COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
Distinguished experts, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my honour and privilege, on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, to open the 28th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and to extend a warm welcome to all of you.
On behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I would like to extend special greetings to those members of the Committee who were newly elected at the twelfth meeting of the States Parties to the Convention in August 2002. They are: Ms. Meriem Belmihoub-Zerdan, Mr. Cornelis Flinterman, Ms. Huguette Bokpe Gnancadja, Ms. Akua Kuenyehia, Ms. Krisztina Morvai, Ms. Pramila Patten, Ms. Victoria Popescu Sandru, and Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, also distinguished as a former Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. I would also like to mention here Ms. Fumiko Saiga who, after completing the term of Ms. Chikako Taya, has been elected by the meeting of States Parties as a member of the Committee in her own right. We also warmly welcome Ms. Salma Khan, who – after a few years of absence and after having been one of the Committee’s distinguished Chairpersons – has rejoined the Committee. Our heartfelt congratulations also go to Ms. Naela Gabr and Ms. Rosario Manalo for their re-election by the States Parties.
I am sure that the vast knowledge and wide-ranging expertise of the new members, combined with the wealth of expertise and experience of the re-elected and on-going members, will contribute to enhancing progress in the Convention’s implementation at the national level and to broadening the impact of its provisions at the international level.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank most sincerely the former Chairperson, Ms. Charlotte Abaka, whose term on the Committee ended on 31 December 2002, for her leadership and achievements over the period of her stewardship. I also express my gratitude to the other members of the bureau, Ms. Ferida Acar, Ms. Rosario Manalo, and Ms. Zelmira Regazzoli, Vice-Chairpersons and Ms. Rosalyn Hazelle, Rapporteur, for their hard work and dedication.
May I also express my appreciation to the other experts whose terms on the Committee ended on 31 December 2002. They are Ms. Feng Cui, Ms. Savitri Goonesekere, Ms. Roselyn Hazelle, Ms. Mavivi-Myakayaka-Manzini and Ms. Frances Lingstone Raday. In a very special way, I would like to acknowledge the longstanding members who left on 31 December and whose contributions to the Committee will be felt for many years to come. They are, in addition to Ms. Abaka: Ms. Ivanka Corti, who chaired the Committee for two terms, especially in the difficult time during the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, and Ms. Emna Aouij, who is now Ambassador of Tunisia to the Netherlands. I would like to put on record my personal gratitude to these members for their commitment and expertise. I hope that our paths will cross again, and am certain that they will continue to support and disseminate knowledge of the objectives and contents of the Convention. I wish them well in their future endeavours.
Distinguished members of the Committee,
I would like to introduce Ms. Helga Klein, who temporarily heads the team that supports you until a successor will have been appointed to Ms. Jane Connors who transferred to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva. Some of you may know Ms. Klein from her work over many years at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, most recently as the Special Adviser to the former High Commissioner, Ms. Mary Robinson, but also from her long-time involvement with the human rights treaty bodies.
I should also like to report to you now briefly about an event of great relevance to your work that occurred between the closing of the exceptional session at the end of August and now. Members will recall that Security Council resolution 1325 called on the Secretary-General to prepare a study on the impact of armed conflict on women and girls, the role of women in peace-building, and the gender dimensions of peace processes and conflict resolution. I am pleased to report to you that the study, to which one of the Committee members contributed, has now been published and will be distributed to you during this session. This study, entitled “Women, Peace and Security”, also formed the basis of a report that the Secretary-General submitted to the Security Council on 28 October 2002 (S/2002/1154). It includes 21 action-points mostly addressed to the Security Council and a number of commitments by the Secretary-General. The action points call for accountability for violations of women’s human rights during armed conflict; the integration of gender perspectives into all mandates and operations of peacekeeping missions; strengthening the role of women in peace processes; and increasing the participation of women at all stages of humanitarian assistance and during reconstruction processes. The Security Council adopted a Presidential Statement, in which it reaffirmed the importance of mainstreaming gender perspectives into all peacekeeping operations and post-conflict reconstruction.
Ratifications and accessions to the Convention and its Optional Protocol have been continuing at a steady pace. I am pleased to report that we now have a total of 170 States Parties to the Convention and that 49 States have ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol. Thirty-seven States Parties have now accepted the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention. I should like to assure you that I, together with the Division for the Advancement of Women, will continue to use every opportunity to encourage ratification of the Convention and the Optional Protocol, as well as acceptance of the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1.
Allow me now to turn to some of the issues on this session’s agenda. At its twenty-seventh session, the Committee agreed to consider eight reports of States Parties, namely those of Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Kenya, Luxembourg, Norway, the Republic of Congo and Switzerland. Since Costa Rica will not be able to present its report at this session, the secretariat – after consultation with the Chairperson – approached the Government of Albania, which kindly agreed to present its initial report at this session.
In addition, I would like to draw the Committee’s attention to issues contained in the report on ways and means prepared by the Secretariat (CEDAW/C/2003/I/4) on which the Committee will have to act during the present session.
In particular, I should like to refer to (i) the recommendations contained in the report of the first inter-committee meeting of human rights treaty bodies, held in Geneva in June 2002; (ii) the reform report of the Secretary-General concerning proposals from treaty bodies for new streamlined reporting procedures and a more coordinated approach to their activities; and (iii) the Committee’s short and long-term programme of work regarding general recommendations.
I wish you well in your deliberations during the next three weeks and pledge the full support of the Secretariat in facilitating your task in every way possible in order to come to grips with the heavy workload that awaits you. Ms. Hannan, the Director of the Division, and I look forward to meeting with you all again during this three-week period, both during the session and informally, and we would be happy to discuss any proposals you may have regarding your work.
With the permission of the Committee, I should now like to give the floor to Ms. Carolyn Hannan, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, who will make a statement.