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February 18, 1998

With the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) marking it 70th anniversary today, February 18, the assistant secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Christopher R. Thomas, has hailed the specialized agency's longstanding advocacy for the hemisphere's women.

"The architects of this extraordinary invention--the Commission--were women who realized that they needed official international authority to have more leverage before their government," the OAS official declared as he addressed the protocolary session of the OAS Permanent Council this morning, to mark the CIM milestone.

Speaking to delegates from the OAS member and observer countries who have gathered in Washington for CIM's consultation meeting that opened Tuesday, Ambassador Thomas praised the accomplishments of the Commission, citing such historic efforts as the 1933 Convention on the Nationality of Women and the Convention on Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women, the latter adopted in 1995.

"CIM has been in the vanguard of women's movements," said Ambassador Thomas, reiterating his assertion that with women making up more than 50 per cent of the hemisphere's population, the countries can only advance politically, socially and economically when women become more involved in their communities and become more aware of their rights.

The Council session was chaired by the permanent representative of Uruguay to the OAS, Ambassador Antonio Mercader, vice chairman of the Permanent Council who acted for the chairman, Ambassador Albert Ramdin of Suriname.

Ambassador Mercader, while admitting that gains had been made by women, lamented the consequences of what he termed "the isolation and marginalization of previous periods." He also insisted that the agency should be given more resources to properly fulfill its mission.

For her part, the president of CIM, Paraguay's Principal Delegate Cristina Muņoz, said the OAS recognition to CIM in the form of the special Council sitting has emboldened "our spirit to continue working for equal opportunity for women." Equality for women, she stated, was a "basic condition for democracy and development in our countries."

She added that a proper understanding was needed of the fact that gender issues touch on all facets of public and private life for women, but also for people in general.

Peru's OAS ambassador, Beatriz Ramacciotti, coordinator for the topic of "The Status of Women in the Americas," also addressed the session. She focussed her presentation on the trail- blazing work that CIM has been undertaking since its founding but pointed out, however, that the agency needed to coordinate more with other institutions involved in similar endeavors.

A resolution was also read that the Council had passed recognizing the CIM milestone, and Tuesday evening, the assistant secretary general opened an exhibition at the OAS featuring paintings by four women. The CIM president also presented Ambassador Thomas with a copy of the publication "Historia de la CIM: 1928-1997" (History of CIM: 1928-1997) which was launched during the exhibition launch.

An important part of the week's meeting has been consideration of a working document dealing with women's participation in the power structure and decision-making.

The delegates arriving from the 34 OAS member countries will end their consultation Thursday, and the executive committee will then meet on Friday. Before concluding, their meeting, the delegates will adopt a set of recommendations that are to be put to CIM's twenty- ninth Assembly of Delegates next November.

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