Twenty-third Session of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

12 June 2000


Ms. Yakin Ertürk
Director, Division for the Advancement of Women

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished experts,

Colleagues and friends,

It gives me great pleasure to join Ms. Angela King, Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, in welcoming you to United Nations Headquarters in New York and the 23rd session of the Committee.

The months since the closure of the 22nd session of the Committee on

4 February 2000 have been a period of intense activity for myself and my staff in the Division. From 28 February to March 17, 2000, the focus of the Division was the forty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, and the third session of Commission acting as preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5. Thereafter, much effort and energy was devoted to supporting the negotiations of the outcome document of the special session, as well as preparations for the special session itself, which was accompanied by numerous side events and activities.

Throughout this period the close linkages between the Convention, the work of the Committee and the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action were clearly apparent. During the forty-fourth session of the Commission delegations urged Governments to make efforts to realize the goal of universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 outlined in the Platform and to limit or withdraw reservations which had been entered to its terms. Acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention relating to its meeting time was also advocated, as was full implementation of the Convention at national level. The adoption of the optional protocol to the Convention was also welcomed by delegations, and States were urged to sign and ratify, or accede to it.

Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,

It is my pleasure to inform you that Governments’ stated commitments with regard to the optional protocol have largely translated into reality. To date, 42 States parties to the Convention have signed the protocol, and four have ratified it. A list of those States has been circulated to experts, but I would like to note that the first State party to ratify the Convention was Namibia, which was closely followed by Senegal and Denmark, and most recently on 9 June by France. During the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5, a number of States committed themselves to ratification of, or accession to, the protocol. Several of the side events at the special session concerned the optional protocol. These included a panel chaired by the Committee’s Chairperson on the implications of the optional protocol for the Committee’s work, in which ministers from Namibia and Senegal and many of the members of the Committee participated and an event which launched a campaign for the promotion of the optional protocol which will be spearheaded by International Women’s Rights Action Watch (Asia Pacific). It is my view that the ten ratifications required for the protocol’s entry into force will be achieved during this year. During this session, the Committee will have before it the working paper prepared by Ms. Silvia Cartwright to assist it in considering the procedures that it will introduce for the implementation of the optional protocol. I would like to assure the Committee that the Division has itself been discussing ways and means of supporting the Committee in its important new responsibilities with regard to the protocol. It has also recently launched a sales publication entitled "The Optional Protocol: Text and Materials" which gathers together the documents prepared during the preparation of the protocol, and provides a commentary on that process. The publication, which has been provided to all members, is currently available in English only, but I would like to assure experts that the publication will ultimately be issued in other United Nations languages.

Since the Committee’s last session, I have sought to promoted universal ratification of the Convention, and the optional protocol and acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1. During the forty-fourth session of the Commission on the Status of Women and the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5, I met with many delegations to discuss ratification and compliance with reporting obligations. I also addressed these issues at the 103rd meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Union of Women which took place in Amman, Jordan in May. In this context, I have drawn attention to the capacity of the Division’s Gender Advisory Services Unit to provide technical support to those States which request it. I would like to encourage experts to make the capacity of the Division in this regard widely known. I would also like to draw attention to the fact that the CEDAW reporting manual "Assessing the Status of Women" originally prepared by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the International Women’s Rights Action Watch, has been recently updated by the Division for the Advancement of Women and will be made available to experts during this session.

Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,

Before I turn to the matters which are before the Committee at this session, I would like to congratulate the members of the pre-session working group for this session which met from 7 to 12 February for its hard work in drawing up the lists of issues and questions with regard to periodic reports which are before this session. The pre-session working group decided to limit the issues and questions with regard to each of the four States parties under review in order to provide an opportunity for greater exchange between the Committee and States parties during constructive dialogue. I am sure that the Committee will assess the results of the pre-session working group’s decision in this regard with a view to streamlining the working methods of pre-session working group generally.

Let me now turn to matters which are before the Committee at this session. You will recall that at the twenty-second session, the Committee decided to consider the reports of eight States parties during this session. One of those States parties nominated to report was unable to do so, and due to time constraints, it was impossible to identify another State party which was in a position to report at this session. Experts will therefore consider the reports of seven States parties, a number of which have presented more than one report. In addition to the States parties’ reports experts will continue their consideration of the Committee’s rules of procedure, with a view to finalizing their revision. The Secretariat’s report on "Ways and Means of Expediting the Work of Committee" which will be introduced by Jane Connors, the Chief of the Women’s Rights Unit, also makes various proposals with regard to the Committee’s working methods which it will wish to discuss.

I would like to assure you of the support of all the staff of the Division during what will be a hectic three weeks. Since the Committee’s last session we have worked to ensure that the session will be smooth one, particularly with regard to documentation. Despite our efforts, it has been impossible for all the language versions of all documents to produced until today, the first day of the session. We will continue to explore ways to improve procedures in this context, given the many contingencies that are involved.

At this point, I would like to thank Ms. Jane Connors, the Chief of the Women’s Rights Unit, and her staff for the extraordinary competence they have shown in preparing for this session of the Committee while, at the same time, fully participating in the Division’s efforts to respond to the very demanding requirements of the preparatory work for the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5. I am incredibly impressed by the focused and efficient manner in which they were able to handle the multiple tasks that were all equally demanding. The Division, as a whole, went through a very intensive, stressful and difficult year. However, I am happy to say that it was also a productive and successful one. My appreciation of the good team effort displayed by the staff of the Division cannot be over emphasized. Thanks are also due to Ms. Angela King for her support and guidance.

In closing, Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts, I would like to reiterate the words of the Special Adviser relating to the growing prominence of the Convention and the Committee and the clear acknowledgement of the Convention as the legal basis of the policy framework for women’s advancement. I am at your disposal to make this session of the Committee a successful one. I also look forward to spending time with you during the formal meetings of the Committee, and meeting with you all informally during the coming weeks.

I wish you well in your work and a pleasant stay in New York.