COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF
Division for the Advancement of Women
Distinguished experts, Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I join the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, Ms. Angela King, in warmly welcoming you all to the 28th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on behalf of the Division for the Advancement of Women. I would also like to thank the experts whose terms of office on the Committee expired on 31 December 2002, in particular the outgoing Chairperson, Ms. Charlotte Abaka. I extend a particular welcome to the newly elected members and look forward to working closely with you.
Let me start my comments by assuring the Committee of the full support of the Division for the Advancement of Women in your important work. We will spare no efforts to provide the best possible servicing to the Committee at this session, and in the future.
While the servicing of your sessions is an essential part of the Division’s mandate and responsibilities, we also endeavour to support implementation of the Convention and of the Committee’s concluding comments at national level, and to encourage achievement of universal ratification of the Convention and ratification of its Optional Protocol. We undertake these efforts through our advisory services and technical assistance programme, which is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our work for the realization of women’s equality and non-discrimination. I would like to highlight some of the activities we have undertaken to this end during the period September 2002 to January 2003.
The Division, in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP), convened a judicial colloquium on the application of international human rights law at the domestic level from 4 to 6 November 2002 at ESCAP Headquarters in Bangkok. The 17 participants from 7 countries of the region (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Singapore) included judges, judicial officers, lawyers, government officials and academics. Ms.Savitri Goonesekere, a former member of CEDAW, served as resource person, and her contribution was greatly appreciated by all. Participants discussed opportunities that exist in their legal systems for making greater use of international human rights norms to benefit women and girls and advance the rights of women.
Immediately after the colloquium, and again in collaboration with ESCAP, the Division organized a reporting workshop from 6 to 8 November 2002 at ESCAP headquarters in Bangkok. The workshop was conducted for government officials of Asian countries responsible for preparing reports under article 18 of the Convention and was directed primarily at those States whose initial reports had not yet been submitted. Participants came from Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia and Tajikistan. (I am happy to mention that we have just received the report of Bhutan.) We were extremely pleased to have participants also from Afghanistan and East Timor, States which have not yet ratified the Convention, but which are encouraged to do so.
The Division participated in an expert seminar on article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention – organised by a group of researchers – in October 2002 in the Netherlands, under the Chairpersonship of Mr. Flinterman, and with the participation of Ms. Schöpp-Schilling. One of the main objectives of the seminar was to support the Committee in the process of drafting a general recommendation on article 4, paragraph 1 of the Convention, particularly through the formulation of concrete suggestions for its contents. Our participation in this meeting was especially useful after the Committee’s own workshop on this topic, organized by the Division for the Advancement of Women and IWRAW Asia Pacific, and held here in New York in August 2002 at the Mission of Germany.
It is our intention to continue to implement such activities, and to expand them in the future to the extent possible, to enhance compliance with the Convention. To that end, we will increase our efforts to seek resources, from Governments and other sources, so that all requests we receive from interested States for advisory services in relation to the Convention can be met, and that technical assistance can be provided in the form of workshops and seminars on implementation of, and compliance with, the Convention. I should note the potential interest of a number of Governments to provide funding for such activities.
In preparation for the 47th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Division, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, organized an expert group meeting in November on trafficking in women and girls. The recommendations of the meeting will be included in the report of the Secretary-General to the Commission on the theme, “Women’s human rights and elimination of all forms of violence against women”. A former member of this Committee participated as an expert.
You may also be interested to know that three reports prepared by the Division and submitted by the Secretary-General to the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly dealt with issues of particular relevance to the Committee’s work, namely on violence against women; on crimes against women committed in the name of honour; and on trafficking in women and girls. Consensus resolutions were adopted on all three topics. Furthermore, in its annual resolution concerning the Convention, the Assembly recalled the high number of overdue reports, particularly of initial reports, and urged States parties to make every possible effort to submit their reports on the implementation of the Convention in a timely manner. The General Assembly also expressed its satisfaction to the Committee for having successfully addressed the large number of reports that awaited consideration by the Committee during its extraordinary session in August 2002.
Lastly, the Division has collaborated with the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the preparation of a handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention and its Optional Protocol. The Handbook, which is expected to be published within the near future (possibly in time for the next IPU Conference in Chile in April) aims at familiarizing Parliamentarians with the Convention, and what they could do to enhance compliance with the Convention and use of the Optional Protocol. The preparation of the Handbook greatly benefited from the comments and suggestions of Mme Francoise Gaspard.
After his appointment for a second term of office, the Secretary-General of the United Nations has continued to focus on the further strengthening of the Organization. His report on an agenda for further change, presented to the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly, placed emphasis, among other areas, on the field of human rights, and in particular on the treaty system and its reporting requirements. He has requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult with the treaty bodies on new streamlined reporting procedures, with a view to submitting recommendations by September 2003. The High Commissioner has subsequently written to all Chairpersons of treaty bodies on this matter. This Committee will therefore be called upon to consider this matter during this session so that your views can be submitted to the High Commissioner by the end of May 2003. The Committee may also be interested to hear that the General Assembly, in a resolution adopted in late December, also encouraged States parties to human rights treaties and the respective treaty bodies to review the reporting procedures with a view to developing a more coordinated approach and to streamline reporting requirements under these treaties.
Members of the Committee,
Ever since the inception of the work of this Committee, there has been a steady evolution in the relationship between the Committee and the intergovernmental process in the promotion of gender equality. This has become more pronounced and systematic since the early 1990s, and especially since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Committee has taken a consistent interest in the steps taken by States parties to implement the Platform, as well as of the outcome document of the 23rd special session, held in June 2000. This attests to an understanding of the Platform and the outcome document as further elaboration of the rights contained in the Convention and how to achieve them through both legal and policy action. At a time when the international community and national Governments focus on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, this organic link between the legal framework and the policy process becomes even more important to ensure that gender equality remains a critical priority, and is pursued not only as a goal in its own right, but also as a means to achieve other goals of poverty eradication and sustainable development. The interaction between the Committee and those intergovernmental processes focused specifically on gender equality and advancement of women, ie the Commission on the Status of Women and the General Assembly, becomes now more important than ever.
In this regard, let me assure you of the full support of the Division for the Advancement of Women as you discharge your responsibilities in the framework of the Convention and its Optional Protocol, but also as you make your contribution to the broader policy debates that are taking place within the United Nations. All of us in the Division, and especially the staff of the Women’s Rights Section, under the very able leadership of Helga Klein, will do our utmost to support you in your work.
May I extend my best wishes to you for a successful session and a pleasant stay in New York.