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Statement by Irene Santiago, Executive Director, NGO Forum on Women

Like all of you, hundreds of thousands of women around the world are waiting to hear the United Nation' response to our request for help in negotiating with the Chinese government to secure a suitable site for the NGO Forum on Women. We have received a letter from our NGO counterpart in China, the All China Women's Federation, which I believe most of you have seen. We have not received a response from the Chinese Government and I regret to inform you that as of this meeting, we have not received an official written response from the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations. Late yesterday afternoon however, a member of the Secretary General's staff called "requesting 1 or 2 more days" of additional time to continue discussions with China. In a letter yesterday to the Advisory Group to the Secretary General on the UN Women's Conference, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali said: "I have been engaged for several weeks in quiet diplomacy to try and find a solution... I cannot be more specific at this stage, but I can assure you that I am making every effort to reach a solution acceptable to all concerned."

So far, this "quiet diplomacy" that we understand is being employed at the United Nations is, in fact, so quiet that the world's women can't hear it.

We are grateful to the many governments who are supportive of our efforts to secure a site for the Forum. They have all demonstrated their commitment to women in their actions and their words. We will continue to get commitments from more governments.

We are not calling for a boycott. The NGO Forum belongs to the world's women. It is our meeting. Our voices must be heard. Therefore, we are continuing negotiations with the United Nations and the Chinese government. We all share the goal of a successful UN Conference and NGO Forum on Women.

The world's women want access, openness and the inclusion of all women who have registered. The decisions we have made thus far have been through a democratic process. This will continue. Based on the information we currently have as well as the request from the Secretary General's office for additional time, the Facilitating Committee of the NGO Forum will meet by teleconference early next week to discuss options.

This is not just a women's issue; it's not just an NGO issue. The integrity of the United Nations is at stake. As the UN prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it must not fail to properly represent 50 percent of the world's citizens.