WOMEN’S COMMISSION CONSIDERS EFFECTIVENESS OF WORKING GROUP ON COMMUNICATIONS, AS DELEGATIONS WEIGH IN ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

11 March 2009
WOM/1726

WOMEN’S COMMISSION CONSIDERS EFFECTIVENESS OF WORKING GROUP ON COMMUNICATIONS, AS DELEGATIONS WEIGH IN ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

11 March 2009
Economic and Social Council
WOM/1726
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on the Status of Women

Fifty-third Session

13th Meeting (AM)

WOMEN’S COMMISSION CONSIDERS EFFECTIVENESS OF WORKING GROUP ON COMMUNICATIONS,

AS DELEGATIONS WEIGH IN ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE

The Commission on the Status of Women today debated whether to again postpone consideration of the future work of its Working Group on Communications, with some delegates expressing concern at the Group’s “ineffectiveness” and suggesting ways to improve it.

At each session, the Commission considers the report of the Working Group on Communications.  The Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women meets three days prior to the start of the annual session, in closed meetings, to consider confidential communications and replies by Governments.  In its report, the Working Group brings to the attention of the Commission any consistent patterns of reliably attested injustice and discriminatory practices against women.  The Working Group is made up of five members, representing each region.  The Group is appointed by the Commission. 

Providing background on the issue at hand, Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, recalled that the Commission had had before it at its forty-eighth session in 2004 a report of the Secretary-General with two addendums (documents E/CN.6/2004/11 and Add 1 and 2), which contained States’ views on the future work of the Working Group.  The report also raised issues about the Working Group’s functioning and the general communications procedure, and made recommendations for the Commission to consider in that regard.

At that time, she recalled, the Commission had decided to postpone further consideration of that question to its fiftieth session, in 2006.  During that fiftieth session, in decision 52/101, the Commission decided to again postpone, until its fifty-second session in 2008, further consideration of the 2004 report and States’ proposals.  At its fifty-second session, the Commission decided once more to postpone consideration of those matters to its fifty-third session.  As such, the Commission had requested the Secretary-General to prepare, for that purpose, an addendum to the 2004 report compiling additional or updated views of States.  In accordance with that decision, the Secretary-General sought States’ views and received nine responses.  Those views are reflected in document E/CN.6/2009/8, currently before the Commission.

In the ensuing debate today, several delegations, including the representatives of Canada, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Switzerland and Cuba, urged extending the terms of office of the five-member group to two years to bolster the Working Group’s effectiveness.

The Czech Republic’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said, for the Working Group to be more effective, the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council Complaint Procedure should transmit status of women complaints to the Women’s Commission, as was previously done by the Commission on Human Rights, in line with the established practice between the “1503 procedure” and the communications procedure of the Women’s Commission.  [Under the 1503 procedure, the former Commission on Human Rights focused on widespread human rights abuses, whereas the Women’s Commission’s complaint procedure works to identify global trends of abuse specific to women.]

She said the Secretariat should facilitate the collection of complaints by making the mechanism better known to persons concerned, or by approaching other sources, such as treaty bodies or specialized agencies, in order to provide better analysis.  The Working Group should be encouraged to more actively draw the Commission’s attention to certain types of violations.

At the same time, China’s representative said it was necessary to avoid duplication.  He dismissed the proposal to transmit status of women complaints to the Women’s Commission, as was previously done by the Commission on Human Rights, in line with the established practice, saying there was no legal ground for doing so.  

The representative of the Russian Federation agreed, saying that any communication should be considered just once -- it was not acceptable for a State to respond more than once to one complaint.

Taking a comprehensive view, India’s representative said it was more important to revise the whole gender architecture of the United Nations than to revise the Working Group on a piecemeal basis.  He stressed the need to look at the functions and work of other human rights mechanisms, particularly the Human Rights Council, Women’s Commission and the Women’s Convention.  He implored the meeting to not discuss any further the changing of procedures. 

The representative of the United States supported most, if not all, proposals made today.  She urged either strengthening the communications procedures, or recognizing their inherent limitations and working towards the creation of an additional mechanism that would highlight the situation of women around the world.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Argentina, Chile, Iran and Cuba.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 March, to hold an expert panel on “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health:  a gender perspective”.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.