Opening Statement by Ms. Angela E.V. King

Assistant Secretary-General,
Special Adviser on Gender Issues
and Advancement of Women


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
against Women
at its twenty-fifth session
2 July 2001

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished members of the Committee,
Representatives of the United Nations system and agencies, representatives of NGOs,


It is my honour and privilege on behalf of the Secretary-General to open the twenty-fifth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and to welcome you all to the United Nations Headquarters. I am delighted to report to you some highlights of the period between the closing of the twenty-fourth session and the opening of this session.

This session of the Committee is taking place just after two major events: the special sessions of the General Assembly on Habitat+5 and HIV/AIDS which both took place during June, at United Nations Headquarters. Before I turn to these, however, I would like to report on the results of the forty-fifth session of the Commission on the Status of Women which took place from 6-16 March and resumed from 9 – 11 May 2001.

The Commission had very full agenda. It focused on two thematic issues: women, the girl child and HIV/AIDS; and gender and all forms of discrimination, in particular, racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and adopted two sets of agreed conclusions on these issues. The Commission had the benefit of the Committee’s statement on racism which had been adopted during its twenty-fourth session and was also able to build on the conclusions of a panel on this issue which took place during its session, in which Ms. Françoise Gaspard participated. The agreed conclusions on gender and all forms of discrimination were submitted to the second session of the preparatory committee for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. It is of interest to note that the 20 or more women Permanent Representatives to the United Nations and its agencies in Geneva used the agreed conclusions as a basis of a submission to the preparatory committee for the Conference

The Commission took up the issue of HIV/AIDS during a resumed session. These agreed conclusions were forwarded to the special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS which ended last week. The Commission adopted five resolutions, including on discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan, and mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes of the United Nations System. In addition, it called for a further report on the communications procedure of the Commission.

A new multi-year programme of was also adopted by the Commission. This calls for the review of following themes over the next four years: in 2002 eradicating poverty, including through the empowerment of women throughout their life cycle in a globalizing world; and a gender perspective on environmental management; in 2003: the participation and access of women to the media, and information and communication technologies; and women’s human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls; in 2004, the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality and women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution, and in post-conflict peace-building. In 2005, the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (Beijing+5) will be reviewed, and the Commission will discuss current challenges and forward-looking strategies for the advancement and empowerment of women and girls. In 2006, the Commission will take up the enhanced participation of women in development and the equal participation of women and men in decision-making processes at all levels.

Madam Chairperson,

I would like to take this opportunity to inform members on several of my activities as Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women in relation to the Convention. On 21 March 2001, I attended a workshop on "Building Capacity for Mainstreaming Gender in Development Strategies" in preparation of the Third United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, in South Africa, where I stressed strategies for increasing women's participation in decision-making. I was pleased to learn that many LDCs have set specific goals for increasing women's participation in the political process through the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

From 1-7 April 2001, I attended the 105th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in Havana Cuba, where I gave the keynote address to the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians. The IPU and its members have encouraged ratification of the Convention, and its Optional Protocol, and they also monitor implementation of the Convention to encourage timely reporting. The IPU has embarked on a programme to promote parliamentary action to ensure that national laws are harmonized with provisions of the Convention. Members will be pleased to learn that the Director of DAW gave an important address on the meaning and importance of the Optional Protocol at a panel during the IPU conference and that DAW and IPU are working together to prepare a handbook for parliamentarians on the Optional Protocol to the Convention.

From 23-25 April 2001, I attended the Joint Inter-Agency Meeting on Women and Gender Equality/Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/ Development Assistance Committee, (IAMWGE/OECD/DAC) Workshop on "Governance, Poverty Reduction and Gender Equality", in Vienna, Austria. At that workshop, I emphasized the creation and maintenance of non-discrimination policies, as well as the review of legislation aimed at removing discriminatory provisions as soon as possible, preferably by 2005. I also participated in an International Symposium on the Impact of Women's Training on Socio-Economic Development, from 3-8 June, 2001, in Haifa, Israel, where I emphasized the importance of Governments' commitments to ensure equal access to social protection and to analyse structural adjustment programmes from a gender perspective. While in Israel, I had discussions with the three women judges of the Supreme Court on the need for ratification of the Optional Protocol. As recently as during the special session on HIV/AIDS last week, I spoke at Round Table 2 on Human Rights and HIV/AIDS, highlighting the Committee’s work in the area of health, reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS.

Finally, on a recent official visit to Bosnia and in my recent meetings with gender focal points in East Timor and Kosovo, the importance of CEDAW was also emphasized especially in the transition from UN oversight phase to independent governance in East Timor and Kosovo.

My Office and the Division for the Advancement of Women have highlighted gender and human rights dimensions of important issues during the recently completed special sessions of the General Assembly on Habitat + 5 and HIV/AIDS. I am pleased to note that the gender dimension, women and girls was well integrated into the final Declaration of Commitment.

We have also emphasized the importance of the Convention and the work of the Committee for the preparations to the special session on children, which will take place in September. Women’s human rights concerns are also important to the preparations for the World Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons which will take place this month, and the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Other events such as the High-Level Segment of ECOSOC, on the role of the United Nations system in supporting African countries to achieve sustainable development which is taking place now, and the High-Level Conference on Financing for Development and on Rio +10 which will take place in 2002 also present important opportunities to stress the human rights of women.

Madam Chairperson,

I am pleased to report that since the closing of the last session of the Committee, two States, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Mauritania became parties to the Convention, on 27 February and 10 May respectively, thus bringing the total number of States to the Convention to 168. Sixty-seven States from all regions of the world have signed the Optional Protocol, while 22 have ratified or acceded to it. Members will be happy to learn that among the 22, Azerbaijan ratified the Optional Protocol on 1 June 2001.

Madam Chairperson,

The Director of the Division and I take every opportunity to encourage ratification of the Convention and the Optional Protocol, as well as acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, which has so far only attracted 24 acceptances. Your Chairperson has informed you of the panel discussion, which will take place on 5 July 2001, from 1:15-2:45 in this Conference Room, on "Advancing the Rights of Women and Children through Treaties: A Multi-lateral Treaty Framework". This has been organized by my Office, the Division for the Advancement of Women, and the Office of Legal Affairs, as part of the treaty signature/ratification event, which will take place from 19 September to 5 October 2001, which is directed at achieving universal ratification of United Nations treaties relevant to the advancement of women. It will be chaired by distinguished Ambassador Anwaral Chowdhury, Bangladesh.

Twenty-three treaties have been singled out for special attention in this context. Central amongst these are the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol, but emphasis is also placed on the twin Covenants, on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children are also included in the event. Members will know that this Convention and its Protocols were opened for signature in Palermo, Italy on 15 December 2000. I urge you all to become familiar with these new instruments which provide us with new and powerful tools to assist in the struggle to eliminate the growing scourge of traffic in women and girls.

Madam Chairperson,

Among the activities organized by the Division for the Advancement of Women in the period since the twenty-fourth session of the Committee, were a sub-regional training workshop on support to preparation of States parties reports to be submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which took place from 13 to 15 February 2001 in Auckland, New Zealand. Your former colleague, Ms. Silvia Cartwright, now the Governor-General of New Zealand, served as a resource person at this workshop. The workshop was very successful, and there are already plans for follow-up activities in this region, which, as you know, is one where the Convention has yet to be widely accepted. The Division’s other activities included a "Regional meeting to discuss a needs-assessment on national machinery for gender equality in African countries", which took place from 16-18 April 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in which your Chairperson, Ms. Charlotte Abaka participated. I am confident that she will brief you on its outcome. A consultation on enhancing women's participation in peace building, and an expert group meeting on the "Situation of rural women within the context of globalization", two themes which are frequently addressed by this Committee were held respectively in Addis Ababa in April and in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from 4 to 8 June. Available outcomes of all these events will be provided to the Committee.

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished Members,

During this session you will be considering the reports of eight States parties to the Convention. You will also continue discussion on the general recommendation on article 4.1 of the Convention, which concerns temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de-facto equality between men and women. In addition, you will consider issues on which you requested at the twenty-fourth session, including the practice of human rights treaty bodies with regard to reservations and the pattern of your concluding comments on States parties reports. You may also wish to discuss how the several members of the Committee who will be participating in the upcoming World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance should work to the gender dimensions of racism and discrimination will receive the strong attention they require.

Madam Chairperson,

Today is quite historic in another arena. It is the first Monday after the Secretary-General’s re-election by the General Assembly for a new five-year term. As you know, he has been a very strong supporter of gender issues, of women’s human rights and in particular of this Committee and its work under your capable leadership.

I wish you well and every success in your deliberations and a pleasant stay in New York City. I look forward to meeting with you informally during your stay, including at the reception on Tuesday evening. In closing, I assure you of the full support and commitment of my Office and of the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, and her staff, especially now that the decision on the servicing of your Committee has been decided.