COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF
Division for the Advancement of Women
Friends and Colleagues,
It is a great pleasure for me to warmly welcome you to the 30th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, on behalf of the Division for the Advancement of Women. I extend a particular welcome to the Committee’s new member, Ms. Dorcas Ama Frema Coker-Appiah, who is completing the term of office of Professor Akua Kuenyehia, in accordance with article 17, paragraph 2 of the Convention.
I am very pleased to report that since your last meeting in July 2003, one more State, San Marino, has ratified the Convention, on 10 December 2003, International Human Rights Day, bringing the total number of States parties to the Convention to 175. This means that in the course of 2003, 5 States have ratified or acceded to the Convention. There are now 59 States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, an additional 6 ratifications since your last session, namely: Poland, Philippines, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro. We have also had three additional acceptances of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, namely Uruguay, Philippines, and Croatia, bringing the total number of acceptances to 43. Lastly, I am especially pleased to note that on 22 December 2003, the Government of France informed the Secretary-General that it had decided to lift its reservation relating to article 5(b) and 16 1(d ) made upon ratification.
This progress in ratification of the Convention and its Optional Protocol is a significant confirmation of the commitment of States to the protection and promotion of the human rights of women through international human rights standards. It is also a confirmation of States’ commitment to complement national remedies with international avenues of redress for alleged violations of the rights protected by the Convention. The expanding number of States parties to the Optional Protocol does, however, also pose new challenges to the Committee to ensure full attention to its mandate under both the Convention and the Optional Protocol, within the limited meeting time currently allocated to the Committee.
While the growing number of ratifications is a very positive development, the large number of States who have not yet submitted their initial reports remains a cause for concern. Following the Committee’s, and the Chairperson’s, recent efforts to support States parties in submitting overdue reports, several States have provided an update on the status of preparation of their reports.
I would like to inform the Committee that the Division has received a generous financial contribution from the Government of New Zealand for technical cooperation activities in support of CEDAW implementation in countries emerging from conflict. As a consequence, the Division is now working with Afghanistan and Sierra Leone in designing a series of activities to raise awareness and understanding of Convention rights, and the resultant obligations of States parties, among senior and mid-level Government officials, as well as to enhance the capacity of such officials to develop legislative initiatives and policy, programme and other measures, to ensure that the Convention does indeed become the basis for all national efforts for the promotion of the rights of women. We expect to support other countries emerging from conflict in a similar manner in due course.
I am also very pleased to report that the Division has received a significant financial contribution from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) for the preparation of a CEDAW implementation kit which will consist of a CEDAW Implementation Manual and a training kit.
While the Division has traditionally offered its technical assistance in the form of regional or sub-regional meetings rather than support for individual States parties, we were able to assist the Government of Mali, at its request, in the preparation of its combined second to fifth periodic report. Based on a draft that had been prepared by the State party, the Division funded the services of a consultant – Ms. Ahoua Ouedraogo, a former member of this Committee – to conduct a series of technical meetings with officials from various ministries on the form and content of the report. These consultations clarified the provisions of the Convention, and identified remaining gaps in the draft, possible sources of information, and a timetable for finalization of the report. We look forward to receiving the State party’s report in due course.
I am also pleased to report that the Division was able to support financially the meeting of three experts of the Committee, in Berlin, in October 2003, to finalize the revised draft of the Committee’s general recommendation on article 4.1. In this regard, I would like to thank the three experts who participated in the meeting, Ms. Schöpp-Schilling, Ms. Patten and Mr. Flinterman, for the work completed during the two-day meeting.
The technical assistance activities of the Division over the last months, and our ongoing activities and plans for 2004, should make a significant contribution to States parties’ capacity to implement the Convention, follow-up the Committee’s concluding comments, and expand use of the Optional Protocol. It is also hoped that these activities will contribute to timely reporting by States parties. The anticipated increase in reports received will also require that the Committee identify new ways for considering these reports in a timely manner. At this point, not counting the reports you will be considering over the next three weeks, the reports of a total of 33 States parties await consideration.
Other activities, in which the Division participated and which are similarly focused on enhancing implementation of the Convention, included a one-day briefing session for Parliamentarians, on 4 October. The meeting, at which your Chairperson served as resource person, was organized jointly by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Division following the IPU’s annual conference in Geneva. It was a follow-up activity to the publication by the Division, in collaboration with the IPU, of the Handbook for Parliamentarians on the Convention, which was launched in April 2003 and also presented here in New York during your last session. This was the first event of this type, and we hope to build on this experience in the future.
The Division also participated on behalf of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women in a two-day conference, organized and hosted by the Government of Croatia and UNIFEM in Dubrovnik, from 25 to 26 October, on the implementation of the Convention in six countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The event, which was spearheaded by Ms. Dubravka Simonovic, Ms. Victoria Popescu and Ms. Krisztina Morvai, and greatly benefited from the participation of your Chairperson as the keynote speaker.
The Division, as well as your Chairperson, also participated in a two-day brainstorming session convened by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women in December in Istanbul to gather ideas and suggestions on the future direction of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, building on the foundation established during the nine-year tenure of Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy. The Committee will have an opportunity to meet with the newly appointed Special Rapporteur, Ms. Yakin Ertürk, during the current session, on 28 January.
Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,
This Committee has traditionally paid significant attention to the efficiency and effectiveness of its working methods, driven by a primary concern for better implementation of the Convention at the national level. Timely reporting, and timely consideration of reports received are one aspect of this commitment, and you will be considering options for effective consideration of reports at this session. A second aspect is the common efforts of all treaty bodies to ensure that reporting does indeed fulfil its purpose of enhanced treaty implementation at the national level. Since the second inter-committee meeting last June, about which you were briefed by your Chairperson at the 29th session, a series of internal meetings have taken place in Geneva of staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the participation of the Division via telephone. These discussions have aimed at implementation of the recommendation of the inter-committee meeting that the Secretariat prepare draft guidelines for an expanded core document for consideration by each Committee and adoption by the third inter-committee meeting in 2004. Work has also begun in relation to the recommendation that the Secretariat examine the possibilities of greater harmonization of the reporting guidelines for each of the treaty bodies. In this regard, I note that Ms. Maria Francisca Ize Charrin, the Chief of the Support Services Branch of the OHCHR has requested to meet with the Committee on 22 January to share with the Committee progress achieved with regard to the expanded core document, the harmonization of the guidelines, the training of UN country teams on the work of the treaty bodies and a project to harmonize the entire documentation of treaty bodies. She will also discuss the third inter-committee meeting scheduled for June 2004.
Madam Chairperson, distinguished members of the Committee,
Let me now turn to the work of the Committee during this session. Two States parties, Bhutan and Kuwait, will present reports for the first time. Belarus, Ethiopia, Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria and Nepal will present periodic reports. The Committee will continue its work under the Optional Protocol of the Convention, including considering the report of its Working Group on Communications under the Optional Protocol. The Committee will also have before it the report of the Secretariat on ways and means for expediting the work of the Committee (CEDAW/C/2004/I/4), and two addenda, one containing a discussion of the option of meeting in parallel working groups for consideration of periodic reports, and a second addendum providing a summary of the Committee’s current methods of work. The Committee also has before it the text of a revised draft general recommendation on article 4.1 of the Convention on temporary special measures, prepared by the Committee’s drafting group.
The Committee will, as is its practice, meet in informal meetings with non-governmental organizations to hear information concerning the States that are reporting at this session. It will meet in a closed meeting later today with representatives of UN entities for the same purpose. In this regard, I should like to inform the Committee that, in accordance with a decision taken at your last session, I have written to entities of the UN system to encourage increased engagement with the work of the Committee.
Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,
As you commence the work of your thirtieth session, let me assure you of the full support of the Division for the Advancement of Women in the discharge of your responsibilities under the Convention and its Optional Protocol, and 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, 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.