REVIEW OF 1995 BEIJING ACTION PLAN SHOULD FOCUS ON NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION, AVOID LENGTHY NEGOTIATIONS, WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD

5 March 2004
WOM/1440

REVIEW OF 1995 BEIJING ACTION PLAN SHOULD FOCUS ON NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION, AVOID LENGTHY NEGOTIATIONS, WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD

05/03/2004
Press Release
WOM/1440


Commission on the Status of Women                          

Forty-eighth Session                                       

10th & 11th Meetings (AM & PM)


REVIEW OF 1995 BEIJING ACTION PLAN SHOULD FOCUS ON NATIONAL IMPLEMENTATION,


AVOID LENGTHY NEGOTIATIONS, WOMEN’S COMMISSION TOLD


It was important that the 10-year review and appraisal of the implementation of commitments undertaken at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) not waste time negotiating previously agreed conclusions, but focus on national implementation, identify gaps and challenges and provide a venue for sharing best practices, the Commission on the Status of Women was told today, as it continued its forty-eighth session.


As the Commission discussed the 2005 review and appraisal of the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the Beijing Platform for Action, ideas differed regarding the format of the review.  While some delegates felt a high-level session of the General Assembly would be appropriate, others questioned the usefulness and feasibility of that in light of the large number of events proposed for 2005, including the special event to mark the five-year review of the Millennium Summit.


The focus of the review and appraisal, stated delegates, should not necessarily culminate in a new outcome document.  Rather, work should focus on implementation of the commitments already undertaken.  One speaker stressed the need to avoid lengthy negotiations, saying the review should explore ways to share ideas and experiences in national implementation of commitments.


As one speaker noted, if senior representatives responsible for advancing the status of women in their countries attended the review, and then returned home having learned from the experiences of others, or gained some new ideas, or demonstrated to others successful projects of their own, that, in itself, was the most valuable outcome the review could have.


Also this morning, the Commission discussed the future of its Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women.  It was agreed that any modification of the communications procedure should promote its more effective use and lead to improving the capacity of the Commission to promote and protect the rights of women.  Opposing views were expressed on expanding the sources of communications, as well as sharing communications received by the Working Group and the Commission on Human Rights, in light of concerns over duplication and confidentiality.


Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the report on that issue.


When the Commission turned its attention to its methods of work, speakers noted that progress had already been made in revising the Commission’s methods of work, with the valuable addition of round tables, panel discussions and interactions with United Nations agencies.  However, several also pointed out that the Commission had failed to live up to its potential, and that agreed outcome documents had fallen short of their desired impact.


In addition, the Commission decided to transmit to the Economic and Social Council a note by the Secretariat as an input to the 2004 high-level segment of the Council, contained in document E/CN.6/2004/CRP.6.


For background information on the Commission’s current session, see Press Release WOM/1435 of 1 March.


The Commission will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 8 March to commemorate International Women’s Day.


Background


The Commission on the Status of Women met this morning to discuss follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women and the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly and to consider its working methods.  It was also expected to review gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system.  (For background information, see Press Release WOM/1435 of 1 March.)


Follow-up to World Conference/Special Session


As the Commission took up the upcoming review and appraisal of the implementation of the commitments undertaken in the Beijing Platform for Action and “Beijing+5”, speakers emphasized that the forty-ninth session of the Commission would provide an important opportunity in the context of the 10-year review.


Several speakers agreed that it was important that the review not waste time negotiating previously agreed conclusions, but focus on the implementation of the commitments undertaken, identify gaps and challenges and provide a venue for sharing best practices.  It was proposed that the Commission build on the use of innovative practices, such as expert panel discussions and interactive dialogues, with broad-based participation from all actors.


While ideas differed regarding the format the review should take, it was agreed that a special commemoration should be held to mark International Women’s Day, which, next year, would mark the thirtieth anniversary of the First World Conference on Women.  While some delegates felt it would be appropriate to have a high-level session of the General Assembly for the review, others wondered about the usefulness and feasibility of that in light of the large number of events proposed for 2005, including the special event to mark the five-year review of the Millennium Summit.


It was stated that the focus of the review and appraisal should not necessarily culminate in a new outcome document.  Rather, work should focus on implementation of the commitments already undertaken.  One speaker stressed the need to avoid lengthy negotiations, saying the review should explore ways to share ideas and experiences in the national implementation of the commitments already undertaken. 


As one speaker noted, if senior representatives responsible for advancing the status of women in their countries attended the review, and then returned home having learned from the experiences of others, or gained some new ideas, or demonstrated to others successful projects of their own, that in itself was the most valuable outcome the review could have. 


Work Methods


The Commission then considered its methods of work.


Speakers noted that progress had already been made in revising the Commission’s methods of work, with the valuable addition of round tables, panel discussions and interactions with United Nations agencies.  However, several also pointed out that the Commission had failed to live up to its potential, and that agreed outcome documents had fallen short of their desired impact.


In improving its working methods, delegates said, the Commission should encourage cooperation with the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as well as other United Nations bodies, Bretton Woods institutions, the private sector, and civil society.  It should also examine the two-year cycle of policy development and review years of the Commission on Sustainable Development, and spend less time negotiating texts with little policy impact.


In addition, speakers said, more time should be set aside for experts from capitals and greater attention paid to case studies on best practices.  The Commission should intensify its efforts to learn from mistakes and build on successes.  Ministers should come together periodically, perhaps in United Nations forums, so that they could network with each other in maintaining an optimal focus on gender equality.


One delegate questioned whether the Commission’s agreed thematic conclusions added value to the international agenda, since they often repeated what had already been said.  The Commission should move beyond the idea that its value and success depended on the number of pages of agreed text it produced.  Were such agreed conclusions really necessary?  The real value of the Commission was the opportunity for experts in women’s issues to meet, discuss issues, share best practices and exchange ideas, problems and solutions in implementing Beijing.


Commission’s Working Group on Communications


CAROLYN HANNAN, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, introduced the report on the issue, highlighting its main elements.  The report summarized the preliminary discussion of the item during the Commission’s last session, and contained the views of several governments.  Section V of the report raised a number of issues, such as the low number of communications received and the sources of communications, and offered suggestions related to the Group’s functioning.


Noting that improving the communications procedure had been on the Commission’s agenda for some time, speakers agreed that any modification of the communications procedure should promote the more effective use of the procedure and lead to improving the capacity of the Commission to promote and protect the rights of women.


Regretting the small number of communications received by the Working Group, some delegations were in favour of increasing the volume of communications received through expanding the sources of the communications, as well as sharing information and communications received by the Commission on Human Rights under its 1503 procedure.


Expressing support for the practice of sharing information and confidential communications, one speaker recalled that the United Nations Legal Counsel had stated, in an advisory opinion on the issue, that the existing practice of sharing confidential communications between the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women was not only acceptable but positive. 


Another speaker stated that special rapporteurs, treaty bodies, regional commissions and specialized agencies should routinely copy communications to the Commission on the Status of Women.  To do so would not be duplication, as some had suggested, because no other part of the system had the mandate to analyse general trends.


Those opposed to the sharing of information and communications between the two bodies stressed that, while a practice for many years, the practice had no legal basis or mandate. Further, it infringed on the principle of confidentiality, which must be respected by both Commissions.  In addition, it was felt that the communications procedure was duplicating the work of the 1503 communications procedure under the Commission on Human Rights.  There should be no duplication in the mandates and functioning of the various bodies of the United Nations, it was stated.


One speaker wondered why the Commission on the Status of Women needed a communications procedure in light of the 1503 procedure of the Commission on Human Rights, the existence of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the complaints procedure established under the Optional Protocol under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.


It was suggested by one speaker that the Division for the Advancement of Women make better use of the existing mechanism without going beyond its mandate.  It could publicize the communications procedure more widely so that communications dealing with women would come directly to the Division.


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For information media. Not an official record.