More needs to be done on women’s human rights, OAS secretary general tells women leaders

In keynote remarks to a group of women leaders, Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza highlighted persistent problems of violence against women as well as poverty and discrimination. He said that despite the gains, much remains to be accomplished in protecting and defending women’s human rights and in clearing the paths to power in our societies for the full and equal participation of women at the highest levels.

The OAS Secretary General was addressing a group of more than fifty women at a forum on Democracy and Women’s Leadership in the Americas. An initiative of the OAS’ Department of External Relations and the Women’s Foreign Policy Group, the conference drew participation from a variety of other institutions, among them the World Bank, United Nations, U.S. Department of State, Inter-American Dialogue, and the Council of Women World Leaders. The Women’s Foreign Policy Group is a non-profit organization that promotes global engagement and the leadership, visibility and participation of women in international affairs.

Insulza told the women’s conference that democracy is now entrenched in the hemisphere’s nations, and he touted the value of the 2001 Inter-American Democratic Charter. He also observed that, on the whole, gains have been made in the Americas over the last few years in reducing poverty and extreme poverty, along with malnutrition. But The Secretary General said discrimination remains a big problem, particularly affecting women. He outlined OAS engagement in the countries of the Americas, promoting democracy, human rights, development and cooperation, and pointed to initiatives to increase the number of women in top OAS leadership positions.

Underscoring the significance of the landmark 1994 Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, Secretary General Insulza said it recognizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and to date is the only international treaty in the world to specifically address the issue of violence against women. He noted the organization’s longstanding engagement in support of the rights of women, and cited the Inter-American Program on the Promotion of Women’s Human Rights and Gender Equity and Equality, intended to accelerate the integration of a gender perspective both within the OAS and in the policies of our Hemisphere’s governments.

Women’s Foreign Policy Group President Patricia Ellis delivered the opening remarks to the session, with Director of the OAS Department of External Relations Irene Klinger moderating and introducing the Secretary General.

A panel discussion on women’s leadership in the Americas was a highlight of the conference. The panel comprised Ambassadors to the OAS from Peru, María Zavala Valladares; from Trinidad and Tobago, Glenda Morean-Phillip; and from Uruguay, María del Lujan Flores, with Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) Executive Secretary Carmen Lomellin as moderator.


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