Statement at the General Debate of the Third Committee of the 75th Session of the UNGA
Ambassador Martha Pobee
Ghana Permanent Mission to the United Nations
New York City October 5, 2020
Madam Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, At the outset, permit me to extend my warmest congratulations to you on your election as the Chair of the Third Committee for the 75th Session and to the members of your Bureau. I wish to assure you of the full support and cooperation of the delegation of Ghana during this unique session. I wish to also express our appreciation to the Secretary General for the informative reports presented under the various agenda items. Ghana aligns itself with the statement delivered on behalf of the Africa Group by Egypt, as well as the Group of 77 and China by Guyana. We are gratified that despite the constraints posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are able to meet in person to consider the important agenda of the Third Committee, especially in a year that commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations and the 25th year of the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Madam Chair, The outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 marked a powerful moment in history and represented a global commitment to realizing the full potential of women and girls through the elimination of systemic and structural barriers that hinder gender equality and women’s empowerment. We commend and celebrate the successes achieved on several fronts, despite the slow pace of implementation in some areas. It is evident that daunting challenges and gaps remain, and we ran a real risk of regression in gains made, as demonstrated by the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has called attention to persisting inequalities and barriers to women’s empowerment, and the unacceptable reality of women’s continued vulnerability to violence. Ghana, therefore, welcomes the call by the Secretary-General for Member States to ensure that COVID-19 response and recovery plans address the gender impacts of the pandemic. Women must participate equally in decision-making in these efforts and must occupy a central place in national development planning to guarantee resilience and sustainability.
Madam Chair, Significant progress has been made in Ghana in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment across all 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform for Action. In fulfilment of Ghana’s commitments, successive governments in the past 25 years, have taken steps to enact legislative and constitutional instruments and to formulate corresponding national frameworks, including the National Gender Policy and its strategic plan, which together, provide a comprehensive blueprint for addressing inequalities, gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment into Ghana’s development efforts. The successes scored so far include institutional changes that have been achieved over the period; the increase in female political appointments; gender parity in education, and increase in the quality of reproductive healthcare for women, as evidenced in the steady reduction in maternal mortality. Beyond these achievements, the Government of Ghana continues to initiate and implement various social development programs and interventions that are aimed at addressing women’s vulnerabilities. Civil Society Organizations and advocacy groups have been strong partners with Government in these efforts and are helping to raise public awareness and to promote healthy national discourse and respect for the rights of women. Violence against women and girls, which is largely fueled by socio-cultural practices and beliefs, remains a critical area of concern for Ghana. The Domestic Violence Secretariat of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection continues to provide the policy guidance on steps being taken to address this phenomenon, in tandem with the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DOVVSU), which has the mandate to prevent, investigate and prosecute all cases involving domestic violence, gender-based violence and child abuse.
Madam Chair, The Government of Ghana continues to make steady progress in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. National policy interventions in several sectors have been specifically targeted to improve the lives of children and to address their developmental needs for a better future. Medical care for children at birth has improved considerably and increased to 79% over the last five years. Additionally, the Government of Ghana has made significant headway in making education accessible to all children. These efforts have led to the attainment of gender parity in education, particularly at the lower educational levels. Despite the gains made in children’s access to education, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore, other gaps such as digital divide, which must be bridged to address social inequality. The Government has announced plans to address this challenge and is for a start providing free internet and Wi-Fi access to students at the senior high school level. Ghana also remains committed to leaving no stone unturned in efforts to tackle sexual abuse of children and child trafficking, in fulfillment of our obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Eliminating harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage also remains a priority. Government recognizes that national legislation in these efforts must be complemented by social engagement and education, and is consequently, implementing appropriate strategies, including a costed National Strategic Framework on Ending Child Marriage with an operational plan; and the convening of national dialogues with major stakeholders, including traditional leaders and the media. We note with concern that the progress made in reducing the incidence of child marriage worldwide is being eroded by the negative coping strategies of poor families as a means of decreasing hardships and economic burdens, brought about by the pandemic. It is important, therefore, that targeted social interventions are directed to such vulnerable communities in response and recovery measures.
Madam Chair, Excellencies, As we celebrate 75 years of the UN’s existence, we must reaffirm our commitment to the promotion and protection of universal human rights, as one of the foundational pillars of the Organization. In view of the importance of human rights for peace, security and sustainable development, there is an even more compelling case for strengthened dialogue among Member States on measures that will help to advance accession to human rights treaties and to their speedy implementation, if we are to leave no one behind. Ghana welcomes in this regard, the recommendations contained in the report of the just ended review of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies (HRTB), which sought to strengthen and enhance the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system. We are pleased with the focus the review process placed on strengthening the independence and impartiality of treaty body members and ensuring diversity in terms of gender, geography, expertise, representation, as well as the participation of persons with disabilities.
Madam Chair, My delegation wishes to reiterate Ghana’s commitment to the promotion and respect for human rights for all persons and has over the years implemented policies and strategies to give meaning to our treaty obligations. In 2019 Ghana took steps to pass the Right to Information (RTI) bill into law (Act 989), which took effect in 2020. The RTI law, operationalizes Article 21 (1) (f) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana, which allows for all persons to have “the right to information subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a democratic society”. Implementation of this law is also in fulfillment of SDG Goal 16.10 and enables citizens to easily access information about public programs and services, while also promoting transparency in government and in fighting corruption. In conclusion, I wish to assure you Madam Chair, of Ghana’s support for the promotion of global commitment to implementation of human rights. We wish to advocate in this regard, the principles of cooperation and genuine dialogue aimed at strengthening institutional capacity of Member States to comply with their obligations. I thank you for your attention.