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11th Meeting of the States parties
to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
31 August 2000
Ms. Angela E.V. King
Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
It is my honour and privilege, on behalf of the Secretary-General, to open the Eleventh Meeting of the States parties to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and in so doing to extend a warm welcome to you today. I would like to note that I am acting as the temporary Chairperson as other pressing obligations have made it impossible for the current Chairperson, His Excellency Mr. SÚlim Tadmoury, Ambassador of Lebanon to be present today.
This Meeting is taking place three months after the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5, Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the twenty-first century, which reviewed the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and decided on further actions and initiatives for its implementation.
During the special session, Member States of the United Nations pledged their commitment to the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as well as to its implementation. They expressed their firm intention to ensure universal ratification of the Convention, and acceptance of the Optional Protocol to the Convention. They also pledged to accept the amendment to article 21, paragraph 1 of the Convention which relates to the Committees meeting time.
The special session agreed to create and maintain a non-discriminatory, as well as gender-sensitive legal environment, with the view to striving to remove discriminatory provisions as soon as possible, preferably by 2005, and eliminating legislative gaps that leave women and girls without protection of their rights and without effective recourse against gender-based discrimination.
While expressing disappointment at the fact that the target of universal ratification of the Convention by the year 2000 agreed by the Fourth World Conference on Women, had not been achieved, and that there continued to be a large number of reservations to its terms, the special session identified the fact that a further 16 States had ratified or acceded to the Convention since that Conference, thereby bringing the number of States parties to the Convention to 165, as one of the achievements in implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. The adoption by General Assembly at its fifty-fourth session of the Optional Protocol to the Convention granting individuals and groups of women who have exhausted domestic remedies the right to submit petitions alleging violations of the Convention to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was also cited as a significant achievement in implementation. As distinguished delegates will be aware, forty-three States parties to the Convention have signed the Optional Protocol, and five have submitted instruments of ratification and accession. A further five ratifications are required before the Optional Protocol enters into force, and I confident, especially in light of the Secretary-Generals Millenium Summit initiative, that these will soon be received. In this regard, I would like to assure States parties that the Secretariat is preparing for the entry into force of this instrument and is fully committed to supporting the Committee as it develops the procedures necessary for the administration of the Optional Protocol.
During the period since the Tenth Meeting of States parties on 17 February 1998, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has held five sessions, the most recent being the twenty-third which was held from 12 to 30 June 2000.
In addition to considering the reports of 37 States parties to the Convention over this period, the Committee adopted its twenty-fourth general recommendation on article 12 to the Convention concerning women and health, a statement on reservations and a statement on the legal framework for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the links between the Convention and the Platform. During this period the Committee also revised its rules of procedure which will be adopted in final form by the Committee at its twenty-fourth session in January 2001.
Several decisions and suggestions of relevance to States parties were also agreed by the Committee. These are before distinguished delegates in document CEDAW/SP/2000/5, but several deserve highlighting. In its decision 19/I, the Committee decided to operationalize its earlier decision to convene its pre-session working group which draws up the lists of issues and questions with regard to periodic reports at the end of the session prior to that where those reports were to be considered. The transition to this pattern of work has been welcomed by States parties because they now have sufficient time in which to submit written answers which are made available in the official languages of the United Nations, and because this has provided the framework for more interactive dialogue with the Committee. In later decisions the Committee has sought to ensure that the lists of issues and questions on periodic reports focus as much as possible on major areas of concern in respect to implementation of the Convention in States parties. In its decision 19/II, the Committee revised its procedures and format for the elaboration of concluding comments on States parties reports, with a view to streamlining these comments, while it adopted procedures with regard to observations by States parties on concluding comments in its decision 21/II. Standards and guidelines on situations in which exceptional reports from States parties should be requested by the Committee were adopted in decision 21/I, while several decisions seek to ensure timely reporting by States parties.
Notably, at its twenty-third session, and in light of the fact that there were 236 overdue reports, the Committee decided that on an exceptional basis, and as a temporary measure to invite States parties with overdue reports to combine these in a single document. This would address the backlog of reports awaiting consideration, and encourage States parties to fulfil their reporting obligations, to invite States parties with overdue reports to combine these in a single document. I would urge those States parties concerned to implement the Committees decision, particularly those which have never reported. I would also like to remind them that technical and advisory services in regard to the Convention and the Optional Protocol, including reporting obligations, are available on request through the Division for the Advancement of Women. In July 1999, for example, a sub-regional training workshop on preparing initial reports for French-speaking African countries was convened in Cotonou, Benin. A workshop to support the capacity of policy- and decision-makers to implement the Convention, as well as the concluding comments adopted by the Committee on the report of Cameroon, will be held in Cameroon from 25 September to 5 October 2000.
Excellencies and Distinguished Delegates,
Before turning to the main business of this meeting the election of 11 Committee members I should like to say a word about article 28 of the Convention. This provides that the Secretary-General shall receive and circulate to all States parties the text of reservations made at the time of ratification of accession. It also provides that the Secretary-General shall inform States parties of any reservations, declarations, objections and notification of withdrawal of reservations to the Convention. You have before you document CEDAW/SP/2000/2 containing the texts of all reservations, declarations, objections and notification of withdrawal of reservations. This report also contains a list of those States parties that have deposited with the Secretary-General instruments of acceptance of the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention, as well as those that have signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention. With respect to the amendment to article 20, paragraph 1 of the Convention, which will enter into force after its acceptance by two-thirds of the States parties. Currently, 23 States parties have submitted their instruments of acceptance. I would urge remaining States parties to give serious consideration to the acceptance of the amendment so that it can enter into force.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
The main purpose of this meeting is the election of the 11 members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Their names and curricula vitae appear in documents CEDAW/SP/2000/3 and Add. 1. Due to the length of some of the curricula vitae received, the Secretariat has been able to issue them at this stage only in the language in which they were received and in English. While the documents will ultimately appear in all official languages, it may be appropriate for States parties to consider recommending that the Secretariat provide guidelines for preparing curricula vitae similar to those which have been formulated with regard to the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
States parties are aware that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women is the body established by the Convention to monitor its implementation in those States that have ratified or acceded to the Convention. When it enters into force, the Optional Protocol to the Convention will empower the Committee to consider communications submitted in accordance with that instrument, as well as to inquire of its own motion into grave or systematic violations of the Conventions terms.
Article 17(1) of the Convention provides that the Committee is composed of 23 experts who are elected by secret ballot from a list of persons nominated by States parties from among their nationals. These experts serve in their personal capacity, and not as delegates or representatives of their countries of origin. Nominees must be of high moral standing and have competence in the fields covered by the Convention. In this regard, States parties may wish to take account of the recommendation of the eighth meeting of persons chairing human rights treaty bodies, which states that "States parties to the treaty bodies should refrain from nominating or electing to treaty bodies, persons performing political functions, or occupying positions which were not readily reconcilable with the obligations of independent experts under the given treaty". States parties may also wish to take into account the recommendation made by the Chairpersons that consideration be given to the importance of expertise in areas related to the mandate of the treaty body, the need for balanced geographical composition and the desirability of an appropriate gender balance, as well as the nominees availability in terms of time to discharge the responsibility of a treaty body member.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
The members of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women serve four-year terms. Those elected at this meeting will begin their terms on 1 January 2001 and serve until 31 December 2004. There are a total of 22 candidates for the 11 vacancies to be filled at this election.
May I now extend my best wishes to you for a successful meeting. The Secretariat is available to provide you with any assistance, support or information that you may require.
I wish you well.