Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Seventieth Session of the General Assembly
Third Committee Agenda Item 27: Advancement of women
New York, 13 October 2015
The Reports of the Secretary-General on the agenda item “Advancement of women” illustrate significant positive results that lead to the promotion of women and girls. In particular, my delegation commends the progress that has been made since the start of the Millennium: hundreds of millions of women have been lifted out of poverty, maternal mortality rates have declined by almost half and more girls are receiving education than ever before.
Nevertheless, we must also recognize that women still represent a disproportionate number of the world’s disadvantaged. In both urban and rural areas, it is far more common for women to lack access to basic services, including education, health-care, and social protections. In vast areas of the world, the lack of consistent and nutritious food, clean water and sanitation services, as well as the lack of employment opportunities and decent pay, continue to undermine women’s abilities to support and protect themselves and their families.
The close to fifty conflicts raging in different parts of the world today relentlessly remind us to concentrate our efforts on the plight of women and children in violent situations. These conflicts continue to give rise to massive numbers of internally displaced persons living in horrendous situations or to refugees facing perilous journeys to escape violence. In such tragic situations, women and girls are the most vulnerable and are exposed to all sorts of abuses. Moreover, women and children who are at the hands of violent terrorist groups are undergoing the most heinous crimes.
Pope Francis, in his Address to the General Assembly, called upon national and world leaders to end as quickly as possible the phenomenon of social exclusion and the “baneful consequences” that particularly target women and girls, like “human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labor, including prostitution.”
The Holy See is pleased that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights women and men as equal agents and equal beneficiaries of sustainable development.
In this regard, the Holy See considers it opportune to note the long-standing presence and work of the Catholic Church in development efforts. Its extensive global network strives to foster economic, social, and physical development, keeping the focus on the provision of quality and affordable education and access to food, water, and sanitation services, with many programs and institutions specifically designed for women and girls. The Catholic Church manages 26 percent of health-care facilities in the world, with around 120,000 health centers mostly run by women, of which 65% are located in the developing world and in remote areas where otherwise basic health-care would not have been possible. The Catholic Church still runs more than 500 centers for people suffering from Hansen’s disease which stigmatizes particularly women who, in many societies where the condition remains a serious health concern, are still considered as having lower social status and are in worse poverty.
The Holy See is a strong proponent of the importance of women’s health and vigorously supports efforts that uphold the dignity of the human person across the lifecycle, starting from the very beginning of life at conception to its natural end.
We thus call on all levels of public authority and civil society to place women’s health at the forefront of their development agendas. Women’s health is key to sustainable development, since women are prime drivers of development and they are most often the family’s primary caregivers. Women’s health and well-being directly impact the health and nutrition of children and the entire family. In fact, who took care of us better than our mothers when as children we were ill? And to the younger ones of us here, perhaps even until now!
My delegation encourages the United Nations to recruit more women for preventive diplomacy, mediation efforts, peacekeeping missions and peacebuilding processes. Women bring specific and at times decisive contributions necessary in such critical areas, helping to foster good relations with the local communities and to build trust among parties in conflict, elements that are essential to the success of any diplomatic effort and conflict resolution.
Finally, my delegation believes that men and boys should be brought more and more into the equation, because a more acute awareness on their part of their role and responsibilities can bring about a more harmonious and enduring advancement of women and girls in all its aspects.
The Holy See remains very supportive of all efforts and initiatives that can protect the inherent dignity of women, develop their skills, enhance their role in society and help them enjoy the best quality of life possible.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
 Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, New York, 25 September 2015.