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: firstname.lastname@example.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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