Commission on Status of Women
7th Meeting (AM)
COMMISSION ON STATUS OF WOMEN CONSIDERS SECRETARY-GENERAL’S REPORT
ON REFORMING HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNICATIONS PROCEDURES
Continuing its forty-fifth session this morning, the Commission on the Status of Women considered the report of the Secretary-General assessing the implications of reforming human rights communications procedures concerning the status of women.
During a lengthy discussion, a majority of the 13 speakers who made statements agreed that the Commission’s communication mechanism needed review, but called for caution regarding duplication between that mechanism and Procedure 1503 of the Commission on Human Rights, which allows groups or individuals to file confidential complaints with that Commission.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Sweden said that the Secretariat should give the matter further thought, especially concerning public awareness of the mechanism, in preparation for action to be taken at the Commission’s forty-sixth session. She believed that the options suggested in the Secretary-General’s report for improving and supplementing the communications mechanism were of great value, but would benefit from further elaboration.
She suggested that, in the interest of transparency, the Secretariat should inform concerned governments immediately about the review of the communications mechanism, taking into consideration gender implications, and to ask for a specific date for their responses. The European Union was ready to introduce a draft resolution on those proposals.
China’s representative said the main aim of reforming the communication mechanism was to tap its full potential within current resources and to eliminate functions that duplicated those of Procedure 1503. The report had not adequately analysed the root cause of such duplication. A detailed analysis was required.
The representative of the Sudan said the Commission’s communication mechanism differed from that of the Commission on Human Rights when dealing with confidential communications. She cautioned that the two procedures should, therefore, not be mixed up. A clear distinction should be drawn between them.
Responding to members’ concerns about duplication, Yakin Erturk, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, said the Division’s review of the two procedures had shown that duplication was not a concern since the two Commissions handled communication in very different ways. While Procedure 1503 looked at
particular situations regarding complaints, the communication mechanism of the Commission on the Status of Women was concerned with trends and violations as a way of informing its work.
According to the Secretary-General’s report, the critical question was whether the communication mechanism of the Commission on the Status of Women was an effective way of achieving the goals for which it was adopted and whether it was serving other useful purposes; and if not, whether the existing procedure should be transformed into a mechanism which would effectively advance women’s human rights within the framework of the Commission’s activities.
Among the options presented in the report was that the Commission consider transforming the communications mechanism into a “situations” procedure similar to Procedure 1503. The point was made at the time that it was important to have a gender-specific mechanism in addition to Procedure 1503, since no gender-specific violations appear to have been forwarded to the Commission on Human Rights under Procedure 1503.
Another option, the report states, was a move away from confidential procedures to more transparent procedures, as could be seen in the increasing trend of the Commission on Human Rights to appoint special rapporteurs and working groups on particular themes and countries reporting publicly to the Commission. Their reports were available to everyone and were debated at the Commission’s open meetings.
A third option was a move towards a greater use of independent experts as holders of office, according to the report. Both Procedure 1503 and the communication mechanism reflected the value of confidentiality, which had receded in view of the move towards more transparent procedures.
Commission Chair Dubravka Simonovic (Croatia) said the Commission would consider requesting a new report which took into account the views and concerns expressed by Commission members during the meeting.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of Cuba, Canada, Iran, Argentina, Mexico, United States, Algeria, Egypt and Australia.
The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 March, to conclude its general discussion on follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly entitled “Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century”. It is also expected to begin discussion on the follow-up of the resolution and decision of the Economic and Social Council.
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