Ms. Angela E.V. King
Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on
Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
Thirtieth session of the
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Distinguished experts, Excellencies,
Friends and Colleagues,
As we open this session, I would especially like to welcome the new Under-Secretary-General of DESA, Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, who is well known to many of you from his period as Head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. We welcome his interest in and support for women’s human rights and the implementation of the CEDAW Convention which touches on all aspects of women’s lives.
It is my honour and privilege to extend a warm welcome to all of you. I extend special greetings to the Committee’s new member, Ms. Dorcas Ama Frema Coker-Appiah. Ms. Coker-Appiah is completing the term of office of Judge Akua Kuenyehia, who was one of seven women elected to the International Criminal Court.
As you begin your 30th session, I would like to place your mandate in the larger context of the work of the United Nations, and the increasingly systematic attention given to gender equality in policy discussions in the United Nations.
The Millennium Declaration, which was adopted three years ago by the Member States of the United Nations, recognized that gender equality was essential to combat poverty, hunger and disease, and for sustainable development. Emerging from the commitments in the Millennium Declaration are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with key targets to be met by 2015 of which Mr. Ocampo has spoken. My Office and the Division for the Advancement of Women continue to monitor the degree of attention given to gender perspectives in efforts aimed at achieving these goals, in addition to goal 3, which is on gender equality and the empowerment of women. We also contribute to the preparation of the Secretary-General’s annual progress report on the MDGs.
We believe that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the work of this Committee are instrumental also for progress in achieving the Millennium Goals. In your constructive dialogue with States parties, you identify key areas of discrimination against women, for example in the fields of education, health, and poverty eradication, and you provide clear recommendations for action by individual States parties to eliminate such discrimination and ensure equality between women and men.
Member States intend to have a major event to review comprehensively progress made in implementing all commitments made in the Millennium Declaration and its Goals in 2005. The Committee may well wish to start thinking about its contribution to ensure gender dimension in that review – especially, as it coincides with the implementation of the ten-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Outcome Document of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. In regard to the latter review, first by the Commission on the Status of Women, then by ECOSOC and the General Assembly, a questionnaire has been sent to Governments to compile information on major achievements and obstacles in implementation, and we hope to receive government responses by 30 April 2004. Our Division for the Advancement of Women will also use reports submitted since 1995 by States parties under the Convention as a source of information in preparing the review.
At the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, the Convention and gender equality were important aspects of attention in the statements of many delegations during the general debate on the items. A number of States discussed the status of their reporting obligations, and the Committee’s past or impending consideration of their reports. States also provided updates about national measures to strengthen implementation of the Convention. The Division prepared several reports for discussion under these items, including a report on the status of the Convention, and on violence against women migrant workers. A biennial report on the improvement of the situation of women in rural areas reviewed, for the first time, the contribution of this Committee to improving the situation of this particular group of women. The report looked at key challenges identified by the Committee in the implementation of article 14, and the Committee’s recommendations, and concluded that the Committee’s work clearly complements that of intergovernmental processes. Given the recent significant attention to rural development in general at the intergovernmental level, the report encouraged Governments, international organizations and other actors to use the Convention and the Committee’s concluding comments when formulating policies and designing programmes in support of sustainable rural development.
The Assembly adopted a resolution on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It welcomes the Committee’s efforts to enhance its effectiveness and working methods. The Assembly also welcomed the rapidly growing number of States parties to the Optional Protocol – now 59, and noted with appreciation that the Committee has commenced its work under the Optional Protocol. The Assembly encouraged States parties to disseminate the concluding comments adopted in relation to the consideration of their reports. The Assembly decided to consider this question biennually, in line with its practice in considering other international human rights instruments.
The General Assembly was also deeply involved with a major new initiative to adopt a comprehensive resolution on violence against women. Whilst the original draft which covered a broad range of types of violence against women was not adopted, it gave rise to long and intense discussions on the subject. However, the Assembly did adopt, by consensus, a resolution on the elimination of domestic violence against women. This was the first time that an intergovernmental body specifically addressed this issue. The resolution calls on States parties to the Convention to include in their reports to the Committee information on legal and policy measures adopted and implemented in their efforts to prevent and eliminate domestic violence against women. A second resolution in which this Committee may be especially interested, requests the Secretary-General to conduct an in-depth study on all forms of violence against women, in close cooperation with all relevant United Nations bodies and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. The study is expected to be completed within two years. In regard to this broad issue, both the Director of DAW and I have had consultations with the new Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Yakin Ertürk.
In his annual report on the work of the Organization to the fifty-eighth General Assembly, the Secretary-General highlighted human trafficking as one of the scourges of our time and its severe impact on women and girls. Member States, regional groups, the United Nations system and civil society now have a strong instrument to combat this heinous form of violence through the entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, on 29 September 2003, and of its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, on 25 December 2003.
Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,
I turn now to the work of the Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission will review two thematic issues at its upcoming session in March 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”.
The Division convened two expert group meetings to prepare the discussions and assist the Commission. A first Expert Group Meeting, on “The role of boys and men in achieving gender equality”, was held in Brasilia, Brazil from 21 to 24 October 2003, in cooperation with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Expert Group considered socialization and education processes, as well as the role of men and boys in areas, such as the workplace and the economy, HIV/AIDS, health and gender-based violence. The experts adopted recommendations addressed to different actors at different levels on promoting and enhancing the role of men and boys in achieving gender equality.
A second Expert Group Meeting, on “Peace agreements as a means for promoting gender equality and ensuring participation of women – A framework of model provisions", was held in Ottawa, Canada from 10 to 13 November 2003, in collaboration with my Office and the Department of Political Affairs. The Expert Group discussed and analysed the gender dimensions of peace agreements, specifically the obstacles, lessons learned and good practices in the negotiation, content and implementation of peace agreements. Based on their discussions, the Expert Group Meeting adopted recommendations for a comprehensive framework of model provisions to strengthen gender perspectives, as well as women’s participation, in peace agreements and in all subsequent societal and institutional development.
My Office is organizing an expert group meeting on “Enhancing women’s participation in electoral processes in post-conflict countries”, to be held in Glen Cove, New York from 19 to 22 January 2004. The meeting is jointly supported by the Department of Political Affairs, in close collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Development Fund for Women, as well as several intergovernmental organizations supporting electoral processes. The meeting will review the current status of support provided to women in all aspects of the electoral process in post-conflict countries and develop an agenda for action on how to strengthen support for the full participation of women. The findings of the meeting will also provide input to the Commission’s deliberations in March as well as to the review of implementation of Security Council resolution 1325 at its fourth anniversary in October 2004.
Distinguished members of the Committee,
Before closing, I would like to mention a few other activities which took place since the Committee’s last session. I addressed the Human Rights Committee at its seventy-eighth session, on 15 July 2003 in Geneva. Following my briefing on the work of the Committee, the Division and my Office, I had a very useful and constructive exchange with the members of the Committee on a wide range of issues. I have also had several discussions with the Acting High Commissioner on our joint work programme. He also participated in an important panel show-casing Gender Mainstreaming in various areas during the ECOSOC session last July.
The fifth Joint Workshop of the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE), which I chair, and the OECD/DAC Network on Gender Equality (GENDERNET) was held at OECD headquarters in Paris from 10 to11 July 2003. The workshop, which focused on “Gender and post-conflict reconstruction: lessons learned from Afghanistan and elsewhere”, aimed to contribute to increased effectiveness of multilateral and bilateral support to post-conflict reconstruction through the enhanced integration of gender perspectives into this work. The meeting discussed good practice and lessons learned from promoting gender equality in post-conflict reconstruction, drawing on experience from Afghanistan as a key case study and wider lessons from elsewhere. A final communiqué was issued by the workshop, summarizing its principle findings. You must all be pleased to have noted that the ratification of the CEDAW Convention by Afghanistan last March greatly propelled the issue of women’s equal rights, so much so that the controversial issue of specifying equal rights of women and men in the new Constitution, was successfully resolved two weeks ago.
On 4 December 2003, the first session of the newly established Committee on Women opened at the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut, Lebanon. My Office participated in this session, together with 22 women ministers, chairpersons of women's national committees and councils in the Arab region, and an additional 90 concerned persons, which focused on the progress made in the development of Arab women.
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. 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.