Statement of CICA Deputy Secretary General Ms. Zhang Ling
at the NAM “International Conference on Advancing the Rights and Empowerment of Women”
Dear Chair, Excellencies, NAM Member States and Observer representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by extending heartfelt congratulations to Azerbaijan for the successful conclusion of its outstanding Chairmanship in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). My best wishes go to the Republic of Uganda as it embarks on its responsibilities as the incoming Chair of NAM. Gratitude is also due to the organizers for seamlessly orchestrating this timely conference.
I proudly represent the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures (CICA), the unique pan-Asian intergovernmental forum encompassing 28 Member States that collectively cover an impressive 90% of Asia's territory and population of 4.7 billion. This population is anticipated to rise to 5.3 billion by 2050.
Asia, currently a densely populated continent with a complex political landscape, faces escalating challenges and threats, demanding our immediate attention and effective, timely solutions.
Women, often the primary responders in families, bring unique perspectives, innovative ideas and the drive to instigate change across various levels. Advancing the rights and empowerment of women in Asia is instrumental for a collective response to current and future challenges through the adoption of gender-responsive policies.
The essential CICA document outlining its mandate and areas of the Member States’cooperation is the 2004 Catalogue of Confidence Building Measures. Within this Catalogue, confidence building measures fall into five main categories: economic, environmental, human, new challenges and threats, and military-political dimension. In 2021, the CICA Council of Ministers of Affairs adopted a decision to incorporate the empowerment of women and girls into the human dimension.
CICA actively pursues women's empowerment through its various bodies and activities. CICA's advisory body, the Business Council, is responsible for promoting the development and expansion of economic cooperation in the area of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are integral to most economies, particularly in developing countries, creating jobs and fostering economic development. Globally, they account for about 90% of businesses and over 50% of global employment, providing crucial opportunities for vulnerable groups in labour markets, such as women and young people.
During the last plenary session of the CICA Business Council that took place last week in Astana, a UN Women representative was featured as a speaker. A decision was made by the Business Council to task another CICA body - the Think Tank Forum - with researching the “Involvement of women in small and medium enterprises in the CICA region,” focusing on challenges and opportunities. The CICA Business Council has also included in its 2024 agenda an item titled “Empowering women in small and medium businesses across the CICA region: an exploration of challenges, opportunities and pathways to enhance participation and success.”
Investing in education for girls has a tremendous social impact, equipping them with the socio-economic skills necessary to navigate the world. Educated girls also contribute to a stronger and more stable workforce, ultimately leading to poverty reduction.
CICA Member States have made progress in establishing the Partnership Network of Leading Universities, aiming to enhance academic collaboration, research projects, and student and teaching staff mobility. This platform has the potential to develop programmes that addressindustry needs and emerging labour trends, contributing to gender inclusiveness in education.
Women, constituting almost 43% of the global agricultural labour force, play a vital role in tacklingclimate change. Any investment in uplifting women and improving their capabilities directly impacts food security, water conservation and renewable energy—key sustainability pillars.
The recent CICA Business Forum in Astana, held back-to back with Business Council, featured presentations of investment projects in food security, renewable energy and green finance. Notably, these projects were led by women, showcasing their pivotal role in addressing global challenges.
Looking ahead, CICA will co-organize two high-level events in 2024. The Kazakh Chairmanship plans to hold the CICA Rally of Volunteer Movement Leaders in Astana, recognizing the strength and potential of youth, including girls and women. This event will bring together young leaders from Member States to exchange ideas, experiences and best practices in volunteerism and community engagement.
Additionally, the Ministerial Conference on Environmental Issues will be held in Astana in 2024 to identify environmental challenges and develop coordinated solutions under the auspices of CICA that will include gender-inclusiveness components.
I thank you.
Baku, Azerbaijan, 20-21 November