Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and
U.N. Ambassador Linda Tarr-Whelan
Press Briefing on the United Nations Special Session on Women's Rights
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC , May 31, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 1, 2000
U.S. Department of State
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the State Department briefing room. Next week, government leaders from around the world will gather at the UN in New York from June 5th through 9th for the Special Session Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace in the 21st Century, known as the Beijing Plus Five meeting. And we're very, very pleased to have with us today Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Linda Tarr-Whalen, US Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, who will preview that session for you.
Secretary Shalala has some opening remarks, and then we'll go directly to your questions. So with no further ado, Secretary Shalala.
SECRETARY SHALALA: Thank you very much, Phil. Next week, I'll be in New York for the Beijing Plus Five Special Session of the UN General Assembly and, in addition to that, at various NGO activities. We expect about 3,000 official delegates and there will be 7,000 NGOs represented.
The US delegation, of course, is chaired by Madeleine Albright. The co-chairs are myself and Ambassador to the UN Dick Holbrooke. The deputy chairs are Linda Tarr-Whalen, who is our Ambassador to the Commission on the Status of Women, and Betty King, the US Ambassador to the UN Economic and Social Council.
We do have some private sector advisors. Our own delegation is mostly made up of government officials, but we did invite four private sector advisors, who include the president of the National Council of Negro Women, Jane Smith; Redu Sharma, the executive director of Women's Edge, which is the women's economic development and global equality organization; Carla Garcia, the executive director of the Association of Women in Development; and a youth member. We talk a lot about youth. When we go to these conferences, once in a while we actually invite one to be a member of the official delegation. Kate Washburn, who is the youth program director for the Women's Institute for Leadership for Human Rights, will be the youth member of the delegation.
Let me talk a little about what we'd like to accomplish at the meetings, and then Linda and I will be happy to take your questions.
I actually attended the Beijing Women's Conference five years ago, and I think it was a transforming experience for those of us who had that chance. Not only to hear Mrs. Clinton's speech -- and she will be in New York for this review -- but also the fact that all the member states who were represented, and an extraordinary group of women and a few men, made a significant international commitment on the advancement of women, the Beijing Platform for Action.
During the last five years, we've been implementing that Plan for Action. Since 1995, we've made significant progress in advancing the status of women and girls worldwide. In this country we came back, and under a Presidential Order, we set up an inter-agency task force. In addition to that, we worked with the NGOs. The major government agencies each had a senior level representative. I chaired it for a couple of years and then turned over the responsibility to Madeleine Albright. So we have had a very effective, hands-on, agency-by-agency strategy, and we have reported regularly to the President in a number of areas.
Let me talk a little about some of those changes that have occurred both internationally and in this country as a result of the Beijing Conference. Poverty and basic health care and education are still the problems of women across the globe. Many countries have made economic progress. In Ecuador, for example, micro-enterprise programs have expanded women's access to formal financial services. Politically, more women have obtained the right to vote--in Qatar, for example. In South Africa women now make up 38 percent of the parliament. In Russia, women's health education centers have been put into operation. I worked directly with seven different Russian health ministers. We have made measurable progress in Russia with family planning clinics to reduce the number of abortions, for example. The Russian Government made a substantial commitment to start taking on their tuberculosis issues. I will be going back to Russia in July to work with my counterpart on reproductive health issues, on tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The Centers for Disease Control has worked very closely with the Russians on setting up surveillance systems to track international diseases. And we have focused specifically on women's health.
Several African countries have passed laws criminalizing female genital mutilation. Rape is now recognized as a crime by international war tribunals. Mexico, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador have passed new and tougher laws against domestic violence. And at home here in the United States, we have passed legislation and encouraged things like family-friendly work places. We've expanded the earned income tax credit. Since most of you cover international affairs I don't expect you to know what that is, but it is a way in which we give money to low income workers. Based on their income, they no longer pay taxes in this country but can get some cash back by filing. A family, a man and his wife and two children, could get up to $1800 back in cash as part of a refundable tax credit which, from our point of view, helps to support low-income workers.
SECRETARY SHALALA: If you have an income under $19,000 a year, you can talk to me after the briefing and I would be happy to put you in touch. (Laughter.)
Janet Reno and I have chaired a Presidential Council on Preventing Violence Against Women. We have expanded, for instance, the number of private businesses that have programs to reduce workplace violence and have helped almost every state develop a seamless system by which if a woman walks into an emergency room or there is a call to a police station, something happens. This could include assignment to a battered women's shelter, making sure that woman can leave the abusive situation, and making sure that she has health care and support for her children. There has been a vast expansion of our efforts to prevent violence against women.
We have increased political participation of women in elected and appointed office. We have expanded health initiatives for women and girls. This month, we expect to pass a new piece of legislation that will guarantee for low-income working women, who have no health insurance, that if they are diagnosed with cervical cancer or breast cancer, they will be guaranteed not only the screening costs but also the health insurance costs to take care of those particular diseases. They were not eligible before for our insurance plan. We have expanded health coverage particularly for poor women, for young adults who are leaving the foster care system. In this country, for example, when someone reaches 18, if they have been in our foster care system, they lose their health insurance. We are now expanding that health insurance and other kinds of support until they are 21 to help them in the transition to young adulthood.
Now, in New York, we see this platform for action as a work in progress. Linda and I had lunch with Baroness Jay, who will be heading the UK delegation and they're coming with a report, as we are, to demonstrate to the other countries of the world specifically what we've done on the Platform for Action. We will have measurable results of what we've been able to do in all of the areas where we made commitments at the Beijing conference.
Next week, we plan to renew our commitments to address four new priorities: enhancing economic opportunities for US women, globalization, HIV-AIDS, and the trafficking of women and children. The first issue, I've already mentioned, is a priority for us domestically. We are going to pursue equal pay legislation, an increase in the minimum wage, and additional child care assistance. Extending family leave for American women, and child care in particular, is a very important issue in this country for women's economic progress.
Globalization is an issue that has emerged increasingly since Beijing. It has ramifications for the United States as well as for our international partners. We concede that globalization's benefits have not universally benefited women. Women are affected by globalization both as producers and as consumers. We believe that the new global initiatives ought to engage women as equal partners in the public and the private sectors, and we intend in New York to discuss new international partnerships on education, on training, on literacy and on small business development.
AIDS is increasingly a disease in this country of people of color, of women. No longer of children, because we have dramatically reduced mother-to-child transmission, through the use of AZT and now a new drug. We have changed our strategy in how we follow the victims of this disease as well as our resources. Abroad, we are doubling our commitments on AIDS and initiating the President's vaccine initiative. This has a number of components: a major research initiative to find a vaccine for AIDS and appropriate vaccines for other parts of the world, a major effort to work with countries particularly in sub-Saharan Africa to develop new prevention strategies as well as new treatment strategies, including the reduction of costs of drugs abroad. All so that we can, in fact, make a real dent in reducing mother-to-child transmission.
And finally, the trafficking in women and children, which is one of the most serious human rights violations that's facing the international community today. It is estimated that some 700,000 people are trafficked globally each year. As you know, the Secretary of State has taken on this issue. We intend to make progress and, under the leadership of the Secretary of State and, of course, the President, we intend to take aggressive action to prevent trafficking, to protect victims and to prosecute traffickers. But there is a lot more that needs to be done.
We will be talking about our successes and about some not-so-successful efforts to implement the Beijing Platform. As part of our discussions with our counterparts from other parts of the world, we will be describing how we've organized ourselves, what progress has been made in identifying new issues
I'd be happy to answer any questions and Linda is here.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you noted, much has been done, much is yet to be done. It is difficult, I know, after listing all of these different things to pinpoint a couple of different things. But if you could pick the single biggest accomplishment that has come out of Beijing and what you would consider to be the single biggest failure or accomplishment yet to be accomplished?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Well, I think our single biggest accomplishment is actually organizing the entire government to move an agenda. That has not really been done before. And the fact that the President first asked me and now Madeleine Albright to get every Cabinet-level agency plus our smaller agencies to move on a series of women's initiatives, from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation focusing on women's access to banking and to credit, to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to the major Cabinet-level agencies.
The fact is that we have an integrated plan that we're measuring ourselves against in terms of access of women to the major economic levers in this country. So I think the organization itself and pushing a number of issues at the same time are significant accomplishments.
A failure is that we have not been able to get health insurance coverage for everyone in this country. I think the President would name that as the number one thing. Though we have been expanding that coverage over the last three years to almost all the children in this country. We have legislation before Congress to expand it to their working parents. This would include a large number of single women, and expand coverage of Medicare to women who are losing their health insurance as their husbands leave their jobs and go into the Medicare system, but who themselves are younger, say 62. So I think the fact that we don't have universal coverage is still an effort for us and that we need to keep focused on that.
This year, we expect to make major progress in child care and to add at least a billion dollar investment in child care and a billion dollar investment in expanding our Head Start program which is, of course, our early childhood program. So I expect in those areas, we will make considerable progress.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, women today around the world are still suffering. What method are you going to take in New York next week for those world leaders gathering there and how is the US going to enforce those laws?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Well, first of all, we can't enforce the laws for other countries. But what we can do is continue to be a leader on women's educational progress. And I think that there is every bit of evidence of our strong and emphatic role in both through the World Bank and through other international institutions to make sure that women have equal opportunities of access to education, to health care. The key to the economic future of every country in the world is the education and the health of women.
And very much our focus, for instance, in Africa and in Asia is not simply on AIDS and the search for an AIDS vaccine but increasingly on malaria and on tuberculosis, not diseases that we have present in large numbers here in this country but diseases that make a difference in terms of the economic progress of the rest of the world. So our willingness to focus both on the fundamentals of diseases as well as to increase our activities in relationship to education and health I think is where we are going.
Linda, do you want to add anything? Why don't you come up?
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: Thanks.
In terms of answering the question, maybe I could also pick up on the UN view of your question, in terms of what perhaps is the biggest accomplishment of this process, since the Beijing conference, and then what the largest problem is.
I think the most impressive thing is that 120 of the 189 countries actually have a platform for action and are reporting to the rest of the world on what they have done to help achieve equality for women. And those are the kinds of things that the Secretary talked about-- the very base line on education, literacy for women and girls, about health care, about employment and so forth.
SECRETARY SHALALA: The most important thing is we're measuring ourselves.
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: That's right.
SECRETARY SHALALA: That not only is the United States presenting what it's been able to do, but so is every other country in the world. And that this is a very pragmatic agenda in which we expect progress and we have to report our actions.
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: Exactly. And then the second point which also goes to the point that you asked is, I think the question of women and poverty is the largest single unsolved part of where we've come from five years ago until now. There have been great improvements in many countries and there have been things like the Asian crisis which in fact moved many women back.
And so I think there is a renewed global commitment, certainly from the negotiations that I have been a part of -- a renewed global commitment to focus on the poverty of women and children -- and that really is the face of poverty in most countries -- and to develop the kinds of strategies that can overturn that, some of which is the international aid kind of approach that or the multilateral banks that you talked about. But some of it is national government programs as well, like micro-credit and literacy programs and so forth.
QUESTION: Most of the progress that you detailed for the United States in your remarks were either coming into place or proposed pre-Beijing or were actually enacted pre-Beijing. Correct me if I'm wrong but I'm just looking through here.
I'm wondering, did the Beijing conference actually spur anything in the United States or is the US just kind of going there and saying, look, this is what we're doing and we think you ought to be doing it as well?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Well, it's true, if you look at the action plan, that in every area we already had some things going on, there's no question about it. But I think what the interagency process did is make it much more systematic and much deeper and it moved much faster.
On issues, for instance, of fundamental poverty, we made a series of recommendations for changes in legislation. The children's health insurance plan was post-Beijing and that expanded health insurance for children beyond our Medicaid program to cover low-income workers.
QUESTION: That was also post failure of universal health care. So it was kind of actually scaling back on something that --
SECRETARY SHALALA: But again--
QUESTION: Has the US learned anything from Beijing, or is it simply a teacher?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Oh, yes, I think we learned a lot on the economics of women. And let me have Linda talk a little about micro-credit and some of our other initiatives. We actually learned some things in Beijing that allowed us to expand our micro-credit programs internally in the United States. We came back after conversations in Beijing, talking about empowering women as individuals to start their own businesses, in a way in which most of us that were domestically oriented thought of as things that you only did abroad. We had supported organizations, not individuals. Those became very interesting approaches for us.
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: I think I would certainly identify the micro-enterprise and the community development finance institutions, and the whole thrust of the domestic government as paying attention to the fact that credit has to be available in small amounts at the grassroots level in order to be successful, to help folks who want to start their own businesses move out of poverty. Certainly we've brought home the experience of the Grameen* Bank from Beijing. We all really learned that process while we were there.
Other kinds of things are the expanded role of the non-governmental community. When the Secretary said there will be 7,000 NGOs there and there were 40 or 50,000 in Beijing, the enormous energy of the women's community in helping to organize and push for progress is also extremely important. For example, the minimum wage in this country I don't think was visible as a particular problem for women, and yet 60 or 70 percent of minimum wage workers in the United States are women. What women's organizations and the NGO community did and what we learned out of this was they put the focus on the fact that you've got to think about this as a problem particularly affecting women and address it in that way, and you will then be addressing women's poverty among women workers.
SECRETARY SHALALA: We also, in some ways, empowered the NGOs in the United States because we had an integrated framework and an interagency task force holding regular meetings with the NGOs to get their feedback and to let them keep our feet to the fire, which they continue to do, as you will see over the next week. This turned out to be important in keeping the whole process moving.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- make the implementation of the Beijing declaration in Africa particularly a problem. So do you have like a particular agenda for African -- for the African woman?
SECRETARY SHALALA: We have had in my own Department, working with USAID, a specific focus on AIDS, for example, and the new life initiative will mean significant investments for AIDS is very much focused on issues that involve women and children, in particular mother-to-child transmission. And Linda might want to talk about some other --
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: I think there's two things. One is how much we've learned from Africa, for example. The Secretary noted the South African parliament is 38 percent women. You may have noticed here it's about 13 percent. In southern Africa there's been this huge increase in the number of women in public life and what that has meant in cabinets and so forth.
The second kind of thing is how much we are able to support the agenda of African women working for their own equality. And I would use land reform as the big issue. In many southern African countries, whether you can inherit land or not has been a huge issue for women. That was an issue we started to talk about, you will remember, in Beijing, and that has continued to expand to provide a stronger and stronger base for women in their own countries to be able to point to their county's adherence to this international agreement and to use that as a way to then change their own national laws.
QUESTION: Can you tell us or can you address the political question, political side of this? Aside from the Administration, do you have any support from the Republicans, from the Hill on the other side of the aisle, as it were, for the agenda?
SECRETARY SHALALA: I think that the answer is yes, we of course had in Beijing Republicans who came, and we have regularly briefed the Women's Caucus, for instance on the Hill, which is a bi-partisan caucus. I think that there is consensus about most of the elements of this agenda, and the fact that we've moved along and kept people informed is an indication of that.
But this is not a treaty in the sense that we need congressional approval to move ahead on these agendas. It is the first time that, in my memory, in which we've come back from one of these meetings and actually set up a way in which we would move our own agenda, things that we were asking other countries to do, and then report publicly on doing that.
QUESTION: Can you address the issue of violence against women?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Yes.
QUESTION: There was a study released today, I believe by UNICEF, which had some pretty startling figures in it. Can you say in the last five years where this issue is, where there has been some progress made and where progress needs to be made?
SECRETARY SHALALA: I can -- Linda may be able to address that internationally. We have expanded services in the United States through the Violence Against Women Act, which is up for renewal. The funding of battered women's shelters has increased significantly in this country. Second, the most important contribution that we've made, though, is the seamlessness of services. First, we have to make it very clear what the law is. This is the first time in this country in which the President of the United States has talked about the violence against women issue and made it very clear that this is not a personal issue in that if you went and hit someone on the street, it would be a crime. There is no difference in hitting your spouse inside your house. So we have made it very clear what the law is.
Second, when people need services and when they are identified, every state in this union is now working on a system in which if someone walks into an emergency room that assures that everything from the health services right through to other kinds of referrals that are needed, including protection, legal protections for the women is provided. We are trying to develop a system in which people are both protected and have an opportunity to protect their families and move on in their lives if that relationship is not going to work out. We've also focused on men as part of this. We've expanded working with the business community, services for business, businesses that want to have work place safety. Much of the violence against women increasingly is someone walking into their work place and shooting them or battering them. Businesses are now orienting their own workers so they know what to do if they have a fellow worker who has been battered and how to help that person. This is a very important expansion of those kinds of services. We've worked with sports organizations including the National Football League and other male sports organizations. They've done a lot of work not only with their members but with spreading information about violence against women in this country.
Do you want to talk a little internationally?
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: Yes. It's a huge issue. I haven't seen the UNICEF report that came out today but even last night when I left New York, the negotiations were around the questions of women's human rights and violence and that violence against women does violate their human rights.
This, in itself, was a concept from Beijing. I don't think it really was in international parlance prior to that time. So there is both a good story and a bad story to be told about violence.
First of all, the spotlight has made it more imperative for countries to pay attention to this issue and to work on prevention of violence. As the Secretary was saying, not just to think about the victims of violence, but how do you prevent it, how do you break the cycle, how do you prosecute the perpetrators and change the dynamic of this issue much more in a human rights context.
Also, it has put the spotlight, I think, on the practices, the institutionalized practices of violence against women that were not being talked about before: honor killings, even female genital mutilation which you talked about which is a health and a violence issue. The question of trafficking in women and children will be a major point of emphasis at this particular conference.
Those are all the manifestations of violence against women. In fact, there are countries working in a very consistent way on this and a sense of an international change from just thinking about victims to thinking about survivors and stopping the cycle of violence.
SECRETARY SHALALA: I think it is important to note that in this country, we have become increasingly sensitive to culture because many of our battered women's shelters are filled with immigrant women. Being part of an international effort, it has been important for us to understand and develop a much more sophisticated system in this country because we're dealing with waves and waves of new immigration and some of the new immigrants misunderstand what the laws are in the United States, what people's individual rights are. It's been, I think, a struggle in many communities to try to get clarity on these issues and to make sure that people are being treated fairly.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, two questions. What is it that opponents in our Senate find so offensive in CEDAW that they seem to have stalled terminally any US efforts to pass it and why are there no negotiations ongoing to look at it?
And, secondly, pardon my bastardization of the language, but will there be a Beijing-plus-10? There have been moves in Congress to de-fund these every-10-year conferences, not just the UN Conference on Women but the Housing Conference and the Population Conference. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding these conferences. So will there be -- there was, I believe, a Kenya conference 10 years before Beijing. Will there be one 10 years after Beijing?
SECRETARY SHALALA: On the Beijing question and the 10 years from now -- five years from now, I don't know the answer to that question because the Secretary General at the time of Beijing said that he wasn't sure if we were going to have another conference.
The follow-ups are as important as the big conferences from our point of view. And that is, are we holding our feet to the fire, every country in the world, reporting publicly? Is this a transparent process? The goals that we have, do they need to be adjusted every five years as we identify new issues like globalization, for example?
So Linda may have some information on planning for another conference. And I know there is some question in Congress about whether we need another huge conference. From my point of view, I think many of us find them more than useful. They focus us and we actually get to move policy that measurably improves people's lives in this country. So I think that, from the point of view of those of us that have now seen this particular series of conferences actually move agendas in the United States, they're very useful.
On the CEDAW thing, obviously this country -- the Administration is quite frustrated by our failure to be able to pass that treaty. But I am not sure that we want to get into the politics of who's opposing it and I am sure that Phil would love to answer that question.
QUESTION: Will we expect something, a plan, to come out of the next week? Or will there be some kind of report that says, this is what we've done?
SECRETARY SHALALA: There actually will be a document. There is now one on the UN web site, including the appropriate brackets in terms of what's being negotiated now. But we do expect some additional issues to be added to the document to keep the momentum going.
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: The status of the negotiations right now is we've all agreed on a political declaration which includes a review in five years but definitely did not include a 10-year conference in terms of what we have agreed on. Then we are now currently negotiating an outcomes document: What have been the obstacles? What have been the achievements? What are the trends? And then what are indeed the action steps to be taken to further implement the platform for action?
And so those negotiations are ongoing now and it's the Women Watch part of the UN web site that actually has the documents and the status of the negotiations.
QUESTION: Could I ask you on two areas where some of the conservative women's groups have had some criticisms? Going back to the CEDAW treaty, the Independent Women's Forum had an article in their current newsletter which criticizes the fact that the pro-CEDAW effort in this country seems to be more on getting this thing through and the way that it's being implemented shows that it shouldn't because the vague language of this treaty is being promoted by more radical elements. And they cite the recent order by the CEDAW Committee -- since you brought up this trafficking in women issue as a very vital component of your strategy here -- they brought up the fact that the CEDAW Committee recently instructed China to allow the language of CEDAW that talks about the right to sell one's body -- they ordered China to legalize prostitution and the prostitutes are now referred to as sex workers, connoting that prostitution is just another job.
And what I understand the conservative critics to be saying -- which I would appreciate your response on -- is that this is an example of why the US Congress should not ratify this treaty because of what the CEDAW ordered China to do and that it militates -- what they ordered China to do militates against the strategy to reduce the trafficking of women. Would you respond to that?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Do you want to do that one? I'm happy to.
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: I'm happy to do it. I have seen -- I haven't seen the publication but I have seen the story that is there. The CEDAW Committee is a committee of experts of countries that have, in fact, ratified the convention to end all discrimination against women and apparently one -- as I understand it, one line in a very long report did mention something -- I'm not sure of all the details that you raise.
Two things are very important about CEDAW. One, it is, in fact, a treaty. As you mentioned, the Beijing platform for action is not a treaty. This would be a treaty that the United States, we hope, will ratify. It is the President and the Secretary's first priority as far as a human rights treaty is concerned. And then the United States would be part of a treaty. We are now one of a handful of countries in the world -- Sudan, Afghanistan, a few other countries, Somalia -- that have not ratified this particular convention.
The second reason that it's really important is part of this setting of standards and agreements. And it deals with issues that are important in the lives of every woman and girl in the country and that's an important reason that the country should be part of this treaty.
QUESTION: If I could follow up on a question that I asked earlier? Did you want to say something?
SECRETARY SHALALA: No, go ahead.
SECRETARY SHALALA: I think Linda answered it.
QUESTION: What's the response to -- whether it's a tiny little half a sentence in a very long document, does it exist and is this something that the Administration is willing to push for?
SECRETARY SHALALA: In terms of if you're asking whether the Administration is willing to push for the line that was quoted, of course it's not.
QUESTION: The CEDAW Committee did instruct China to do this?
SECRETARY SHALALA: Pardon me?
QUESTION: The CEDAW Committee did instruct China to do this, did they not? And is that not under the CEDAW treaty?
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: The CEDAW Committee provides a report back to governments about things they should take under consideration. It doesn't tell anybody to do anything because it has no power to do so.
So the answer to your question is, no, it is not the same framework as the way the question was presented. But the CEDAW countries do provide a report to the CEDAW Committee every -- I think it's five years, of what their progress has been, similar to this report card that the Secretary talked about. And then there is a statement back from the committee of experts about women's gender equality, about what areas need attention.
So a country would receive a report and then do whatever it thought it should do within its own national sovereignty about a report that it received. But there is no power to make anybody do anything as a part of this process.
QUESTION: It's not a binding --
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: No way is it a binding --
QUESTION: Still, that seems a bit unusual. Would the United States be willing to sign onto a report that said something like that?
SECRETARY SHALALA: No.
QUESTION: No? All right.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- such a thing? And why only China? Why not any other country have any --
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: We're not part of the CEDAW Committee.
SECRETARY SHALALA: We're not part of the CEDAW Committee because we have not signed the treaty.
AMBASSADOR TARR-WHELAN: If a CEDAW expert committee sent a country that document, the country has the right to reject the document, reject the recommendations.
QUESTION: Why would they recommend such a thing in China rather than, say, in you know Peru or something?
SECRETARY SHALALA: You'll have to ask them.
QUESTION: If I could follow up --
SECRETARY SHALALA: Was that question about Fiji? What was that?
QUESTION: In fact, Phil wants you to talk about the validity of the Peruvian elections.
MR. REEKER: Final question.
QUESTION: On the single biggest accomplishment since Beijing domestically and then internationally, you pointed to some process things. And not taking away from that, because that's very difficult to do, but beyond process could you point to what you would consider to be the single biggest accomplishment domestically and the single biggest accomplishment internationally?
SECRETARY SHALALA: I think our single biggest accomplishment domestically is that American children are healthier and wealthier than they ever have been in our history. By every measure, we have reduced childhood diseases, we have increased the income of children and families in this country. And I could go through the individual programs that have done that.
In terms of internationally, if we are talking specifically about women and their families, obviously this country has had a major investment in -- through international organizations and through our US AID organizations -- in the quality of life for families and in building the infrastructure and investing in the infrastructure, in public health, for example. I think that we will, as we end polio, have one of the great public health accomplishments. The US involvement was major, both the NGO community, specifically the Lions Clubs of the United States, as well as the US Government working with WHO and with UNICEF to eliminate polio. Those are measurable results that we will have.
This is in addition to the work we've done on reproductive rights and reproductive issues around the world and our major expansion of the full life cycle of women in terms of investments. We're working on issues of aging as well as prenatal care.
Thank you very much.
MR. REEKER: On behalf of Secretary Albright, thank you again very much for that and thank you all for coming.
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