August 1997
                                  AIDE-MEMOIRE

                              EXPERT GROUP MEETING
                          "Promoting women's enjoyment 
                       of their economic and social rights" 


Introduction

     The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW),
jointly with the Institute for Human Rights at the Abo Akademi University
(Finland), is preparing an Expert Group Meeting on "Promoting women's
enjoyment of their economic and social rights", which is scheduled to take
place at the Institute for Human Rights, Turku, Finland, from 1-4 December
1997. 

     The Expert Group Meeting will provide substantive input to the report
on the subject of 'human rights of women' which will be submitted to the
Commission on the Status of Women at its forty-second session, 2-13 March
1998.  It will also contribute to the Commission's debate on this topic
which should lead to the elaboration of agreed conclusions aimed at the
accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for
Action in this area.  

     The Expert Group Meeting will explore a limited number of economic
and social rights of women and of the gender factors that need to be
addressed to ensure women's enjoyment of these rights, without
discrimination.  Based on work done throughout the United Nations system,
at the national level and in academia, gender aspects that influence the
enjoyment of property/ownership rights, work-related rights, and social
security rights will be assessed in a broad legal, economic and social
context.  Action-oriented proposals for further implementation of the
Platform for Action will be developed to promote the full recognition and
effective protection, application, implementation and enforcement of the
human rights of women in national law as well as national practice.  The
topic of the Expert Group Meeting is also expected to facilitate
interaction between the Commission on the Status of Women and the
Commission on Human Rights with regard to ensuring women's equal enjoyment
of their human rights, in particular those relating to economic resources
 1/.  

I.   Background 

     "Human rights of women" is one of twelve critical areas of concern
identified in the Platform for Action (Chapter IV.I).  The Commission's
consideration in 1998 of this area, as well as of three other topics that
form the theme 'Human rights of women' of the Platform ("violence against
women", Chapter IV.D, "women and armed conflict", Chapter IV.E, and "the
girl child", Chapter IV.L), coincides with the fiftieth Anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the five-year implementation
review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  
     
     The Platform reaffirmed that "the full and equal enjoyment of all
human rights and fundamental freedoms by women and girls is a priority for
Governments and the United Nations and is essential for the advancement of
women" (para. 213).  It underlined that "Governments must not only refrain
from violating the human rights of women but must work actively to promote
and protect these rights" (para 215).  It notes that "every person should
be entitled to participate in, and contribute to and enjoy, cultural,
economic, political and social development.  In many cases women and girls
suffer discrimination in the allocation of economic and social resources. 
This directly violates their economic, social and cultural rights" (para.
220).

     Although Governments are firmly committed to the indivisibility and
interdependence of all human rights, economic, social and cultural rights
remain less well understood, both in terms of their content as well as in
terms of the enabling environment that is required for their effective
realization.  Women's enjoyment of such rights is an essential element to
their empowerment, and a major responsibility for Governments.  Gender
equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women
must therefore form an inherent and integral part of all governmental
strategies to protect and promote human rights, and of development and
public policy in general.  The increasing attention to gender in the
enjoyment of human rights, including with regard to economic, social and
cultural rights, is reflected in the decisions of both the Human Rights
Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to
develop general comments in that regard.  The results of the Expert Group
Meeting might also assist in further illustrating the justiciability of
these rights, and thus be useful in the preparation of an optional protocol
to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against
Women. 


II.  Objectives

     On the basis of experience and best practices, and drawing upon
available knowledge, the Expert Group Meeting will examine the following
aspects of women's full enjoyment of their property/ownership rights, work-
related rights, and social security rights in order to make recommendations
for accelerating the implementation of the Platform for Action in these
areas and for achieving positive outcomes for women in different parts of
the world:  

     *    The legal, economic and social content of women's
property/ownership rights, work-related rights and social security rights: 
the impact of gender on the full realization of these rights. 

     *    The creation of an enabling environment for the respect for,
and the promotion, protection and fulfilment of women's property/ownership
rights, work-related rights and social security rights without
discrimination, at the national level, and through international
cooperation;  obligations of Governments in overcoming systemic and
systematic discrimination against women in the application of international
human rights instruments, in accordance with the Beijing Platform for
Action and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.     

     *    Measures to be taken by Governments and other actors to ensure
the enjoyment by women of their rights at the level of the law, policy and
programmes, and with regard to resources.  


III. Background documentation and profile of participants 
     
     The basic documentation for the meeting will consist of background
studies prepared by the organizers and papers prepared by the experts. 
Observers may prepare papers from their own perspectives if they choose to
do so.  The organizers' studies will reflect on the current state of
knowledge and practice, and will present (i) the framework for the Expert
Group Meeting's consideration of the given topics (expert consultant from
the Institute for Human Rights at the Abo Akademi University); and (ii) an
overview of United Nations' human rights activities on ensuring women's
equal enjoyment of their human rights, in particular those relating to
economic resources (joint paper DAW/Centre for Human Rights). 

     The experts' papers will examine selected aspects of women's
enjoyment of their property/ownership rights, work-related rights, and
social security rights, through case studies based on the experts'
knowledge and professional experiences.  All papers should include action-
oriented recommendations for legal measures, policy formulation, programme
development and advocacy, at the national and international levels,
addressed to the main actors responsible for promoting and protecting
women's enjoyment of their economic and social rights. 
  
     Eight to ten experts will be invited 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 treaty bodies, academia, research institutions, as well
as practitioners and representatives from non-governmental organizations in
the area of human rights/women's human rights.  In selecting the experts,
criteria of geographical and gender balance will be respected.  In
addition, observers from interested Governments, entities of the United
Nations system, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and
academia will be invited to attend.  


IV.  Organization

     The meeting will be organized jointly by the United Nations Division
for the Advancement of Women/DESA, and the Institute for Human Rights at
Abo Akademi University, Turku, Finland.  


V.   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 accordance
with United Nations standards).  Details of these arrangements will be
provided later. 


     All correspondence should be addressed to: 
     
     Ms. Christina Brautigam
     Social Affairs Officer
     Women's Rights Unit 
     United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women 
     Two UN Plaza, Room DC 2 - 1206
     New York, NY 10017
     Tel: (212) 963-0535
     Fax: (212) 963-3463
     e-mail: brautigamc@un.org



                             Notes

1/    The Economic and Social Council invited the Commission on Human Rights
to consider providing in 1998 an input to the Commission on the Status of
Women on ensuring women's equal enjoyment of their human rights, in particular
those relating to economic resources.  ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions 1996/1, para.
45.  To that end, the DAW and the Centre for Human Rights were invited to
submit a report to both Commissions in 1998 on this subject. 


    	

 


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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
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