10 August 2007
General Assembly

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

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

809th Meeting (AM)



Expert Committee Examines Implementation of Women’s Convention by 15 States

Parties, Asks General Assembly to Extend Meeting Time to Reduce Reporting Backlog

Wrapping up its last session to be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York before moving to Geneva, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women this afternoon recommended actions for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in 15 countries, and adopted its draft report.

In the report on its thirty-ninth session, which marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of its work as the “watchdog” of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Committee’s experts made recommendations on the initial national report of the Cook Islands and the periodic reports of Belize, Brazil, Estonia, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea and Singapore.

During the session, presentations by the countries were measured against the provisions of the Convention, often called the “international bill of rights for women” because it sets a framework for national action in the fields of education, politics, health care, economics, employment and property, as well as marriage and family relations.  Acting in their personal capacities, the Committee’s 23 expert members monitor compliance with the treaty.

States parties to the Convention are obligated to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations.  During the just concluded session, the Committee met in parallel chambers, as it had for the past several sessions, in order to reduce the backlog of the country reports before it.

Besides examining national reports, which began on 23 August, the experts also took action on three cases under the Optional Protocol, which allows the Committee to hear complaints from individuals or groups.  They also continued consideration of the draft general recommendations on migrant women and on article 2 of the Convention concerning measures against discrimination.  The results of the sixth Inter-Committee Meeting and Meeting of Chairpersons were also reviewed.

During consideration of States parties’ reports, members discussed a broad range of issues, including customary laws and traditional practices; prostitution and trafficking in human beings; women’s participation in economic and political decision-making; rural women and migrant women’s rights.  Time was also devoted to consideration of the Committee’s working methods.

Along with the adoption today of the draft report of the session, the Committee adopted the draft report of the working group of the whole, as amended, and the provisional agenda for its fortieth session.  Mary Shanthi Dairiam, expert from Malaysia and Rapporteur of the Committee, introduced the reports.

The report of the session contained a draft decision pertaining to a request of the General Assembly to extend the Committee’s meeting time.  Committee Chairperson, Dubravka Šimonović of Croatia, said that the Committee wished to put on record that the basis for calculating the extra costs implied in the request be reviewed to ensure that they were, indeed, in line with the actual requirements, and to make sure that the parameters used in the calculations were clear.

In concluding remarks, Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, emphasized the high level of attention to the experts’ work among the reporting States, which created momentum for further progress in promoting gender equality.  That had been aided by the strong attendance at the session by non-governmental organizations.

She said that the Committee had already met informally with States parties and exchanged views on its working methods, given the backlog of reports and the broad acceptance of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.  In that light, she looked forward to the General Assembly’s positive consideration of the Committee’s request to meet annually for three sessions.

She was heartened by the avid interest the Committee had shown in the United Nations reform processes as they pertained to gender equality and empowerment of women, she added.  She trusted that Member States would agree that there was indeed a need for a much stronger voice on women’s issues, which should be given the priority they deserved throughout the United Nations system.

Noting that this was the last time that the Committee would be serviced by the Division for the Advancement of Women, she expressed appreciation for the staff of that unit, and confidence that the Committee would be “in excellent hands” in the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In closing, Chairperson Šimonović said that the session had been especially remarkable for the enormous workload it had shouldered.  That had included the participation, in the anniversary celebrations, of the General Assembly President and the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Congratulating the States parties for engaging in “excellent constructive dialogue”, she said all of them had sent delegations from their capitals, with many headed by senior-level Government officials.  That had enabled the Committee to examine in great detail the current status of implementation and recommend how the Convention could form the basis for further efforts aimed at achieving gender equality.

For the Committee, she said that upcoming challenges included creating sustainable ways of dealing with the workload, strengthening its impact on the wider international human rights machinery in areas of common interest with other treaty bodies and transferring responsibilities to the High Commissioner of Human Rights.

Vice-Chairpersons of the Committee are Françoise Gaspard of France, Glenda P. Simms of Jamaica and Naela Mohamed Gabr of Egypt.

The Committee’s other expert members are Ferdous Ara Begum (Bangladesh), Magalys Arocha Dominguez (Cuba), Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdani (Algeria), Saisuree Chutikul (Thailand), Dorcas Coker-Appiah (Ghana), Cornelis Flinterman (Netherlands), (Vice-Chairperson) (Egypt) 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), Anamah Tan (Singapore), Maria Regina Tavares da Silva (Portugal) and Zou Xiaoqiao (China).

The next session of the Committee will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, in January 2008.

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For information media • not an official record