|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
756th Meeting (AM)
United Nations committee monitoring compliance with women’s
anti-discrimination treaty opens current session
To Consider Austria, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Greece, India, Kazakhstan,
Maldives Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Suriname, Tajikistan, Viet Nam
As it adopted its agenda and work programme at the outset of its three-week session this morning, the Committee mandated to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women agreed to continue its newly adopted practice of considering reports of States parties in two parallel chambers, to reduce the backlog.
During its thirty-seventh session, the 23-member Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is scheduled to take up reports of 15 States parties, namely the initial report of Tajikistan, and the periodic reports of Austria, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Greece, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Suriname and Viet Nam.
Experts will also continue important work under the Optional Protocol to the Convention regarding the petition and inquiry procedures and continue their work on general recommendations on migrant women, and on article two of the Convention. The Committee will meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations to hear information about the countries that are reporting at the current session, and is scheduled to meet with representatives of the United Nations system later this morning and again on 22 January.
In her opening remarks, Rachel Mayanja, Assistant Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that the tenure of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had started very auspiciously for women: of the five appointments he had made so far, three were women, one of them a former member of the Committee. The Secretary-General had thus signalled right at the outset his commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women and his readiness to place women in key high-level positions, as called for under articles 7 and 8 of the Convention.
Although the target of universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 set out in Beijing had not yet been achieved, further progress had been made in the ratification of both the Convention and its Optional Protocol. Since the last session, the Cook Islands and Montenegro had ratified the Convention, bringing the total number of States parties to 185. Four Member States -- Armenia, Bulgaria, Montenegro, and the Republic of Korea -- had become party to the Optional Protocol, bringing the total to 83.
Addressing issues pertinent to the work of the Committee, she noted that the Secretary-General’s study on violence against women had been launched last October. That study had been prepared with the participation of two experts from the Committee, who had served on its Advisory Committee. In November, the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on system-wide coherence had reviewed, among other things, the contribution of the United Nations to achieving gender equality and had made recommendations on how gender equality perspectives could be better integrated into the work of the Organization. Having reviewed the gender architecture, the Panel had made a proposal for the establishment of one dynamic entity focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment, to be headed by an Executive Director with the rank of Under-Secretary-General. Also, of particular interest to the Committee was the decision to transfer the responsibility of servicing that treaty body to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, said the year 2006 had ended with many important developments pertaining to the United Nations work in the field of gender equality in general and in the Committee’s work in particular. The Secretary-General’s decision to transfer the servicing of the Committee to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from the Division for the Advancement of Women constituted a significant change in the institutional framework for the promotion of gender equality in the United Nations.
Highlighting other achievements, she said the question of violence against women had received the General Assembly’s priority attention during its sixty-first session, based on the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women. In its resolution on the topic, the Assembly had taken note with appreciation of the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and presented a series of recommendations for action by different stakeholders. As a result of the study, the commitment of Governments, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations system to comprehensively address all forms and manifestations of violence against women had never been stronger. The Division had implemented several technical assistance activities to strengthen Governments’ capacity to implement the Convention, including a high-level expert dialogue with the Afghan Government in August 2006. As a result of the Committee’s successful work with Sierra Leone’s Government, that country had submitted its combined initial through fifth periodic reports in December.
Also this morning, the Committee elected Dubravka Šimonović as its Chairperson. Naela Mohamed Gabr, Françoise Gaspard and Glenda P. Simms were elected as its Vice-Chairpersons, and Mary Shanthi Dairiam became the Committee’s Rapporteur.
The Committee welcomed its five new members and paid tribute to the outgoing Chairperson, Rosario Manalo from the Philippines. Ms. Manalo’s last report to the Committee was presented by Ms. Shanti Dairiam, who also transmitted the outgoing Chairperson’s appreciation to the members of the Committee for their support and cooperation during her eight years as an expert and two years as a Chairperson of the Committee.
In other business, Dorcas Coker-Appiah presented a report of the Committee’s pre-session working group. Christine Brautigam, Chief of the Women’s Rights Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced agenda items on ways to expedite the Committee’s work and the implementation of article 21 of the Convention, which provides that the Committee may make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of the reports and information received from States parties. It also provides that such suggestions and general recommendations should be included in the report of the Committee, together with comments, if any, from States parties.
The Committee will take up reports of Kazakhstan and Poland in parallel chambers tomorrow.
For the first two weeks, the Committee interacts with each State individually in a process called “constructive dialogue”, which is open to the public. Having studied the reports of States parties prior to the session and submitted written questions and concerns to them, the Committee uses the constructive dialogue to recognize progress a State has made in implementing the Convention’s provisions; enumerate its concerns about a State’s lack of, or insufficient compliance with those provisions; and suggest and recommend measures, initiatives and approaches to achieve more complete and consistent application of Convention principles at the national level, and thus enhanced enjoyment by women of their rights. Correspondents interested in covering the session are encouraged to attend the constructive dialogue sessions.
The Committee spends the third week of the session in closed meetings, when it completes its “concluding comments” -– the outcome of the constructive dialogue with the States parties -- and deals with other responsibilities emanating from its mandates under the Convention and the Optional Protocol to the Convention. The concluding comments are posted on the Committee’s website at www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw shortly after close of the session and incorporated into the Committee’s annual report to the General Assembly (see document A/61/38 for last year’s report).
The provisional agenda, including the schedule of meetings, and other background documents for the thirty-seventh session, including the reports of the 15 States parties and information on the Committee, can be found online at www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/37sess.htm.
Composition of Committee
Following is a list of current members of the Committee: Ferdous Ara Begum (Bangladesh), Magalys Arocha Dominguez (Cuba), Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Dorcas Coker-Appiah (Ghana), Mary Shanthi Dairiam (Malaysia), Cornelis Flinterman (Netherlands), Naela Mohamed Gabr (Egypt), Françoise Gaspard (France), Hazel Gumede Shelton (South Africa), Ruth Halperin-Kaddari (Israel), Tiziana Maiolo (Italy), Violeta Neubauer (Slovenia), Pramila Patten (Mauritius), Silvia Pimentel (Brazil), Fumiko Saiga (Japan), Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling (Germany), Heisoo Shin (Republic of Korea), Glenda P. Simms (Jamaica), Dubravka Šimonović (Croatia), Anamah Tan (Singapore), Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal), Zou Xiaoqiao (China).
* *** *For information media • not an official record