By Mario Villar
United Nations, Mar 16 (efe-epa).- The United States on Tuesday chose the United Nations as the forum in which to lay out its new policies on gender equality, with Vice President Kamala Harris committing Washington before the world body to defend democracy and women’s rights.
Harris, in her debut appearance at the UN, insisted on the direct link between the quality of a democracy and the participation of women in it and emphasized the commitment of the Joe Biden administration in this area.
“The status of women is the status of democracy,” Harris said in her first address to the UN, specifically at the 65th annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, adding that the US will work to improve both.
Her videotaped message contained much in the way of symbolism. The US never had officially commented at such a high level at the yearly UN meeting on gender equality and the first woman to occupy the country’s vice presidency decided to use the session to appear before international representatives for the first time.
Although she did not refer to the Donald Trump administration, Harris also used her address to establish distance between its policies and those of the Biden administration regarding women’s issues and also to contrast Washington’s new approach to international organizations with the four years of mutual tension under Trump.
Harris said that Washington will “revitalize” its cooperation with the UN Women’s Commission and that the Biden administration wants to work with the rest of the international community to protect women’s rights.
Regarding the participation of women in politics, the main focus of this year’s Women’s Commission meeting, Harris emphasized that Washington is making important advances, with more women than ever serving in Congress and in more leadership positions at all levels of the US government and society in general.
However, the emphasized that this progress cannot be taken for granted, above all due to the disproportionate impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is having on women.
She said that Covid-19 has threatened women’s economic security, physical security and health everywhere, adding that the crisis is destroying years of progress in many areas.
“When women face obstacles to obtaining quality health care, when women face food insecurity, when women are more likely to live in poverty, and therefore disproportionately impacted by climate change, more vulnerable to gender-based violence, and therefore disproportionately impacted by conflict,” Harris said.
“For 15 consecutive years, we have seen a troubling decline in freedom around the globe. In fact, experts believe that this past year was the worst on record for the global deterioration of democracy and freedom,” Harris said.
“So, even as we confront a global health crisis and an economic crisis, it is critical that we continue to defend democracy. To that end, the United States is strengthening our engagement with the United Nations and the broader multilateral system,” she added.
The Women’s Commission meeting began on Monday and will last until March 26, being held virtually, for the most part, due to the virus.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres emphasized on Tuesday the “devastating” effect Covid-19 is having on women’s rights and especially on women living in poverty, working in the informal economy and members of indigenous groups.