|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
774th Meeting (AM)
WOMEN’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE, OPENING THIRTY-EIGHTH SESSION,
ADOPTS AGENDA, WORK PROGRAMME
Meeting again in a single chamber following two sessions in parallel chambers to reduce a backlog of reports, the Committee mandated to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women opened its thirty-eighth session this morning, adopting its provisional agenda and organization of work.
During its three-week session, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will consider reports of eight States parties: the initial reports of Mauritania, Serbia and Syria, and the combined initial and periodic reports of Mozambique, Niger, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Vanuatu.
The Committee’s 23 expert members will also continue important work under the Convention’s Optional Protocol, which enables the Committee, upon the fulfilment of certain criteria, to undertake inquiries into possible grave or systematic violations of women’s rights. The Committee is also scheduled to meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations to hear information about the countries that are reporting at the current session.
In opening remarks, Rachel N. Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the Commission was taking place just after two major events, namely the fifty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the General Assembly’s informal thematic debate on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Commission had adopted four resolutions, including, for the first time, a resolution on ending female genital mutilation and on forced marriage of the girl child. During its informal thematic debate, the Assembly had emphasized the critical importance of the elimination of discrimination against women, including the Convention’s full implementation.
Informing members of her activities since the Committee’s last session, she noted that on 16 April 2007, the Secretary-General had presented to the Assembly his report containing comments on the recommendations put forward by the High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. He had agreed with the Panel’s proposal to consolidate and strengthen several current women’s units into one dynamic United Nations entity focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment, which should mobilize change at the global level and inspire enhanced results at the country level. Gender equality would, however, remain the responsibility of all United Nations entities.
She also welcomed to New York four colleagues from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights who would be attending the session as part of the on-going preparations for the transfer to that Office of the responsibility for servicing the Committee. She also noted with great sadness the passing on 5 February 2007 of her predecessor, Angela King, describing her as a tireless defender of the rights of women worldwide, and noting that her legacy would remain an inspiration to all.
Reporting on her activities since the last session, Committee Chairperson and expert from Croatia, Dubravka Simonovic, recalled her keynote address to the Commission on the Status of Women at the launch of its general debate on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child, following on the Committee’s recommendation from its thirty-sixth session that it contribute to the Commission’s priority themes. In that address, she had highlighted the Committee’s request to hold three annual sessions, at least one of which with parallel chambers, beyond the current biennium, as needed, in order for the Committee to efficiently execute its mandate under the Convention.
In other business, Maria Regina Tavares da Silva, expert from Portugal, presented the report of the pre-session working group for the thirty-eighth session. Christine Brautigam, Chief of the Women’s Rights Section, Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the 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.
She noted that since the Committee’s last session, the number of States parties to the Convention had remained at 185. Botswana and Argentina had become party to the Optional Protocol, bringing the total to 86 States parties. There had also been an additional acceptance to the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, namely Bangladesh, bringing the total number to 49 States.
At the outset of the meeting, the Committee observed a moment of silence in honour of Angela King, the former Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women.
The Committee’s next open meeting will be on Wednesday, 16 May, when it will consider Serbia’s initial report.
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. More information on the session, including the provisional agenda and the reports of the States parties, as well as on the Committee can be found 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).
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For information media • not an official record