Speech of the Vice Chairman of the Government of Russian Federation Mrs. Valentina I. Matvienko at the International Conference "Women and Democracy on the Verge of the New Millennium"
Mr. Prime Minister,
(Reykjavik, 8 - 10 October 1999)
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I am glad to greet all of you who came in the hospitable Reykjavik to continue the discussion on the role and place of women in the modern world, as well as their contribution into the social and economical development, creating of the civil society and extending of the democratic progress.
The present conference is unique to wide extent. First of all it is unique on a geographical scale. While consolidating countries of Europe, Russia, the one part of which is situated in Asia, and United States of America, the conference became intercontinental. The conference is uncommon on its membership as well, because it is directed on the constructive dialogue between statesmen and representatives of the civil society. At least it is aimed unexampled at the practical outcome, because it is dedicated to discussion of the concrete projects on the improvement of women's status.
All that makes our meeting in Reykjavik a significant and vital contribution to realization of the resolutions of the 4th World Women Conference and to the preparation work to "Beijing + 5". I am fully supporting the idea of the organizers of the present forum to make the meetings like this one regular in order to continue the exchange of experience and new ideas in an informal atmosphere.
While valuing the pasting XX century, we could say that it became one of the most militarist and bloody centuries during the whole modern epoch and was saturated with unprecedented social and economical shocks which ruined the lives of millions of people.
On the verge of the new millennium the mankind is facing global tasks on the preservation of peace and stability on our planet, prevention of humanitarian and ecological catastrophes, overcoming of the regional balance disproportions in the economical and social development, bridging of the social partnerships, consolidating of the democratic priorities and human rights.
Our conference is representing one more chance to declare unambiguously one more time that it is impossible to solve all these problems without women's participation. Their intellectual and mental potential is the most valuable resource to accelerate the social development. I am sure, that such features of women as initiative, courage, keenness, entrepreneurial abilities, sharp feeling of social justice, responsibility for the future of their children and namely for the future of their countries should be required by the state and society.
We in Russia are confident that the success of the democratic changes and reforms depends in many respects on the position of women and their active participation in the political and economical life. The constitutional declaration of the gender equality, active involving of women into social activities, and rising of the educational level - all these factors formed a special mentality of Russian women. Women in Russia are aiming at the equal participation at the forming of family income, combining of professional and family obligations, playing the leading role in children's education.
During the years of democratic reforms Russian women learned how to take independent decisions and to account, many of them discovered their entrepreneurial abilities and realized themselves in business. The women's social movement reached a large scale - more than 600 women's non-governmental organizations have been established in Russia. The political self-consciousness of women grew stronger - the women's electorate might be playing the key role at the coming Parliament and Presidential elections. Nevertheless, the social and economical status of women who make up the majority of the Russian population remains very difficult. Like in many other countries, women in Russia are facing such problems like poverty, unemployment, decreasing of social protection. Unfortunately we did not extirpate the gender discrimination yet, the cases of violence towards women arouse alarm in the society.
The Russian Government sees its task today in forming the social policy taking into account interests of women and their creative potential.
Already in January 1996, the Concept of Improvement of Women's Situation was adopted in Russia, and in August 1996, the National Plan on Actions towards Improvement of Women's Situation and increasing of their role in the society until 2000 was approved.
The Interdepartmental Commission on Improvement of Women's Situation is working now under my direction, and is rapidly examining the vitally problems in this sphere. Among these problems are the following - improvement of reproductive health of women, fighting against family violence, protection of labor and healthy labor conditions. The discussions on the above-mentioned problems have an outcome in working out of general approaches and coordinated activities of the Federal Executive Bodies, Russian regional executive bodies and social organizations on the problems of development and realizing of the State policy concerning women's status. Commission is securing development of social partnership relations aimed at the realization of the Constitutional right on the men and women's equality in all spheres of life.
Realizing the contribution of women to the economical and political life of our country the Russian Government makes everything possible now to soften for women the social consequences of the financial economical crisis of the last year. In spite of the difficulties with the forming of the revenues of the budget the Government found the possibility to increase the budget assignments for social programs directed to improvement of well being of teachers, medical workers and other workers of the social sphere. Women make a majority in these spheres. The Government arranged the guaranteed increasing of the pensions, which will relieve lives of elder women who are making the important part of the Russian pensioners.
At those difficult times, we in Russia are counting on the support of our reformative efforts from the side of the international community. I consider as one of the missions of the present conference the broadening of the scales of the international cooperation aimed at the improvement of women's status as well as determination of points of forces, where the international collaboration might be the most effective. Therefore, I was very much impressed by the intention of the organizers to step aside from the traditional diplomatic rhetoric and to concentrate on the working out of concrete projects while using to the maximum for their realization the potential of the bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
I hope very much that all the plans, intended during the present conference will be practically realized. As far as I am concerned, I am ready to render my assistance according to my possibilities.
I believe that the coming century will be the century of the social partnership, the century of the real social mutual consent and reconciliation. The foundation for this is laid already now during the meetings like the present conference.
Our program for the future has the single meaning. Accomplishment of the social, economical and political reforms, structural reorganization of the economy and social life should be accompanied by the creation of the society of equal rights and equal opportunities for men and women.
In conclusion I would like to express my gratitude to the Government of Island with the Prime minister Mister David Oddsson at the head, as well as to the Chairman of the Organizational Committee of the Conference Mrs. Duna Sigridur Cristmundsdottier and to all members of the Committee for the great work they have done as well as for the warm reception they extended to the Russian participants.