US Ambassador Briefs NGOs at UN Commission on the Status of Women

Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey, the US Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, briefed non-governmental organizations attending the Commission’s 47th session last Thursday. Sauerbrey discussed the situation in Afghanistan with the NGOs, saying that the European Union (EU) was introducing a resolution on Afghanistan but the US Mission decided not to do the same this year because “there are other countries that have women’s abuses worse or the same as in Afghanistan and it would not be fair to highlight Afghanistan as a country with huge amounts of women’s rights abuses.”

Sara Hasan Nagy, representing the Feminist Majority Foundation at the NGO meeting, asked Sauerbrey whether the resolution calls for the expansion of ISAF (International Security Assistance Forces). Sauerbrey did not know what ISAF stood for, turning to a staff member who explained that the EU resolution does not call for the much needed peacekeeping force. This comes after a United Nations report released last week entitled “The Situation of Women and Girls in Afghanistan” stated, “In the absence of an effective national force, the lack of security across the country continues to impede progress in the rehabilitation of Afghanistan and the advancement of women.”

In addition, Sauerbrey quoted the delegate from Afghanistan as stating that there are no problems in Herat for women, as detailed extensively in a recent Human Rights Watch report. Sauerbrey said that reports by HRW that women have been forced to undergo gynecological exams after being seen with unrelated men are not true.

When asked about the United States’ role in impeding the progress of international family planning programs, such as withdrawing $34 million earmarked for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), Sauerbrey stated that “there has been no decrease in family planning funding in the United States.” She added that Bush’s new Emergency Fund for AIDS does include money for family planning and condoms, though she did not provide details.

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NY Times 3/6/03; U.S. Mission to the United Nations briefing for NGOs 3/6/03; Feminist News Wire 3/5/03, 3/6/03

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