Opening Statement by Ms. Carolyn Hannan


Division for the Advancement of Women



            Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished experts,


            Friends and colleagues,



It is my honour and privilege to welcome you to United Nations Headquarters for this thirty-first session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.


Madame Chairperson, distinguished experts,


            I would like to brief you about several events that have taken place since the end of the thirtieth session of the Committee in January 2004.  I will also report on activities of the Division for the Advancement of Women as well as the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, for which I have been Officer-in-Charge since Ms. Angela King’s recent retirement.


            The Commission on the Status of Women held its forty-eighth session from 1 to 12 March 2004 and considered, as part of its multi-year programme of work, two thematic issues: “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 Commission adopted agreed conclusions on both those themes, and explicitly referred to the role of the Convention and women’s human rights in its agreed conclusions on women’s participation in relation to peace and conflict resolution. The Commission also adopted seven resolutions, including one on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, that urges the Afghan Transitional Administration and future Government to, inter alia, implement fully its obligations under the Convention, raise awareness and strengthen knowledge of women and girls and their families about their rights, and support special measures that would guarantee that women are represented in local, provincial and national government positions. The Commission reached agreement on the preparations for its forty-ninth session in 2005, which has as its major focus a review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome document of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly of 2000.  The Commission also adopted a decision to postpone consideration of the future work of the Working Group on Communications on the Status of Women until its fiftieth session in 2006.


The Commission on the Status of Women, in collaboration with the Statistical Commission, held a high-level round table on the theme of gaps and challenges in measuring progress in implementation.  Participants shared practical experiences, lessons learned and challenges encountered in compiling data and measuring progress towards gender equality. This collaborative effort was considered a very important step forward for both commissions.  This Committee may be interested to hear that participants underlined, for example, the importance of statistical information in fulfilling reporting obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and commented that in certain areas, such as violence against women, methodological shortcomings and lack of reporting or under-reporting, led to inaccurate data collection which could also be a cause for poor policies. 


            Ms. Feride Acar, Chairperson of the Committee and I addressed the sixtieth session of the Commission on Human Rights, held in Geneva from 15 March to 23 April 2004. A number of resolutions that were adopted at the session specifically refer to the Convention and the Optional Protocol, while some refer more generally to the work of human rights treaty bodies. Information about selected resolutions and decisions are contained in the ways and means report which is before the Committee.  I would, however, wish to draw to your attention a decision adopted by the Commission on Human Rights (decision 2004/110) by which a new special procedure was created. The Commission decided to appoint for a period of three years, a Special Rapporteur whose mandate will focus on the human rights aspects of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.


Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,


            I am very pleased to report that since your last meeting in January 2004, two more States have ratified the Convention, Kiribati on 17 March 2004 and Swaziland on 26 March 2004, both without reservations, bringing the total number of States parties to the Convention to 177.  Among the core human rights treaties, the Convention ranks as number two in terms of the-number of States that have ratified or acceded to it.  There are now 62 States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, an additional 3 ratifications since the last session, namely: Belarus on 3 February 2004, Belgium on 17 June 2004 and the Libyan Arab Jamarihiya on 18 June.  We have also had an additional acceptance of the amendment to article 20.1 of the Convention on the Committee’s meeting time, namely Ireland, bringing the total number of acceptances to 44. Furthermore, I am pleased to inform you that two States parties recently decided to withdraw reservations to the Convention. On 29 April 2004, Switzerland notified the Secretary-General that it had decided to withdraw its reservation in respect of article 7 (b) made upon ratification, and on 11 June 2004, the Government of Ireland notified the Secretary-General that it had decided to withdraw its reservation to articles 13(b) and (c) made upon accession.


            I should like to assure you that I, personally, and 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. The Division also endeavours to support implementation of the Convention.  We undertake these efforts through our advisory services and technical assistance programme which, though modest in scope, is becoming an increasingly important aspect of our work for the realization of women’s equality and non-discrimination.  I would like to mention the main activities undertaken during the period February to June 2004.


            From 12 to 14 May 2004, the Division collaborated with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in organizing the Central Asia Training Workshop on Reporting under the Convention in Almaty, Kazakhstan, attended by 15 government representatives from six central Asian countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), one representative of civil society and five United Nations observers. The Chairperson of the Committee served as the resource person.   


            The Division convened a three-day judicial colloquium on the application of international human rights law at the domestic level from 17 to 19 May 2004 in Nassau, The Bahamas. Twenty-two judicial officers from 11 countries of the region (The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) participated. Observers representing CARICOM, ECLAC and OHCHR also attended. The colloquium was hosted and supported by the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and funding was provided by the Government of Germany. The keynote speakers and main facilitators were Judge Desiree Bernard, Chancellor of the Judiciary of Guyana, and a former member and Chairperson of this Committee, and Judge Sujata Manohar (retired) of the Supreme Court of India.  Discussions focused on the opportunities and remedies available under international human rights law and in particular the Convention to achieve equality in the areas of nationality, marriage and family relations and violence against women, through greater use of international human rights norms to benefit women and girls and advance the rights of women. Participants adopted a statement that summarizes the challenges, as well as the opportunities, for action identified by the meeting. 


            Immediately after the colloquium, and again in cooperation with the Government of the Bahamas, the Division convened a training workshop for government officials responsible for reporting under the Convention, from 19 to 21 May 2004 in Nassau, The Bahamas.  Participants came from 13 countries of the Caribbean region (The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago) and observers representing CARICOM and OHCHR were also present. The principal trainer and facilitator for the workshop was Mr. Cees Flinterman, professor of human rights law at the University of Utrecht and member of the Committee. We look forward to the submission of reports in the near future from a number of participating States.


            I should like to mention at this point that a number of States that have participated in our training activities since October 2002 have since submitted their reports (including Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Mali and Malawi).  While we understand that a range of factors influence the reporting of States parties, we believe that the training activities organized by the Division provide an important impetus for States to complete and submit their reports. 


            Other activities that were similarly focused on enhancing implementation of the Convention, included preparation of a conference room paper on the work of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the situation of indigenous women, for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which had “indigenous women” as its main theme; a briefing for indigenous organizations on the Optional Protocol as a mechanism to protect the human rights of indigenous women during the forum; and the preparation of a paper on the Convention and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for the Millennium Project, a three-year initiative aimed at recommending the best strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. 


            I should also like to briefly touch upon preparations for the 2005 review the Commission on the Status of Women will undertake of the progress achieved in implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and outcome document of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly of 2000.  Member States have been invited to provide information to the Secretariat on achievements, gaps and challenges.  As of today, 86 Member States have replied to the Secretariat’s questionnaire, and we will be analyzing the responses to discern trends and challenges in implementation.  This analysis will cover the 12 critical areas of concern of the Platform, as well as other issues highlighted in the outcome document.  Areas of particular interest to this Committee will be information on the critical areas of concern on human rights of women, violence against women, and trafficking in women.  The report of the Secretary-General will be submitted to the Commission at its 49th session in March 2005. 


            The Division continues its efforts to hold a commemorative event during the 59th session of the General Assembly, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention by the Assembly.  We are looking to convene a round table on 13 October that will provide an opportunity to emphasize the commitment to universal ratification of the Convention, the Committee’s role in enhancing implementation of the Convention, and stakeholders’ expectations for further progress in this regard.


Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,


            Let me now turn to the work of the Committee during this session.  Three States parties, Angola, Latvia and Malta, will present reports for the first time.  Equatorial Guinea, Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic and Spain will present periodic reports and Argentina will be presenting a follow-up report to its fifth periodic report. The Committee will continue its work under the Optional Protocol to the Convention, including considering the report of its Working Group on Communications under the Optional Protocol.  The Committee will also take action on the agreements reached at the informal meeting on working methods held in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in early May. You will also consider the recommendations of the 3rd Inter-Committee meeting and the 16th meeting of Chairpersons of treaty bodies, which took place from 21 to 25 June in Geneva.  You will have a general discussion with representatives of non-governmental organizations, and the United Nations system on a general recommendation on article 2 of the Convention.  As is its practice, the Committee will 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.   


Madam Chairperson, distinguished experts,


            As you commence the work of your thirty-first 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. 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.