Aide Memoire EXPERT GROUP MEETING ON GENDER-BASED PERSECUTION (Toronto, Canada 9-12 November 1997) I. Introduction The Division for the Advancement of Women, in collaboration with the Centre for Refugee Studies, at York University, Toronto, Canada, will host an expert group meeting on the theme of "gender-based persecution" which will take place from 9-12 November 1997. The results of the meeting will be made available to the forty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women which meets from 2-13 March in 1998 for its discussion of the critical area of concern, women and armed conflict identified in the Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. It is also anticipated that the recommendations will be of value to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and other treaty bodies, as they elaborate the obligations of States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and other treaties, to women who are affected by armed conflict and those who are refugees or internally displaced. II. Background Critical area E of the Platform for Action, "women and armed conflict" addresses several issues : the participation of women in conflict resolution and the protection of women living in situations of armed or other conflicts or under foreign occupation; the reduction of military expenditure; the promotion of non-violent forms of conflict resolution and the reduction of the incidence of human rights abuse in conflict situations; the promotion of women's contribution to fostering a culture of peace; the provision of protection; assistance and training to refugee and internally displaced women; and assistance to the women of the colonies and non-self-governing territories. A number of those issues have been considered at earlier expert group meetings hosted by the Division and other entities of the United Nations system. Issues which relate to women in conflict resolution and the peace process were considered at the Expert Group Meeting on Political Decision-making and Conflict Resolution: the Impact of Gender Difference held in Santo Domingo in October 1996. The report of this meeting will be available as a background document for this expert group meeting. The Expert Group Meeting on Refugee Women and Children was also convened by the Division in July 1990. The Expert Group Meeting on Violence against Women, convened by the Division, in collaboration with Rutgers University, in 1993 explored the notion of gender-based violence and its occurrence in a number of contexts, including in situations of conflict. In February 1996, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees convened a symposium on gender-based persecution. Several issues addressed in critical area E have yet to be addressed by the Division for the Advancement of Women. These include the protection of women in times of armed conflict, and national accountability for that protection, the reduction of the incidence of human rights abuse of women in conflict situations, and issues relevant to the situation of refugee and internally displaced women. The issues in critical area E of the Platform, in combination with paragraphs in other parts of the Platform, including critical area D, paras 121, 124(g) and 128 and I, paras 231(d) and(h) and 232(k), concern a number of broad topics. A common theme underlying these issues is gender-based persecution. This theme stems from the need to incorporate sensitivity to gender-based persecution, including rape, and other forms of sexual violence, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy into international humanitarian law as elaborated in, for example, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. The theme can also be seen in the need to mainstream gender into international human rights law and in the importance of the inclusion of gender-based persecution into the definition of international crimes subject to the adjudication of the existing Ad Hoc Tribunals and the Statute of the proposed Permanent International Criminal Court. The theme is also apparent from the Platform's insistence on the need to ensure wide acceptance of gender-based persecution as a ground for refugee status. A further example is the Platform's emphasis on the mainstreaming of gender issues, and especially the notion of gender-based persecution, into the training of police and military forces, including peace-keeping forces. III. Objectives The topics to be considered at the meeting will be: (i) The application, from a critical perspective, of international humanitarian law and international human rights standards to gender-based persecution occurring in international conflicts and civil war; (ii) The incorporation of gender-based persecution into the work of existing international criminal tribunals and the extent to which the question of gender is addressed in the proposed Permanent International Criminal Court; and (iii) Gender-based persecution as a basis for the determination of refugee status and as an issue to be considered in the protection of refugee and displaced women. The recommendations of the expert group meeting will be directed at governments, the United Nations system, intergovernmental and regional bodies and civil society. They will aim to refine and expand the "actions to be taken", both at the international and national levels, outlined in the Platform for Action. IV. Background documentation and profile of participants The basic documentation for the meeting will consist of: - papers prepared by each expert on a specific topic from her/his area of expertise; - background papers prepared by the organizers (the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University and the DAW) - papers prepared by observers. Eight to ten experts will be appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to participate in this expert group meeting. They will be chosen on the basis of their professional standing from among regional and global human rights bodies, the International Law Commission, academe and research institutions. Participants will also include practitioners and non-governmental organizations concerned with human rights, humanitarian and refugee issues. In selecting the experts, criteria of geographical and gender balance will be respected. In addition, observers from United Nations entities, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, academia and interested Governments will attend. V. Organization The meeting will be organized by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, Toronto, Canada. VI. Administrative arrangements The meeting will be conducted in English. The costs of participation of experts invited by the Secretariat will be covered by the United Nations (travel cost in economy class and daily subsistence allowance in York in accordance with United Nations standards). Logistical support will be provided by the Centre for Refugee Studies, York. All correspondence should be addressed to: Ms. Jane Connors Chief, Women's Rights Unit Division for the Advancement of Women Department of Economic and Social Affairs Two UN Plaza Room DC2-1226 New York, NY 10017 Tel: (212) 963-3162 Fax: (212) 963-3463 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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