COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN ADOPTS AGENDA, WORK PROGRAMME FOR CURRENT SESSION19990608
Committee Chairperson Reports on Inter-sessional Activities; Minister for Insurance and Social Affairs of Egypt Addresses Committee
The impact of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on States was a major one, Mervat Tallawy, Minister for Insurance and Social Affairs of Egypt and former Committee member, told the 23-member expert body this morning as it met to consider its agenda and organization of work.
She said that the Committee had made governments give more importance to implementing the rights laid out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. While that did not mean that women did not have any more difficulties, the situation had improved. The Committee had also become a reference point for the work of many non-governmental organizations.
Reporting on activities undertaken between the Committee's twentieth and twenty-first sessions, Chairperson Aida Gonzalez Martinez said that the conclusion of the Committee's general recommendation on women and health, and its inclusion in the report adopted by the Commission on the Status of Women, had been a source of great satisfaction. She also highlighted the various meetings she had attended and reported to.
Also this morning, the Committee adopted the provisional agenda and organization of work for its twenty-first session.
Agenda items on the implementation of article 21 of the Convention and ways and means of expediting the work of the Committee were introduced by the Chief of Women's Rights Unit, Division for the Advancement of Women, Jane Connors.
When the Committee meets at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 9 June, it will consider the initial report of Georgia.
Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 2 - Press Release WOM/1128 426th Meeting (AM) 8 June 1999
Committee Work Programme
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to adopt its agenda and organization of work for its twenty-first session. It was also expected to hear the report of its Chairperson on activities undertaken between the Committee's twentieth and twenty-first sessions. In addition, it would hear introductory statements, as well as discuss the composition and topics for its working groups.
Comprised of 23 experts serving in their individual capacities, the Committee monitors implementation of the Convention, often referred to as an international bill of rights for women, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 and entered into force in 1981.
(For further information on the Committee and the current session, see Press Release WOM/1125 of 4 June.)
Reporting on activities undertaken between the twentieth and twenty-first sessions of the Committee, Chairperson AIDA GONZALEZ MARTINEZ, of Mexico, said that at the conclusion of the last session, the pre-sessional working group had met to consider the reports that the Committee would be reviewing during the current session. Hanna Beate Schopp-Shilling, of Germany, was the chairperson of that group and would report to the Committee on that.
The forty-third session of the Commission on the Status of Women met in March, she said. At the same time, the working group on the draft optional protocol also met, and concluded the drafting of that optional protocol. A resolution was adopted by which the Economic and Social Council would submit to the General Assembly, at its next session, the text of the draft for adoption. In her address to the Commission, she highlighted the twentieth anniversary of the Convention and noted that much remained to be done to fully implement it.
She appealed to all Member States, who had not already done so, to ratify the Convention as soon as possible, she said. Regarding the list of States that had not yet ratified the Convention, apart from about four or five of them, most of the others had displayed a policy of systematic violations of women's rights, and human rights in general. While it would not be possible to have all of them ratify by the year 2000, she hoped that those four or five would do so.
Reporting to the Commission on the work of the Committee, she spoke about the impact of reservations on the elimination of discrimination. She also highlighted the preparation of general recommendation 24 on health, based on article 12 of the Convention, as well as the Committee's recommendation to the Department of Public Information (DPI) to convey to the information centres worldwide information about the reports the Committee would be reviewing and to transmit the Committee's comments.
She drew the Commission's attention to the fact that the Committee had a document on progress on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, she continued. Several of the Committee's recommendations were highlighted, including the inclusion of special temporary measures to expedite the elimination of discrimination. The Commission had completed its consideration of the critical area of concern on health in the Beijing Platform for Action, and considered institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women. The Committee's recommendation on health had been completed on time and was included in the report on women and health, adopted by the Commission.
She also had two meetings, one with the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Nafis Sadik, and the other with the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy. She informed them of the Committee's work, as well as proposed ways to strengthen its work with both agencies. Another issue raised was the subject of reservations. In both cases, they said they would try to reflect those concerns in their own contacts with countries.
From 26 to 28 May, she had participated in a workshop on gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system, which was inaugurated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, she added. That workshop formed part of the joint programme between the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was aimed at developing tools to make it possible for human rights mechanisms to be applied in such a way to take better account of the systematic discrimination against women. Not only was it a success, but the workshop made it possible for the various special rapporteurs to be aware of the significance of the gender perspective and how that could impact their roles.
PHILOMENA KINTU, Secretary of the Committee, then outlined the documentation before the Committee.
Introducing the agenda item on the implementation of article 21 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, JANE CONNORS, Chief of Women's Rights Unit, Division for the Advancement of Women, said that article 21 provided that the Committee may make suggestions and general recommendations based on the examination of the reports and information received from States parties. It also provided that such suggestions and recommendations should be included in the report of the Committee, together with comments from States parties. Suggestions and recommendations would then be communicated through the Secretary-General to the States parties for their comments. She said that the Committee had decided to provide opportunities to the specialists and representatives of specialized bodies to present information related to specific articles of the Convention or to issues considered for general recommendations and suggestions. At its twentieth session, which had been held in January, recommendations on women's health had been approved.
Under the same agenda item, the Committee would also take up article 22 of the Convention, which provided that the specialized agencies would be entitled to be represented during the consideration of the implementation of the provisions of the Convention falling within the scope of their activities, and that the Committee may invite the specialized agencies to submit reports on the implementation of the Convention in those areas. On several occasions, such representatives had been invited to attend pre-session working groups and to address the Committee.
Turning to the introduction of the agenda item on the ways and means of expediting the work of the Committee, Ms. CONNORS said that the Secretariat had prepared pre-session documents on the matter. The issues addressed in the report of the Secretariat before the Committee at its current session included the question of focused periodic reports, the schedule of those reports and the role of other treaty bodies. The relationship between the Committee and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women had also been addressed, as well as the work of the Commission on the Status of Women. The report contained several annexes relevant to the work of the Committee. A working paper on the matter was also available.
At its fifteenth session, the Committee had decided to continue the review of the ways and means of expediting its work, she continued, but at the sixteenth session the item had been postponed. At its twentieth session, the Committee had designated one of its members to review the draft rules of procedure and to submit her proposals to the Committee for consideration at its twenty-first session. Those proposals would probably be submitted this afternoon.
MERVAT TALLAWY, Minister for Insurance and Social Affairs of Egypt and former Committee member, said that she could not attend the meeting yesterday because she was receiving High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson in Egypt. In looking back at how the Convention was viewed 20 years ago and how it was viewed today, tremendous progress could be seen. In the beginning, sessions were only held once a year, during the winter, for two weeks. Support and resources from the Secretariat had been limited. Now, the Committee held two sessions, for three weeks each, with better support and resources. Those changes had come after a long period of struggle by the members of the Committee. Back then, representatives of the States presenting their reports had seen the Committee as the enemy. The Committee's members had changed that image over the years and now governments were beginning to respect the views and reports of the Committee. The impact of the Committee on States was a major one, she continued. Governments had become better in submitting reports and had improved the performance of their bodies dealing with women's issues. The Committee had made governments give more importance to implementing the rights laid out in the Convention. While that did not mean that women did not have any more difficulties, due to the Committee's work, the situation had improved. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had a specific role and programme within the countries. The Committee had become a reference point for the work of many NGOs. Further, governments were now cooperating with NGOs in preparing and submitting their reports.
Egypt would be holding a national conference soon on social development to make sure that social issues got their fair share of the budget and the spotlight, she added. Reform in the area of family law would soon be seen in the next session of Parliament. Concerning Egypt's reservations, work was being done with the Ministry of Justice to amend or withdraw some of those reservations.
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