstein asked how reporting mechanisms could be made more efficient.

Ms. LEINARTE, responding to questions about reporting mechanisms, said they were characterized by a lack of diverse and reliable information because States parties did not prepare elaborate reports.  As a result, the Committee relied on information from other United Nations entities and from civil society.

Turning to coordination with other United Nations entities, she called for closer collaboration with UN-Women to ensure better understanding of Member States’ priorities.  Collaboration should be institutionalized, with possible strategies including the issuance of joint statements on gender and implementation.

Responding to the representative of the European Union delegation, she said talks had begun on a new convention on violence against women, emphasizing that speeding up implementation of existing mechanisms would advance the Committee’s work.

As for the Committee’s role in pursuing the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, she said the Committee ensured the fundamental freedoms of women in all fields.  Strong standards in place for the protection of women were intrinsically linked to the 2030 Agenda, and indicators were being developed to ensure progress, she noted.

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, noted that since 2015, she had conducted country visits to South Africa, Georgia, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory/State of Palestine, Argentina and Australia.  She added that she would next visit the Bahamas and Bulgaria, and also planned a visit to Nepal.

She went on to state that her latest thematic report recommended establishing a global database on shelters and protection orders, as well as the collection of data indicators on violence against women and femicide rates.  The latter initiative had been supported by stakeholders, she said, citing preparations by the Ombudspersons of Georgia, Argentina and Croatia to publish data and analysis on that subject on the forthcoming International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Noting that her mandate’s second long-term initiative was to strengthen cooperation with independent global and regional mechanisms on violence against women, she said that it also sought closer cooperation with the United Nations Trust Fund on violence against women and with independent women’s rights mechanisms, especially the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.  At issue was the creation of a new treaty on violence against women, she said, presenting her report on the adequacy of the international framework in regard to that issue.  Several stakeholders favoured full implementation of existing treaties and instruments rather than a new, stand-alone instrument, she said, citing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children.

However, 291 civil society organizations had also responded, which demonstrated their remarkable engagement on the issue, she continued.  Those supporting a new stand-alone treaty cited the lack of, and need for, a legally binding definition of violence against women, among other factors.  Those opposing a new treaty suggested, among other arguments, that although existing standards needed reinforcement, a new treaty was not necessary.  A third grouping of responses supported the creation of a new optional protocol under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said, describing other proposals calling for the creation of a “femicide watch” as “innovative”.  It was now up to Member States to discuss the report’s contents, implement its recommendations and take positions on several of its other specific proposals.

The representative of Switzerland said the current legal framework had not been fully implemented, and that efforts should be concentrated on the implementation of existing international norms.  States should be encouraged to ratify existing instruments and put them into practice.

The representative of the European Union delegation asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the suggestion to consider a fifth United Nations World Conference on Women.  Which added outcomes could that produce?

The representative of Australia said the architecture for protecting women and children must be less fragmented, and voiced support for the conclusion that violence against women could constitute discrimination and a violation of human rights.

The representative of Lithuania said only women free from violence could contribute to the development of modern societies, and welcomed the examination of violence against women within the broader context of inequality.  Noting that the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the fragmentation of efforts, she asked her to elaborate on the practical difficulties, and on possible solutions.

The representative of Georgia underscored the importance of protecting women’s rights and fundamental freedoms, and noted Georgia’s recent ratification of several international instruments.

The representative of Cameroon asked the Special Rapporteur to clarify which recommendations she would make to the Trust Fund for Women Victims of Violence.  She also sought clarity as to whether the Special Rapporteur would be consulting on the priorities for a potential fifth iteration of the World Conference on Women.

The representative of Estonia noted that the Internet and other technologies had created challenges like online harassment and cyberstalking, emphasizing that the Internet should studied be more closely when reviewing the adequacy of the international framework on violence against women.  She asked the Special Rapporteur about the utility of investigating how the Internet could be used to combat violence against women.

The representative of Slovenia asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on further existing forms of synergy and good practices with relevant partners.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked what the Special Rapporteur was doing to engage men and boys in tackling gender inequality and ending the harmful practices that continued to hold women back while negatively affecting the pursuit of shared development goals.

The representative of Brazil said the current legal framework was complex and fragmented, suggesting that the option of an optional protocol to the Convention could be analysed further.  The idea of establishing a “femicide watch” was also worth a closer look, she added, echoing the European Union’s question about the results expected from a fifth World Conference on Women.

The observer for the State of Palestine thanked the Special Representative for her visit, and informed her that 2017 had seen the launch of Palestine’s National Observatory on Violence against Women.

The representative of Denmark noted that the current legal framework on violence against women and girls still had not been implemented, and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on best practices in addressing gender-based violence against women in order to bridge remaining implementation gaps.  He asked which measures could help to eliminate child, early and forced marriage.

The  representative of Canada, noting that his country had a standing invitation for special mandate holders, agreed that the volume of responses from civil society demonstrated great engagement on the issue. 

The representative of Spain agreed that existing legislation must be implemented, noting that a task force to investigate violence against women was one of his country’s “cornerstones” on the issue.

The representative of the United States said a new international legal instrument on violence against women would divert resources from existing mechanisms.  She sought further information about gaps in legal frameworks covering violence against women, as identified by the Committee.

The representative of Norway asked about the most important issues to consider in relation to violence against rural women and girls, and about online violence affecting women and girls.

The representative of the Czech Republic, noting the relevance of developing law-enforcement capacity to combat violence against women, asked for suggestions on how best to implement “femicide watch” efforts.

The representative of the Maldives sought additional information about the working methodology of the reporting mechanisms proposed for the open-ended working group.

Ms. SIMONOVIC, responding to questions about international cooperation, noted existing implementation gaps resulting from inadequate cooperation between regional and international bodies, emphasizing that meaningful cooperation could result in stronger responses to threats faced by women.  Concerning the “Spotlight Initiative”, she expressed hope that it would include a women’s human rights perspective and pursue integrated approaches based on reliable data.  The collection of data was helping the development of “femicide watch” efforts, she added.

In response to questions about expected outcomes from the proposed fifth World Conference on Women, she said there would be a review in 2020 to monitor progress.  It was necessary to determine what implementation efforts were effective because there were gaps between implementation at the international and national levels.  There was also a need to develop ways to translate progress at the United Nations to the national level, she added.

FABIAN GARCIA (Ecuador), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the Group was concerned that women and girls were disproportionately affected by natural disasters.  Women must be active actors in mitigation and adaptation, he said, calling for their participation in decision-making processes relating to disaster risk reduction strategies.  Violence against women was another issue of concern for the Group, and an obstacle to gender equality and women’s empowerment, he emphasized.  He went on to underline the need for concrete actions to mainstream a gender perspective into the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies.  The Group of 77 called for gender-responsive budget initiatives that would contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and for the enhancement of political participation by women and their role in promoting peace and security, he said.

AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said the continent had made significant strides on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the political sphere as well as the public and private sectors.  However, women still faced gender-based violence, harmful traditional practices, exclusion from economic opportunities and legal impediments to land ownership and access to inheritance.  Rural women were extremely vulnerable, he said, noting that, compared to men, they were less able to access land, credit and agricultural inputs or such resources as electricity and water.  Women and girls also bore the burden of collecting solid fuels and cooking over open fires, he said they were more susceptible to air pollution as a result.  The elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls must include putting a stop to trafficking, sexual violence and other forms of exploitation, he emphasized.  The Group of 77 also recognized that exclusion from social, economic and political opportunities could put women at risk of violence, he said, calling for States to renew efforts to improve and expand girls’ education.  Gender equality must extend to the workplace, and such issues as sexual harassment, the gender wage gap and gender-insensitive working conditions must be addressed.  The Group of 77 and China had committed itself to creating and mainstreaming mechanisms to ensure women’s access to finance as well as technical and entrepreneurial skills.

DENIS RÉGIS (Haiti), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), associated himself with the Group of 77 and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  He said the Caribbean had seen much improvement in the status of women, who now had greater access to secondary education than men.  Despite significant progress, however, challenges remained, particularly affecting rural women.  Since they represented a large proportion of the region’s agricultural workforce, it was vital to respond to their development needs, he emphasized.  The Caribbean Community had undertaken a campaign to raise awareness alongside UN-Women with a view to highlighting issues facing the region’s women.  Human trafficking was another particular issue confronting the region’s women.

Concerning migration, he said many migrant women were contributing to their countries of origin through remittances, and in that context, CARICOM member States would continue their cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  The movement of people should be viewed in a positive light, he said, commending States fighting violence against female migrant workers.  Commitments by Member States to supporting migrant women and girls under the Sustainable Development Agenda were particularly relevant, he said.  CARICOM envisaged continued investment in and mobilization of financial resources through official development assistance (ODA) for the promotion of women’s empowerment.  The recent deadly hurricane season had showed the need for national budgets to be reallocated, he noted.

NONTAWAT CHANDRTRI (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that since inception, that bloc had promoted community-focused economic integration and development.  Identifying women as an essential element of sustainable growth, he noted that countries with greater female involvement in the labour force witnessed greater economic growth.  However, with the regional gender pay gap at 42 per cent, ASEAN was committed to fostering joint efforts to ensure the full socioeconomic integration of women, he stressed, noting that the bloc was working closely with UN-Women and the World Bank to push for women’s empowerment that would integrate the Sustainable Development Goals.

He went on to state that the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and 2030 Agenda formed the roadmap for the implementation of gender mainstreaming and the economic empowerment of women.  Promoting women’s leadership across all pillars of ASEAN was seen as a key strategy for promoting inclusive, balanced sustainable development.  Noting that ASEAN was working closely with United Nations agencies to establish partnerships with the private sector in order to further promote women’s empowerment, he said those efforts also sought ways to leverage information and communications technologies to empower women economically.  ASEAN remained committed to addressing gender inequality in all its dimensions, he said, calling for deeper cooperation with relevant partners.

HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), reaffirmed the importance of the full, accelerated and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The status of women was a matter of continued concern to member countries because of the feminization of poverty, prevailing gender-based violence and discrimination and structural inequalities.  A priority should be given to the equal opportunities for leadership at the highest levels in all sectors, he said, noting that member States attached particular importance to the protection of female migrants and rural women and girls.

Men and boys also played an important role, he said, as key agents of change for achieving gender equality.  Efforts were being made to address patriarchal cultural stereotypes through public campaigns and to implement policies promoting access to decent work.  Initiatives were also reaching vulnerable groups, with CELAC members recognizing the need to strengthen indigenous women’s economic activities to enhance their empowerment, autonomy and development.  Renewing Community members’ support for UN-Women, he asked for a more robust international dialogue and consensus in support of national gender equality and women empowerment initiatives in developing countries.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), associated himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, said policies and programmes that had mainstreamed gender perspectives had been implemented in the region.  Having recognized that the economic empowerment of women and girls was key to achieving gender equality, the Community’s members had taken a number of steps, including introducing gender-sensitive legislation and targeted projects.

Despite the progress made, he said, obstacles to achieving gender equality persisted.  Citing several examples, he said challenges included a lack of access and ownership of resources, social exclusion, gender-based violence and trafficking.  In addition, inadequate social protection among women was a problem that needed to be addressed.  Pointing out that women and adolescent girls were particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDs, he said the Community’s member States had created a programme that included condom promotion, HIV testing, counselling and home-based care.

JOANNE ADAMSON, of the European Union, said one in three women on the planet had experienced physical or sexual violence, with those human rights violations hampering their access to quality education and employment.  The problem had been worsened in countries where child marriage and female genital mutilation persisted.  Violence and exploitation was one of the main reasons women and girls were forced to leave their home countries.  Ensuring the well-being of women and girls called for men and boys to be engaged as agents and beneficiaries of gender equality.  Strengthening networks and partnerships was more important than ever before, she noted, underscoring the importance of civil society organizations.

Noting that the European Union was the top investor in gender equality around the world, she said the Bloc had launched an initiative to end violence against women and girls, providing financial assistance and promoting multilateralism as a way to addressing the global threat of violence against women.  The European Union had also strengthened its legal framework to combat violence against women by signing the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention), she said, adding that it had also assumed leadership in a global effort to address gender-based violence in conflict situations.  Noting the relevant role played by UN-Women, she called for greater mainstreaming of gender equality within the United Nations.

PENELOPE MORTON (Australia), also speaking on behalf of Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, reiterated a commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  Noting that the 2030 Agenda had set a “new baseline” in sustainable development, she said that despite extensive efforts, women, girls and adolescents continued to be subjected to discrimination, violence and harmful practices and were denied the full realization of their human rights.  Among other things, the targets under Goal 5 related to the elimination of such harmful practices, universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and reforms that would give women equal rights to economic resources and access to control and ownership of land.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said the Sustainable Development Goals would not be achieved without realizing gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Citing a number of initiatives Japan supported, she said promoting gender equality in the international arena included providing more than $3 billion over the next three years to push for the advancement of women in developing countries.  In addition, Japan, which had become the second largest donor to UN-Women in 2016, would contribute $50 million to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative.

LAETITIA KIRIANOFF CRIMMINS (Switzerland) said the 2030 Agenda represented an unprecedented opportunity to achieve gender equality.  Women and girls played a critical role in rural communities, contributing to food security and resource management.  Still, they faced major gender equity challenges and Governments must reduce the burden of domestic work.  Switzerland was supporting projects to strengthen the role of women within agriculture and was raising awareness about their legal status and social protection.  Access to sexual and reproductive health services would help them end cycles of poverty, she said, adding that Switzerland had incorporated those services into its health-care scheme.  Women and girls with disabilities faced extra hurdles to completing their education and receiving health services, she said, calling for concrete measures to allow them to fully realize their rights.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay) said the national Constitution protected the rights of all men and women, however, gaps existed to realizing true gender equality.  The Government was targeting gender equity initiatives in the most vulnerable groups, including marginalized rural and indigenous communities.  Highlighting other projects, he said efforts were being made to protect women from all forms of violence, a draft law was being studied to seek gender parity in politics and female heads of household were being given priority financial assistance to promote access to health services and education.  Further, a centre had been opened to provide violence prevention, economic and health assistance to women and girls.  Women and girls must be direct beneficiaries of sustainable development and could not be excluded from fair, democratic societies, he concluded.

JAMILA AANZI (Netherlands), recounting her family’s story of immigrating from a village in Morocco to Amsterdam, emphasized that “a lot can change in one generation” and recalled that the children all now had college degrees and careers.  In the Netherlands, where a family’s wealth was irrelevant to the achievement of a decent education, girls were “doing great”.  Unfortunately, that did not translate to senior-level jobs and positions of power, as the country had yet to achieve wage parity between women and men and had even dropped three spots in the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap index.  Solutions to those problems must be based on opportunity, support and commitment from politicians, Governments and employers.  Support from men was also pivotal, she said, adding that within the private sector, strong dedication to gender equality was required “from the top”.  For its part, the United Nations must pursue vigorous efforts, ambitious measures and quotas in order to accelerate progress.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy), associating herself with the European Union, said unleashing the potential of girls and women would have a significant positive social impact.  Countries must commit themselves to protecting the rights of women of girls and should focus their efforts on ending all forms of violence against women.  For its part, Italy had made it a priority to help end female genital mutilation by funding programmes to eliminate the practice in Africa.  Other initiatives included programmes aimed at ending sexual violence and at providing financial support to multilateral and bilateral projects promoting the health and safety of migrant and refugee women who were especially vulnerable to trafficking and violence.

KAI SAUER (Finland), voicing concerns about the scale and magnitude of the violation of women’s rights, drew attention to the intersecting and multiple forms of discrimination, especially against women and girls with disabilities.  Calling for a paradigm shift in that regard, he said the individual autonomy of women and girls with disabilities must be guaranteed, adding that the matter lay at the very core of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Noting that Finland was an active supporter of UN-Women, he said many of the recommendations that his country had received in its universal periodic review in 2017 had been related to violence against women.  For its part, Finland was actively involved in the Spotlight Initiative and the She Decides campaign, which was rolling out sexual and reproductive health services on a global scale.

GENIE SUGENE GAN (Singapore), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, reaffirmed the centrality of gender equality to the achievement of sustainable development and the eradication of poverty.  Singapore’s strong legal framework protected the rights of all people, including women, she said.  Recognizing its people as its most valuable resource, Singapore was prioritizing inclusive education to ensure gender equality, she said, adding that 51.1 per cent of students in Singaporean universities were female.  Those efforts were providing paths for women to enter traditionally male-dominated professions.  Singapore was also promoting increased involvement of women in leadership positions and expected a 20 per cent increase in the number of women in corporate boards.

Ms. TREUNO (Mexico) asked why some delegations were opposed to granting females the same rights as males since human rights were universal.  No country had achieved full gender equality and women were still victims of gender-based violence such as femicide.  The situation was even more serious for female migrants and refugees.  Achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals would require the full participation of women.  To that end, Mexico had earmarked budgets to increase the political participation of women and access to social services.  Better statistics and data were crucial to track progress on gender equality.  Reminding Member States that there were 13 years left to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, she said “we must pull down barriers to ensure that everyone can enjoy their full human rights”.

Ms. KHIABET SALAZAR MUJICA, youth representative from Peru, reaffirmed the importance of international mechanisms that called for the elimination of all obstacles to women’s involvement in political life.  Despite progress in some areas, gender equality still had to be incorporated across all Sustainable Development Goals.  Peru was working to achieve inclusion across all policy sectors.  Gender-based violence remained a clear obstacle to development, she said, noting that Peru was taking a preventative focus to counter hierarchical structures that promoted violence against women and launching programmes to strengthen their economic power.  In addition, Peru remained committed to the monitoring of gender equality plans at all levels of policy-making.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, said that guaranteeing gender equality was a national priority.  In its first action plan to address violence against women, the Government made clear its commitment to achieving full empowerment for women and girls.  Echoing a call to protect the rights of female migrant workers, he said there could be no sustainable development without empowered women.  To that end, gender equity initiatives addressed specific needs of women and girls in rural communities.  Gender policies were seeking parity for all women, particularly those facing discrimination.

Ms. KABIA (Sierra Leone), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77 and China, said discrimination of women was still pervasive, undermining efforts to achieve gender equality.  Pointing out that violence was an obstacle to the advancement of women, she said Sierra Leone would uphold protocols on gender equality and the prevention of violence against women.  The Government had also mainstreamed a gender perspective in policies while introducing legislation to eliminate domestic violence, sexual offences and to protect the rights of children.  Despite the challenges posed by the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the country had continued to implement a free health programme for women and children.  There was a need to renew commitments to achieve economic and political empowerment among women while building structures to speed up industrialization and increase access to markets.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN, announced that his country, along with Indonesia, would submit a draft resolution on violence against women migrant workers.  Promotion and protection of the more than five million women migrants from the Philippines was a top priority.  Filipino workers overseas, 77 per cent of which are women, were being offered comprehensive repatriation assistance including access to capital and training programmes.  The economic integration of women was crucial to breaking the poverty cycle, he said, adding that an empowerment project had been launched to improve female-led micro-enterprises.  Agrarian reform laws had strengthened the property rights of rural and indigenous women.  Infrastructure and technological developments were also identified as means to assist rural women, especially those in the agricultural and fisheries sectors.  The full participation of women and girls in development strategies would help to ensure long-term sustainability.

Ms. YANKSSAR (Saudi Arabia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said women were crucial to national cohesion and the creation of an inclusive environment for them would lead to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  For its part, Saudi Arabia had adopted initiatives to promote flexible employment opportunities for women and was working to end child marriage.  The participation of women in the labour force, including in Government institutions, was increasing, she noted, adding that women were also becoming leaders in the private sector and a department of female police officers had been created.  Gender equity laws were being complemented by the recent decision to give women the right to drive vehicles.  Women across the world were facing clear challenges to equity, as was the case in Palestine, where women could not fulfil their rights due to continued Israeli occupation.

FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) recalled that the member States of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) had presented a draft resolution in the Human Rights Council on “the full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls and the systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals”, which had been adopted at the body’s thirty-sixth session.  In March 2016, the Commission on the Status of Women, chaired by Brazil during its sixtieth and sixty‑second sessions, had adopted agreed conclusions on the crucial topic of promoting women’s economic empowerment.  To implement its commitments in that area, Brazil had adopted such national strategies as the programme for gender and race equity, and had also recently established measures to extend paternity leave, provide support to nursing mothers and support the donation of breastmilk.

PENELOPE MORTON (Australia) said access to social services such as sexual and reproductive health programmes and education was crucial to ensure that women could fully participate in the economy.  Australia had worked to boost female workforce participation through a range of initiatives, including increasing access to quality and affordable childcare, flexible work schemes and financial incentives to work.  Those programmes also catered to women from different backgrounds and life stages such as those in rural areas.  At the international level, Australia had contributed to efforts that encourage entrepreneurship among women in South-East Asia.

MARISELA EUGENIA GONZALEZ TOLOSA (Venezuela), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said national programmes aimed at protecting women and ensuring that constitutional and legal frameworks were inclusive and non-gender discriminatory.  Venezuela had made progress in gender parity in areas such as university enrolment and including work and family care in the country’s social security system.  Public policies had also been designed to prevent gender-based violence and centres had been established to provide legal and psychological assistance for women who were victims of violence.

AUDRA PLEPYTE (Lithuania), associating herself with the European Union, said achieving real gender parity and the advancement of women required “wholehearted actions at a national level”.  Lithuania was determined to fully implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Efforts included developing gender impact indicators and assessments of all Governmental programmes, policies and legal decisions.  Turning to the issue of violence against women, she said it caused physical and psychological harm and impeded women’s economic independence, taking a toll on both victims and society.  With a view to achieving zero tolerance towards domestic violence, Lithuania was focusing on result-oriented measures such as awareness-raising campaigns, competence building and training.  Another priority for Lithuania was ensuring a life-work balance through equal sharing of childcare, parental leave and household responsibilities between men and women.

Ms. AL-NASAIRI (Iraq) said her country’s Constitution had always protected women, who also enjoyed participation in politics and national decision-making mechanisms.  Legislation was enshrined to allow the participation of women in elections and to combat domestic violence.  In addition, community policing was also being implemented to respond to any complaints of violence and social protections were being afforded to single and divorced women.  However, the injustice and persecution of women in regions occupied by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) was a major concern.  Iraq, along with United Nations agencies, was providing assistance to women afflicted by gender-based violence.

Ms. LIKINA (Russian Federation) said UN-Women had to remain the key body within the United Nations system addressing issues of gender, adding that its work could only occur with the permission of Member States.  As such, UN-Women had to play a secondary supporting role to national initiatives, she added.  The Russian Federation’s recent adoption and implementation of a national strategy for women was based on the comprehensive work of Government and civil society leaders.  The principal goals of the strategy were to promote access to health, economic integration, prevention of violence and broader political participation, she said, noting that despite concerted efforts by Member States, no country could declare that equality for women had been achieved.

AMJAD QASSEM AGHA (Syria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said Syrian women had had the right vote since 1948 and his was the first Arab country to grant women participation in Parliament.  Syrian women were among the first medical graduates in the country, currently making up about 60 per cent of dentistry and pharmacy graduates.  Syrian women also filled leadership roles such as being ambassadors and judges and had also become award-winning authors.  However, the rise of terrorism in Syria had also meant that women were being killed for acts such as having Facebook accounts and women have also committed suicide to escape forced marriages.

Mr. MYO (Myanmar), associating himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said gender equality and women’s empowerment were at the heart of national development strategies.  Myanmar’s 10-year national strategic plan for the advancement of women covered key areas such as violence against women and girls, women’s participation, gender mainstreaming and women, peace and security.  Through advances in the fields of health care and education, Myanmar was also addressing issues including maternal and infant mortality rates and enhancing access to education.  Regarding the trafficking of women and children, Myanmar paid particular attention to prevention, protection and prosecution, and had formed a central body against trafficking in persons to strengthen counter‑trafficking efforts.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said women’s full engagement and empowerment were prerequisites for inclusive and sustainable development.  Mongolia’s strategy for the future pledged to promote those issues in a comprehensive manner, including through the recent passage of a law criminalizing domestic violence and other new laws addressing women’s equal participation and access to childcare service centres.  Mongolia would in the coming days be submitting a draft resolution on women and girls in rural areas, he said, expressing hope that all Member States would support it.

Ms. NGUYEN LIEN (Viet Nam), aligning herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said Member States’ strong commitments brought positive changes to the lives of women and girls.  Their inclusion was pivotal to ensuring the success of national development strategies.  For programmes to promote empowerment of women, communities and families had to be included in decision-making.  Viet Nam was actively implementing a gender equity strategy to increase women’s participation in political and economic domains and increase their access to public services.  Women held high-ranking Government positions and equality had been reached in secondary education, she said.  Despite progress, rural women remained particularly vulnerable.  Climate change disproportionately affected rural women and they should be identified as key stakeholders to unleash their potential and increase their resilience.

MORDICA SIMPSON (United States) highlighted several Government initiatives to promote women’s success in business, such as a $50 million provision to the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative and the Alliance for Artisan Enterprise, which helped through financing mechanisms and coaching on efficient business practices.  Business centres established by the United States and private sector partners had helped women business owners through training, mentoring, capacity‑building and technology support.  Enabling women’s economic participation increased economic opportunities for all.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CARICOM, CELAC and the Group of 77 and China, said the advancement of women remained a national priority.  Jamaica boasted the highest proportion of women managers — 59 per cent — in the region and the world.  Citing recent research on the economic potential of achieving gender parity, he said if women’s participation in the economy matched men’s, it would total $28 trillion.  Efforts should be redoubled to translate words into meaningful actions and attain the Sustainable Development Goals.  Addressing the issue of trafficking in women and girls, he said the international community should provide a platform to give visibility to the “voiceless victims”.  For its part, Jamaica was committed to eradicating gender-based violence, protecting informal workers, addressing the needs of women migrant workers and providing women and girls in rural areas with access to health and social services, skills development and training.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) said gender equality had played a key role in his country’s journey from poverty to prosperity.  Women’s work contributed more to Norway’s prosperity than did the oil in the North Sea.  As investing in education was the most effective way of promoting sustainable development, Norway worked hard to promote education globally, doubling its aid in that regard over the past four years to 3.4 billion Norwegian Kroner in 2017.  Violence against women had enormous costs, he said, and the international community had to work to end all forms of violence against women and girls.  Norway could never accept that religion and so-called traditional values were used as an excuse to deprive women and girls of their rights.

Mr. BUKOKA (Zambia), associating himself with African Group, Group of 77 and China and the South African Development Community, cited a number of national efforts, including establishing two courts to handle gender-based violence cases, launching projects reaching more than 14,000 girls from poor families to help them attend schools and providing business skills training and grants to 75,000 vulnerable women.  Other targeted efforts had succeeded in lowering HIV prevalence among the adult population and significantly decreasing the prevalence of early and child marriages.

Ms. KHALVANDI (Iran) said national efforts were making strides in empowering women, including a new five-year plan that required all Government agencies to adopt a gender perspective when shaping policies and legislation had been introduced to protect women against violence.  Boosting education among women was a centrepiece of the Government’s efforts and had led to a doubling of women studying medicine and science.  Those and other initiatives were taking place against a backdrop of sanctions that had prevented women from enjoying their full human rights.  Underscoring the role of civil society in the promotion of women’s rights, she said the number of women non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had increased threefold since 2013.  Women and girls in regions such as the Middle East were bearing the brunt of ongoing armed conflicts, which had led to a regression in progress achieved towards women’s empowerment.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia), associating with herself with CELAC, said countries could not achieve their full potential if half of their population was denied from exercising their full human rights.  Colombia was committed to improving the rights of women, especially in rural areas.  Having recognized that women were protagonists in ensuring lasting peace, the Government had included them in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP).  Efforts also included empowering women by ensuring that they could exercise their rights in areas such as politics and reproductive health.

FATMAALZAHRAA HASSAN ABDELAZIZ ABDELKAWY (Egypt), associating herself with the African Group and Group of 77 and China, said a national strategy to empower women had been recently launched, aimed at ensuring their socioeconomic and political inclusion.  A national council leading the effort was implementing programmes that helped women secure jobs and awareness-raising campaigns had reached more than 1 million women in households across the country to address concerns about discrimination.  Campaigns were also educating people on the threats posed by violence against women and the positive role women could play in conflict resolution and combating extremism.

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General Assembly Concludes New Agenda for Cities Meeting by Focusing on Role of Stakeholders in Advancing Sustainable Urbanization Policies

Local governments, civil society groups and others working to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development — including its targets related to urbanization — required United Nations support underpinned by a “spirit of inclusiveness and a universality of purpose”, the General Assembly heard today, as it concluded its high-level meeting on the implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

“Member States are united in ensuring an effective and efficient contribution from […] the overall United Nations system to the advancement of sustainable urbanization,” said General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) in closing remarks.  Emphasizing that “time is flying”, he echoed other speakers who underscored the massive challenges to be tackled by the New Urban Agenda in just a few short years.

Referring to the report of the High-level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) — the Organization’s main body tasked with urbanization issues — he said it was clear that some of its recommendations would require further discussion.  UN-Habitat’s positioning would be part of a broader package of United Nations reforms, he said, which were aimed at ensuring adequate support to the 2030 Agenda’s implementation.  All stakeholders should continue to work together to generate the consensus required to “keep the momentum going”.

Having considered the Programme’s mandates and governance structures — as well as many of the Panel’s specific recommendations — during two panel discussions yesterday, the Assembly today convened two additional panels focused on the role of other stakeholders in advancing sustainable urbanization policies.

During the first panel, moderated by Minh-Thu Pham, Executive Director of Policy, United Nations Foundation, participants considered the role of the United Nations system in implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Taking part were representatives of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN-Habitat and World Bank Group, with delegates from other United Nations entities also taking the floor.

The second panel discussion cast a spotlight on the role of multi-stakeholder collaboration in implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Goals.  Moderated by Tomas Anker Christensen, Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly, it featured speakers including the Mayor of Madrid, Spain, and representatives of civil society, in addition to lead respondents from across a range of disciplines and sectors.

The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. Thursday, 7 September, to hold a High-level Forum on the Culture of Peace.

Interactive Panel III

The high-level meeting opened with an interactive panel on “Implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals — the role of the United Nations system”.  Moderated by Minh-Thu Pham, Executive Director of Policy, United Nations Foundation, it featured presentations by Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Mahmoud Mohieldin, Senior Vice-President for the 2030 Development Agenda, United Nations Relations and Partnerships, World Bank Group; Grete Faremo, Executive Director, United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS); Grainne O’Hara, Deputy Director, New York Office, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Deputy Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat).

Ms. PHAM opened the discussion by asking the panellists what their respective entities were doing to help implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda, emphasizing that metropolitan areas would be central to achieving the Goals.

Mr. MARTÍNEZ-SOLIMÁN, underscoring UNDP’s perspective on poverty eradication and good governance, said the Programme focused on increasing the capacity of local administrations as well as processes for legitimate local-level elections.

Mr. GASS, noting the role of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in supporting intergovernmental process, said it brought to the table such elements as analytics and statistics on how urbanization would develop and affect other spheres.  It also supported Members States in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development review process, and facilitated work in specific areas such as transportation.

Mr. MOHIELDIN said the World Bank Group focused on identifying financing gap problems in such areas as affordable housing and resilient infrastructure.  Among other priorities, it also addressed such concerns as data provision, policy frameworks and creating enabling environments at the local level, and technical assistance and capacity-building.

Ms. FAREMO said few people knew much about UNOPS, which did only implementation tasks, such as building schools, hospitals, roads, social housing and sanitation facilities.  It did so using local labour and contractors, in partnership with Governments, other parts of the United Nations family, banks, local governments, the private sector and others committed to a more sustainable future.  She added that the Office was agreeing on a memorandum of understanding with UN-Habitat that would make it possible to take a more long-term perspective on implementation.  She went on to emphasize the value of evidence-based risk assessment.

Ms. O’HARA said two out of three refugees, and four out of five internally displaced persons, lived in cities and towns.  That reality drew UNHCR more closely into the Sustainable Development Goals and the New Urban Agenda while creating challenges in the way it worked.  She said the agency was working closely with UN-Habitat on such issues as shelters, upgrading refugee settlements and decent housing, as well as post-conflict return and land tenure.

Ms. KIRABO, recalling her past experience as Mayor of Kigali City, called the New Urban Agenda a tool for achieving inclusive and sustainable development.  When things went wrong, the United Nations should be there not only to save lives during a humanitarian crisis, but also to sow the seeds for post-conflict development.  Member States wanted a coordinated United Nations, she said, adding that when the Organization delivered as one in Rwanda, it worked out well.

Ms. PHAM invited the panel to discuss coordination in more detail.

Mr. GASS said the United Nations system needed to look at cities for lessons and for inspiration on how to work differently while accountable downwards.  Agencies must coalesce around local actors and learn from them.

Mr. MOHIELDIN said “we are all in trouble” if the issue of municipal finances was not dealt with correctly.  A city could have the best infrastructure, but not the finances to maintain it.  The World Bank Group had identified 19 possible revenue sources for municipalities, but only two — including central government transfers — were typically used.  That was no way to do business.

Ms. FAREMO cited the use of solar power in refugee camps in Jordan, which helped to reduce crime and improve security.  That was a small but important example of an idea which, taken to scale, could be achieved by working together.  She added that public procurement was more important than many people realized.  The United Nations spent around $16 billion on procurement, but often in a fragmented way.  Doing more together could extend sustainable development, she said, emphasizing also the importance of transparency, data sharing and access to private funding.

The representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) emphasized the contribution that migrants and other mobile people made to urban growth and prosperity.  Migration was desirable if well-governed, he said, adding that it required inclusive and comprehensive approaches.  He underscored the migration dimension and the rights of migrants and other mobile people in the context of the New Urban Agenda.

The representative of the World Food Programme (WFP) said his agency was strengthening its response in such areas as access to food in urban areas and the flow of food into cities from the countryside.  A new WFP urban food policy to be issued in February would aim to strengthen partnerships.  He went on to ask Mr. Mohieldin about the Implementation Facility for Sustainable Urban Development.

The representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said much of the United Nations work was focused on the “who”, but that it also needed to consider the “where”.  To do so would require a confluence of agencies and other stakeholders, she said, adding that UNODC was committed to ramping up cooperation with others on urban crime and security.

The representative of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN-Women) stressed the importance of gender-responsive implementation.  Bold gender-mainstreaming efforts were needed at the local level, she said, emphasizing also the importance of strong accountability mechanisms.

Ms. PHAM asked panellists if the current country team model was fit for purpose in terms of achieving the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Mr. MARTÍNEZ-SOLIMÁN said that was a million-dollar question.  Complexity created coordination challenges that could be addressed through a clear policy as well as the humility to accept that others were better placed to act as coordinator.  He noted that the United Nations now had 159 resident coordinators for 161 country teams in more than 170 Member States and territories, with an average of 16 agencies represented in each country team.  Greater empowerment of resident coordinators, as well as more capacity and perhaps more funding, were needed.

Ms. O’HARA, returning to the question of coordination, said the United Nations system was perhaps a little self-critical about the lack of coordination.  “We have come a long way,” she said, citing the cluster system as an example.  The Sustainable Development Goals created more discipline when it came to common objectives and interaction with Member States.

Mr. MOHIELDIN said the World Bank supported the objective of the Implementation Facility for Sustainable Urban Development, funds for which would be drawn from existing mechanisms.

A representative of South Africa also spoke.

Interactive Panel IV

The final interactive panel focused on the theme “Implementing the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Developments Goals — the role of the multi-stakeholder collaboration”.  Moderated by Tomas Anker Christensen, Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the seventy-first session of the General Assembly, it featured six panellists:  Manuela Carmena, Mayor of Madrid, Spain; Aromar Revi, Director, Indian Institute for Human Settlements; Eugenie Birch, President, General Assembly of Partners; Maria Jose Lubertino, Executive Director, Citizen Association for Human Rights of Argentina; Hazem Galal, Cities Sector Global Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Cities; and Mirella Amalia Vitale, Senior Vice-President of Marketing, Communications and Public Affairs of the ROCKWOOL Group.

The session’s lead respondents were Saul Billingsley, Director-General, FIA Federation, and Executive Director, Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-United Kingdom; Celestine Ketcha Epse Courtes, Mayor of Bangante, Cameroon; Teresa Boccia, Professor of Urban Planning, University of Naples Federico II, Italy, and Representative, Association Femmes Europe Meridionale, Italy; and Mohammed Ali Loufty, Senior Doctoral Fellow, Institute on Disability and Public Policy, and Executive Director, Arab Disability Forum, Lebanon.

Mr. CHRISTENSEN, pointing out that the panel represented a wide array of “stakeholders on the ground” who were engaged in implementing the New Urban Agenda, opened the session by asking Ms. Birch to discuss the importance of partnerships and multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Ms. BIRCH responded that “we are moving now from an engagement process […] to the implementation to active collaboration”.  That was where multi-stakeholder collaboration might have the most value, she said, pointing to two self-organized multi-stakeholder collaborations — including the General Assembly of Partners, which had 16 member groups — aimed at discussing urban issues with Member States in an orderly way.  Among other things, such groups had much knowledge to contribute, could help direct the implementation agenda and could assist in monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals as they related to urban issues.

Asked how stakeholders could assist local authorities, Mr. REVI said the core issue was that of implementation.  “We have 15 months to deliver on an almost impossible new agenda”, which included delivering 500 million new jobs and universal basic education to 5 billion people, all while mitigating the impacts of climate change.  “This is a trillion-dollar agenda” on both the investment side and the output side, he said, stressing that the dramatic transformation of the new development agendas was the concept of leaving no one — and no place — behind.  To achieve those goals, integrated delivery at the local level must be combined with the strength of national Governments, which was a “new way of working” both for Member States and the United Nations.

Responding to a related question about funding for urban issues, including innovative new financing mechanisms, Mr. GALAL said the idea of public-private-partnerships should be reconceived as “properly-planned-projects”.  The private sector needed guidance as well as incentive, he said, pointing to the example of Medellin, Colombia, in that regard.  The knowledge and support of the private sector must be harnessed at an early stage in the process while simultaneously ensuring that no private sector monopolies were created.

Asked how the business community could take advantage of the opportunities presented by urbanization in a socially responsible way, Ms. VITALE said “the private sector has been forced to think differently” in the context of the new sustainable development agendas.  Recent natural and man-made disasters, including the tragic fire in a high-rise in London, showed that changes were needed.  The private sector needed to work with the public sector to strengthen regulations, she stressed, adding that citizens must also be brought into the process.

Ms. LUBERTINO, asked to elaborate further on the role of the citizen, said they had long been the pioneers and protagonists of such global movements as sustainability and human rights.  However, all citizens did not stand on an equal footing because some representative democracies “have lost their way” and were not fulfilling their responsibilities.  Changes were needed across Governments as well as at the United Nations, because changes were taking place “at breakneck speed”, she said.  Many of the local challenges faced by cities were the same around the world, including economic issues and affordable housing.  States must better regulate the relationships between markets and territorial authorities while making sure that profits benefited citizens.

Ms. CARMENA, asked how she would prefer to engage with the United Nations on those issues going forward, said the main question was whether the Organization’s work on urban issues was effective.  Noting that had not been the case to date, she said UN-Habitat must not simply engage with States but also with local governments.  A structure for that kind of interaction could be created under the auspices of UN-Habitat or as an independent body, she said, adding that while the role of the private sector was also critical, efforts must be taken to avoid corruption.  Governing at the local level meant taking into account the opinions of citizens, she stressed, noting that in Madrid town hall meetings allowed for such broad participation.

Following the presentations, the lead respondents offered their insights, with Mr. BILLINGSLEY calling for a “responsive, people-centred” delivery of the New Urban Agenda.  Noting that some 3,000 children were injured every day in road accidents around the world — many in urban areas — he said such statistics represented a “policy failure” at both the local and national levels.

Ms. BOCCIA said the idea of leaving no one behind meant that women around the world must be able to enjoy their rights.  The participation of women had been crucial to ensuring that such issues were reflected in the 2030 Agenda and must now be reflected in the New Urban Agenda’s implementation.  Indeed, strong partnerships with women, migrants and others on the ground — who had a close knowledge of the issues — were critical.

Ms. KETCHA EPSE COURTES, asked what challenges her town faced in implementing the New Urban Agenda, welcomed the proposal made by the High-level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-Habitat to establish a global assembly on urban issues with the universal participation of all United Nations Member States.  The decentralization of UN-Habitat should be rolled out across the African continent, she said, adding that “urbanization is an African issue”.

Mr. LOUFTY said that, in the context of urbanization, like in other arenas, persons with disabilities were not only recipients of their rights but also actors in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the 2030 Agenda.  “This is an opportunity for a transformation of mindset” for the promotion of inclusion, he said, including at both the micro and macro levels.  Priorities should no longer be categorized based on the interests of particular groups, he stressed, adding that persons with disabilities must not be left behind simply because countries claimed to have other priorities.  He also asked the panellists how stakeholders could better work together to ensure that “inclusion becomes a strategic choice” for all actors.

When the floor was opened for comments and questions, many representatives of Member States shared national experiences with local urban planning and policy development.  Several described their establishment of inclusive, participatory structures that had successfully linked municipal authorities with national Governments, while others spotlighted challenges — such as armed conflict, natural hazards and the exclusion of marginalized groups — where more action was needed.

Qatar’s representative, outlining the work of the Red Crescent Society in his country, said the organization carried out direct work with local communities across the Middle East and Africa.  Pointing out that conflicts added to human suffering and destroyed communities, he asked the panellists to address ways to rehabilitate cities emerging from conflict and work more sustainable in post-conflict zones.

The representative of the Philippines warned against overlooking the practical needs of Member States, including assistance and long-term guidance in the context of the current “shifting political landscape”.  Typhoon Haiyan had demonstrated the need for stronger cooperation with local governments, he said, adding that the issue of housing was absent from the High-level Panel’s report.

The representative of the Dominican Republic asked Ms. Carmena to provide more information on the concept known as the “culture of the city” and to address how it could be integrated into local planning processes.

Singapore’s representative described his country’s experience implementing the New Urban Agenda, including its recent hosting of the International Leaders in Urban Governance programme.  Carried out in several universities in Singapore in conjunction with UN-Habitat, the programme had involved participants from 42 cities and leaders representing 14 cities around the world.  Singapore had also been organizing sustainable cities summits to bring leaders from many sectors together to discuss the challenges related to urbanization as well as the peer-to-peer city leaders programme.

A representative of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network said young people often felt excluded from their Governments’ planning and asked the panellists whether and how youth were being included in the New Urban Agenda’s implementation.

The panellists then responded to those question and comments, with Ms. BIRCH noting that the interventions had all spotlighted the need for inclusive dialogue and multi-stakeholder platforms.  In that context, she stressed, partnerships needed to be smart, measurable, specific and time-limited.

Mr. REVI said that multiple levels of implementation needed to be carried out simultaneously.  Today’s partnerships needed to address the modern-day questions of how to share capacities, finances and political representation, he said, adding that those issues should be elevated to the Head of State level.

Mr. GALAL, addressing questions about the inclusion of persons with disabilities, described a positive mindset change in that area in Sochi, Russian Federation, when it hosted the Olympic Games.  However, cities did not need a major event to act as a catalyst for such a shift.  Regarding the transition from peacekeeping to post-conflict reconstruction, he said he did not yet feel that system was agile enough or business-friendly enough.

Ms. VITALE, warning that “we’ve lost sight of what success looks like”, called for goals — not just partnerships — that were smart, realistic and specific.  Urban policies should always focus on providing social and economic benefits to city-dwellers, she said.

Ms. LUBERTINO emphasized that, even as new discussions were taking place, Member States should still be encouraged to ratify international human rights treaties as well as to reform their constitutions to enshrine more inclusive policies and processes.  She also called for stronger national legislation for the provision of public services.

Ms. CARMENA said local governments were unique in their capacities and their ability to develop their own agendas.  Every national Government and municipal authority needed to deal with such local issues as traffic-accident-related deaths proactively and in a data-based manner, she said, urging them to develop solutions that prioritized prevention.

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Speeches: Trans-Africa Security: Combating Illicit Trafficking and Organized Crime in Africa

Good morning.

It is an honor to join you today at this year’s Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). Let me first thank ACSS for their leadership over the years in fostering critical partnerships with African nations on combating today’s transnational security threats.

Let me also thank all of you for your commitment in participating in this important program. Having studied myself at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, I believe that these peer-based learning seminars are very important, not only to assess, evaluate, and discuss the broad array of security challenges facing the continent and international community, but towards developing and harnessing more effective strategies and cross-border responses.

As you have no doubt heard throughout the week in your seminar, the United States remains a strong partner in helping safeguard communities against the threats posed by illicit trafficking networks and is keen to elevate our partnership with all of your governments.

In this regard, the U.S. Department of State is similarly committed to strengthen international cooperation in support of our U.S. law enforcement and security agencies, and the capacities of our allies and partners in Africa to disrupt and dismantle transnational organized criminals.

Converging Threats: Corruption, Crime, and Terrorism Pave Illicit Trafficking Corridor

Today’s reality is one in which we live in a world where there is no region, no country and no community who remain untouched by the destabilizing effects and corruptive influence of transnational organized crime and violent terrorism.

Their impact is truly global and their real threat centers in some cases in their convergence. In particular, we must recognize that trans-regional illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, humans, and other illicit trade goods and services, are fueling greater insecurity and instability across Africa, and in other parts of the world.

While the world’s attention has in recent months been focused on the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, or the efforts by North Korea and others on the weaponization of nuclear missiles, the threats posed by transnational organized criminals remain very real in the United States, Latin America, Africa, and globally.

This is especially true as it relates to the increasing links between cross-border narcotics trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime across Africa that imperil not only the rule of law, economic development efforts, the promotion of trade and investment, but helps to fuel greater instability and insecurity.

In fact, according to General Thomas D. Waldhauser, U.S. Marine Corps, AFRICOM Commander, “parts of Africa remain a battleground between ideologies, interests, and values: [where] prosperity, and peace are often pitted against extremism, oppression, and conflict. The strategic environment includes instability that allows violent extremist organizations to grow and recruit disenfranchised populations.”

This strategic environment today that General Waldhauser underscores is also impacted by other transregional threats that further complicate security in Africa including issues related to the webs of corruption and cross-border criminality, and related converging threats.

Convergence: I often talk a lot about convergence, and this is something that I encourage you to examine more closely moving forward – and to view today’s transnational security threats through a prism of “convergence crime”.

Because the reality on the ground is that we can no longer simply focus on one component of a threat. In a world of converging threats – where various threats collide to form a more potent mix of insecurity globally; each is individually dangerous but whose sum represents a far greater threat across borders.

Thus, we need to see the threat environment more holistically – how, for example, corruption and complicit facilitators enable the illicit space for criminals and terrorist groups alike to thrive, and to exploit weaknesses in our borders and institutions that imperil our security.

And because as illicit trade operates in the shadow of the global economy, increasingly sophisticated traffickers are diversifying their portfolios in everything from narcotics, people, arms, and wildlife to counterfeits including fake medicines, and illicit tobacco and alcohol goods.

On the governance front, the proceeds of drug trafficking and other forms of illicit trafficking are fueling a dramatic increase in corruption among the very institutions responsible for fighting crime.

The collusion and complicity of some government officials with criminal networks have helped carve out an illicit trafficking corridor that stretches from the West African coast to the Horn of Africa, from North Africa south to the Gulf of Guinea.

Through these illicit trafficking routes, criminals and terrorists alike are moving people and products. From the coca and opium poppy fields of Colombia and Southeast Asia to the coasts of West Africa and its hashish plantations, drug cartels and other criminal networks navigate an illicit superhighway that serves illicit markets across the continent and around the globe. Along across these illicit routes, bad actors and networks are corrupting critical institutions and enforcement systems that exacerbate everyone’s security.

They employ the latest technological advances and use commercial jets, fishing vessels, and container ships to move drugs, people, small arms, crude oil, cigarettes, counterfeit and pirated goods, and toxic waste through the region, generating massive profits.

How massive are these profits? As I will point out shortly in my slides on the recent research of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade, the illegal markets in Africa, and globally, are booming with staggering levels of illicit wealth in the global economy. Hundreds of millions of USD every year enable criminals and other threat networks to corrupt the regional economies and the global financial system.

At a time when many are heralding the rise of some of the world’s fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa, these criminal entrepreneurs are undermining that economic development and growth by financing flourishing illicit markets, turning many vulnerable communities into a corridor of insecurity and instability, and siphoning the real potential of the legitimate economy.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Economic Forum (WEF), Global Financial Integrity (GFI), and other international organizations, generally estimate that the illicit trade in arms, drugs, and people, and other forms of “convergence crime” generate approximately between 8–15 percent of GDP, or several USD trillions to include corrupt proceeds and illicit financial flows.

Cocaine trafficking remains among the most lucrative illicit activities. In April 2017, the UNODC reported that developing markets are fueling a resurgence of cocaine trafficking through West Africa. UNODC further added that seizures on the Atlantic island of Cabo Verde, in the Gambia, Nigeria, and Ghana had contributed to a 78 percent increase in cocaine seizures from 2009-2014 compared to the previous reporting period.

Smugglers and traffickers who intake the cocaine from the Americas will typically transport drugs and other contraband overland across the Sahel and North Africa, before crossing into destination markets in Europe and these new developing markets in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

West Africa has also become a major transit point for heroin destined for the United States.

Illicit markets are growing across Africa to meet global demand for arms, counterfeits, cigarettes, natural resources, diamonds and other precious minerals, wildlife, illegally-harvested timber, illegal fishing, stolen luxury cars, and other illicit commodities.

The Crime-Terror Continuum: Regional Spillover Effects

Unfortunately, what happens in Africa does not stay in Africa.

A convergence of actors is further paving the corridor of illicit trafficking and crime-terror continuum across Africa – including North Africa – as criminal insurgencies are becoming players themselves in illicit markets and using the proceeds to finance their terror campaigns, secure their training camps, establish safe havens, and export violence to other regions. Violent extremist and terrorist groups draw on public anger towards corruption as a means to radicalize, recruit new members, and deepen sectarian division.

We only have to look at some of the current regional hot spots to clearly comprehend how certain crime-terror dynamics continue to contribute to insecurity and instability that have a ripple effect across borders.

Today’s thriving illegal economy is so lucrative that terrorists are increasingly turning to criminal activities to fund their violent campaigns such as those that we are witnessing today by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and others.

In Mali, as drugs are trafficked through the country, the Sahel, and Maghreb, AQIM and its sympathizers are manipulating socio-economic conditions to further advance an illegal economy that allows them to tax the drugs through the territory that they control and finance their terror campaigns.

Libya also continues to be challenged with violence and insecurity. AQIM and ISIS are attempting to forge alliances with violent extremist networks in Libya and across the Maghreb, Sahel, and West Africa, and are involved in smuggling and trafficking in persons. Organized crime networks exploit a currency black market, irregular migration and illicit trade across borders to enrich themselves and militias that defy law and order.

Nigerian organized criminal networks remain a major player in moving cocaine and heroin worldwide, and have begun to produce and traffic methamphetamine to and around Southeast Asia. In addition to drug trafficking, some of these criminal organizations also engage in other forms of trafficking and fraud targeting citizens of the United States, Europe, and globally.

Widespread corruption in Nigeria further facilitates criminal activity, and, combined with Nigeria’s central location along major trafficking routes, enables criminal groups to flourish and make Nigeria an important trafficking hub.

Nigeria is also confronting a terrorist insurgency led by Boko Haram and its offshoot ISIS-West Africa, which remains the cause of the insecurity in the Lake Chad Basin.

Maritime crime has also captured the attention of the regional states and international community. The reported number of incidents in the Gulf of Guinea and the level of violence associated with those acts remain a concern.

The Economic Communities of West and Central African States, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and their member states should be commended for the continued commitment to implement the June 2013 Yaoundé Summit. The signed Gulf of Guinea Code of Conduct (GGC) covers not only armed robbery at sea and piracy, but also other illicit maritime activity such as illegal fishing, maritime pollution, and human and drug trafficking. The Yaounde Code of Conduct, along with the updates to the Djibouti Code of Conduct to cover other transnational maritime crime, and the newly adopted Lomé Charter, provide excellent frameworks for African states to adopt strategies and implement programs to counter transnational crime in the maritime domain.

In recent years, INL has partnered with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, AFRICOM, and our African partners on maritime security and regional threat mitigation strategies and to build the capacities and capabilities to disrupt and dismantle transnational criminal networks.

U.S. Diplomatic Efforts and International Cooperation in Africa

The United States strongly supports the great strides many African countries have made to improve security, good governance, rule of law, and sustainable economic development.

As President Donald J. Trump highlighted in new Executive Order on Transnational Criminal Organizations (E.O. TCO), the United States will continue to assist our partners to strengthen their security footprint and capabilities to combat today’s threat networks.

In support of the President’s E.O. TCO, the United States is committed to strengthen and sustain our resolve and capabilities to protect the homeland and break the corruptive power of transnational criminal networks, attack their financial underpinnings, strip them of their illicit wealth, and sever their access to the financial system.

The United States and its partners continually recognize the importance of net-centric partnerships to confront converging threats and the lethal nexus of organized crime, corruption, and terrorism along global illicit pathways and financial hubs.

For example, targeted financial actions like the 2011 311 finding against LCB can have a major impact, strengthening deterrence and showing that the international community is keeping close watch on Hizballah’s global financial architecture. Through years of cooperation with the Lebanese banking sector and the Lebanese Central Bank, the country has significantly improved its capacity to detect the kinds of behavior that led the United States to designate LCB six years ago.

Let me now share how the Department of State helps fight transnational crime, and in particular the organization I work for, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

INL training efforts help countries build effective rule of law institutions, strengthening criminal justice systems, and strengthening their police, courts, and anti-crime efforts—everything from anti-corruption money laundering, cybercrime, and intellectual property theft to trafficking in goods, people, weapons, drugs, or endangered wildlife.

In coordination with partners in sub-Saharan and North Africa, INL develops and executes foreign assistance programming to promote civilian security and criminal justice sector reform in support of U.S. policy objectives. INL programs improve access to justice, promote stability and democratic reform, professionalize law enforcement entities, support local justice sector officials, and strengthen correction systems.

INL’s sub-Saharan and North Africa projects support partner governments’ efforts to respond effectively to the growing demand for peace and security. INL’s four main objectives are to assist African partners in combating transnational organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism, and their effects; support post-conflict stabilization operations and security sector reform; strengthen criminal justice systems to be accountable to the public and to respect human rights; and promote regional cooperation. INL implements its Africa program through a comprehensive range of bilateral and regional initiatives designed to maximize positive change in host countries and regions.

Let me highlight a few examples of these bilateral INL projects across Africa on criminal justice reform, anti-crime, and in support of counter-terrorism efforts:

Deployment of Resident Legal Advisors (RLAs) and Senior Legal Advisors: U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors embedded in U.S. Embassies to support justice sector development and capacity building: Some countries hosting RLAs include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Benin, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, and others.

Kenya: Build the capacity of vetted units within the National Police Service and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission investigations unit to investigate and prosecute high-level and government-wide corruption

Tanzania: enhance the criminal justice system in Tanzania to successfully prosecute wildlife crimes.

Benin: Build capacity of Benin’s law enforcement and judicial sectors to investigate and prosecute cases involving transnational organized crime, particularly drug trafficking; support to Benin’s border security agency; training of Formed Police Units (FPUs) for peacekeeping deployment; support to the Office Central de Répression du Trafic Illicite de Drogue et des Précurseurs

Ghana: Training police-prosecutors, creating a counternarcotics unit, training police SWAT unit; training FPUs for peacekeeping deployment; and improving the investigations and administration of justice related to maritime crimes, cyber-crime, and border-related crimes

Nigeria: Advise and support the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency; Justice and security dialogues project with law enforcement and civil society; international police education and training; curriculum reform; forensics support; Embedding advisors to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

South Africa: Senior law enforcement advisor support to professionalize law enforcement and fundamental police operations; building investigative and enforcement capacities to combat wildlife trafficking

Finally, INL also administers the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program (TOCRP) which offers rewards up to $5 million for information, leads, and tips that help hobble transnational criminal organizations involved in activities beyond drug trafficking, such as human trafficking, money laundering, trafficking in arms, counterfeits and pirated goods, and other illicit trade areas.

Our embassies and/or our INL offices would be happy to share further information on INL bilateral and regional programming in specific countries in Africa as requested.

Let me say also few words on several regional initiatives that INL supports:

The West Africa Regional Security Initiative (WARSI)

WARSI funds assist the 15 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) members to establish and sustain effective, professional, and accountable criminal justice and civilian security sectors. Technical assistance facilitates partner-country efforts to counter transnational threats including illicit trafficking and to strengthen conflict mitigation and state legitimacy. WARSI focuses on security sector reform (SSR) in countries with more foundational assistance needs and criminal justice sector reform to counter transnational organized crime (TOC) in countries with more stable institutions. Counter-TOC assistance is more advanced, and often includes training specialized units, such as counter narcotics task forces.

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership

The Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) is a multi-faceted, multi-year U.S. strategy aimed at developing resilient institutions that are capable of preventing and responding to terrorism in a holistic, long term manner. INL TSCTP programs in Africa work to counter and prevent violent extremism by empowering partner countries to (1) provide effective and accountable security and justice services to enhance citizen cooperation with and trust in law enforcement and (2) develop the institutional foundation for counterterrorism and related capabilities, including border security and prison security and reintegration efforts. In doing so, INL focuses on enhancing and institutionalizing cooperation among TSCTP countries so that they increasingly learn with and from each other. Partner countries include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia.

The Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism

The Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT) is the U.S. government’s multi-year, multi-sector initiative to build the long-term capabilities of East African partners to contain, disrupt, and marginalize terrorist networks in the region. INL’s PREACT funds empower East African criminal justice institutions to confront complex challenges posed by cross-border terrorism. INL’s active PREACT partners include Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.

Security Governance Initiative

The Security Governance Initiative (SGI) is a multi-year effort between the United States and partner countries to improve security sector governance and capacity to address threats. SGI partners with countries to undertake strategic and institutional reforms required to tackle key security challenges. Together with six current partners – Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia – SGI focuses on shared security priorities and enhance security sector management. SGI is managed by the State Department’s Africa Bureau but leverages expertise and experience from across the Departments of State, Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Counterterrorism Center. Coordination and collaboration both within the U.S. government and with partner countries is a hallmark of SGI. INL’s activities undertaken as part of SGI seek to develop, support, and strengthen criminal justice institutions and capabilities to ensure citizen security and promote the rule of law, including sound policies, institutional structures, systems, processes, and effective management methods so that governments can efficiently and effectively deliver security and justice in a sustainable manner.

Regional Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Efforts

As many of you are aware, the United States continues to partner with the international community to combat the illegal wildlife trade.

INL is part of a whole of government approach to combating wildlife trafficking. We work closely with other parts of the Department and other agencies to support the global fight against wildlife trafficking through assistance to multiple countries in Africa. Under the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking (CWT), INL builds the capacity of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes and develops regional cooperation mechanisms.

Activities can include training, mentoring, and equipment provision for park rangers, police, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, and civil society entities to address the multiple dimensions of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Our first projects began in Kenya and South Africa, followed by Namibia and Tanzania. Future projects will cover larger areas of central and southern Africa, and address both source and transit countries.

Regional Law Enforcement Training

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not highlight INL’s International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Gaborone, Botswana. The ILEA program delivers courses on a wide range of law enforcement topics, and builds regional law enforcement networks to detect, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations regardless of their means of operation and income.

Since inception in 2001, ILEA Gaborone has trained thousands of mid- and senior-level criminal justice officers in specialized skills on counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics operations, forensic accounting, customs interdiction, various forms of trafficking, document fraud, and illegal immigration. The program also engages with senior officials on the factors that facilitate these criminal networks, addressing public corruption, discussing modern community-oriented policing models, and cooperative international security networks that hinder illicit networks from flourishing.

As an outbranch of the successful ILEA network, INL opened the West Africa Regional Training Center (RTC) in Accra, Ghana, in January 2013. The RTC has convened hundreds of law enforcement, security, and judicial officials from multiple countries in West Africa and the Sahel, creating relationships across the region, and building knowledge and skills on topics ranging from investigative analysis to anti-corruption to counternarcotics.

We continue to explore future areas of assistance to include strengthening capabilities to preserve crime scenes for complex investigations, create strong case packages, and build more effective, evidence-based trials.

Conclusion: Partnerships for Sustainable Security

In closing, I want to again extend the appreciation on behalf of the U.S. Department of State for your commitment to work across borders, improve coordination and information-sharing, and leverage our respective capabilities and capacities to defeat our common adversaries.

We must continue to leverage all national economic, intelligence, and diplomatic powers to make it riskier, harder, and costlier for threat networks to do business within Africa, and externally.

Illicit trafficking remains the lifeblood of the numerous bad actors and networks, creating vulnerabilities for nations.

We must crackdown on corruption at all levels and cut off the ability of kleptocrats, criminals, and terrorists to enjoy the fruits of illicit enterprise and that enable the financial capacity to execute their operations.

By combating corruption, we can also shut the door and keep violent extremists from exploiting their grievances to wage jihad. We must prevent narco-corruption from destroying countries like Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

In addition to our law enforcement and security cooperation, we also need to address underlying causes that are contributing to today’s conflicts and insecurity in Africa: food and water security, poverty, economic integration and development, and other socio-economic areas that empower communities and nurture growth markets, investment frontiers, and resiliency.

With careful, targeted assistance, and smart diplomatic engagement, together we can advance our common objectives and strategic interests.

If we do not act decisively, the region will remain an exporter of terror and a provider of safe havens where terrorists from other conflicts all over the world find refuge, illicit trafficking will continue to expand, arms and weapons will dangerously proliferate, women, men, and children will be trafficked, and drugs and illicit enterprise will corrode the rule of law and the gains of globalization.

We can only tackle these threats effectively if we work together and jointly synchronize our full spectrum capabilities and capacities. We must stay connected and continue to harness our network of networks at every level – local, regional, and global to win our fight against convergence crime.

If we do this, we can create hope, stability, opportunity, and an enduring peace.

Thank you.

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