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U.S. Department of State
95/09/06 Remarks: Amb. Albright before 4th World Conf. on Women
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
September 6, 1995
REMARKS TO THE FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN
AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
U.S. PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS
Beijing International Conventional Center
September 6, 1995>
Honored guests, fellow delegates and observers, I am pleased and proud
to address this historic conference on behalf of the United States of
My government congratulates the thousands who have helped to organize
the conference, to draft the Platform for Action, to inform the world
about the subjects under discussion here and to encourage wide
participation both by governments and NGO's.
We have come here from all over the world to carry forward an age-old
struggle: the pursuit of economic and social progress for all people,
based on respect for the dignity and value of each.
We are here to promote and protect human rights and to stress that
women's rights are neither separable nor different from those of men.
We are here to stop sexual crimes and other violence against women; to
protect refugees, so many of whom are women; and to end the despicable
notion--in this era of conflicts--that rape is just another tactic of
We are here to empower women by enlarging their role in making economic
and political decisions, an idea some find radical, but which my
government believes is essential to economic and social progress around
the world; because no country can develop if half its human resources
are de-valued or repressed.
We are here because we want to strengthen families, the heart and soul
of any society. We believe that girls must be valued to the same degree
as boys. We believe, with Pope John Paul II, in the "equality of
spouses with respect to family rights". We think women and men should
be able to make informed judgments as they plan their families. And we
want to see forces that weaken families--including pornography, domestic
violence and the sexual exploitation of children--condemned and
Finally, we have come to this conference to assure for women equal
access to education and health care, to help women protect against
infection by HIV, to recognize the special needs and strengths of women
with disabilities, and to attack the root causes of poverty, in which so
many women, children and men are entrapped.
We have come to Beijing to make further progress towards each of these
goals. But real progress will depend not on what we say here, but on
what we do after we leave here. The Fourth World Conference for Women
is not about conversations; it is about commitments.
For decades, my nation has led efforts to promote equal rights for
women. Women in their varied roles--as mothers, farm laborers, factory
workers, organizers and community leaders helped build America. My
government is based on principles that recognize the right of every
person to equal rights and equal opportunity. Our laws forbid
discrimination on the basis of sex and we work hard to enforce those
laws. A rich network of nongovernmental organizations has blossomed
within our borders, reaching out to women and girls from all segments of
society, educating, counseling and advocating change.
The United States is a leader, but leaders cannot stand still. Barriers
to the equal participation of women persist in my country. The Clinton
Administration is determined to bring those barriers down.
Today, in the spirit of this conference, and in the knowledge that
concrete steps to advance the status of women are required in every
nation, I am pleased to announce the new commitments my government will
First, President Clinton will establish a White House Council on Women
to plan for the effective implementation within the United States of the
Platform for Action. That Council will build on the commitments made
today and will work every day with the nongovernmental community.
Second, in accordance with recently-approved law, the Department of
Justice will launch a six-year, $1.6 billion initiative to fight
domestic violence and other crimes against women. Funds will be used
for specialized police and prosecution units and to train police,
prosecutors and judicial personnel.
Third, our Department of Health and Human Services will lead a
comprehensive assault on threats to the health and security of women--
promoting healthy behavior, increasing awareness about AIDS,
discouraging the use of cigarettes, and striving to win the battle
against breast cancer.
And, as Mrs. Clinton made clear yesterday, the United States remains
firmly committed to the reproductive health rights gains made in Cairo.
Fourth, our Department of Labor will conduct a grassroots campaign to
improve conditions for women in the workplace. The campaign will work
with employers to develop more equitable pay and promotion policies and
to help employees balance the twin responsibilities of family and work.
Fifth, our Department of the Treasury will take new steps to promote
access to financial credit for women. Outstanding U.S. microenterprise
lending organizations will be honored through special Presidential
awards; and we will improve coordination of federal efforts to encourage
growth in this field of central importance to the economic empowerment
Sixth, the Agency for International Development will continue to lead in
promoting and recognizing the vital role of women in development.
Today, we announce important initiatives to increase women's
participation in political processes and to promote the enforcement of
women's legal rights.
There is a seventh and final commitment my country is making today.
We, the people and government of the United States of America, will
continue to speak out openly and without hesitation on behalf of the
human rights of all people.
My country is proud that, nearly a half century ago, Eleanor Roosevelt,
a former First Lady of the United States, helped draft the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. We are proud that, yesterday afternoon, in
this very hall, our current First Lady--Hillary Rodham Clinton--re-
stated with memorable eloquence our national commitment to that
The Universal Declaration reflects spiritual and moral tenets which are
central to all cultures, encompassing both the wondrous diversity that
defines us and the common humanity that binds us. It obliges each
government to strive in law and practice to protect the rights of those
under its jurisdiction. Whether a government fulfills that obligation
is a matter not simply of domestic, but of universal, concern. For it
is a founding principle of the United Nations that no government can
hide its human rights record from the world.
At the heart of the Universal Declaration is a fundamental distinction
between coercion and choice.
No woman--whether in Birmingham, Bombay, Beirut or Beijing--should be
forcibly sterilized or forced to have an abortion.
No mother should feel compelled to abandon her daughter because of a
societal preference for males.
No woman should be forced to undergo genital mutilation, or to become a
prostitute, or to enter into marriage or to have sex.
No one should be forced to remain silent for fear of religious or
political persecution, arrest, abuse or torture.
All of us should be able to exercise control over the course of our own
lives and be able to help shape the destiny of our communities and
Let us be clear. Freedom to participate in the political process of our
countries is the inalienable right of every woman and man. Deny that
right, and you deny everything.
It is unconscionable, therefore, that the right to free expression has
been called into question right here, at a conference conducted under
the auspices of the UN and whose very purpose is the free and open
discussion of women's rights.
And it is a challenge to us all that so many countries in so many parts
of the world--north, south, west and east--fall far short of the noble
objectives outlined in the Platform for Action.
Every nation, including my own, must do better and do more--to make
equal rights a fundamental principle of law; to enforce those rights and
to remove barriers to the exercise of those rights.
That is why President Clinton has made favorable action on the
Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women a top priority.
The United States should be a party to that Convention.
And it is why we will continue to seek a dialogue with governments--
here and elsewhere--that deny to their citizens the rights enumerated in
the Universal Declaration.
In preparing for this conference, I came across an old Chinese poem that
is worth recalling, especially today, as we observe the Day of the Girl-
Child. In the poem, a father says to his daughter:
We keep a dog to watch the house
A pig is useful, too,
We keep a cat to catch a mouse,
But what can we do with a girl like you?
Fellow delegates, let us make sure that question never needs to be asked
again--in China or anywhere else around the world.
Let us strive for the day when every young girl, in every village and
metropolis, can look ahead with confidence that their lives will be
valued, their individuality recognized, their rights protected and their
futures determined by their own abilities and character
Let us reject outright the forces of repression and ignorance that have
held us back; and act with the strength and optimism unity can provide.
Let us honor the legacy of the heroines, famous and unknown, who
struggled in years past to build the platform upon which we now stand.
And let us heed the instruction of our own lives. Look around this
hall, and you will see women who have reached positions of power and
authority. Go to Huairou, and you will see an explosion of energy and
intelligence devoted to every phase of this struggle. Enter any
community in any country, and you will find women insisting--often at
great risk--on their right to an equal voice and equal access to the
levers of power.
This past week, on video at the NGO Forum, Aung San Suu Kyi, said that
"it is time to apply in the arena of the world the wisdom and
experience" women have gained.
Let us all agree; it is time. It is time to turn bold talk into
It is time to unleash the full capacity for production, accomplishment
and the enrichment of life that is inherent in us--the women of the
Thank you very much.
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