Twenty-Fourth Session

of the

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
against Women (CEDAW)

Statement by

Ms. Angela E.V. King


Special Adviser to the Secretary-General
on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

16 January 2001


Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished Experts,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour and privilege, on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to welcome warmly all CEDAW members to the twenty-fourth session on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

I also welcome all experts and extend special greetings to those new members of the Committee elected at the eleventh meeting of the States parties to the Convention in August 2000. They are Ms. Sjiamsiah Achmad, Ms. Françoise Gaspard, Ms. Fatima Kwaku, Mr. Göran Melander, Ms. Asha Rose Mtengeti-Migiro, Ms. Hisho Shin and Ms. Maria Regina Tavares da Silva. I would also like to welcome Ms. Frances Livingstone Radai who was nominated by the Government of Israel, and accepted by the Committee, to complete the term of Ms. Carmel Shalev who resigned because of professional commitments. I am confident that the work of the Committee will be enriched by the knowledge and expertise of these new members.

I also wish to congratulate the four members of the Committee who were re-elected. They are Ms. Feride Acar, Ms. Yolanda Ferrer Gomez, Ms. Aida Gonzalez Martinez and Ms. Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling. Your past contributions to the Committee’s development are well known, and I am sure your efforts will continue to enhance its progress. All members of the Committee are aware that one of its immediate past members, Ms. Silvia Cartwright, has been designated Governor-General of New Zealand. They are also aware that Ms. Mervat Tallawy, one of the past Chairpersons of the Committee, has been appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as the Executive-Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut to take up her duties on 1 February 2001. I have no doubt that members will join with me in wishing both these former experts well in their important new posts. I would also like to congratulate current members of the Committee: Ms. Asha Rose Mtengeti-Migiro has recently been elected Member of Parliament and appointed Minister for Community Development, Women Affairs and Children in the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and Ms. Emna Aouij who was recently appointed Tunisia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands and is now resident in the Hague.

I would like to thank most sincerely the outgoing Chairperson, Ms. Aida Gonzalez Martinez, for her leadership and achievements over the period of her stewardship. My gratitude also goes to the other members of the bureau, Ms. Yung-Chung Kim, Ms. Ahoua Ouedraogo and Ms. Hanna Beate Schöpp-Schilling, vice-chairpersons and Ms. Feride Acar, Rapporteur, for their hard work and dedication. I also warmly welcome the new bureau, its chair, Mrs. Charlotte Abaka, vice-chairs, Ms. Regazzoli, Ms. Rosario Manalo, Ms. Ferida Acar and its Rapporteur, Ms. Rosalyn Hazelle. I am sure that, like its predecessor, it will continue to advance the goals of the Convention and the influence of the Committee in reaching those goals. The last Committee will long be remembered as during its tenure the Optional Protocol entered into force. The current one will be known widely for its practical implementation of the Protocol.

May I also express my appreciation to those experts whose terms on the Committee ended on 31 December 2000. They are Ms. Carlota Bustelo Garcia del Real, Ms. Silvia Rose Cartwright, Ms. Yung-Chung Kim, Ms. Salma Khan, Ms. Ahoua Ouedraogo Ms. Anne Lise Ryel and Ms. Kongit Sinegiorgis. I acknowledge their effective and substantive contributions to the Committee and sincerely thank them.

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished Members of the Committee,

2000 was a difficult but exciting year. My Office and the Division for the Advancement of Women were intensely involved with the preparations for the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing +5, as well as the session itself, during which Governments reaffirmed their commitments to the goals and objectives of the Platform for Action and agreed on further actions to ensure its full implementation. The positive outcome of the special session resulted from the efforts of many, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. I would like to express my gratitude to you for these efforts which contributed to the success of the special session.

I am delighted to report to you on the highlights of the period between the opening of this session and the closing of your twenty-third session. As you are all aware, 22 December 2000 marked the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Convention. To date, 15 States are party to the Optional Protocol and sixty-five are signatories. I am confident that there will be many more ratifications and accessions to the Optional Protocol in the coming months, and as the procedures it establishes become more widely known, the Committee will be faced by a large volume of petitions from individuals and groups of individuals alleging violations of the Convention. The Committee is well prepared for its new responsibilities resulting from the Optional Protocol, particularly as a result of the expert meeting hosted by the Government of Germany which took place in Berlin from 27 to 30 November 2000. There proposed draft rules of procedure for the Optional Protocol were discussed and agreed. These draft rules are before you this session for formal approval.

Just as the Committee has prepared itself for the entry into force of the Optional Protocol and the new responsibilities that this will entail, so too has the secretariat been putting measures in place to ensure full support for the Committee with regard to communications and inquiries. During July 2000, the Chief of the Women’s Rights Unit examined the secretariat procedures in place to support the communications and inquiry mechanisms at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, with a view to initiating appropriate procedures and systems in the Division. In its resolution 55/70 concerning the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General to provide the resources, including staff and facilities, necessary for the effective functioning of the Committee, within its full mandate, in particular taking into account the entry into force of the Optional Protocol. I am pleased to inform the Committee that steps have been taken to ensure that the Committee has sufficient staff to support it in its full mandate in 2001 and in the 2002-2003 Programme Budget. This will of course require the full support of Member States when they approve that Budget.

I would like to assure the Committee that my Office and the Division for the Advancement of Women are committed to ensuring that the Convention and the Optional Protocol achieve universal ratification and that they are as widely known as possible. Although the target of universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000, set out in the Beijing Platform for Action was not achieved, I am happy to report that on 7 September 2000, Saudi Arabia became the one hundred and sixty-sixth State party to the Convention. Twenty-six States have yet to ratify or accede. Efforts to encourage ratification, reporting and also acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, have included bilateral meetings between myself, the Director of the Division and representatives of States. For example, during the First Summit of Arab First Ladies held in Cairo in November 2000, I met with several representatives of Member States of the Arab region to discuss possible plans for ratification and was pleased to learn of positive developments in that regard. Part of the Division’s activities will include a seminar in Auckland from 13 to 15 February 2001 for States from the Pacific region, a number of which have yet to ratify the Convention, and several whose reports are outstanding. Further activities of this nature will take place during this year. I would also urge Members to encourage ratification and reporting in any way possible.

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished Members,

During this session you will be considering the reports of eight States parties to the Convention. In addition to adopting the rules of procedure that you agreed at Berlin, you will also formally adopt the revised draft rules of procedure relating to the balance of the Committee’s work. May I congratulate you on finalizing these rules, which will be integrated with those relating to the Optional Protocol during this session. The Committee will also begin work on a general recommendation on article 4 of the Convention which concerns temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women. The first of the three stages leading to general recommendations – an open discussion between the Committee and interested representatives of United Nations system entities and NGOs – will take place today following the informal NGO briefing on those States parties before the Committee.

I would like to remind the Committee that the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will take place in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 7 September 2001. Both the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly have requested human rights mechanisms to participate actively in the preparations for the Conference. During previous sessions this Committee has drawn attention to the links between discrimination on the basis of sex and race and the particular disadvantages women affected by race discrimination may face. Several of the human rights treaty bodies made contributions to the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference in 2000. The second session of the Preparatory Committee will meet from 21 May to 1 June 2001 and I understand that yesterday this Committee agreed to prepare a contribution for that session during the next three weeks.

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished Members of the Committee,

I would like to assure you of my personal support during these three weeks, as well as that of the Division for the Advancement of Women. As in the past, the staff of the Division, particularly Ms. Jane Connors, Chief of the Women's Rights Unit and Ms. Philomena Kintu, the Secretary of the Committee, stand ready to assist you in your work during the session.

Let me not keep you from your task any longer. I wish you well in your efforts to monitor the implementation of the Convention, as well as in your other work during this session, as the CSW is now having its Bureau meeting to discuss its work programme.