02/07/2001
Press Release
WOM/1286



Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Twenty-fifth Session

509th Meeting (AM)


TOTAL RATIFICATION OF WOMEN’S CONVENTION BY COUNTRIES OF LATIN AMERICA,

CARIBBEAN IS WELCOMED BY ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE


During Three-Week Session, Compliance Reports of 8 States to Be Reviewed


At the opening this morning of the twenty-fifth session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the universal ratification in Latin America and the Caribbean of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was hailed as a significant achievement.


The Committee, which is to meet again on Thursday, 5 July, and which will conclude its present session on 20 July, meets twice a year to review the reports of States parties on their compliance with the Women’s Convention.  Comprising 23 experts who act in their personal capacities, the Committee will at this session consider the reports of eight States parties –- Andorra, Guinea, Singapore, Guyana, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Sweden, and Viet Nam.


The 1979 Convention requires States parties to eliminate discrimination against women in the enjoyment of all civil, political, economic and cultural rights.  In pursuit of the treaty’s goals, countries are encouraged to introduce affirmative action measures designed to promote equality between women and men and are legally bound to put its provisions into practice, and submit periodic reports on their compliance.


Also during the session, the experts are to continue their discussion of the general recommendation on article 4 of the Convention, which concerns temporary measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.  Also on the agenda is the new Optional Protocol to the Convention, which entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies.  The Protocol, operational since 22 December 2000, also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention.  (For further background information, see Press Release WOM/1285 issued on 28 June.)


Opening the session today, the Assistant Secretary-Generaland Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Angela E.V. King, reported that since the Committee’s last session, two States -- the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Mauritania -- had become parties to the Convention, thus bringing the total number of States parties to 168.  In addition, she said,

67 States from all regions of the world had signed the Optional Protocol and

22 had ratified it or acceded to it.  In particular, Azerbaijan had ratified the Optional Protocol on 1 June.


She also stressed the Division’s efforts to encourage ratification of the Convention and its Optional Protocol, as well as acceptance of the amendment to article 20, on the Committee’s schedule.  She said a panel discussion on advancing the rights of women and children through treaties would take place at Headquarters on Thursday.  Directed at achieving universal ratification of United Nations treaties relevant to the advancement of women, the panel had been organized as part of the treaty signature/ratification event, which would take place in September-October this year.  Twenty-three treaties had been singled out for special attention in that context. 


The Committee Chairperson, Charlotte Abaka of Ghana, reported on activities undertaken since the last session of the Committee, which took place from

15 January to 2 February.  She said that on 9 February, she and Committee expert Ivanka Corti had met with the Secretary-General to “throw more light” on the future work and administrative location of the Committee.  She noted the decision of the Secretary-General to keep the Committee in New York under the administration of the Division for the Advancement of Women, rather than moving it to Geneva.  That decision was in the best interest of the principle of integrating women’s rights framework into all areas and at all levels within the United Nations family.


Also this morning, the Chief of the Women’s Rights Unit, Division for the Advancement of Women, Jane Connors, reviewed progress achieved during recent sessions and introduced an item on article 21 of the Convention, which authorizes the Committee to make recommendations based on the reports of States parties.  That was the subject of Working Group II of the Committee.  She introduced a second item on ways and means of expediting the Committee’s work, which was the subject of Working Group I.  She also introduced the reports of the Committee on those items. 


The Committee is to meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 5 July, to begin its consideration of the fourth and fifth periodic reports of Sweden.


Statements


Opening the session, ANGELA E.V. KING, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, noted two major events, which had taken place in June:  the special sessions of the General Assembly on “Habitat + 5” and on HIV/AIDS.  The Commission on the Status of Women had held its session on 6-16 March.  Focusing on the thematic issues of women, the girl child and all forms of discrimination, the Commission had had the benefit of the Committee’s statement on racism, which had been adopted during its twenty-fourth session.  The agreed conclusions on gender and all forms of discrimination had been submitted to the Preparatory Committee for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.


During its resumed session in May, the Commission had taken up the issue of HIV/AIDS.  Its agreed conclusions were forwarded to the special session on that subject, which had taken place last week.  The Commission adopted five resolutions, including on the discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan, and mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all policies and programmes of the United Nations system.  It also adopted its new multi-year programme, which called for the review of several important women’s issues, including the eradication of poverty, including through the empowerment of women; a gender perspective in environmental management; access of women to the media and information and communications technologies; and women’s human rights and the elimination of violence against women and girls.


Informing the Committee’s members about her activities as Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, she listed the workshops, conferences and meetings she had recently participated in, including the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries; the Joint Inter-Agency Meeting on Women and Gender Equality/Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/ Development Assistance Committee workshop on governance, poverty reduction and gender equality; and the special sessions of the Assembly.


She said she was pleased to report that since the closing of the last session of the Committee, two States had become parties to the Convention:  the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Mauritania.  The total number of States parties had, thus, grown to 168.  Also, 67 States from all regions of the world had signed the Optional Protocol and 22 had ratified it or acceded to it, the most recent being Azerbaijan, which had ratified the Optional Protocol on 1 June. 


She said that, like the Director of the Division, she took every opportunity to encourage ratification of the Convention and its Optional Protocol, as well as acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time.  (That had so far attracted only 24 acceptances.)  A panel discussion on advancing the rights of women and children through treaties would take place at Headquarters on 5 July.  Directed at achieving universal ratification of United Nations treaties relevant to the advancement of women, it had been organized by the Office of Legal Affairs as part of the treaty signature/ratification event, which would take place in September-October this year.  Twenty-three treaties had been singled out for special attention in that context. 


Among the activities organized by the Division for the Advancement of Women in various parts of the world since the Committee’s twenty-fourth session were a subregional training workshop on the preparation of States parties’ reports (New Zealand); a regional meeting to discuss the needs assessment on national machinery for gender equality in African countries (Ethiopia); a consultation on enhancing women’s participation in peace-building (Ethiopia); and an expert group meeting on the situation of rural women within the context of globalization (Mongolia).


She described the activities planned for the current session of the Committee, and assured the experts of the full support and commitment of her Office and of the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women and her staff.  During the session, the Committee would consider the reports of eight States parties to the Convention and continue its discussion of the general recommendation on article 4.1 of the Convention, which concerns temporary measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women.  Members of the Committee would also consider the practice of human rights treaty bodies with

regard to reservations and the pattern of the experts’ concluding comments on States parties reports.


CHARLOTTE ABAKA (Ghana), Committee Chairperson, reported on activities undertaken since the last session of the Committee, held from 15 January to

2 February.  At the meeting she and Committee expert Ivanka Corti had with the Secretary-General on 9 February, she had raised the issue of giving equal opportunity to all States parties to present their reports to the Committee.  She had further stressed the fact that Geneva would create a geographical disadvantage to many States who were financially weak.  The Committee’s strategy for a closer working relationship with the Commission on the Status of Women, while maintaining the Committee’s independence, was also stressed.  Fortunately, on 9 March, the Secretary-General announced his decision to keep the Committee in New York under the administration of the Division for the Advancement of Women. 


That decision, she said, was in the best interest of the principle of integrating the women’s rights framework into all areas and at all levels within the United Nations family.  During her participation in the Women’s Commission, she delivered a brief statement concerning the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and its new Optional Protocol.  Her statement to the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva had been well received.  During a panel discussion on women and violence, she had talked about how the Convention could be used to bring global women’s rights standard to the national and community levels.  She had also urged non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women’s movements, individual women rights activists and academics to publicize the Optional Protocol and urge its ratification.  She also discussed several other activities in which she had participated, including, most recently, the meeting of chairpersons.


[The Optional Protocol, which entered into force on 22 December 2000, entitles the Committee to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted national remedies.  It also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention.  As of

31 May, there were 21 States parties to the Optional Protocol.]


Several experts expressed their appreciation for the opening remarks made by Ms. King and the update provided by Ms. Abaka.  They also applauded the universal ratification of the Convention in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In that connection, they highlighted the support of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the positive role that had been played by NGOs at regional meetings and seminars.


Ms. KING added that many of the ratifications were due to the persistence of the specialized agencies on the ground.  Particularly active in that respect were the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UNIFEM and the International Labour Organization (ILO).  The Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC) inter-agency committee on women’s equality also provided assistance to the new States parties.


The Chairperson, speaking on behalf of the expert Committee, expressed her condolences to Ms. Corti on the death of her husband.