Commission on the Status of Women
1-12 March 2004
Ms. Feride Acar, Chairperson,
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Friends from the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations,
It is my honour and privilege as the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to address the forty-eighth session of the Commission on the Status of Women. At the outset, I wish to congratulate the Chairperson and the members of the bureau on their election and the preparatory work undertaken inter-sessionally, and wish you well in your challenging work.
Since I had the privilege of addressing this Commission a year ago, the number of States parties to the Convention has increased to 175. 60 States parties have now ratified or acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention. 43 acceptances of the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1, of the Convention concerning the Committee’s meeting time have been lodged with the Secretary-General. I encourage all those who have not yet become party to these key instruments for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women to intensify their efforts so that the goal of universal ratification of the Convention can be achieved soonest.
The thirtieth session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women ended a little over a month ago. During that session, the Committee considered the reports of eight States parties to the Convention and adopted concluding comments on those reports. The Committee has requested the reporting States to give wide publicity to these concluding comments, not only among public officials, but society at large. The Committee hopes and expects that these concluding comments will now be the basis for specific follow-up action in the area of legislative initiatives, policy and programme development, and administrative and other measures. In all instances, the Committee has emphasized the important role of civil society and in particular of women’s NGOs, in the promotion of women’s human rights and the implementation of the Convention. The Committee has also pointed to the critical role of Parliamentarians, and has encouraged States to place priority emphasis on the implementation of the Convention in legislative initiatives. (This role will be the topic of a panel discussion today at lunchtime in this room.)
During its thirtieth session, the Committee noticed progress in the implementation of the Convention in many areas, such as legislative revisions in regard to penal, family and civil codes. It also assessed national action plans for gender equality, and sectoral policies as well as increasing efforts at gender mainstreaming. During this session the Committee was informed that in some countries, courts are taking an active role to forge a jurisprudence of gender equality by using the Convention directly. Also, more and more the Committee is finding it necessary to underline the need for enhanced efforts for implementation of the Convention at the national level by States parties. In this context, the Committee insisted with the reporting States parties that more emphasis must be placed in their reports on assessing the impact of actions taken in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. The Committee encouraged States parties to set timetables for implementing particular actions, to prioritize their activities, and to monitor the impact of their policies and programmes so that corrective action can be taken. It also emphasized with all States parties that there is a need for much greater awareness of the Convention and of women’s human rights throughout society.
At the thirtieth session, the Committee also observed that persistence of prejudices and discriminatory practices as well as gender stereotypes based on social and cultural patterns of conduct and customary behaviours continue to act as major impediments to gender equality in most societies. Whether they are entrenched patriarchal norms or outright discriminatory values and attitudes towards women or obstacles to achievement of gender equality that are shrouded in traditional and cultural practices, the Committee takes the firm view that States parties have a clear obligation under the Convention to eliminate such discriminatory elements without delay. While tradition and culture are sources of richness in a society they cannot be allowed to function as obstacles to women’s enjoyment of their human rights. The Committee underlined the fact that States parties have an obligation to act forcefully and creatively to eliminate such discrimination de jure and de facto. To this end the Committee encouraged States parties to undertake information campaigns to enhance knowledge about the rights of women, to also target men in these efforts and to strengthen the capacity of all concerned to act in support of women’s human rights and the implementation of the Convention. I am sure that the question of stereotypes will be part of this Commission’s discussion in relation to the thematic issue of “the role of men and boys in promoting gender equality”.
At its thirtieth session, the Committee successfully adopted general recommendation 25 which is on article 4, paragraph 1, of the Convention, on temporary special measures. The Committee hopes that this general recommendation will greatly facilitate the understanding of States parties and other interested actors on how to use temporary special measures, which are a critical tool in order to accelerate the de facto achievement of gender equality. The text of general recommendation 25 is contained in a conference room paper (E/CN.6/2004/CRP.3) which is before this Commission. I am confident that this general recommendation will be very pertinent also in the work of this Commission’s work in many areas, including the thematic issues you are covering this year.
Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen,
As it had at its twenty-ninth session, the Committee found it necessary once again at its thirtieth session to focus its attention on the situation of women in Iraq. During that latter session, the Committee noted a decision by the Governing Council of Iraq to repeal existing civil statutes, governing, marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance. The Committee adopted a statement in support of the women of Iraq, which drew attention to the fact that Iraq is a State party to the Convention and emphasized the essential obligation of the governing authorities in this country to ensure women’s enjoyment of their human rights under the CEDAW Convention. The Committee called on all responsible authorities in Iraq, with the assistance of the international community, to ensure full compliance with and implementation of all the provisions of the Convention in that country. I have written to the Secretary-General asking him to relay the Committee’s requests to all relevant actors.
Over the past year, the Committee has continued its work under the Optional Protocol to the Convention, both in regard to the communications procedure, as well as under article 8 of the Optional Protocol concerning the inquiry procedure. I am pleased with the Committee’s progress as it implements these important responsibilities. In particular, I wish to note that the Committee’s Working Group on Communications under the Optional Protocol has now registered three communications, and has also confirmed arrangements for working inter-sessionally, as may be necessary. I would like to emphasize the fact that the effective implementation of the Optional Protocol is incumbent on the States’ full cooperation with the Committee and its Working Group under these procedures.
The Committee had opportunity to dialogue with a representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from Geneva on issues of mutual ongoing interest pertaining to the reform of the human rights treaty system, and with Ms. Yakin Ertürk, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, on the matter of enhanced cooperation between the Committee and the Special Rapporteur. Both instances were fruitful and have given us reason to look forward to an even more effective and comprehensive role for this Committee in the human rights system of the United Nations in the future.
Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen,
The Committee continues to keep its working methods under review so as to contribute more effectively and efficiently to the goal of strengthened implementation of the Convention at the national level and increased enjoyment by women of their human rights. To this end, the Committee builds on its own recent actions, as well as on the recommendations and points of agreement of the meetings of Chairpersons of human rights treaty bodies. Attention is being given in particular to suggestions of an expanded core document, strategies to encourage timely reporting by States parties, targeted reports, future consideration of reports by the Committee in parallel working groups, and follow-up to concluding comments. I am very pleased that, at the generous invitation of the Government of the Netherlands, the Committee will be able to hold an informal meeting in May of this year in Utrecht, which will be dedicated to the Committee’s working methods. I trust that the three-day meeting will result in concrete decisions for improving the constructive dialogue with States parties and the consideration of reports in general.
Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen,
Implementation of the Convention has benefited significantly from the close and supportive relationship between the Committee, and the intergovernmental process and its central policy-making body, this Commission, especially since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The clear advantages resulting from the interaction between the legal framework and the policy process, and between Committee and the Commission, is demonstrated when the Committee considers reports of States parties. Such interaction also helps to ensure that a rights-based approach to gender equality remains a high priority on the political agenda.
2004 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. While 175 States have since become parties to the Convention and there has been much progress in the Convention’s implementation, universal enjoyment by all women of their human rights remains a goal far from having been achieved. In order to give further visibility to the Convention and to the work of the Committee, the Committee decided that the 25th anniversary should be commemorated in an appropriate format during the 59th session of the General Assembly in October 2004. I would welcome the support of this Commission to ensure that time can be set aside in the Plenary of the Assembly for such a commemorative event.
I would like to conclude by reiterating the Committee’s readiness to continue its cooperation with the Commission in any appropriate way. The Committee is grateful for the continuous support that this Commission has provided for the Convention, its Optional Protocol and the Committee’s work.
I wish you well in your important deliberations.