2 February 2007
General Assembly
WOM/1605

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

773rd Meeting (PM)


COMMITTEE TO ELIMINATE DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN CONCLUDES CURRENT SESSION


Committee Scheduled to Meet Next in May, August 2007


In the past three weeks, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women had considered implementation of the Women’s Convention in a diverse group of countries with a broad range of challenges, including India, with a population of over one billion in an entire sub-continent, and the Maldives, with some 360,000 people on a group of islands, Dubravka Šimonović, the Committee’s Chairperson and expert from Croatia, said as the Committee concluded its thirty-seventh session this afternoon.


Meeting for the second time in two parallel chambers in an effort to reduce a backlog in reports, the Committee had considered the periodic reports of Austria, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Greece, India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Namibia, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Suriname and Viet Nam, and an initial report by Tajikistan.


The Committee had been impressed by the significant number of new laws adopted by several reporting States, Ms. Šimonović said.  It had also been able to assess the scope and content of gender equality policies or gender perspectives in national development policies that were significant vehicles for promotion of gender equality.  Experts had heard about programmes and activities to improve women’s access to health, education and economic opportunities, to full and equal participation in public life and decision-making and to protection from all forms of violence.  The Committee also encouraged all reporting States to strengthen consultation with women’s non-governmental organizations in the follow-up to its concluding comments.


Such progress, however, was not yet as consistent and systemic and the Committee would like it to be, she said.  The challenges included gaps in implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of progress were insufficient.  The impact of laws, policies and programmes was not consistently assessed.  There were also weaknesses in the institutional mechanisms responsible for promoting gender equality, which related to a lack of resources and capacity, limited power and authority, or a mandate that was too limited to allow for real and consistent change. 


She said the experts had also noted repeated change in institutional structures, the broadening of mandates to encompass different forms of discrimination and multiple structures for different tasks or levels.  Such diversity could become a concern if it led to weakening in visibility, authority and dedicated resources required to bring about lasting change for women.  The experts had also pointed to the persistence of negative stereotypes and had noted that, in several States, women’s share of elected positions had dropped.  She expressed concern that the situation regarding women’s participation at local and municipal levels was frequently unsatisfactory.


Turning to the Committee’s working methods, she said the Committee had also taken a critical look at its own performance and would take those lessons to the August session, when it would again work in chambers.  The new working method also gave it an opportunity to engage more actively with those States parties that had not submitted their initial reports, although some had ratified the Convention as far back as 25 years.  The Committee had decided to invite four States parties to submit their reports by March 2008.  Should those reports not be submitted, the experts would proceed with consideration of the Convention’s implementation in the absence of a report. 


Regarding the transfer of the servicing of the Committee to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, she said that the Committee had proposed that current arrangements pertaining to the dates of its sessions in May and August this year as well as the location and servicing would remain in place and looked forward to the new arrangements in 2008.


In a closing statement, Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the Committee had once again shown its commitment to discharge the responsibilities entrusted to it under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Optional Protocol.  During the constructive dialogue with States parties, experts had probed carefully and conscientiously to obtain a precise picture of the status of the Convention’s implementation in those countries.  The Committee’s many diverse and sometimes difficult questions not only reflected its detailed knowledge, but also provided a framework for the Convention’s better implementation at the domestic level. 


The Committee’s concluding comments now provided a solid base for further work by States parties, she said.  The attendance of a large number of non-governmental organizations had once again made a significant contribution to the Committee’s work.  She welcomed also the Committee’s continuing attention to enhancing its work methods in chambers under article 18 of the Convention.  While the Committee’s evaluation of that experience had been positive, it had also identified areas for continuing improvement. 


Carolyn Hannan, Director, Division for the Advancement of Women, congratulated the Committee on the further significant reduction in the backlog of reports.  While it was only the second time the Committee had meet in chambers, that working method had been effectively established with very positive outcomes.  The Committee’s work and the significant public attention it generated at the national level highlighted the obligations of States for action to enhance compliance with the Convention and served as an increasingly visible and effective catalyst for change.  


The Committee’s report, which was adopted, as amended, this afternoon, also contains the provisional agenda for the thirty-eighth session.


Status of Convention, Protocol


To date, 185 countries, or more than 90 per cent of the United Nations membership, have ratified the Convention, which sets a framework for national action to assure fundamental rights for women in education, politics, health care, economics, employment, property and marriage and family relations. 


With Colombia’s ratification of the 1990 Optional Protocol on 23 January, 84 countries have ratified that instrument, under which the Committee could receive complaints from individuals or groups regarding violations of rights protected under the Convention, and initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. 


Committee Membership


Current members of the Committee are as follows:  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) and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).


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For information media • not an official record