20 July 2007
General Assembly

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

Background Release




Will Consider Reports of 15 States

Parties at Thirty-Ninth Session, 23 July - 10 August

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women will observe the twenty-fifth anniversary of its work following the opening of its thirty-ninth session on Monday, 23 July.  Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, are among the speakers scheduled to address the Committee in honour of the occasion, from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conference Room 3.

The Committee is the 23-person expert body established to monitor State party compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women -- often described as the international bill of rights for women.  States parties to the Convention have legally committed themselves to take all necessary steps to end all forms of discrimination against women in any field -- whether political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other type.

For the first two weeks of its three-week session (23 July – 10 August), the Committee will engage in “constructive dialogue” with individual States parties in open sessions, which interested public and members of the media are invited to attend.  The constructive dialogues consist of interactions between Committee experts and representatives of the reporting State party, based on reports States parties are required under the Convention to submit to the Committee periodically.  The Convention was adopted in 1979, entered into force in 1981 and now has 185 States parties.

Thirty-Ninth Session

At this session, the Committee will examine the initial report of Cook Islands and the periodic reports of 14 States parties: Belize, Brazil, Estonia, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea and Singapore.

The Committee will spend most of the third week meeting in closed session to formulate the outcome of the “constructive dialogue”, its concluding comments, which are directed to individual States parties.  In the comments, the Committee recognizes progress a State has made in implementing the Convention, identifies Committee concerns about gaps in implementation or insufficient compliance with the Convention, and makes specific recommendations to be carried out by the State to achieve more complete and consistent application of the Convention, thereby enhancing women’s enjoyment of their rights in that State.

The Committee encourages wide dissemination of the concluding comments, which are posted on the Committee’s website at www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/39sess.htm following the close of each session.  The comments are also incorporated into the Committee’s annual report to the General Assembly (see document A/61/38 for last year’s report).

Optional Protocol

Eighty-eight of the Convention’s 185 States parties are also party to its Optional Protocol, which provides a complaint mechanism whereby a woman (or a group of women) living within a State party may petition the Committee when she believes her rights under the Convention have been violated.  Only after establishing a complaint’s admissibility under the terms of the Convention will the Committee consider one.  The Optional Protocol also empowers the Committee to undertake inquiries into possible grave or systematic violations of women’s rights, when certain criteria have been met.

Shadow Reports

To ensure that it is well informed, the Committee invites representatives of national and international non-governmental organizations to provide country-specific information on relevant States parties, in the form of alternative or shadow reports.   The Committee also provides an opportunity for non-governmental organizations to address it informally; during this session, on the first two Mondays, 23 and 30 July, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Conference Room 3.  More information on non-governmental organization participation can be found at www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/NGO_information_note_CEDAW.pdf.

The provisional agenda for the thirty-ninth session, which includes the schedule of meetings and background documents for the session, including the State party reports and supplemental information, can be accessed on the Internet at www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/39sess.htm, together with additional information about the Convention and the work of the Committee.

Correspondents interested in covering the session are encouraged to attend the constructive dialogue sessions.

For additional information, please contact Ellen McGuffie, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel: 212 963 0499.

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For information media • not an official record