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proposed that donor countries consider funding development assistance programs through nongovernmental organizations. A number of panelists charged that under the existing system development assistance money often does not reach the people. Nongovernmental organizations, the panelists argued, are closer to the people and have a better understanding of their needs. Ms. Enid Kirton, a panelist, presented the Forum a model for development assistance funding through nongovernmental organizations.
The Open Forum was cosponsored by the League of Women Voters. U.N.-U.S.A., the World Watch Institute, Women's International Network, and the Women Food and Population Program. Assistance was provided by five outstanding women representing major international women's organizations: Irene de Lipkowski, President, International Alliance of Women; Beryl Nashar, President, International Federation of Business and Professional Women; Elizabeth May, President, International Federation of University Women : Olive L. Farquharson, President, Associated Country Women of the World: and Irmgard Bohm, Board member, International Council of Women. Panel members were Sylvia Francisca B. Bolanos, Filipina International Labor Organization, rural development expert in Ghana: Lee Yun-Sook, Korean television personality ; Diane Opondo, field representative for the Economic Community Association of Africa ; and Enid Kirton, women's organization activist from Trinidad.
Full texts of my opening remarks before the Forum and Ms. Kirton's development assistance model are in appendixes F and G.
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS: PROBLEMS AND ACHIEVEMENTS The World Conference of the International Women's Year was a major step toward attainment of equality for women. Its most important achievement was adoption of the World Plan of Action, a 10-year program to improve the status of women. It gives national governments guidelines to help increase women's participation in the economic, social, political and cultural life of their countries.
The nongovernmental Tribune also was a success. It achieved unity despite seemingly impossible national, political and ideological differences. Tribune participants suggested revisions to the World Plan of Action, thus producing a blueprint for improving the status of women throughout the world.
These achievements are especially impressive because of the odds against success. Just as women are less equal than men in every country of the world, the International Women's Year Conference was less equal than other international conferences.
From the beginning, neither the United Nations nor its member nations took International Women's Year seriously. The U.N. budgeted $258,000 for the IWY Conference when the World Population Conference spent $3.5 million, relegating the IWY Conference to dependence on voluntary contributions. As late as October, 1974, the conference site was changed from Bogota, Colombia, to Mexico City, Mexico. Then, the conference date was moved up suddenly.
In Mexico City, the lack of funding and the last minute site and date changes brought reported administrative and technical problems. Space was short and physical support facilities were inadequate. The distance between the Conference and Tribune sites made communication and transportation difficult. Documentation and translation services were insufficient.
Unlike other international conferences, women delegates at the IWY Conference were in the majority, outnumbering males four to one. For the first time in the history of international conferences, women served on almost every delegation and headed a majority of the delegations. Having been generally excluded from the forums of international diplomacy, women delegates in Mexico City worked against the dual handicaps of inexperience and lack of confidence. Much time and effort were spent in learning the rules and procedures of international meetings.
The IWY Conference reflected women's lack of power in society. At the conference inaugural session, three men spoke first, followed by Helvi Sipila. A man, Attorney General Pedro Ojeda Paullada, Head of Mexico's Delegation, became President of the Conference because U.N. protocol stipulates that the head of the host country delegation presides. Despite the attendance of women officials, legislators, judges and, even, a woman head of state, the women who received the most press attention at the Conference were wives of
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prominent men. In pointing this out, however, I do not mean to detract from their own competence or contribution.
Women had little control over the first intergovernmental conference ever held to focus on their concerns. As members of delegations, they were bound by the instructions of their governments, many of which had not assigned high enough priority to women's issues. Women delegates generally had no problem agreeing among themselves that the conference should focus on closing the social, economic and political gap between men and women, and not between developed and developing countries.
Government instructions, however, politicized the conference following the pattern established by the 1972 U.N. Conference on Human Environment. Since 1972, Third World nations have used international forums to press the theme that world problems, whether they concern the environment, population, food or women, are symptomatic of economic exploitation and political injustice. Third World nations claim that such problems can only be resolved by changing existing economic and political relations between countries and establishing a new world economic order.
The question of a world redistribution of wealth emerged as a dominant theme at the IWY Conference. Third World nations argied that a reordering of economic structures to correct the imbalances between rich and poor countries must precede the struggle for women's equality. Otherwise, they said equality would mean little more than shared disadvantage.
Western industrialized nations, including the United States, contended that women cannot wait for economic development to bring equality because equality does not necessarily follow prosperity. There is evidence that women have not always benefited from the development process and, indeed, their position in relation to men has at times deteriorated as a result. Although the advancement of the status of women is linked to improving the lot of all mankind, the two processes must go together and women must participate with men as partners in both processes.
The IWY Conference and Tribune provided an opportunity for Third World nations, assisted by countries aligned with the Soviet Union, to charge Western countries with alleged crimes and unresolved obligations. Many nations and ethnic groups made charges against the United States for imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism. Representatives of a group called the Federation of Puerto Rican Women accused the United States of practicing genocide because the U.S. sponsored a family planning program in Puerto Rico. Panama, incited by a Congressional proposal which would forbid the use of State Department funds for Panama Canal negotiations, charged the United States with violating Panamanian sovereignty. Other nations, groups and individuals called the United States the warmonger and arms dealer of the world. The CIA was vilified as the main perpetrator of U.S. interventionist policies. AID was alleged to be an arm of the CIA. U.S. multi-national corporations were attacked for alleged economic exploitation and oppression. The U.S. delegation was charged with being unrepresentative of minority interests. For some, this was the usual diversion from the principal purpose of international meetings to beat familiar propaganda drums.
Some elements of the news media did not take the conference any more seriously than many in the U.N. or its member nations. It overplayed disputes and failed to understand that the Conference provided a vital forum for the pursuit of equality for women. Without fully understanding the Conference, some journalists could not accurately report its accomplishments or the achievements of unity under trying circumstances; others did better.
Women at the Conference and Tribune were united in their desire for a strong World Plan of Action. This unity of purpose kept irrelevant political considerations out of the World Plan of Action, allowing it to be adopted by consensus. Controversial political issues were relegated to the Declaration of Mexico, which was adopted after considerable dissension.
The most striking example of the politicization of the Conference was the inappropriate reference to Zionism and its equation with forms of oppression in the text of the Declaration of Mexico. To condemn Zionism, linking it with apartheid, colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression in a document produced by a conference held to consider the status of women seemed to many unreasonable. Such action only served to reenforce the stereotype of the U.N. as a “tyranny of the majority.”
Although the United States and Israel were a minority of two on the Declaration of Mexico vote, the United States was not isolated at the IWY Conference. In fact the United States was the foremost delegation to communicate with nongovernmental organizations and work with the Tribune. The U.S. delegation also took anti-American attacks in stride and considered some as constructive challenges. The United States has a credible record on women's rights. The U.S. delegation stood by that record and helped strengthen Conference actions in the interest of improving the status of women throughout the world. This effort was illustrated in the delegation's strong participation in drafting Conference resolutions.
Women can be proud of their first intergovernmental conference. The meeting of women from developed and developing countries helped educate each group about the fundamental concerns and priorities of the other. It made women more aware of their common goals and made governments more conscious of issues of concern to women.
The World Plan of Action clearly articulates women's problems and goals on a worldwide scale and provides a stimulus for future action. The Conference also set a target date to hold a second women's conference in 1980, ensuring that efforts made in 1975, International Women's Year, will not be forgotten.
The intangible achievements of the Conference should also be noted. The Conference was an opportunity for women to meet, find reassurance in each other's experiences and gain new challenges in each other's ideas. The Conference toughened and matured the international women's movement. Women at the Conference began the process of building the informal associations and networks so important in the exercise of influence and power.
MAKING THE WORLD PLAN A REALITY: RECOMMENDATIONS
FOR ACTION The World Conference on International Women's Year achieved considerable success, but the recommendations contained in the World Plan of Action and Resolutions adopted by the Conference will never be realized without a concerted and dedicated follow-up effort.
The World Plan of Action adopted by the Conference provides guidelines and recommendations for action on the international, regional and national levels. I am hopeful that the U.S. Commission on the Observance International Women's Year will make recommendations for governmental and nongovernmental action in its final report to the President. Also, the Congressional Symposium on International Women's Year which was held prior to the World Conference, provided specific recommendations for Congressional action. A list of Symposium recommendations is contained in appendix (H).
Following are suggestions which I believe Congress, and the Government Operations Committee in particular, should consider as responses to these proposals.
Government Structures.-The World Plan of Action emphasizes the importance of effective and sufficiently-financed government structures for implementation of its goals and recommends the creation of commissions and bureaus for this purpose.
The U.S. Government is not lacking in such organizations. Eight Federal agencies are charged specifically with enforcing Federal antidiscrimination laws. Other agencies have antidiscrimination provisions in their authorizing legislation and many have prescribed complaint procedures. In addition, there are ten major Federal organizations with research, advisory and informational functions relating to women, and many smaller groups, both formal and informal, have similar functions. These efforts, however, have not been especially effective in improving the status of women.
The Government Operations Committee, with its broad oversight jurisdiction, can play a major role in establishing an effective government framework. In any oversight effort, the following questions should be addressed and answered:
Are the existing programs carrying out their mandate?
Can existing programs be better organized to eliminate waste and duplication and produce maximum efficiency?
Is effectiveness suffering from a lack of funds or enforcement authority?
Should there be a single agency to coordinate intragovernmental efforts on behalf of women, including a clearinghouse for information on women?
How effectively is the Federal Government utilizing the expertise of nongovernmental organizations and private individuals in its women's programs?