Fair governance calls for more than a few promises.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;}.hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;}ISTANBUL - Promises on women’s rights do not translate into changes in women’s lives because too often the implementation is simply not in place, a new report found. Turkey is using new gender-sensitivity training in the curricula of the army and state organizations

Women should be included in all oversight processes and gender equality must become standard in the assessment of public performance, says a United Nations report launched at an international conference on women and governance in Istanbul this week.

Addressing existing opportunities and constraints for women around the world, 125 participants from more than 15 countries sought to raise regional awareness by sharing experiences and lessons learned. Several attendees at the Hilton Hotel told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday that they had been picking up models from presenters to build better strategies between their own governments and NGOs.

A joint event of the Turkish International Cooperation & Development Agency (TİKA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the conference will send recommendations from participants to the UNDP and governments around the world. Attendees included government officials and parliament members, NGOs, UN representatives, academics, researchers and media from around the world, particularly Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Turkey.

Who answers to women?
The report "Progress of the World’s Women 2008/2009: Who Answers to Women?" is the flagship publication of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Commitments to women’s rights do not translate into changes in women’s lives because too often the implementation is simply not in place, the report found. Women are outnumbered four to one in legislatures around the world and women still earn on average 17 percent less than men. "Gender gaps on this scale are symptomatic of an accountability crisis," said Erika Kvapilova, a UNIFEM program specialist, said in her presentation of the report on Wednesday.

The report also found that accountability mechanisms work for women when they can ask for explanations from decision makers and, when necessary, initiate an investigation or get compensation. Melanie Pine, director of the Equality Tribunal in Dublin, told the Daily News that a notable advantage for advancing the interests of women in Ireland has been attaching women’s rights to a tribunal responsible for protecting everyone from discrimination and human rights abuses.
Ireland’s broad equality legislation has been a model for other countries in Europe on issues such as allowing women to challenge hiring practices that appear to discriminate against them, a provision that is absent from the anti-discrimination portion of Turkey’s labor laws. The tribunal has a record of ordering employers to even pay restitution in some cases.

Currently used at national and sub-national levels in 95 countries, quotas and other temporary special measures are a proven means for ensuring women are included in elections as candidates. In the report’s assessment of elections held in 2007, the average representation of women was 19.3 percent in countries using some form of electoral quota, as opposed to 14.7 percent for those countries without quotas. In Afghanistan, the government recently committed to fast track the increase of women's participation in civil service at all levels to 30 percent by 2013.

Bigger than the ballot
Increasing the numbers of women in politics is not enough to ensure that the public sector responds to women's needs, the report argues. "It must be linked to gender-sensitive good governance reforms Ğ understood as inclusive, responsive, and accountable management of public affairs Ğ that increases state capacity to implement gender policies."

Leyla Çoşkun, the deputy director general on the status of women at the Prime Ministry, described new gender-sensitivity training in the curricula of the army and state organizations. But society will have to endure a long and difficult process of breaking down established values before progress on gender equality can take effect, she said. "The last step in assuring gender equality is ensuring mental transformation," she said.

Winnie Byanyima, director of the UNDP Gender Team and a former government minister in Uganda, emphasized the role of the executive branch in the economic management of women in governance. UN Joint Program Manager in Turkey, Nevin Şenol, said the Turkish prime minister and government ignore equality altogether but feel free to criticize women on reproductive issues: "Our prime minister keeps telling us to have at least three children."

Şenol then criticized Turkey’s accession process on both sides of its western border, noting that gender equality had only been given two lines of acknowledgement. Kvapilova followed, saying that everyone in Slovakia had thought the EU would magically bring equality during accession. "But we missed engaging civil society and the women’s movement in the process."