06/07/2004
Press Release
WOM/1449



Committee on Elimination of                                

 Discrimination against Women                              

648th Meeting (AM)


MONITORING BODY FOR WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION


OPENS THREE-WEEK HEADQUARTERS SESSION


Adopted 25 Years Ago, ‘Bill of Rights for Women’ Now Has 177 States Parties


With two more States having ratified the Convention, bringing the total number of States parties to 177, the women’s anti-discrimination Convention ranked as number two among the core human rights treaties in terms of the number of States that had ratified or acceded to it, the Committee charged with monitoring its implementation was told at the opening of its thirty-first session this morning.


Often described as an international bill of rights for women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and entered into force on 3 September 1981.  It consists of a preamble and 30 articles, which provide a definition of discrimination against women and set up an agenda for national action to end it.


Addressing the 23-member Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this morning, Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, reported that since the Committee’s last meeting in January, Kiribati and Swaziland had, without reservations, ratified the Convention, bringing the total number of States parties to 177.  There were now 62 States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, with three additional ratifications since the last session, namely, Belarus, Belgium and Libya.  Also, two States parties -- Switzerland and Ireland -- recently decided to withdraw reservations to the Convention. 


The Division, she added, continued its efforts to hold a commemorative event during the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its adoption of the Convention.  It was looking to convene a round table on 13 October that would provide an opportunity to emphasize the commitment to universal ratification of the Convention, the Committee’s role in enhancing implementation of the Convention and stakeholders’ expectations for further progress.


Both Ms. Hannan and Committee Chairperson Ayse Feride Acar, who is also an expert from Turkey, provided updates on activities since the Committee’s February session.  Particularly noteworthy was the three-day meeting convened at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights in Utrecht, focusing on many critical aspects of the Committee’s working methods.  The Utrecht meeting, said Ms. Acar, would put the Committee on a solid path for the continuous improvement of its working methods and would ensure that the Committee considered developments in other treaty bodies.  The meeting would also ensure that the Committee moved ahead in its commitment to innovation, adaptation and change.


Suggesting that the Committee take early action to formally adopt the agreements reached at the informal meeting, she highlighted, in particular, the proposal for an extension of the Committee’s annual meeting time to minimize the time lag between States parties’ submission of reports and their consideration by the Committee.  As it would be only reasonable to bring the Committee’s meeting time up to par with that of other human rights treaty bodies, the Committee would adopt a decision seeking the Assembly’s approval of resources for additional meetings.


The Committee also adopted its agenda and programme of work for the current session, which is scheduled to last through 23 July.  It is expected to review the reports of eight States parties to the Convention, including the combined initial through third periodic reports of Angola, Latvia and Malta; the fifth periodic reports of Bangladesh, Dominican Republic and Spain; AND the second and third, and fourth and fifth periodic reports of Equatorial Guinea.  It will also consider a follow-up report by Argentina to its fifth periodic report.


Also this morning, Rosario Manalo, Chairperson of the pre-session working group for the thirty-first session, introduced that group’s report.  Christine Brautigam, Chief of the Women’s Rights Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced agenda items 5 (implementation of article 21 of the Convention) and 6 (ways and means of expediting the work of the Committee).


In other action, the Committee elected Fatima Kwaku, an expert from Nigeria, as its Rapporteur to complete the term of Christine Kapalata, an expert from the United Republic of Tanzania, who had resigned from the Committee in April to take on a new assignment with the United Nations.


The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning, 7 July, to consider Spain’s fifth periodic report.


Statements


CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, reported on several events that had taken place since the end of the thirtieth session of the Committee in January, as well as on activities of the Division and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.  The Commission on the Status of Women held its forty-eighth session from 1 to 12 March, and had considered, as part of its multi-year programme of work, two thematic issues:  “the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality” and “women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peace-building”.


Among other things, she said, the Commission adopted agreed conclusions on both those themes, and explicitly referred to the role of the Convention and women’s human rights in its agreed conclusions on women’s participation in relation to peace and conflict resolution.  In addition, the Commission, in collaboration with the Statistical Commission, held a high-level round table on the theme of gaps and challenges in measuring progress in implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly of 2000.


Both she and the Chairperson of the Committee, Ayse Feride Acar, addressed the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, held in Geneva from 15 March to 23 April.  She drew attention to a decision adopted by the Commission (decision 2004/110) by which a new special procedure was created.  The Commission decided to appoint, for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur whose mandate would focus on the human rights aspects of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.


Since the Committee’s last meeting in January, she reported that Kiribati and Swaziland had, without reservations, ratified the Convention, bringing the total number of States parties to 177.  The Convention ranked as number two among the core human rights treaties in terms of the number of States that had ratified or acceded to it.  There were now 62 States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, with three additional ratifications since the last session –- Belarus, Belgium and Libya.  There was also an additional acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, namely, Ireland, bringing the total number of acceptances to 44.  Also, two States parties, Switzerland and Ireland, recently decided to withdraw reservations to the Convention.


Among the main activities undertaken during the period February to June 2004, she highlighted the Central Asia Training Workshop on Reporting under the Convention, held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, from 12 to 14 May; a three-day judicial colloquium on the application of international human rights law at the domestic level from 17 to 19 May in Nassau, Bahamas; and a training workshop for government officials responsible for reporting under the Convention from 19 to 21 May, also in Nassau.


Turning to the preparations for the 2005 review the Commission on the Status of Women would undertake of the progress achieved in implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the Assembly’s 2000 special session, she said that Member States had been invited to provide information to the Secretariat about progress achieved.  As of today, 86 Member States had replied to the Secretariat’s questionnaire, and the Secretariat would analyse the responses to discern trends and challenges in implementation.  That analysis would cover the 12 critical areas of concern of the Platform, as well as other issues highlighted in the outcome document.  Areas of particular interest to the Committee would be information regarding the human rights of women, violence against women, and trafficking in women.


Likewise, the Division continued its efforts to hold a commemorative event during the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention by the Assembly.  It was looking to convene a round table on 13 October that would provide an opportunity to emphasize the commitment to universal ratification of the Convention, the Committee’s role in enhancing implementation of the Convention and stakeholders’ expectations for further progress.


Also reporting on recent activities, Committee Chairperson AYSE FERIDE ACAR, an expert from Turkey, said the inter-sessional period since February had been particularly busy.  In accordance with established practice, she had attended the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March.  In her statement, she had highlighted, among other things, the Committee’s adoption of general recommendation 25 on article 4.1 of the Convention, the proposal for the commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention’s adoption by the General Assembly and the Committee’s statement on the situation of women in Iraq


She said she had also participated in the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights.  While she had been able to update the Commission on the Committee’s work, due to the timing of the item and severe restrictions on her speaking time, her interaction with the Commission had not been fully satisfactory.  The question of the effective participation of the chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies in the Commission’s work constituted a major agenda item at the meeting of chairpersons of treaty bodies two weeks ago in Geneva.  The expert from Germany -– the driving force behind general recommendation 25 -– had participated in a panel discussion on affirmative action and Security Council resolution 1325.


Shortly after the Commission, she continued, an informal meeting of the Committee had been convened at the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights in Utrecht.  The three-day meeting had focused on many critical aspects of the Committee’s working methods.  The Utrecht meeting would put the Committee on a solid path for the continuous improvement of its working methods and would ensure that the Committee considered developments in other treaty bodies.  The meeting would also ensure that the Committee moved ahead in its commitment to innovation, adaptation and change so that it could continue to make a significant contribution to the Convention’s implementation at the national level.  She suggested that the Committee take early action to formally adopt the agreements reached at the informal meeting.


She highlighted, in particular, the proposal for an extension of the Committee’s annual meeting time.  That agreement had been reached in order to minimize the time lag between States parties’ submission of their reports and their consideration by the Committee, so as to ensure that the time lag did not become a disincentive for States’ timely reporting.  As it would be only reasonable to bring the Committee’s meeting time up to par with that of other human rights treaty bodies, the Committee would adopt a decision seeking approval from the Assembly of resources, so that the Committee would be able to meet for an additional week at its thirty-fourth, thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth sessions, and, starting in 2007, to grant the Committee three annual sessions of three weeks each, preceded by a pre-session working group.


Among other activities, she noted her attendance at the third Inter-Committee meeting and the sixteenth meeting of chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies from 21 to 25 June in Geneva.  Highlighting several outcomes of that meeting, she said the most anticipated item for discussion had been the Secretariat’s report with proposals for guidelines on an expanded core document and harmonized guidelines for reporting to all treaty bodies.  Following the discussion, the Inter-Committee Meeting had approved in principle the basic structure and content of the proposed common core document.  The meeting also recommended the establishment of a mechanism for further consultations on the draft.


She emphasized the importance of an in-depth discussion of the proposals and urged Committee members to carefully consider the documents.  The Inter-Committee Meeting would consider a revised set of guidelines at its 2005 session.  In addition to the expanded core document and harmonized reporting guidelines, progress had been made on several recommendations, including the procedure for dealing with situations of non-reporting.  The Inter-Committee Meeting had also recommended that the Secretariat prepare a report on the issue of reservations.


ROSARIO MANALO, Chairperson of the pre-session working group for the thirty-first session, introduced the report of the group, which had meet from 2 to 6 February.  The group had prepared lists of issues and questions with respect to the countries which would be reporting during the current session, and had transmitted the lists to the States parties.  The lists focused on themes addressed by the Convention.


CHRISTINE BRAUTIGAM, Chief of the Women’s Rights Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, noted that under item 5 of the agenda, specialized agencies of the United Nations had the opportunity to submit reports on the implementation of the Convention in areas falling under the scope of their activities.  Three agencies –- the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the International Labour Organization (ILO) -- had submitted such information.  Later this morning, the Committee would meet with representatives of specialized agencies and other bodies who wished to submit information on the States parties whose reports would be considered at the current session.


Turning to item 6 of the agenda, on the Committee’s working methods, she noted that a report on expediting the work of the Committee was before members at the current session.  The report summarized recent developments in the human rights regime and action taken by intergovernmental bodies, among other things.  It also summarized the status of overdue reports, particularly regarding the 29 States parties whose reports were more than five years overdue.


* *** *