|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Women 2000: Beijing Plus Five
June 8, 2000, New York, New York
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. President Gurirab, special guests, sister delegates and observers, on behalf of the United States of America, I am honored to address this landmark General Assembly session. And I am also delighted to have the opportunity to follow the Foreign Minister of Mongolia, who is part of a small but growing group of women foreign ministers. There are now 14 of us.
I congratulate all who helped to organize this week's events, and all who have labored to transform the powerful promise of the Beijing Conference into the reality of a richer, fuller and fairer life for women and girls.
Our movement to recognize and support women's rights is one of the most revolutionary and uplifting forces now shaping the world. It is liberating individuals and strengthening families from remote villages to our largest cities. And it is still young, still blossoming, still only beginning to spread the good news of opportunity and equality for women.
This historic meeting marks another milestone in our long journey upward to justice; it enables us to assess gains made during the past five years; and obliges us to chart a path that will lead to ever-more rapid progress in the new century.
I am proud that I had the opportunity to join many of you at the Beijing Conference and also at Huairou; and proud to have accompanied America's First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose very presence in Beijing made a statement, and whose statement there made history.
It is no longer possible, after Beijing, to deny that women's rights are human rights, and are indivisible from the universal rights of every human being.
It is no longer possible, after Beijing, to conceive of development separate from the advancement of women, because no society can move ahead if half its population is held back.
It is no longer possible, after Beijing, to argue that abuses against women are merely cultural and that there is nothing any of us can do about them. Because when a woman is raped, beaten, or mutilated, it is not cultural; it is criminal.
And no government, after Beijing, can deny its responsibility to stop these crimes.
The call that went forth from Beijing was a call to action, and the United States has responded. Coordinated by President Clinton's Interagency Council on Women, and in partnership with NGOs, we have moved forward as a team to fulfill the commitments we have made.
For example, our Department of Health and Human Services has made new investments in the early detection and treatment of breast and cervical cancer; launched a National Women's Health Clearinghouse; and waged war on HIV-AIDS.
The Department of Labor has strengthened our policies on family leave, increased our investments in child care, helped millions of women to find good jobs, and encouraged employers across America to provide equal pay for equal work.
The Treasury Department has expanded small business and microenterprise credit, thereby helping women-owned businesses to grow in number twice as fast as those overall.
The Justice Department has combined tough new laws against domestic abuse with assistance to states and localities to help victims and prevent crimes. And we have established a 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline, which provides crisis intervention, counseling and referrals in every hour of the day in every part of our country.
We have also intensified efforts to gain approval from our Senate of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Some Senators would like us to give up. But we will not.
Because there is no doubt -- weariness in a cause that is just. Have no doubt, we will be back again and again until this Convention becomes the law of our land.
Finally, in the State Department, we have placed efforts to advance the status of women and girls right where they belong -- in the mainstream of American foreign policy.
Through the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, we are mobilizing public and private sector resources, and bringing women from around the world together to exchange knowledge and achieve results -- in support of freedom, prosperity and peace.
Through USAID, we are helping women bring down the barriers to political participation as advocates and voters, legislators and leaders. We are backing projects that enhance economic opportunity through greater access to credit, education, and comprehensive health care.
We know that when women are able to make our own decisions, whole societies benefit, which is why our contributions to international family planning help to ease economic hardships, save women's lives, reduce the number of abortions, and enable children to grow up healthy and strong.
We have also launched a major diplomatic and law enforcement initiative to halt trafficking in human beings. This rapidly growing criminal enterprise has gone global, distorting economies, degrading societies, endangering neighborhoods and robbing millions, mostly women and children, of their dreams.
The Clinton-Gore Administration is joining with others in an effort to stop this deadly traffic cold. Domestically, we are working with Congress to enact a strong new law that will punish perpetrators more effectively and protect and care for victims more thoroughly.
Overseas, we are forging partnerships on every continent to share information, coordinate legal actions, and find and close criminal networks.
And this morning, I invite everyone here to join in a multi-year, multi-national effort to win the fight against trafficking. If we are divided, we have no hope, but together, we will prevail. And what a gift to the future that will be.
Five months ago, we crossed the threshold into a new century, amidst celebration, but also determination. For it is not enough to look back at how far we have come. Too many of our sisters still live surrounded by the four walls of poverty and exploitation, discrimination and conflict.
Together, we must strive to see that the benefits of globalization are shared not just by some people in some countries, but by all people in every country.
As Hillary Clinton said on Monday, "When it comes to women, globalization should not mean marginalization."
Accordingly, we must redouble our efforts to make education and training in 21st Century skills more available so that poverty retreats and opportunity spreads around the equator and from pole to pole.
We must also learn more about the positive and negative impacts of globalization and trade on the lives of women. Because we don't know as much as we should and, unless we learn more, we will not be doing as much as we should to ensure that trade works for all people.
In recent years, I have had the privilege of meeting women from every corner of the world who are championing greater freedom, broader opportunity, better health, more fairness, and other planks in the Beijing Platform for Action.
Some of these women have been beaten back, beaten down, beaten up, but they have never been defeated because their pride is too strong, and their faith in our shared cause is unshatterable.
The women's movement has flourished because of the underlying power of its central premise, which is that every individual counts. Each of us should have the knowledge and power to make our own decisions. We may make different choices about how to live, where to work, and even what to wear, but we must all have the right to decide.
Because our movement is not about making each woman the same. It is about recognizing and appreciating women's diversity, and about treating each individual fairly. This principle is the magnet that has brought us together across the boundaries of ethnicity and vocation, generation and gender.
And it is the power of this principle that enables us to envision the day when every girl, everywhere, will be able to look ahead with confidence that her life will be valued, her individuality respected, her rights protected and her future determined solely by her own ability and character.
This is the goal we set in Beijing five years ago. That is our purpose here in New York this week. And that is our mission that will lift our spirits, guide our actions, and unite our efforts in countries across the globe for many years to come.
Thank you all very much for all we can do together.
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