EDITORIAL - Foreword by the High Commissioner
Women's equal dignity and human rights as full human beings are
enshrined in the basic instruments of today's international community. From the
Charter of the United Nations' endorsement of the equal rights of men and women,
to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the subsequent international
treaties and declarations, the rights of women are central to our vision of a
But the fine words of these documents and of the Vienna
Declaration in 1993 and the declaration of Beijing in 1995 stand in sharp
contrast to the daily reality of life for millions of women. Of the 1.3 billion
people living in poverty, 70 per cent are women; the majority of the world's
refugees are women; female illiteracy is invariably higher than male illiteracy.
Women and girl-children are treated as commodities in cross-border prostitution
rackets and the pornography industry. Millions of girls are still subject to
genital mutilation, while women in every country are regular victims of domestic
violence. In many countries, women lack access to reproductive health care and
every day women are targeted in armed conflicts. Women's economic, social and
cultural rights continue to be neglected.
There can be no peace, security or sustainable economic
development in societies which deny human rights, including the human rights of
women. I believe this is gradually being understood by governments and I welcome
their willingness to discuss with the United Nations the application of
international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of
Discrimination Against Women.
Fighting for women's human rights is a positive struggle which
recognizes the quality of a woman's contribution in every aspect of the
community: in politics, industry, commerce, education, academia, agriculture and
the home. Women are also the true peacemakers and the peace-builders - at the
negotiating table and in war-torn communities everywhere.
Practical and creative measures to realize the human rights of
women - civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights and the
right to development - are a priority for my Office and for every part of the
United Nations system. As the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I am committed
to work in partnership with all United Nations agencies and programmes,
governments, regional organizations, academic institutions, individuals and the
NGO community, but most specially with women throughout the world to promote and
protect women's rights and to translate these rights into a better quality of
life for all.
High Commissioner for Human