2 February 2001


Press Briefing


The excitement of the recently adopted Optional Protocol to the major key women's rights convention had permeated the entire three-week session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a high-level United Nations official told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this morning.

At the conclusion of its twenty-fourth session, the Committee would be formally adopting rules of procedure for the new Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  The Protocol, which was adopted on 22 December 2000, gives women the right to petition the Committee directly only after exhausting all national remedies.

Angela King, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said the Committee was at a very exciting period in its 19-year history.  Although it was the twenty-first session, it was the first session since the Optional Protocol had come into force.  She hoped that the media would keep an eye on the development of the complaint procedures because it was very important that women be aware of them.

Attention to the issue of women's rights had grown, she said, largely due to this Committee and to this Convention.  One hundred sixty-six States had ratified the Convention, which made it the second most universal after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Ms. King said discussion had been greatly enriched by inputs from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and from the United Nations agencies on the ground, such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Joining Ms. King at the press conference were Committee Chairperson Charlotte Abaka of Ghana and Vice-Chairperson Ayse Feride Acar of Turkey.

Ms. Abaka said that, although the eight countries that had been examined by the Committee all had varied interests, there were some common concerns.  The issue of HIV/AIDS and its impact on women was devastating, as was the stereotypical roles of men and women in the family.  She had noticed a widespread resurgence in the patriarchal movement, which severely impeded the implementation of the Convention.

[During its session, the Committee considered the reports of Burundi, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Finland, Jamaica, and Maldives.]

She was particularly impressed that Burundi had been able to submit a report, considering the difficult situation that country was undergoing.  The dialogue between the Committee and the delegation had been useful in trying to fashion how Burundi could be helped to address its alarming rate of HIV/AIDS.  The Committee also encouraged the participation of women in peace talks and in the rehabilitation of the country.

Three of the countries reporting for the first time, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia, all had problems of unemployment of women and of the serious resurgence of patriarchal attitudes.  The health of women in those countries suffered tremendously due to governments overemphasizing the role of women as mother and encouraging women to have more children.

Ms. Acar added that she had been very encouraged by the participation of NGOs from these post-communist societies.  Women's NGOs were really coming along in the countries in transition, and the work they did in the promotion and protection of women's human rights, in cooperation with United Nations agencies, was really significant.

Aside from reviewing the reports, Ms. Acar said another focus of the session had been the preparation of the Committee's contribution to the upcoming World Conference against Racism, which would take place in Durban, South Africa, from

31 August to 7 September 2001.  The Committee felt that women all over the world suffered from the combined forces of sexual and racial discrimination.  This was particularly true for more vulnerable groups, such as poor, migrant, or indigenous women.

The Committee, she said, wanted to put the gender dimension of racial discrimination on the agenda of the Racism Conference.  This would be a sign that women's human rights were infusing into all areas of concern, and were becoming part and parcel of all human rights considerations.

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For information media. Not an official record.